Issue 20 : 冷戰影像．美國因素
Cold War Images．The American Factor
Cold War, a historical keyword, refers to a period of time which unfolded after World War II with conflicting relations between the United States and the Soviet Union, affecting the political and historical development of the world. From the 1950s, The U.S.’s anti-communist stronghold Taiwan, which was hailed by McArthur as the “Unsinkable aircraft-carrier”, entered a new social and cultural order under the influence of U.S. Aid. From ideology to Coca-Cola, “The American factor” has been influencing developments in East Asia and our daily lives in more ways than one. In this issue, we set off from Taiwan and move along the East Asian island chain as we look into image archives of the Cold War era to contemporary post-Cold War photography work, conducting a visual study of distant yet fresh Cold War memories.
Using the Cultural Cold War as his point of discussion, Shih-Lun Chang examined the pictorial clues under the framework of the Cold War in East Asia, in order to analyse the strategies of pictorial narratives by the U.S. Information Service and the KMT government; Te-Hsing Shan and Mei-Hsiang Wang respectively made use of the study of World Today and Four Seas, both started by the U.S. Information Service in Hong Kong, to unravel the intense ideological war by the Cold War Capitalist camp on paper. Through his study of the “Joint Commission on Rural Reconstruction” image archives' shots captured during the U.S. Aid Period, Wei-I Lee searched for past images of the U.S. Aid Period left behind in Taiwan's photography spectrum.
Furthermore, Erina Nakamine chose to make use of the local perspectives of three Okinawan photographers from three generations to conduct a detailed study of Okinawans' complicated self-identity and resistance issues while under American rule and surrounded by U.S. military bases. Through the photographic images of many South Korean photographers, Park Jisoo told the heavy-hearted story of struggles that took place in the Korean Peninsula on the 38th parallel. Fang-Tze Hsu's unraveling of alternative discourse and historical trauma outside of the US-centric Cold War historiography was done through a study of Fiona Amundsen and Vandy Rattana's works.
In addition, we also feature an interview with a retired U.S. Sergeant First Class, Kent Mathieu, who was based in Taiwan in the Sixties. He arrived in Taiwan on a C-54 carrier in 1965 where he worked in Taipei Air Station belonging to the U.S. Air Force in Taipei, while he also took up the post of Manager in the MAAG HQ’s Annex Officer's Club in Taipei. Following his retirement, Mathieu set up a website which served as a depository of memories for many American soldiers who had previously served in Taiwan. Through the memories of Mathieu’s military career, it was as if we were teleported back in time to the era filled with images of U.S. soldiers, clubs, pubs and bases..... These imprints which have been gradually forgotten in Formosa not only formed the stories of many US soldiers once based in Taiwan, but also collective memories belonging to Taiwan as well.
Earlier this year, renowned and influential art critic John Berger passed away at age 90. In memory of him, we invited photography critic Li-Hsin Kuo and Shih-Lun Chang for a long dialogue to conduct an in-depth critique of Berger’s ideas and his identity as an intellectual. At the same time, we invited experienced art critic Han-Di Huang to pen an article detailing Berger’s acute and intense views on seeing, which would certainly satisfy Berger’s ardent fans. In addition, from this issue onwards, we have started a new segment “Photobook Club” where we invite an international image practitioner, author, researcher or collector, to introduce to our readers recent worthy photobook reads. This issue, we open with Daniel Boetker-Smith, who is the founder of Melbourne-based Asia-Pacific Photobook Archive.
As we close our articles collection in February, we have received the sad news of young artist Ren Hang’s suicide, which has left us in deep shock. We had a dialogue with Ren Hang in 2013 for the Bodies and Sex feature, we saw for ourselves the visual tension demonstrated through body language in his works, where he mesmerized all with his pushing of the game boundaries circling the human body. This led him to become the young star of the international photography scene in recent years. With his passing which happened like disappearing shooting stars, his illustrious life as an artist has also ended. We wish to bid him a fond farewell, may you rest in peace, Ren Hang!