Photo taken the first day in Beijing, foto Goeun Bae

Letter from Beijing - Artist in Residence #5

Issue no1
Feb - March 2021
Diaspora dialogen

Dear Dad,

I saw you at home. You were at home with the same look as when I saw you on my way to school in the morning. I was looking at the same scene. Every day, when school was over, I came home and looked at you. Dad, you were watching a Chinese martial arts movie series.

In the video, the Chinese masters of martial arts appeared one by one. They train their entire lives. They constantly learn the secret martial arts that have been passed down the family from generation to generation. They train their body with martial arts. With daily practice they gradually perfect their training. After deadly training, they finally become masters.

But, it doesn’t end there. A master of martial arts always seeks out the stronger one. To become the highest master of all masters, they fight one another, until there is only one that remains. The descendants of the loser spend their entire lives training in martial arts so as to exact revenge. And when they take their revenge, the descendants of the other side prepare, in turn, to avenge themselves. Revenge is the only goal in the family.

In the desolate world of martial arts there is no mercy. The masters are not allowed to live their own lives. They spend their entire lives so as to avenge their mother, father or grandfather. That is why martial arts movies are in such long series. They are like singing a canon that never ends. The patience and effort displayed by the trainees taught me about perseverance.

Do you remember? In our neighbourhood video rental store, I could borrow up to five videos at a time. You asked me to borrow five videos, you were the one who chose martial arts movies. I took the five video tapes in a black plastic bag and handed them over to you. Putting on the next tape, you were already filled with excitement. Watching the lives of these lonely masters killing one another unfold, you smiled. I bided my time. Who should I avenge?

Sad music flows upon the death of a lonely master, you were crying. I guessed you felt sorry for the master who met his horrible death. Blood flows out of the master’s mouth. “Avenge me.” His young son vows to never forget. Who should I avenge?

Mother came home, her body heavy. She must have had a tough day. Without a word, she looked back and forth at dad and the martial arts movie playing on the screen. Mom couldn't stand it, because dad was sitting on his ass all day. Besides, she had never had the patience to sit through martial arts movies and so she didn't get into them. You, who had been watching martial arts movies all day, could not understand impatient mom. You had enough training time, but mom had not. She lived in the real world. She had her real-life training all day and had come home. You were sad for the death of the master of martial arts, but mom was sad for her life in the real world.

The next day, you didn’t ask me to borrow the next series from the video store. You did not come home. I didn’t see you for a while. But revenge was not complete. Perhaps you had gone on a lonely training journey like the masters of martial arts. I did not wait for you. In the desolate world of martial arts, you met a strong man. Someone died in a match. But I have no plans for revenge.

I'm here in China to learn martial arts. I'm following you. It's such a cool training journey. I already know how to secure a victory without fighting.

I'm looking forward to meeting with you, Dad.



Goeun Bae
is an artist

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Metropolis M Magazine for contemporary art No 1 — 2021