Issue 47: MMORPG Guest Edited by Riana Head-Toussaint
Island Shapes 岛屿形状 is a digital map that consists of short sequences of footage filmed on this same island where my grandpa lived before immigrating overseas. In one segment, we see a house that acts as a shrine where my past family members and ancestors are honoured. Family and other caretakers reside in or visit these ancestral houses, tending to the shrines and cohabiting at times with ghosts. The house contains centuries of cultural tradition, but outside the house cultural shifts and political changes occur.
Other types of ghostly presence appear in military relics. Abandoned tanks and imposing concrete speaker placements broadcast past propaganda - they litter the landscape; especially the beaches, which were previously civil and cold-war frontlines. These relics and areas of past military bombardment become marked for tourist sites.
Tourism has become one of the largest industries on the island, along with a governmental push to regenerate the local vegetation after it has been stripped of resources by decades of industry, and deforested by the military complex.¹
Filming on my first trip to the island where my paternal family has lived for several centuries, I simultaneously experienced a sense of cultural familiarity and the cultural distance of a tourist. This interactive ‘map’ offers no sense of geographic ‘reality’- only the observation of certain remains.—¹ The scholar and poet Teresia Teaiwa coined the term “Militourism” that combines militarism and tourism:
‘Militourism is a phenomenon by which military or paramilitary forces ensures the smooth running of a tourist industry, and that same tourist industry masks the military force behind it…Altogether tourism is able to flatten, tame and render benign the culture of militourism.’
Teaiwa refers to the military-industrial complex in the Pacific Island region, however many of her examples are still applicable globally. When on this island, tourist sites I visited were presented in their historical context. Yet some sites I tried to visit were temporarily closed to the public as they were still being used for current military operations. The proliferation and quiet maintenance of these tourist sites normalised their presence on the island and continues to integrate a military presence into the landscape. “Reading Paul Gaugin’s Noa Noa with Epieli Hau’ofa’s Kisses in the Nederends: Militourism, Feminism and the “Polynesian” Body, Teresa Teaiwa” from Hereniko, Vilsoni & Rob Wilson eds., Inside OUt: LiteratureCultural Politics, and Identity in the New Pacific, NY: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999)
Graphic Designer: Lloyd Mst
Editorial: Akil Ahamat
Digital: Yuanyu Li, Sam Soh
This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.