24 January 2007

Hurtling towards cruelty

Office. I settled into my inbox and saw the nauseating headline on the CNN news: Executed man's head "just snapped off".

I hated the sensationalism of that headline. But yet I clicked to read the article, breakfast threatening to back up on the oesophagus as I read it. (I did stop short of clicking on the video.)


Bar Rouge. I saw midgets dressed in red John Travolta costumes, hired to dance on bar tops. I hated the gaudy objectification of a minority. But I couldn't help but steal furtive glances at their small bodies.

Shanghai Circus. The finale was »the amazing feat of 8 motorcyclists racing in a cage. As I watched them a second time, my heart thumped and prayed for them. Then, in appreciation of their boldness, I clapped as loudly as I can, even though I know I was abetting the race towards the bigger, the louder, the scarier, the more absurd, the more dangerous, the more grotesque.

Magazine. I read this artist's comment in an »exhibition write-up:
I am interested not in the violence itself but in the spectators who watch from a distance. In traditional China it was common to watch public executions, which were lively events.* This tradition has been passed down and assumed modern forms, whether watching a brouhaha in the street or enjoying cop dramas such as Oriental 110 (东方110) and Court Record (庭审纪实). I feel a lot of people watch others suffering. It has become something of a hobby.
- Shi Qing


All around, it is easy to find the Bataillian instinct of wanting to stare at the sun (even though you know you shouldn't). Chinese parents who contort their children on the streets, Thai shows where women stick all sorts of things into themselves, and perhaps, even artists that purport to explore the theme of violence without falling prey to it.

Nothing is enough for us anymore. We are all hurtling towards cruelty.

* But it is not just the Chinese. The French postcard set, Les Supplices Chinois (circa 1912), apparently contains a series of images of the lingchi (凌迟) which were widely circulated among westerners. Lingchi is death by slicing. Some say that the victim should not die before he suffered more than a thousand slices, or else the executioner himself would be put to death.


  1. And on a happier note in the news today "fluffy white clouds were seen in the sky over the teddy bears pic nic!"

    A well written post Joanne! I wish I was as educated and could put words to paper (or computer screen) so well! You are right, it seems like morels are disappearing fast in this crazy world

    Thanks for visiting my blog; I am so glad that you did because I lost all my contacts on blogger because it changed all the comment entries to anonymous.

    I must make it a rule to not visit your blog when I am hungry; I have just scrolled down and seen your lovely menu again......yummy!

  2. Oh dear Joanne! I just thought about your post you made about whether to watch or not watch grotesque images etc.

    I was just channel flicking on the TV before going to bed and I landed on a program that was showing a man going through the operation to become a woman. They were just showing his dangly bits being removed and one part of me wanted to change channels right away but the other part of me wanted to look through my hands at the operation. About 15 seconds of squirming on my settee was enough. I am never going to eat meat balls again!

  3. And now, by your viewership in that 15 seconds, you can be sure the TV station will think the show is popular and re-run it again ;)

  4. Just stopping by to see how you are over in that part of the world?

    This part of the world is cold and wet so if you have any sunshine then please put some in a box and post it to me please!

    Kind Regards


    PS Oh! and stick any passing fluffy white clouds or blossom that happens to be floating by in the box too!

  5. Hello Martin!

    I couldn't send over any sunshine or fluffy white clouds or blossoms while I was in Shanghai 'cos we had a famine of those there as well, but now that I'm back in Singapore, we've got aplenty here so watch for your skies and gardens tomorrow! :)