Saturday, April 19, 2003

Chained together

One of my favourite things about blogging is finding other grad students and being completely taken by what they research and write! And then smiling when you recognise other grad students in their blogroll, and finding still others again. Rhizomatic.

Enter Ms. Jean Hyung Yul Chu - a PhD candidate in English at Berkeley (she writes to tell me) - and her blog hiving. She's interested in Asian culture, literature, design, architecture ... in (my greatest intellectual love) the experience of space.

Chien-Chi Chang The Chain 1998Witness her link to Taiwanese photographer Chien-Chi Chang's The Chain, "a collection of portraits made of inmates in a mental asylum in Taiwan. The subjects are people who have had their bonds to the rest of society--family, community--severed. And yet, as part of their treatment, they are chained to one another, physically linked in pairs throughout their days and only unlocked to sleep." The intimacy of these pictures is unsettling, and yet very beautiful.

She also links to these Paintings from North Korea, 1948-1998, and conjures the poetics of space with a personal story: My mom grew up on an apple farm in Sariwon, North Korea (a place once renowned for its hospitality + kimchi that's now known for its farm cooperatives and weapons facilities). Her connection to what Koreans call go-hyang ("hometown"—a translation that like most translations invariably misses the feeling concentrated in that word) is a land deed, and two siblings who are probably now dead due to old age and famine. And yet her imaginative connection to this place has been so strong, that I sometimes dream of going there for her. So although for some, the propaganda and dated impressionist techniques that inform these North Korean paintings may seem hopelessly backwards, for me, they merge in a strange seamlessness with a memory of this place that is as unmarked by time and change.

But it was this post on text messaging and poetry that really did it for me:

I like thinking about the ways that changing technological and material environments push the boundaries of creative endeavors such as poetry. Second, because technology is often driven by user-centered design, we are increasingly encouraged to see human behavior and social interaction as task-oriented. Text message poetry turns this model on its head, asking us not to just achieve some goal, but to create. It does what humans do and should continue doing—find ways to exceed technology’s original intention. (My emphasis and agreement.)

(That also reminds me of the less radical, but sometimes very nice, stories at


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