Processing the trauma of chronic illness in a bilingual performance film embracing ancient and modern medicine

Following a four-month visit to Taiwan during the pandemic, New York-based artist Yo-Yo Lin shares a first-person account of returning to a place of medical and familial trauma. Moving through the artist’s intimate thoughts, Re:collections melds together new media performance, documentary, Chinese medicine, and Taoist cosmology to question how identity and language are conceived in the context of disability and immigration.

“My parents struggled to navigate the medical-industrial complex in the US and chose to have all of my medical interventions done in Taiwan,” says Lin, whose parents moved to Los Angeles from Taipei. “This was a place where they knew the language, had support, and healthcare was affordable. I often find my “returns” to Taiwan associated with illness—memories of feeling helpless in a hospital bed, not understanding what was happening around me or what was being done to me; my parents finding healer after healer, treatment after treatment to make me somehow »well”.»

As an interdisciplinary artist, Lin uses different media to process the trauma of chronic illness and create a visual semantic that encompasses her experiences of disability and cultural multiplicity. The director’s hypnotic narration throughout Re:collections folds Chinese and English into sonorous imagery, amplified by a soundtrack composed of sounds Lin captured while in Taiwan.

“Culturally, it seems Asians don’t like talking about pain. I’m realizing that the experience of growing up in diaspora and within American culture is also a kind of trauma,” says Lin, “and I think there have been many experiences that have been invisibilized, not necessarily always through self-censoring but through loss of language.”

Re:collections is part journal, part travelogue and shows what healing looks like from a bicultural standpoint. Ginseng, angelica root, temple, prayer, and meridian channels play as much a part in Lin’s journey as echocardiograms, 3D x-ray models, and all the accouterments of modern hospitalization. But it is only in the meditative graphic art segment of “Scene five” that Lin reconciles these disparate medical practices as a single holistic model for healing and resilience.

Lin leaves the audience with a final question: “Knowing the many ways language shapes the way we perceive the world, how do we carve out space for language that will honor the multi-dimensionality of our experiences, which would be healing for us and our communities, across generations?”

Read a transcript of this film in English

Read a transcript of this film in ChineseJuly 9, 2021


Marley Hansen

Marley Hansen

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