Asian Provocation #4 — Lulu Yao Gioiello on Far Near
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I speak with Lulu Yao Gioiello and her new release of Far—Near, which is a cross-cultural book series, curated annually, that broadens perspectives of Asia through image, person, idea and history to unlearn the inherent dominative mode.
You can find the new copy of Far Near when it releases here, as well as back copies.
Some of the links and references discussed in the podcast:
— Hou Hsiao Hsien — Millenium Mambo (2001) Opening, music by Lim Gong
— Hirokazu Kore-eda — After Life (1998)
— Hirokazu Kore-eda — Nobody Knows (2004)
Ayoto Ataraxia 0:12
Welcome back to Episode Three of Asian publication, and I’m your host Ayoto Ataraxia. For this episode, we have a conversation that took place back in mid-October with Lulu Yao Gioiello. The season was changing. You can hear the autumn rain. The air moistened and the leaves softened. Lulu was just coming back to New York from LA. I met for the first time years ago, when I photograph Lulu for an advertising campaigns. Since then, we’ve kept in touch, exchanging notes, ideas, films and books. She has been releasing an annual cross cultural book series, Far Near, that broadens perspectives of Asia through image, person, idea and history with a focus on learned inherent dominative mode. This conversation was recorded back in mid October 2020. With the onset of a second wave of COVID in Europe, we speak about cinema books, and also the difficulties of funding, the taboo that surrounds money subjects, and its relationship around creative freedom, and independence. There’s a lot of interesting references in this conversation to books, films and music, or provide the links and information for you, in this episode show notes. s it been helpful to have the COVID focus,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 1:33
it’s hard to say, I think because it was hard for me to get started on it. Right in like March, I was feeling kind of helpless, or something. But then when I came back to New York, I kind of got motivated again,
Ayoto Ataraxia 1:48
what changed in New York?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 1:49
I mean, I left New York in January before COVID hit. So in a way it’s like normal here, but it felt a bit returning to some normal setting.
Ayoto Ataraxia 2:01
I saw this new series that you guys are doing, “a pure person”?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 2:05
Yeah, friend of mine, Angela, she’s a music or album producer is more on like her record label side of things. She’s like a young Taiwanese American girl who just really wanted to work with Lim, a few years ago.
Ayoto Ataraxia 2:31
This is a snippet from Lim Gong’s track A Pure Person, the soundtrack from Taiwanese director, Hou Hsiao Hsien’s Millenium Mambo, you may remember, the beautiful opening from 2001’s film will Shu Qi. I love to hear the conversations in Taiwanese, brings me instantly back to my birthplace.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 2:51
So she reached out to him and they started working together, she was really trying to push him to get some new music out. But they also kind of just talked a lot about, you know, what a pure person is or what it means today. Also, ironically, you know, I never got really any compensation for that song. So it’s kind of strange that something that was pure kind of like got mixed into the, you know, complexities of music industry, artists compensation and all that. But he’s in a totally different mindset now, which is kind of interesting, you know, obviously, he’s like a bit older now and 20 years of tasks. So he’s gone from kind of in this more like, you know, underground rave kind of scene to more, he seems to be a lot more into Buddhism and reflection.
Ayoto Ataraxia 3:40
I saw some of the Buddhist themes and the Heart Sutra and these kind of issues. And it was interesting, because just I think last week, I was talking to a friend about this idea of purity and also the way that my mom instilled that idea into me when I was a kid the idea of the blank paper. I was always super disturbed by it and I think it gave me a lot of stress. This idea of purity. My mother said that my piece of pure white paper is now blocked full of black ink stains, it is always gave me so much anxiety. I think. Of course, it depends on how you look at it.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 4:10
Like as if there’s no turning back from the taint.
Ayoto Ataraxia 4:13
Yeah, the taint. Do you watch any Sion Sono films?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 4:16
Ayoto Ataraxia 4:17
I do. Did you see that one where Oshima, the son of Ohsima interviewed him and he goes on this rant with his painting about purity.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 4:25
No, I have it. That sounds interesting, though.
Ayoto Ataraxia 4:28
I mean, this guy’s just incredible. Even in real life. He brings the camera crew to his studio, and he’s got this canvas and he goes on this rant as he paints this painting about the idea of purity and about young girl growing up and then how she gets defiled by different dirty men and just keeps throwing different paint on and drawing this idea of, of a person that sounds interesting. It keeps propagating a lot of these ideas of purity and teases you with preconception and perverted in a really fantastic way,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 5:00
I also saw a documentary with Hayao Miyazakii. And he talks similarly, like he really, I mean, he just like really loves how innocent he thinks children are. And he thinks that when you’re born, you have all these options and you can kind of like become whoever you want. But the moment you take your first breath, you’re making a choice. And so you’re losing the options that you not chosen. I don’t know if it’s necessarily about purity. But I kind of feel like in a way, it’s the same thing as like being a blank slate and just kind of narrowing down into kind of set path or chosen path.
Ayoto Ataraxia 5:34
Did you ever have that kind of idea instilled into you?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 5:37
Not really, I mean, actually, like something that comes to mind is more, my dad’s Italian American, he’s really into spirituality. And we practiced like Indian spiritual kind of Yogi meditation. But he always would say to me, like, you can change at any point in life, you look at yourself, separate yourself from your body, and you’re looking down at your body and don’t like what you see, or you don’t like your personality or anything, the choices you’re making, that you can always change that, that you’re not attached to any one identity, in a way, I kind of feel it takes a lot of energy and risk. But I think you can always be a blank slate to an extent, if you just are able to detach from certain either choices you’ve made or characteristics that you’ve kind of latched on to
Ayoto Ataraxia 6:24
nice that your dad instilled that idea when you were young,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 6:26
yes, definitely helped me to come to
Ayoto Ataraxia 6:29
that conclusion. 30 odd years later,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 6:32
it’s definitely a good thing to be reminded of, I’ll just every once in a while, like, at the end of the night, I’ll think about it and be like, Alright, if I were to die in my sleep, would I be like happy with what I’ve done so far? And if not, what can I do to change that and make it more something I’m proud of comfortable with leaving?
Ayoto Ataraxia 6:49
Yeah, definitely get that sense from you. What do you have for focus for this issue?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 6:52
this issues theme is devotion. But I kind of tried to approach it in some more like, you know, obvious ways, as in religion, or spirituality, or someone who’s super dedicated to one genre of things. But also, some of the entries are more about the person themselves. And then just seeing what they actually feel devoted by or for if they even feel devoted at all to anything. I’m like, really excited about this one, because I definitely spent longer time on this. Usually, the book comes out in July, but this time, it’s probably coming out in like, next month, but I got to speak to so many different people. And I think it’s also kind of interesting that, you know, I chose this theme this year, when you got to be like really devoted to something to see it through. I think for the last like six, eight months, I think so many people I’ve talked to you have been challenged to feel motivated or challenged to kind of realign what they think is important to them, or what’s important for them to continue doing. It’s kind of resonating with me more this time than the last two. I mean, the last two are great, too. But I don’t know it feels kind of all related in a way.
Ayoto Ataraxia 8:04
Why would you say this time gave you more meaning than the other two.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 8:08
I mean, the other two were definitely just like explorations. And I was really just excited to find people talk to them and create something fun and interesting, which is the same in this issue. But I also just feel like I was going through trying to find what’s important for me to produce, and also just see how other people are dealing with this pandemic. And as well as like how they stay inspired. One person I interviewed, this time was a musician Shintaro Sakamoto, and that was like a crazy thing because we, my friend and I just went to his concert in Brooklyn back in I think, November, December, and then happened to go to a bar that him and his friends went after the we met him there and did kind of like an impromptu interview in the staircase of the bar. And then I worked with a photographer friend in Tokyo to do a small shoot with him separately, but he’s someone who’s so interesting, because he’s been doing music for like decades, and he’s kind of like a loaner wreck with you know, he’s not really trying to get more popular. It was interesting to talk to him because it seems as though I’m sure he thinks a lot about everything he does. But he’s also has answers. For the questions were mostly like, I don’t know, I just do what I like, I want to make music that I enjoy listening to. And whether it changes or not throughout the years, he doesn’t really think about that. That’s kind of inspiring to hear about people who are really doing things they just like really enjoy doing and are devoted to that
Ayoto Ataraxia 9:43
a bit embracing the idea of don’t ask why kind of approach. I mean, it also reminds me of my upbringing and but it was so painful for me to just accept a lot of these things and I could get myself so bogged down on all these questions about things and then I’m not doing anything because it’s just so existentially difficult
Lulu Yao Gioiello 10:01
Yeah, yeah, I know. I mean, I feel like there’s a balance between that because I really like to ask questions. But at the same time, I kind of think of it more. I mean, with this book, for instance, like, if I really wanted everything to be perfect, I probably never really use a single thing and or be satisfied. And there have been moments where I’m like, oh, man, I messed up on this thing. And I wish I hadn’t printed it yet. Or if I look back, I might get upset if I see something that wasn’t perfect. But I also realized the end product in general seems like it’s not where you should be relying or putting all of your satisfaction. It’s really more about the process. I think the process you learn a lot. And so even if, in a way, you’re asking questions as you’re doing something, so it’s like, I still want to ask why. But I also still just want to do it at the same time. So you’re like learning as you’re doing things, make things or kind of do things you’re afraid or doing or a little bit nervous about putting yourself out there. And then anything I do bad? If I’m not happy with it, I just try to erase it from it. Don’t look at it again, delete the email,
Ayoto Ataraxia 11:11
you know, is everything really that bad? And I’ve kind of been a bit of a recluse and been retracting a lot from thinking a lot about new projects, I realized there was this growing fear and perfectionism that was really crippling me, I feel more and more excited about letting go a lot of these constructs of how things supposed to be. I mean, first, I think I was started by just understanding that budget wise or money, it’s just getting ridiculous. I feel like we’ve been through a stage where I really lived through some kind of excess, it was just mad. And today, it seems like my whole thing is just trying to do projects where I just can do it on my own and keep it as simple as possible and not care too much. Because I think most of us just about my ego anyway.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 11:53
Yeah, I mean, money is such a touchy subject, it’s great when you can, I mean, ideally, you have full control over everything. But obviously, that usually comes with less investment and like momentarily, and I agree, like you don’t, you don’t need a lot of money to make really beautiful things, it always helps. I’ve definitely been in a position where I’ve, you know, self funded a film or something like that. And it just gets so stressful and limiting when I don’t have enough money to like, provide the right things for the people I’m working with. But also, I don’t necessarily have technical expertise to offer a cheaper solution for something, I find that mostly with, you know, video or film, it’s always like, pretty tough to keep budgets low. But I also agree, like I don’t think you need, you know, hundreds of 1000s of dollars for something that ultimately, you know, is probably gonna end up on people’s phones. I’ve been thinking a lot this year, with all this time that I have about film and music, so much of it is getting so I don’t know how people are going to function now.
Ayoto Ataraxia 13:00
I mean, just this project, A Pure Person, what’s the distribution model there.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 13:06
So I don’t know as much as Angela would she’s really the owner of this project I’m kind of just helping her get it out there and show like the right people. But I don’t think they’re looking to make any money off of it, from what she’s explained to me like any of the money that they do get is going to charity. So I know she’s doing a digital release right now, which is why we like posted a bunch and did an interview. And then in a few months, I think she’s planning a vinyl version. But yeah, I’m pretty sure Lim really didn’t want to have this be about him making profits more about I guess, collaborating and coming up with something new.
Ayoto Ataraxia 13:47
I definitely believe a lot in these projects, too. At the same time, I’m also thinking about these kind of ideas of common idea that you do things that you love pro bono, and then hopefully it will track something later that will be a project that will pay for all your hard work, but then sell your soul somewhere along the line. I just find it also really tiring this kind of way of living.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 14:11
Yeah, I agree. I think it can be super tiring. I also think it’s important that people realize that that’s kind of the reality because I feel like right now people are starting to talk about it more openly, but I feel like so many, you know, young or not young photographers or artists or filmmakers or musicians like don’t realize that a lot of these things cost money even if it’s just like buying equipment and distributing things without without investors like all these independent magazines in general have some sort of investment or some sort of wealthy background to help support them, you know, like nothing is for free. Same with photographers. These editorials usually cost at least $2,000 but often And even more than that, and not that many people will talk about it, which I think is kind of unfair, because someone who’s trying to do it with no money is going to think that they’re maybe failing or not good enough, because they don’t have the same kind of resources that others might have. And I mean, for me, like, I pay for everything for this book out of pocket. I mean, the reality is, I work a full time job, you know, to pay for it. It’s not like it just comes out of people. I mean, people buying the book obviously helps. But that’s not the only way that something can survive. It still needs money or like investment from somewhere, it not that it’s a good thing. I think, I wish it was different. But I do think it’s like important that it’s talked about, and people realize that people who have finances to pay for something are able to have the more freedom to make something new or different or not. That doesn’t necessarily give payback monetarily,
Ayoto Ataraxia 16:01
I think this conversation is a good starting point. Recently, I’ve been really thinking about all of these models for the longest walk. But definitely the last five years companies like Netflix or Spotify, for example, I realize it’s just so poisonous. At the same time, it’s this kind of lazy model, we’ve kind of given away so much of our power to the singular monopolies. And it’s just become quite impossible for a lot of things to happen. Unless you go through some of these classic ways of creating and distributing. I think it’s really unfortunate, because I think it’s this idea of independence. Also purity in that sense of like, how can the voice of the creators be truly what they want to say or do without having the fear of how the funding is coming? I wonder if people feel that way. Personally, I see that difference I just like most things is for me is just unwatchable. And Netflix. And Spotify kind of just pushes a kind of specific algorithm. And of course, there’s ways to move about it, I find it’s dumbing down the general population into this singular view of the world,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 17:09
I definitely feel that way about social media in general as well, like, especially Instagram, it’s like a weird, you can’t function without it. But you also don’t want to necessarily function within it. Because it becomes this kind of like washed out version of what you actually want to be making. It’s so easy to kind of just fall into things that you know, people will respond well to, but may not be what you’re actually trying to put out there. And it’s kind of a strange thing, because in one way it can like really help if you work with the system, it can help increase awareness of what you’re trying to put out there. Create a bigger audience, for the people for the things you’re creating. But it also means that you have to bear like that only work if you’re the way they kind of want you to do it. Which is like very, very aggressive, really short visual, like language or opinions, which I really love to like more thoughtful, long form things that require a bit more attention and energy and thought. And like I really prefer kind of seeing different perspectives of one subject and not just having this one blanket like opinion on everything within the subject, which I feel like is kind of what Instagram has been doing. Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, social media in general,
Ayoto Ataraxia 18:35
do you have any other points or mediums where you look at more subcultural content
Lulu Yao Gioiello 18:41
and very into books, I mean, a cool thing that I do find from Instagram is sometimes I’ll find these smaller book shops that have really great selections. And if I follow them whether or not they have like a lot of followers or anything, they can open up kind of more rabbit holes into researching different types of artists or photographers. I didn’t know about that. Then I also subscribe to like, you know, newsletters and certain publishers that I like, I really like triple canopy for instance, Asia art archive has some really great stuff. And then you know, again, independent film theaters, which are all closed right now but have such great curation and galleries that have nearly digital physical curation. I kind of looked at them for more guidance.
Ayoto Ataraxia 19:32
Do you see any good films this year?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 19:33
I finally watched afterlife, which is really good.
Ayoto Ataraxia 19:36
What do you think about it?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 19:37
I mean, it was funny because I saw the lobster first. And I feel like he was very influenced by kind of the whole concept of that of afterlife. I like that the he kind of just let the characters talk. And I’m kind of curious even to see how much of it was the actors speaking for themselves and how much of it was scripted.
Ayoto Ataraxia 19:57
What’s the one where they it’s about the kids For Kids,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 20:01
Ayoto Ataraxia 20:02
I think that one when they were working together with the kids, they would ask the kids to journal every day. And they would use that material. So for scripting or for insights, so I wonder if they did something similar with the crew?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 20:16
Yeah, it seems like that because it doesn’t feel as though you could even make up this whole story just from scripting, as it also made me think of like my own memories and trying to think what I would have chosen, and then realizing that I don’t necessarily experience the present with the idea that I should remember these moments. Do you
Ayoto Ataraxia 20:39
have one in mind?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 20:40
No, that’s the thing I like, I really couldn’t think of one specific thing or like, I guess in a way, I almost started attaching it to people I really cared about in my life and try and find, like, specific memory with that person. But I have to think about it more. I it’s a hard question. a really hard question. Yeah. Oh, I saw this really good short film criterion was about creating the name right now. But it starts with an A, and it’s about LGBTQ black individuals and the 18th. And it starts with like an interview of this one guy talking about his first experience with a with a man. Yeah, the interviews are really, really great. And the sound mixing was really cool. And then I watched this back in 2019. So I don’t know if it’s this year, but I really loved Atlantic’s, it’s about this, like young couple in Senegal, and the boy decides to go along with the other young men, they’re on a ship to Spain as a way to immigrate. And then the girl, you know, stays behind and it becomes this kind of ghost story, but it’s really beautiful. The acting is really good. And the music’s composed by Fatimah alkatiri. And I got so into that movie, I reached out to her for this book, and got a kind of a short interview, but I was excited about that, too. We were supposed to do a photo shoot, but it like, scheduled exactly for the lockdown date. So it never happens. But it’s okay. But if you haven’t watched it, you should. It’s it’s a really interesting, it’s like really beautiful. And it’s always so exciting to see movies that come out now and are well thought out and feel different than everything else that’s out there.
Ayoto Ataraxia 22:39
Yeah, I’ve been generally quite sad by the lack of good recent films.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 22:44
It is on Netflix. But it’s, it’s good.
Ayoto Ataraxia 22:49
I’m gonna find it on another way. Did you see the latest Shawn sono film came out this year?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 22:56
No, I haven’t. Yeah, sometimes it’s tough though. To know where to find it. Especially when they’re out of you know, just out of festivals and things there’s usually not as much distribution available.
Ayoto Ataraxia 23:07
Same with music is now people can’t really tour and just the financials, how the redistribution of the economy is gonna function.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 23:16
It’s gonna be a challenge.
Ayoto Ataraxia 23:18
Are you rely mostly on online sales for your book?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 23:20
Yeah, and I always have although, you know, any of the book fairs have always helped just like reach people that maybe wouldn’t have come across her and Instagram algorithms. But also like, physically, you know, it’s always really nice to show the book. A lot of the sales come from online.
Ayoto Ataraxia 23:40
Are you still looking any other magazines?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 23:42
like do I subscribe to I subscribed since cooking? It’s like very small cooking magazine called cooking illustrated for cook illustrated. Just got it simple. And they draw a lot.
Ayoto Ataraxia 23:57
Are you cooking a lot? Yeah. What do you like to cook mostly
Lulu Yao Gioiello 23:59
just cook different forms of token but she goes,
Ayoto Ataraxia 24:03
What’s your go to vegetable?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 24:04
I love pea shoots if I can get them. Broccoli Rob, like as well.
Ayoto Ataraxia 24:10
I like the for you guys with the mailout. I look forward to those actually
Lulu Yao Gioiello 24:15
the newsletters? Yeah, yeah, that was kind of a way to try to combat the short Instagram formats. I just felt like especially during, you know, the height of the protests and everything I wanted to do provide something to the people I reach that was more in depth and more reflective than just an Instagram post. But I also didn’t want to necessarily create new content because I feel like there’s so much already out there that is probably more valuable than someone like me who has not studied this for my whole life or like is not a I mean, I haven’t faced too much racism in comparison to others. So I just felt like it was it made more sense for me to learn more About subjects while simultaneously read, digesting them and regurgitating them out. And then more is curated way, so that you can kind of get the best of what I’ve researched. Yeah, that’s really where it came out from. And it’s sometimes tough to get through doing because it really is like hours of researching stuff on the internet or trying to read through books. So I started them at once every two weeks, but it kind of got a little overwhelming. So I’ve made them monthly. And I also, I have plans to have more kind of guest curators also just because I don’t think I should be the only person making the selections, especially when it’s on something that I’m less familiar with. But they’re exciting. I’m really, I’m actually excited to see like, what the people I asked to do the newsletter come back with, because it’s always something I hadn’t really heard about before.
Ayoto Ataraxia 25:58
Do you get much responses from the content that you’re putting out like people engaging, or even people that have a different opinion?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 26:05
Yeah, definitely, with the one I did on sports, there are a lot of responses from French people who are a little upset. But when I talked to them, they were all pretty understanding. And we actually had interesting conversations. And then I get emails kind of responding to the reflection questions section of the newsletter, I just have, you know, small dialogues with them back and forth through email just about their thoughts on on the subject,
Ayoto Ataraxia 26:30
what was some of the French responses that they were having issues with?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 26:34
I mean, it really was because of this one quote from a French Arabic soccer player that just said, If I score, I’m French, if I don’t, I’m Arab. And I think they were just kind of upset saying that, I think someone will one guy brought up like that the guy is in a good person, and that he has been known to, I can’t remember what it was, but maybe like, might be a sexist person or something. Although when I talked to them, I was kind of like, you know, the subject we were talking about was more of like a broad thing on how countries either claim or don’t claim people of mixed or different ethnicities within sports. The biggest example right now being, you know, gnomeo soccer, who has, you know, three identities really, and who gets to claim that or who should, how she chooses to be identified versus how others like force, her identification, or her identity, but some people were some, like, French people are just getting a little upset being like, this isn’t true, French people are that racist, or like, re celebrate. And like all of our sports celebrities, I guess, or sports members, despite what race they are. But when I talk to them more about, you know, the context of the quote, they they understood it and agreed. And that’s like the that’s the saddest thing I think about or that’s the most frustrating thing I see about social media, and he’s kind of viral quotes outside of context, you know, if it was a longer discussion, not online, usually not on comments, because we’ve all seen how comments end up going. But if you have a kind of dialogue in person where you are open to other people’s perspectives, or understanding that things aren’t, you know, just black and white, then I do feel like most people kind of generally agree, or at least are closer to understanding the other person’s perspective. And I wish there was like a way to incorporate that into digital communication. Because it’s so important. It’s a tough one.
Ayoto Ataraxia 28:37
I’ve been having some personal issues with some of these discussions. Because I mean, on one sense, I think people in person or publicly are relatively agreeable, and don’t want to be too long in a confrontation. However, I am also suspicious as to the invisible racism or ignorance about certain subjects. And the double signals that people put out both individually as well as collectively friends, for example, with regards to Islam phobia is exploding to a point where it seems to be quite okay for a lot of flagrant statements that comes out from even around the dinner table. Let’s say, of course, when quoted, I think that’s the issue, right? Like when one on one you have conversations about things, people generally have nice things to say. But usually the policies or the actions of a nation doesn’t really reflect that or the actions of the state doesn’t really reflect these things.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 29:36
Right. And that same person could be speaking to a different group of people that have different values or ideas have recently changed their opinion as well in comparison to like what they would say to someone who they know would be less inclined to has any sort of racially like an appropriate opinion. It’s tough.
Ayoto Ataraxia 29:57
I lived in Italy for five years and I grew up in Australia where I really had to integrate. And there was the same thing in Italy, where you try not to rock the boat. But there are so many instances of just outright racism. But it’s so casual or so invisible, that people don’t really acknowledge it. And it’s interesting, for example, with this statement that, you know, from this quote, and there’s so many of these other issues, which is when I find that when I call out people on that, and not even in the aggressive way, the fear of being I mean, this is the concept about white fragility is just how difficult it is to have an actual discussion without having people go completely on the defense and complete denial.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 30:42
Yeah, it’s definitely scary to be confronted with the idea that you’re like, ingest, or you’ve done something wrong, you know, I think everyone’s most people’s. Not everyone, most people’s reaction to being told they’re kind of doing something that’s wrong is a sense of defensiveness because you don’t think at the time that you’re doing anything wrong. I really, really, really benefited from watching that documentary, teller of fear that was, Oh, yeah. Especially just because you see the dynamic of, in my opinion, because I was seeing the dynamic of the the one, you know, white guy that felt like he wasn’t a racist, and then was everyone else was like, No, you’re, you’re pretty ignorant, and that he only really started to understand where they were coming from, or see that he was actually maybe at fault. After he started addressing his own trauma with his dad, I keep feeling like if people were able to address their own traumas or their own insecurities, and accept those, I think they’d be able maybe to be more empathetic to people who maybe not don’t experience the same sorts of traumas, but are affected by things that may not, you know, affect the person, I just think it would be, I kind of wish that everyone could have really good outlets for mental health, and yet how to just accept and address pain that you’ve gone through or anything like that, I just really think it would, it would make people more understanding each other.
Ayoto Ataraxia 32:17
So much of that is so invisible,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 32:19
you don’t know until someone tells you a lot of the times you don’t even know that you’re affected by something emotionally until maybe it bubbles up into something bigger, where it actually catches your attention. But I don’t I don’t think it’s kind of the same thing with buying record brushes, you don’t realize you’re affected by it. And so one day you realize, like, Oh, wait, I’m actually like, really, I get so closed off when I need this certain type of person. Or if someone says something like this, I’m not really sure why I get upset, but I get upset. You know, forget sometimes it’s just hard to actually pinpoint these things that are affecting you.
Ayoto Ataraxia 32:54
Did you ever do therapy yourself?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 32:55
Yeah, I did. I did last year, for about a year. I think it helped. I feel like it was pretty standard. But I mean, before that, I’ve also, you know, meditated and journal, like written a lot trying to like, understand my own feelings about things that I’ve experienced, or if I feel especially if I feel, you know, sad or upset, like I usually write it out and try to figure out where it’s coming from. I think it’s super, it’s been like very beneficial to me,
Ayoto Ataraxia 33:21
you said that you you don’t experience as much racism as potentially some other people for you. How was it to be aware of some of these concepts, if, for example, that you never really saw it firsthand,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 33:35
I definitely experienced more like subtle racism throughout life and then just witnessing it because sometimes I would be in a group of people that are predominantly one race or the other and see how like, easily they speak about other races, and usually kind of condescending ways. So I’ve kind of seen it across all communities, honestly, like, just it really does also depend on the person. Besides that I, I’ve read some books and movies like moonlight, for instance, like it’s not maybe not necessarily the best movie in the world. But it’s such a specific perspective that I will never experience because I’m not, you know, a gay black man, it like really helped me see something that I wouldn’t experience on my own. But I can, like relate to, in a human sense, more of like an empathic way, but maybe never have thought about that happening. Those kind of experiences happening to someone or those defense mechanisms happening to someone because of how they’ve been treated in the past. Like before that movie, it didn’t really occur to me that the idea of using masculinity as a guard because I’ve never had to do that, even that, I mean, not I think that’s a good movie, but even like bad cinema. I can learn something from I watched Ford versus Ferrari. And I feel like I learned something from that, because that’s directed to a certain audience. And so by watching it, I’m seeing what like that audience appreciates, or like, wants to see, or how, why they react certain ways.
Ayoto Ataraxia 35:17
I’ve been exploring masculinity question I’ve been asking the people that I’ve been interviewing to have some, like, what does it conjure up for you at this moment, specifically about Asian masculinity,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 35:28
I can understand someone’s need to feel masculine, based on the way like know societies are built, and the value that’s built into it, the expectation put onto someone, I do think it can be very toxic, not only for people around them, but people, but for the person themselves, just because they’re putting so much expectation on themselves to be a certain way and to hide certain things. And I think that’s really unhealthy. I think it can be really unfortunate that a lot of Asian men feel the need to be masculine. And that and how they choose to prove that masculinity because sometimes it can reinforce certain stereotypes or exclude certain people or ideas from being part of their identity, I found Asian American men to really value white women in comparison to black women or Asian women, because it makes them feel more valuable or something early as if they’ve accomplished something. And I don’t necessarily blame them for it, because I feel like I mean, it’s completely understandable. There was like a quote, I read actually, I think France famines, black skin, white mask. Yeah, the idea is, yeah, I mean, I think it’s essentially just like putting value in who you’re associating yourself with, and how close proximity you can get to the kind of power and status that you that are often granted to people who are white masculine men. The thing is, it’s all understandable. The same with Asian people in general, trying to associate themselves more often with quite individuals or other races, because sometimes it can actually lead to a higher status, or a way out of poverty for the rest of their family in the next generations, you know, those those things are actually real. It’s not like, that’s not something that actually happens in real life. While I think like, we should be aware of it and try to prevent that, from that kind of bias from happening. I don’t think anyone who’s kind of ended up doing that is necessarily crazy or anything, I think it’s all pretty understandable.
Ayoto Ataraxia 37:44
It’s this idea of white affirmation.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 37:47
But there is also Alternatively, you know, such a really positive affirmation for being part of a real community of people who identify similarly to you. And I find that to be more rewarding, kind of like intrinsic and extrinsic motivations, like, do you find more positive reinforcement by being like accepted for who you are, or having a community of people and you know, all these kind of like intangible things do you value more success status and materialistic things? It’s kind of a similar argument.
Ayoto Ataraxia 38:24
And that’s kind of a thing that is up to the individual as well. But overall, the pressure of the mainstream society and the system has its toll. Yeah, I
Lulu Yao Gioiello 38:33
can. I can. Yeah. And I can really see why someone who may not have that much security in their basic needs, like a good home ways to pay for things. And if they feel like they don’t have enough of that, I could see why it would matter more to move up, as you say.
Ayoto Ataraxia 38:49
Yeah, for sure. I think it happens on both sides of the gender.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 38:52
Yeah, yeah. Yes.
Ayoto Ataraxia 38:54
There’s also like a layer of Stockholm Syndrome trying to relate with the colonizers. Do you watch any of the old gas? no brakes?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 39:00
Oh, yes, I do. You
Ayoto Ataraxia 39:02
know, that one, where I think it was the Trump Jr’s booksigning.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 39:05
Yeah, I just saw that, like two days.
Ayoto Ataraxia 39:07
Oh, yeah. Yeah, the one way, and then there’s that woman, the black woman who was going on about her slave master, and quite intense. Yeah. But it’s an interesting phenomenon.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 39:16
I mean, you can definitely feel more comfortable. If you just look at the bright side of what situation you’re in, which is kind of how I feel like she approached it.
Ayoto Ataraxia 39:24
Yeah. Everybody’s got to make their own decision. And it’s just hard to see sometimes. Yeah, I find myself in this kind of interesting position. Living in Berlin, I realized that this was kind of the age when my parents emigrated from Taiwan to Australia, you know, we really had to assimilate and fit in, I kind of hear that same thing as well. And the same kind of Army now to feel like I have to assimilate into German culture. I sense a massive fear from this idea. Also the idea of nation states and nation identities. It’s like we’re all in some massive football game. What is your point of view about concepts of nations? And do you see yourself as more American or Italian or Taiwanese?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 40:07
I mean, it definitely changes throughout life, I think. But I feel like I’ve mostly associated myself with New York specifically, never really associated with being American actually was pretty disappointed. I mean, I think the only the main time I really realized what I was perceived as and like what Americans look like to other people was when I studied in Florence, because there’s so many American students there. And I was shocked, cuz I didn’t feel like I saw that in New York. I didn’t think we looked like this specific type of person, Italian American, I kind of relate to, but I’ve never, I’ve always felt like an outsider and my more extended family on my dad’s side, and then Taiwanese, I only recently, as in like, the last 10 years, really got to know my family on that side and that culture, but I feel like I’ve been kind of growing more fond of it and more proud of the accomplishments and the things they do. I feel like I celebrate that a lot more is that I almost feel like I’m lucky to have been born part Taiwanese, because I think they’re doing such a good thing. And SARS. legalizing gay marriage in Asia is such a sadly, like a slow thing to happen, the way they’re mostly how they’re kind of fighting the pandemic, I think they’re pretty impressive. And then just all the time and these people I’ve met so far, great people. So I definitely like and happy to be Taiwanese. But I think I’ve associated mostly in general, like overarching throughout my life is just being Asian as a whole.
Ayoto Ataraxia 41:43
You mentioned you grew up with your father. Yeah, your mom wasn’t around, or you lived in different places.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 41:49
She moved back to Taiwan when I was two. And just like didn’t really have much communication with her until I was about I think we, we didn’t talk or like see each other at all, from maybe like eight years old to 16. And before that it was maybe like, once every two years, she’d be in New York, for some reason, good to see her for about a day or two. But then once I actually had to get my passport renewed in, and was still under age, I had to get her signature technically, because my dad never got full custody. So we contacted her and then we started kind of talking more. And then she invited my brother and I to Taiwan, I was 18. So that’s the first time I ever one as an adult, or as like a conscious human because I think I went once when I was two when she first went back, but I don’t remember that. So it was like a bit more of like a new experience or like more of an adult experience with that part of my family. But growing up, I don’t look that Italian. So I’d always kind of been identified as Asian. And my dad pushed pretty hard to get both my brother and I interested in in Asian cultures. He’s also very interested in, in Asian culture, so we kind of spent so he’s into this Indian spiritual group called Ananda Marga. From when he was about 17, I think until we were maybe 17. We would go every week, and it’s predominantly Indian and Filipino monks, so definitely surrounded by a lot of different Asian cultures growing up. And then he got into this Korean Taoism group later on that we also went to meetings, the chanting kind of Sunday’s
Ayoto Ataraxia 43:34
How did you like that? As a kid?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 43:36
So from like childhood, I was going to meditation. And then when I was about 16, I think for a couple years, we went to the Taoist group meetings, I definitely preferred. I was a child. So I preferred the Korean meetings because they had better food, in my opinion. But I value now looking back at it I valuables, you know, I think the meditation was actually really helpful at probably, and the people, some people were really good people and had interesting outtakes on politics and spirituality. And ultimately, like very giving people like they, the spiritual group we were with, they function globally and do a lot of giving back.
Ayoto Ataraxia 44:22
What was your perception or your image of your mom as a kid, though, because you didn’t really keep in touch during that time.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 44:28
I mean, I didn’t really know anything about her. So I just kind of thought of her as like, not really existing for a while. And then when we got to know each other, I was like, Whoa, she’s a lot more Asian than I realized. She went through a few style changes. When I first met her, she was like, completely decked out and Asli with like a perm and red hair. You know, it’s like it was interesting. And then when I met my Taiwanese family, when I first went back, I was pretty shocked by that dynamic. I was like, like making fun of individuals in your family to as a way to connect, it took a while for me to get used to like that. Really? I was kind of affected by that.
Ayoto Ataraxia 45:10
Yeah, that can be tough. I’m still affected by that.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 45:12
Yeah, I wish that’s one thing I wish would phase out of Asian culture is making fun of your family members. I have this one cousin, they used to call jumbo cuz he was like a little fat kid. And now he’s just a really skinny teenager who plays like nonstop fortnight. So I wonder how much of that is affected him? Or if it was something else, you know, it’s hard to say,
Ayoto Ataraxia 45:37
Are you in better contact now with your mother? Yeah, we
Lulu Yao Gioiello 45:39
like texts from time to time. And I tried to go there once a year, or like two years for like a little bit of a longer amount of time. So definitely be have more of a relationship now. And it’s cool because she’s, she’s very creative. She’s a, she’s a choreographer. It’s interesting to kind of see someone who she considers herself a black sheep of her family for choosing the arts. She’s very dedicated to it.
Ayoto Ataraxia 46:05
What about the language barrier,
Lulu Yao Gioiello 46:06
her English pretty good that she met my dad in New York when she was studying. She’s getting her master’s at NYU, for dance. And she works a lot with foreign musicians and Opera people and stuff. So I think they all kind of just speak English to each other. So she’s pretty good at it. But the rest of my family on that side doesn’t really speak English. So that’s always been a challenge. I like I really want to learn Chinese just like me, I keep thinking like now’s the time to do it when I have more time. Also, maybe thinking about going there and trying to take classes while I’m there. What town today? Well, my mom lives in Taipei, but there’s like family throughout the entire country. Really, Mike, both my grandparents have like nine siblings. So I think there’s like family everywhere. Definitely some I have an uncle and Kaushal, too. Yeah, I
Ayoto Ataraxia 46:55
went back last year to film in my family. Yeah, it was interesting to have camera apparatus between me and them and to kind of absorb them from that lens, as opposed to my memory of being a child in that context. Because there’s a part of me that has such a different perspective on the world and on myself and how I understand them. Like there’s the part of me that understands the Taiwanese mentality. But there’s also a part of me that sees it from a foreign perspective that is so confused and disturbed by these little quirks. And it’s quite a challenge to come to terms with that. My grandmother, she’s on my dad’s side is the only one still left from that generation. And my dad employed a Vietnamese caretaker for a living, right. So there’s also like, kind of a layer of colonization there to have like a lower GDP nation. And that was quite heartbreaking to see them living together and quite mad in this way. Where Yeah, it’s just it’s it’s another layer of colonization and another layer of oppression and suffering, for
Lulu Yao Gioiello 48:05
sure. I think that’s really important. Also, I think a lot of times when we talk about Asia, I think it’s important to to include internal racism of other Asians towards other Asians, and not exclude southeast and South Asians, and West Asians in comparison, within like these more westernized or more, these richer countries in Asia and how they treat their people outside of them. And the migrant workers their perception of like you said, you know, Thai or Filipino, Malaysian individuals, it’s really, it’s it’s definitely disappointing when I see it happening
Ayoto Ataraxia 48:44
also within Asia, I think, like, with the relationship to money, and economy is such a big part of people’s lives. And it’s generally a lot more materialistic. And I can also understand why and it’s quite, it makes me sad as well. I remember having some friends and they were visiting Lu Dao, which is like a island off the coast of Taiwan. And there is a group of indigenous people that live there, I wanted to go and film them too, and interview those guys, because they would speak about the mainlanders. Which is interesting, because in Taiwan, usually when you refer to the mainland, there’s, you’re referring to the Chinese oppression on the mainland, but for the people and do that, yeah, they actually was a leader with Lando green or blue anyway, they were really upset with the mainland is referring to Taiwan mainland, because they were dumping all of their nuclear waste to that island, basically neglecting the way of life of the people there and pressing so much of their social and political aspects of their well being. So it’s just interesting to see how it trickles down. And like you said, also the way that Yeah, there is this kind of colonizing effect or of Filipinos, Vietnamese workers who come for higher wage work compared to their home countries. And yeah, those things like it’s it’s kind of in every probably every culture or nation as a whole some sort of bias or like need to find yourself above someone else is wondering what we can do to change that. This the idea of power and power structures is pretty hard to to, I’m not sure if it’s really possible to remove completely. It’s just the way that nature’s perhaps constructed some way these dynamics, it’s just it’s usually replaced when it’s torn apart. When do you think you’ll go back to Taiwan Next?
Lulu Yao Gioiello 50:38
I keep playing with the idea of going back like, now
Ayoto Ataraxia 50:41
In my panic, I nearly went to Taiwan. When COVID first started, I thought it was like the end of the world
Lulu Yao Gioiello 50:48
and probably wouldn’t be a bad idea. Funny enough.
Ayoto Ataraxia 50:51
My parents who are Taiwanese living in Australia, they’re very suspicious about the government’s numbers about their COVID status.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 51:00
Right? Well, I was gonna say, my mom, as well was saying that they’ve been kind of blaming it on Filipino workers coming in. They say that a lot of any of that breaks are kind of the fault of some foreign people coming in, which is probably partially a possibility. But then there’s also some kind of unexplained records of Japanese or Filipino people coming out of Taiwan and testing positive.
Ayoto Ataraxia 51:26
It’s interesting how it reveals people’s prejudice with these instant theories.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 51:30
Yeah, like who to blame.
Ayoto Ataraxia 51:32
Also the idea of blame with Coronavirus I find very hilarious. There’s definitely the people that are really looking for the origin story or the people to blame. I find it really perverse and quite interesting.
Lulu Yao Gioiello 51:44
I kind of feel like girls, especially for the spreads.
Ayoto Ataraxia 51:48
I wonder if it’s really even the right way to think this blaming mentality, right? It’s just is it’s just nature right?