Confessions of an Asian Tourist – Wayne Yung

Confessions by Wayne Yung

I moved from Vancouver to Berlin in 2001. A few years later, a Chinese-Canadian friend came for a visit. I took him out to various places, and he often remarked on how we were the only two Asians in the room, which rarely ever happened to us back in Vancouver. I’d simply gotten used to it in Germany. For this video, I hung around major monuments, observing Asian tourists with my video camera. Editing the resulting footage, I found myself becoming engrossed in these Asian protagonists. In a country where the central protagonists are generally white, it was good to shift my focus to these transitory figures.



Wayne Yung was born in Edmonton, Canada, in 1971. He has lived in Vancouver and Hong Kong, and is currently based in Germany. As a writer, performer and video artist, he has explored issues of race and identity from a queer Chinese-Canadian perspective. For several years, he was an active member of Video In Studios, an artist-run centre for video and media art in Vancouver. Since his first video release in 1994, he has travelled extensively to screen his work at film festivals around the world.

Comments from old site:

Submitted by Lin Cuizhen (not verified) on Tue, 09/01/2009 – 19:12.

Hi Wayne,
This is a beautifully shot film. Your cinematography is wonderful. I like the statement about how white faces fade into the background when you focus on Asians, because that’s a fascinating reverse of what usually happens. Myself, I’m a Chinese Canadian who spent ein und halb jahre in Berlin, and it was great to see the old Brandenburger tourist spots again, through the eyes of someone a bit like me. In fact I used to laugh about “the Asian nod” — I felt like there were so few East Asians that when I would nod at them on the street they would nod back and smile. You should try it for entertainment, if you haven’t already!
Yet this beautiful video made me feel uncomfortable and painful – and I’m not sure why. I wanted to maybe offer that to you. I really enjoyed this film and I’m sure you’re thoughtful enough to sense my concern, and might be able to figure it out for me.
I think it’s because I felt self-conscious about non-Asians watching it, and projecting typical stereotypes onto it. The last thing we want is to be silent pictures, because that is the fate that we too often suffer.
Do you know what I mean? Did you worry about this too? Did you struggle with ways to avoid that, or did you picture this getting screened to an Asian audience? What can be done to avoid those tiring stereotypes?
I wonder if you would consider putting subtitles into the video, or making contact with any of the Asian subjects, or something, so that they become active protagonists, and avoid their usual stereotypes – as inscrutable, docile and voiceless.
I hope you keep making these films, otherwise I really enjoyed it and I’ll keep on the lookout for your name.
Liebe gruesse,
Cuizhen

Submitted by Wayne (not verified) on Thu, 09/10/2009 – 13:50.

Dear Cuizhen,

Thanks for your kind feedback! Yes, I too had a certain ambiguous feeling around these images of Asian tourists. What would white people think? But then, isn’t that in itself problematic, assuming that the approval of white viewers is somehow important? And in the end, if you refocus your eyes on the white tourists, you’ll find that they’re not much different: they’re also wearing fanny packs and silly sun hats. But what’s wrong with wearing comfortable clothes anyway? They’re on vacation, after all.

Part of me tries to reject these Asians as negative stereotypes, but then part of me also defends their right be comfortably themselves (and they are!) In the end, they also remind me very much of my own relatives on vacation, and I refuse to reject the people I come from. They may not be the coolest hippest people, but they’re my folks. And it’s certainly not just Asians who’re sometimes embarrassed by their relatives.

Actually, I think it would’ve been even more interesting if I’d somehow snuck into these Asian vacation snapshots myself. But then it was only *after* editing the footage that I realized that I liked these Asian tourists, and was no longer so embarrassed by being around them.

The point about giving Asians a voice is an important one. In this video, the narrative “voice” is my own, and I make it extremely clear that I’m Asian. In this age of internet video, it’s become much easier for a wider range of voices to be presented, and no longer just “mainstream” (read: straight/white) ones. But in the end, I also feel no particular need (or desire) to authoritatively “represent” the views of an entire demographic; this video is an individual statement, the confessions of just one Asian tourist.

Take care,
Wayne