Session 7: Visual Arts and Literature


Friday, April 26, 1:30 p.m — 3:00 p.m.

Moving Connections: Affective Aesthetics in Contemporary Visual Art Portrayal of Southeast Asian Migrant Workers in Taiwan

Fiona Yu-Lun Hsu

Independent Researcher

Migrant workers originating from Southeast Asian countries constitute an integral component of the contemporary labor force in Taiwan. Primarily hailing from Indonesia, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand, this community of migrant workers holds undeniable significance within Taiwanese society. Beyond their economic contributions, their cultural influence has played a role in shaping the present-day identity of the island. These communities being a prominent social aspect and take a significant place in public discourse in Taiwan as in other regions, they have also become the theme of artistic intervention in various forms of cultural production and representations. This ongoing research delves into visual art initiatives that address the circumstances of migrant workers in Taiwan. It examines how contemporary artists respond to the socio-political challenges faced by migrant worker communities, particularly through the affective register of art. The research takes four visual artist/artist collective’s works as case studies, Chia-En Jiao (饒 加恩), Charwei Tsai(蔡佳葳), GuanMing Yuan(袁廣鳴), and Your Bros. Filmmaking Groups (你哥影視社), and speculates on the themes of their artistic practices that grapple with issues and images of migrant workers. The study centers on the works of four visual artists or artist collectives: Chia-En Jiao (饒加恩), Charwei Tsai (蔡佳葳), GuanMing Yuan (袁廣鳴), and Your Bros. Filmmaking Groups (你哥影視社). It explores the thematic elements in their artistic practices. Specifically, it probes how these works leverage the affective dimension of art in distinct ways and critically examines them in terms of intertwined aesthetics, ethics, and politics. It argues that these contemporary visual art initiatives’ engagement with the affect offers an alternative portrayal of migrant workers that diverges from existing cultural productions that commonly show a tendency toward tactical mediation for activist purposes or exhibit narratives of visual intimacy in an attempt to encourage the spectators’ identification with the protagonists. Furthermore, some of these works mobilize an ongoing disruption of conventional identity representation and emotional evocation, thus inducing a sense of antagonism that perturbs and destabilizes the viewer’s critical faculties, and generate a redistribution of the sensible through a reimagination of the underlying socio-cultural constructs defining the migrant workers’ reality. This research is part of a developing master’s thesis. It also serves as a part of an ongoing and long-term curatorial project titled “Not Just Love Stories,” (see a collaborative initiative of literature and visual art that aims to develop collaborative artworks with migrant worker communities through exploring the intersection of affectivity and mobility.


Dialogues in the Third Space (Le Moulin in Taiwan and The Spring and Autumn Group in Vietnam)

Le Thuy Tuong Vi

University of Social Sciences and Humanities, Vietnam National University, Vietnam

Third space” – a term Homi Bhabha has used in his cultural analysis – emphasizes that every cultural voice has an opportunity to be listened to through mimicry, interstice, hybridity, and liminality. In this way, while the original neither has the absolute authority nor establishes the standards to evaluate the others, the voice of the original is equal to the other versions’ voice. During the Japanese Occupation Period, several Taiwanese artists announced the release of Le Moulin, a magazine led by Yang Chichang and inspired by surrealist creativities. One year later, in 1934, the surrealist magazine closed then quietly fell into oblivion. On the way to rediscover Taiwanese cultural identity a half of century later, Le Moulin as the pioneering surrealist phenomenon in Taiwan has rewritten the new Taiwanese literary history. In 1942, when Vietnam was in French Colony, there was a similar case. A group of six Vietnamese artists published The Elegant Collection of Spring and Autumn which manifested their art and intellectuals’ duty. Though the authors of The Collection have not admitted the reception of Western literary trends, their creation was strictly criticized as a clumsy imitation of surrealism. With only one issue published, The Elegant Collection of Spring and Autumn was judged a failure in reception in Vietnamese literature during a five decade period. This paper is a practice of literary sociocriticism in reading and a discovery of some dialogues which Le Moulin (Taiwan) and The Spring and Autumn Group (Vietnam) have created in the colonial context. With “third space”, Homi Bhabha has suggested a different understanding about the creations in the colonial situation – the space of dialogues, where cultural differences should be respected and be admired. Accordingly, focusing on the success or failure in the reception is only a secondary factor in the approach proposed by Homi Bhabha. In my ongoing dissertation about the surrealism in Vietnamese literature, the research is a part of the Chapter 2.


Worlding Taiwan Literature through the Writings by Southeast-Asian Migrants in Taiwan

Joan Chang

Professor, Department of English, National Taiwan Normal University, Taiwan

Due to Taiwan’s complicated history in the modern era, Taiwan literature has long been struggling to establish its scope and define itself. Its struggle mainly stems from its relationship with Japan and China, and its undecidability is due to exogenous colonialism and Han-centric multiculturalism. This paper examines the origin and development of the Taiwan Literature Award for Migrants from Southeast Asia, and how this unique body of literature has challenged the convention of Taiwan literary canon and the formation of Taiwan culture. One notable feature of the literature by Southeast-Asian migrants in Taiwan is its predominantly autobiographical nature. For both fictional and non-fictional pieces, these writings extensively draw inspiration from the authors’ personal experiences in Taiwan, and lend a distinct testimonial quality to the depiction of struggles and challenges faced in their disadvantaged lives.

Moreover, an intriguing twist shows up. The development of Taiwan literature from the modern era to the contemporary period has been streaming along in a counter- discourse, reflecting how people in Taiwan enunciate from a subaltern stance to protest colonialism, imperialism, despotism and discrimination. Ironically, in the writings by Southeast-Asian migrants, Taiwan local people become the oppressors and the persecutors, while the Southeast-Asian migrants fall into the subaltern category. A study of this twist can not only add dynamic insights into categorizing Taiwan literature, but also help to place Taiwan literature within the global discourse of world literature. This paper will first investigate the relations between life writing and application of distinct paratexts in the publications of literature by Southeast-Asian migrants to see how this unique corpus forms a literary enclave in the Taiwan literary canon, and then deliberate on how the literature by Southeast-Asian migrants in Taiwan could contribute to worlding Taiwan literature.