Tao Lin’s Photos of Taipei Signs
Over the next few weeks, in celebration of the forthcoming release of Tao Lin’s latest novel, Taipei, we will be featuring a weekly selection of photos taken by the author during his recent trip to Taipei, Taiwan. While there, he took thousands of pictures with his iPhone, pictures which he has divided into albums titled things like “Taipei fashion,” “Taipei carbs,” “Taipei babies,” and “Taipei animals,” among others. In this selection, Tao shows us some of his favorite signs around Taipei.
“scoopo it up”
“Beware of column”
Saudi Arabia Isn’t Having a Feminist Revolution
When it comes to women’s rights, Saudi Arabia takes baby steps to a whole new level of infancy. (In utero steps? Spermy steps?) Sure, the King Khalid Charitable Foundation launched the country’s first ever anti-domestic-violence ad last month, but women are still unable to defend themselves against those same domestic-violence cases in court. In 2013.
One other huge breakthrough that I’m sure would have Susan B. Anthony setting off streamers in her grave is new legislation that allows women to ride bicycles. Granted, they still have to be supervised by men—but bicycles! Think of the endless freedoms that come with finally being able to cycle around Riyadh, a city not built with cyclists in mind whatsoever!
Oh, also, girls in private schools are now allowed to play sports, but girls in state schools still can’t. So, much like in other parts of the world, the amount of rights a person gets depends entirely on their wealth.
Despite these forward-thinking changes, Saudi Arabia was still ranked 131 out of 134 countries for gender parity in the 2012 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report. So recent, optimistic reports of Saudi Arabia going through a “feminist revolution” seem a little off the mark.
I spoke to Nouf Alhimiary, a 20-year-old photographer from Jeddah, about the challenges she faced when trying to put on an art exhibition about Saudi women in a country where basically every minutely inflammatory art piece gets banned from public display.
VICE: Hey, Nouf. How come you were only allowed to display half of your exhibition?
Nouf Alhimiary:You know that thing where you take a picture of your outfit every day and post it on Instagram or Twitter? I thought it was interesting that a lot my Saudi friends do that when they’re out of the country, but can’t do it here because they have to wear the exact same thing every day: the abaya. I wanted to create a parody of that by photographing women wearing the same thing in different places. I wanted to call it What She Wore/ What She Wore Underneath. The plan was to take pictures of all these women in the abaya, take pictures of whatever they were wearing underneath, and then display both pictures together.
But you weren’t allowed to do that?
The curator for the Mostly Visible show told me I couldn’t do it because the government would have rejected it. In Saudi Arabia, the government has to look at every art project that’s going to be exhibited to decide whether or not it can be displayed. The curator told me that if I included pictures of women outside their houses not wearing the abaya, they wouldn’t display it.
So what did you do?
I settled for What She Wore, which I actually like because it makes you ask, “Why do all these women look like they’re wearing a uniform?” But even though I only displayed pictures of women in the abaya, a lot of people at the exhibition came up to me and asked, “Why are you trying to change women?”
When our pal Mark Peckmezian told us Noel Rodo-Vankeulen was one of his favorite photographers, it was a matter of seconds before we absorbed his online portfolio and asked him to share some of his wonderful work with all of you losers. It really seems like some of these photos were taken in an art commune on the moon where everyone is made of gold and silver toilet paper. Interpret that how you will, and take a look at these selects we put together from Noel’s fantastic body of work.
Thus far, photographer Peter van Agtmael’s career has primarily focused on documenting the effects of America’s post 9/11 wars both at home and abroad. Before traveling to Iraq in 2006, however, he covered certain issues surrounding HIV-positive refugees in South Africa, and the Asian tsunami in 2005. After starting work in Iraq, he went on to win numerous awards, work in Afghanistan—both embedded and unembedded—and documented injured servicemen and their families. Oh, and he also shot the photo in the table of contents for this month’s issue of our magazine. We spoke to him about the mysterious attraction of conflict, and the realities of censorship and care for a country’s wounded.
VICE: You graduated in history with honors from Yale. What specifically did you study?
Peter van Agtmael: I studied a pretty general curriculum, that being the expectation. By the time I wrote my thesis, I had decided to write it on how the iconography of WWII Yugoslavia, of opposing forces like the Chetniks and Ustaše, was renewed in the Balkan conflict of the 1990s. How it was used to stoke fear and exploited by the power brokers to wage a civil war.
Do you think that your education led to you working as a photographer in a warzone at the age of 24?
I grew up in the suburbs of Washington, DC. Those suburbs are like suburbs anywhere. It’s easy to want to dream about more exciting places. When I was a kid, I was always very into pictorial history books—especially ones about WWII. I found it all very exciting and romantic, in its own way.
Obviously, you get older and the reality of these things kicks in, but the romance doesn’t go away, even when you get caught in the midst of it; that’s the strange and scary thing. I have had depraved and scary experiences in the last decade, but I’ve had beautiful ones, too. The fact is that when you get caught in the middle of these things, in these places there’s an indescribable merit somehow to feeling involved, to be making a record for history, it is satisfying a certain natural curiosity—one with certain useful impulses, and certain dark impulses as well.
Do you think that built-in fascination with conflict applies to most soldiers, too?
I think it’s across the board. If you have read Michael Herr’s Dispatches, he puts it really well—though it may be a dated reference in some ways. He essentially said that you can’t take the romance out of war. It’s sort of innate. It’s a genetically hardwired part of the experience. We all objectively realize the awfulness and brutality of it, but also for a lot of young people —especially men—there is this draw to it, not at all based on logic or rational thought. There are a million ways to try to intellectualize it, rationalize it, and break it into its tiny component pieces, but at the end of the day there’s a pull that can’t really be described or explained away. At least not for me. I envy people who aren’t drawn to war in a lot of ways. I’ve had a good and interesting life so far, but at times I wish I had made different choices.
Syria’s Refugees Are Trapped Between Hells
I first met war photographer Giles Duley a month ago, to talk about his work both before and after he became a triple amputee in Afghanistan. Giles’s most recent trip since we spoke was to Jordan, where he documented the arrival of Syrian refugees after a long journey across the border. Here’s his account of new arrivals to the Zaatari Camp. – Jamie Collins
The nights become so bitterly cold that I’ve taken shelter in a portakabin staffed by UNHCR doctors. We sit, sipping tea, fighting our tiredness, waiting. It’s nearly 1 AM and there’s still no sign of any refugees arriving. Restless, I go outside to join my colleagues, who are sharing a cigarette in the starless night. Suddenly we are silent. In the distance we can hear buses and then out of that cold dark night they start to arrive. The first to appear is a young girl, maybe five years old, dressed in a cream coat walking with a purpose beyond her years, followed by two young mothers clasping their children, wrapped tightly in blankets to protect them from the cold. They make their way into the large military-style reception tent where they will be processed, fed, given medical attention, and finally allocated their own plot within Zaatari Camp.
I watch as more and more arrive—tens, hundreds and, by dawn, nearly 2,000. There’s man wearing a suit, holding his kid’s hand; an elderly couple struggling to carry their meagre possessions; a pregnant woman in tears; a young man carried across the rough ground in his wheelchair. Each face seems haunted and etched with exhaustion, uncertainty, and fear. The scenes are reminiscent of so many earlier wars, faded black and white images of civilians uprooted and forced to flee with only what they carry. But this is not some terrible past, this is happening now and the war grows more violent and brutal each day.
The numbers are almost beyond comprehension. More than 70,000 people killed, over four million displaced, and more than one million refugees registered by the UNHCR. In Jordan alone, there are 340,000 refugees, many in the tented Zaatari. This number is expected to rise to over one million by the end of the year.