Friday, October 10, 2014

Happy Double Ten Day Taiwan -- Rock The ROC

This is an earlier incarnation of Portdaddia, circa 1990-1, at a National Day celebration.
October 10 has a special meaning for me, as I spent several of them on Taiwan between 1989 and 1994 -- the date being the National Day for the Republic of China.

I'm pictured in front of the Presidential Palace, a line of security guards behind me. I'm wearing a "Sun Yat-sen" suit, an item grossly out of fashion even in these early years. This was the attire of low-level bureaucrats and chauffeurs, those who didn't have air conditioning. People of more import would wear a coat and tie and crank the AC.

In the `60s and `70s this was the official business suit of the Kuomingtang, the Nationalist Party of Generalissimo Chiang Kai-shek. I had the suit made to my specs at a tailor shop in Tien Mu.

I would wear the suit to work and around town, locals my age perplexed why I would dress like their aged relatives; foreigners, like myself, wondered if I had completely lost my mind.

Like many sojourners eager to appropriate local culture, I was overly earnest and admittedly a bit nutty about the political history of the island.

But I did have a touchstone in my mind about the above picture in particular. Sometime in the 1980s I saw an exhibit in Greenwich Village of Tseng Kwong Chi -- an American artist, who started out Joseph Tseng, before developing his artistic personae. He went all over the US, and the world, photographing himself in a Mao suit in front of landmark vistas and historic properties. His work appealed to me as a seriocomic ritual of cultural diplomacy.  

I have the above print in my home and enjoy the feeling of goofing on those who take too seriously a man wearing an unusual suit.

Each year Double Ten Day comes and I think of Taiwan and the fun I had wearing dark glasses and the suit, extending Tseng Kwong Chi's notion of an ambiguous ambassador, projecting art or culture or who-the-hell-knows-what out into the cosmos just for the sake of it.

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