Blood Links

10, 11, 13/05 > 20:30
12/05 > 18:00
Language: EN
Subtitles: FR & NL
Duration: 1:30

“We are all born somewhere because of lessons to be learned from deeds in past lives.” Born in North Queensland, Australia, William Yang is a highly rated photographer whose shots have revealed Sydney’s nocturnal life, its gay parades and what was really happening ‘underground’. Amazingly he is now working on a totally different kind of photograph – autobiographical monologues with slide projections and music. In Blood Links , the seventh of its kind, this assimilated Australian returns to his Chinese origins and shares the journey of his people, a diaspora that continues to disperse and intermingle. These slides of beloved faces and landscapes and their accompanying stories relate in a warm and sensitive way a journey tinged with wisdom and gentle humanity.

Performance et Photographie/Performance en Fotografie/Performance and Photography: William Yang

Musique/Muziek/Music: Stephen Rae

Régisseur de scène/Toneelmeester/Stage manager: Scott McAlister

Avec le soutien de/Met de steun van/Supported by: The Australian Embassy

Présentation/Presentatie/Presentation: Kaaitheater, KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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“A Taoist believes that the Universe is in a fluid state, never static, always changing, and that energy flows between two opposite polarities, the yin and the yang. A Taoist flows with this current of energy. I have tried to live my everyday life in this fluid way. It was through the philosophy of Taoism that I came to embrace my Chinese heritage,” says William Yang, born and brought up in North Queensland and now living in Sydney. He is a third generation Australian of Chinese origin, as they say over there. “I believe in karma. I think you are born in a certain situation because of lessons to be learned from deeds in past lives. My monologues with slide projection are largely autobiographical, and doing them has given me a chance to think about my journey. I don’t have great technical skills as an actor, but I have a great visual asset in my photography, and I have developed skills in telling a story in words and images. I don’t put a lot of store in technical effects, I am more interested in people and their lives.”

Who would have thought that they were listening to the words of one of the most highly rated photographers of Sydney’s urban life and high society, the first person to have revealed images of its underground nocturnal activities, the shows, the arts scene, the gay scene? Who would have thought that this unassuming, warm and serene man, dressed all in black, venturing out alone before the public with some of the music and projections of the faces and landscapes he loves, first made his reputation taking shots of celebrities that were published in Mode Magazine and widely exhibited in Australia. It is hard to imagine, for Blood Links – already his seventh autobiographical monologue – takes us to an entirely different place. The sensation of coming across someone else’s family photo album quickly disappears. Yang is not over-obliging in offering the stories behind them – if he does, it is with elegance and simplicity, so as to immerse us more deeply in an extensive voyage: his own, that of his family, that of his community. He invites us to meet his relatives in Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Perth and Pine Creek. Travelling the bare vastness of the dazzling landscapes of the Coral Coast of North Queensland, Tasmania, the Sierra Nevada and Death Valley means that we are able to go beyond our own landscapes, eliminating the distance between the remote and the intimate…

This active and contemplative journey delicately reforges the links between people who have become dispersed throughout the world, such that it immediately brings them together again. Similarly, he uses them to magnetise us with the sweet feeling that we have all come from somewhere; with the warm feeling of belonging to a human community; that it is sad, happy and wonderful to think about it; and that wisdom is not just for philosophers. Wisdom lies within reach as long as we look somewhere other than at ourselves, as this photographer has done, offering us the precious gift of his wakefulness, of his awakening. Is not the most wonderful thing about great journeys the fact that we are forced to examine ourselves intensely, free from burdens and thus enriched?

Having trained as an architect, William Yang is first and foremost a maker of documentaries and a chronicler of ordinary lives with his writing for theatre, (which he has been doing since he finished his studies), his photographs and his research of archives. In 1990, thanks to a grant he was given to document what traces remain in Australia of Chinese immigration, William Yang returned to the rural Queensland of his childhood, heading north to the eastern coast that runs alongside the Great Dividing Range, these ‘new Gold Mountains’ that brought about a spectacular gold rush during the 1880s, like the Gold Mountains in California. Like many others full of hope, his maternal grandfather, Chun Wing, a teacher, made the journey from his native China to the Gulf of Carpentaria to join the mining camps at Pine Creek, the first Chinese settlement in Australia. “The country of North Queensland is steeped in my psyche. I understand the Aborigines’ need to make claims on the land, because I grew up on what I think of as my land. It is my landscape, even if it no longer belongs to me, and by going back and photographing it and documenting it I can relive my childhood. I have found in Australia’s vast landscapes a spirituality I have never found in its culture.”

Needing to answer all the questions that make people search for their identities, William, the Australian, went to China, a country where he no longer has any family. “It was something of a revelation for me to be able to walk down the street and feel I didn’t stand out, that I fitted in, that at last I could be anonymous. But I travelled throughout China in an imperfect disguise. Although I looked the part, whenever I opened my mouth I betrayed the fact that I couldn’t speak the language. People didn’t find this unusual, because there are 67 different dialects spoken in China and there’s even a famous song about two lovers who can’t understand each other. Without the language there was only a certain penetration I could make into China. Subsequently I have felt that I would always be on the outside and that all my experiences in China reinforced the fact that I am very Australian. But there’s something about China, let’s call it a ‘blood link’, let’s call it a resonance, and it can reach me like an arm stretching over the ocean, stirring my spirit.”

William Yang never said much to his family about his homosexuality. The gay community in Sydney, his second family, has been hard hit by the ravages of AIDS. He recalls them soberly in Sadness, an earlier monologue. Blood Links came from the tender and troubled heritage left him by his mother, Emma, who died a few years ago. “After my mother died I was suddenly thrown up against my relatives. I knew about them because of what my mother had told me about them. It was always a second hand affair”. So Blood Links embarks on this subtle and profound journey to his origins – starting with his Chinese grandparents, Chun Wing and See Ung, across the generations, ever more dispersed, becoming increasingly mixed with Australian, American, Japanese, Vietnamese and Argentinian blood – so many cultures and identities progressively transforming and diluting Chinese features and origins. An intimate journey of reconnection, a journey nourished by individual stories through history, branching out into faraway places, a path of migration giving rise to an entire diaspora, a path so evidently personal that it represents glaring universality...

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