Thursday, June 01, 2006

Patisserie Chinoise statement

Patisserie Chinoise

“The very power and scope of Orientalism produced a kind of second-order knowledge with a life of its own, …in effect,
Asia has become the West’s “collective daydream of the Orient.” The Orient then seems to be a theatrical stage affixed to Europe [the West.]” Edward Said Orientalism

Said writes of the “domestication of the exotic.” The attempt to reduce whole countries to over-embellished tchotchkes reflects an eye-candy, shopping-hypnotic mentality. Patisserie Chinoise (Chinese Bakery,) evolved after visiting Shanghai last summer and realizing that I was standing in the future. I bought the hair accessories, silk brocade, etc. for the pieces there and in Beijing. So China fabricates plastic-everything, inexhaustible varieties of ‘toys’ to lull Americans into cheaper and more stylish convenience. (We don't make anything any more, my father always reminds me.) Next, China, now itself buying the pretty items, wallops us economically, and become the new America. Ironically, Capitalism comes down to: the one with the most plastic wins. (Yes, there is a Walmart in Beijing.) Moreover, with previously quaint Shanghai now looking identical to any towering megalopolis in the world, we have irrevocable homogenizing globalization, loss of the charm and soul of folk culture.* So a French Patisserie can be Chinese --it's all mixed up, East and West. Particularities are being sucked into the tornado of the dollar/yuen consumer generic.

In Soul Mountain, in quite a more ambivalent mood than in the poetry of Sung dynasty painters who were transfixed by the same mountains of rural China, wryly sardonic author Gao Xingjian admits a sordid secret. He can’t love anyone. As China manufactures us all further and further into dependent oblivion, (returning the favor of all the opium we generously provided in the past,) all Gao can do now is continue his rambling, casting about the hinterlands for an emotional dimension (in folk songs) which is missing in contemporary action.

Alas, for nearly a century, East has been chasing West’s racy, slick possession-love. Yet few trendy Asians have noticed the emptiness of this candy-coated black hole. I feel, on the contrary, West should be chasing East. Ultimately, besides razing traditional Asian houses, sky-scraper corporate juggernauts efface gentle rainforests. America’s excessive verticality is toxic. First-world-wide, there is a glut of yang. Subconsciously, we pine for horizontality, yin. The roof of a pavilion (pagoda) has an archetypal elongated curve. This shape sustains a notion of infinitude. The angular West needs the compensating Taoist wu-wei, breezy, curvilinear state of mind.

So, Asian fetishist, these refulgent refuges, petite pavilions of dream, are but exotic, Orientalist play-acting pastiche. Nonetheless, perhaps in some kind of a trance, you can still slip through the glitzy surface, into a mountain-teahouse-like liminal interlude.

*Harboring the labor-of-love aspect of craft, small, bungled foul-ups in pieces, (mismatched edges, pins, lumpy fabric, etc. ) reflect not the flawless execution of manufacturing, but hand-wrought, failed craftsmanship.