[written on 22 June 2018, epilogue for Videography. Micro Narratives. Temporal Beings. Our Manifesto / 2018] ***中文版隨英文版之後。原文寫於2018年6月22日，為《我們的錄像宣言》（2018）的「結語」。
micro | (sight & sound) narratives | vocalization
This project (Our Manifesto) began with “Micro Narratives” (MN), a concept-driven workshop on experimental art with moving images as its emphasis, which I have been running for 15 years, usually welcome by students who are not afraid of “headaches.” I have gone through many shifts in the why, how and what with the workshop series; I pour in my own education in theories and histories of moving images and the arts in general. Through the years, it became increasingly clear to me that MN is not to design a set program on how to do “experimental videos,” but rather to uphold experimental actions and preserve the space for the freedom to find out what one can do. In 2015, I decided that it is of utmost importance to encourage the artists I work with to provide their own reasons and reasoning for, on the one hand, doing experimental art and, on the other, why they must make video and what they may do to keep experimentation alive. This is the context for the writing of a manifesto to go along with 13 weeks’ experimental exercises, starting 2015-2016. “Manifestos” are meant to be entrusting the right of articulations into the hands of the workshop participants. I really want to hear their voices, be they murmurs, stammers, bold assertions, lyrics and poetry, hypothesis or sheer vocalization. This Manifestos project aspires independent thinking and individuated articulations; it aspires character, courage, imperfection without losing self-respect, and self-affirmation with a dose of humbleness, enough to sustain exchange and to accommodate differences.
Perhaps the one who is really still learning to “vocalize” is me. In 15 years, I have turned my thoughts on “Micro Narratives” into various short expositions, and often in the form of editorials or curatorial statements. I feel I have owed myself a big essay to synchronize this on-going thought process, at least to establish the term for myself. But that’s not where my conviction lies. I feel I am almost there but not yet – not in terms of taking time to write or not, but I feel there is still something unknown to myself that has been driving the MN project – other than a faith in the ontology of art, is it also, or more so, an attitude of life, a resistance to forms of power and control I experience outside art, a philosophical quest, a media archaeological interrogation of moving images, or…? I believe they are all here with me. In the past months, it has become clear to me that “Micro Narratives” is already a reality with contestants and defenders. The latter feel magic as they have stepped on a new path or have moved forward with their artistic practices; the former often remark the works produced look too similar, and lacking in direct engagement with urgent issues in society. As such, “Micro Narratives” has already exercised its commitment to raise queries and to assert how important it is not to stop experimenting. Half-jokingly, then, “Micro Narratives” is the code name for “let’s take experimentation seriously.” It upholds a framework that is mutable, theoretically, and for practice. It asks new questions about being in contemporary society, especially as a temporal being. I would not reduce it to a new set of theories with fixed agenda items. This essay, therefore, ends with a chronology that relates the many issues I have worked through, and many still on-going.
Between 2015 and 2016, one full year was spent on making videos, showing them among ourselves (in a group of seven plus me), mutual critiques, self-directed literature and art research, reading theoretical texts, writing our thoughts and so on. The urge to share and make more people make videos freely and in full respect of history and concepts resulted in an ADC emerging artists’ proposal – to publish their manifestos with their works, to mark a phase of their creative history, and to open up more questions rather than to close off possibilities. In December 2016, good news came. The group received a grant sufficient for the project to advance, and I became its adviser, remotely so. The pinning down of one’s thoughts into something shareable became a felt challenge.
What is a manifesto? I got asked this question several times in the entire process. I refused to give concrete examples although many came to my mind: the Dada, the Surrealist, the Fluxus, the Situationists International and so on. I would really love to hear them formulate their own purposes and thoughts, not just based on what they aspire to be, but also based on an understanding of what they have already injected into the works they have made. Readers may find the manifestos in this book uneven in styles and modes of expression. But this is deliberate — in order to show variety and differences in personalities. Ann Chim, in around January 2018, told me she was puzzled: she re-read what she wrote in 2016 and found that she had become a very different person. After some brief exchange, we agreed that we should publish the manifestos as a series to mark her shifts. (Missing all the chances to look more into the future with her, Anna passed away in March 2018.) At one point, I felt everyone was over-burdened by the task of essay writing and by citation practices. The suggestion to write in point form in order to communicate, followed by the ongoing essay, was accepted and turned to action.
On the surface level, it seems the Manifestos writing project is anti-mainstream and anti-Hollywood. We know that the only thing we are really against unanimously is uniformity by rule or homogeneity by standard, which stigmatizes differences and destroys the space for doubts and queries. On the most basic level of moving image practices, often in the name of “audience probably do not understand,” many promising trials and errors are deemed wasteful, and genuine thoughts rejected. The manifesto writers here are perhaps all dreamers, seeking to see heteroglossia materialize. It is not exactly about democracy, which requires another project, but simply the basic rights to be, on the level of being able to breathe at ease. The caution of Stiegler, among others, marks the critical edge of this project: a responsible contemporary citizen must not let go of issues of sight-and-sound creations in our digital culture and thoughtlessly assume that is the problem of the artists. Digital culture does not take the form of government, but addresses our affect directly; it is aesthetics as well as sentiments that the marketing logic of the culture industry contains and homogenizes, unifying the way we remember and feel about the past.
an assemblage of voices
Videography: Micro Narratives. Temporal Beings. Out Manifestos shows diverse styles and approaches to video-making and writing, and perhaps that is the most natural, or even necessary, in order to preserve individuality. The editorial process aimed only at preparing texts that are shareable and comprehensible, with basic technical moderation. The production process aimed only to make all authors feel accountable to teamwork. If I may step back for a long take, or rise a little higher to get a fuller view, I see a rhizome with abundant points and complex, stranded networks of connectivity. Yet a few nodal points seem more busily passed through than others, with mild congestions. Here and there, sooner or later, these nodes scream:
“I must create. It is imperative.”
“I now focus on performing my being and my worth.”
“I am more than a dust in the universe. I.”
“I long so much to share my thoughts with others.”
“I have doubts for post-capitalism and neoliberalism’s total merge with technological advancement. Caution!”
“I write with video, I therefore exist.”
“Because of videography, I have studied a bit of philosophy, read a bit of theory, taken a look at works by other artists, learned something about herbal medicine, learned a new software, paid closer attention to my body, re-learned moving and breathing, connected with the alien me while looking into to starlit sky, got more new phones and cameras, read a few poems, rediscovered some classical writings, …”
“Does videography make me love better?”
“I – am I really not different from others?”
They are simply different, and yet with shared convictions. Some of them fully believe in art, substantiate the name, and seek art’s good in society. To some of them, art is a basic right to defend, just like they defend their right to live, passionately, rationally, … Some of them persists in videography similar in nature to drinking and eating, but are also highly aware of the fact that having good water to drink or a fair share of food of equal distribution is not something to take for granted. Perhaps delving into the technical interiority of video making can be consoling. It keeps you there for a long while. But once we lift our head and look around, the vastness of a world out of our control is threatening, and making things work is a lifetime’s commitment and often futile. As we are about to make some sense out of what we have, what seems concrete may suddenly dissipate. What does videography offer? A (safety) net of sorts with points, lines and planes on which one could focus, momentarily, to sculpt and craft. As playful and sarcastic as some of the works are, I feel the tremendous weight asserted. Or magic some may find in video-making – here is where you can make the impossible apparently possible. Build those doors, therefore, like constructing a conundrum: some for yourself the maker and some for the spectator, all opening to the unimaginable.
We have a total of 7 participants in this Manifestos project. Let’s keep it open. As suggested, there are many more manifestos written, and are to me, quite unforgettable:
“I may often fail to suit the world’s order. In Videography, I have more rights and authority.” (Don Tsang, 2015)
”What I have been, is.
Do not try to think what I have thought behind the screen, nor should anyone try to guess one another.
I do not think about you when I make my videos, nor should you think of me when you see my works.
My works are a part of me, but I am not my works.
Videography is a headache. Video fragments walk in their own pace, in their own way, and all I could is to run after them…” (Winnie Yan, 2015)
***Linda Lai’s participation in this project was fully supported by a grant from the Research Grants Council of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (CityU 11404514).
***The printing of the 140-page book+DVD set is supported by a Media Art grant provided by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council.
微 | （聲影）敘述 | 發聲
《我們的錄像宣言》這個計劃的起步是「微敘事」，一個我進行了15年，看來很受那些不怕頭痛的好學生歡迎的、歷史理論主導的實驗性創作工作坊，以活動影像為核心。2003年啟動，每兩年13週，往後，我很快的釐清了我要探索的並不是要建立一個如何做實驗性錄像的系統或完整規劃的課程 (programmed system)，而是想鼓勵實驗創作的行動 (experimental actions)，維護實驗的空間；若當中充滿了歷史理論的研究，那是因為我相信追尋感知的創造性的張開才正正不能忽略思維概念的珍貴，不能放棄從歷史學習。（創作的人都曉得「理性」的重要性，只有市面上的快速分類才把「理性」冠到科學的頭上，「感性」就留給藝術家或女人。） 2015年，我決定往後無論如何，重點都在於讓年青朋友們發現和擁有屬於他／她們自己的錄像書寫的原因、方法和理據，尤其要找到個人的實驗精神如何切入生活和創作。「宣言」的書寫必須伴隨一個學期的實驗便由此而起。「宣言」，就是把播音器交到有感觸的學生手裏。我真的很想聽到他們的聲音，來自於他／她們肺腑的申述與呢喃，斷續的、滔滔的、還在試聲的。我希望這個世界有更多自主的思維、有個性的聲音；獨特，不畏懼，殘缺而不自卑，謙虛也自我肯定，而且可以互相交往，不介意異同。
其實，不斷在「試聲」的是我。15年過去了，我多次而斷續的把「微敘事」是甚麼寫成短文，從來未感滿意過。對於一手發展多年已漸趨成熟的理論定位，我確實欠了我自己一篇洋洋大觀的文章，在學術語境裡取個位置，讓人引述。我感覺自己正朝著一個重要的方向走，仍在途中，風景佳美，可我還在辨明我的路徑的擺動為何。我那麼用力追求的，是對藝術的本體論的強調？是生活態度？是我對藝術以外的操控性現實的回應與頑抗？我正在一個哲學大觀園的分岔上徘徊？對活動影像在人世間的出現的媒體考古的好奇？也許都有點吧。有人因「微敘事」而有所發現，多走了幾步，又或踏出一大步，也有人問為甚麼搞出來的這些作品的長相都那麼接近，甚至有人認為這些作品對社會、香港的歷史文化政治似抽離而漠不關心。這半年，我卻只在想，「微敘事」早已發揮了它的作用。它並不是一件大不了的事要著書立說，卻確鑿的是我和我們的實驗核心的所在，就像一個特工行動的代號吧。它，是由我努力的理據和歷史回應而生的內化了的態度。它，也是一個可變動的框架；是理念的，也是創作方法上的。它提出新的問題：我們該如何存活於當代社會？從個人的微觀日常出發可以嗎？存在於時間中的我們 (as temporal beings)，如何活在時間意識越發被科技調度、統一、操控的年代？這篇後記，我決定用編年紀（年表）的方法，把「微敘事」行動提出過的問題、不同時段的重點列出來，作為這個「宣言」計劃的註腳。我也希望所有穿越過「微敘事」的朋友們發出更多新的問題，由她們的本位出發。
宣 | 言
我們的實驗特工行動看似反主流、反荷里活（或好萊塢），其實我們真正介懷的是「單一」、帶封殺力的標準化，帶著「觀眾不會懂」的旗號為藉口，把眾聲喧鬧的可能性壓平。這不是民主不民主的問題，是軀體的、呼氣運行層次的人性和存在。正如斯格拉蒂 (Bernard Stiegler) 的呼籲，我們斷不能放棄對數碼媒體的創作活動的關注，以為這只是創作人的事，因為二十一世紀的存活，從科技的角度而言人與人之間的距離該是近乎零的了，但事實 – 尤其藝術所意味著的可能性的確實 – 說明了個體的空間是我們爭取回來的。不是「尋回」失喪了的空間，而是就地「創造」空間。
眾聲 | 複語 | 聚疊
Related Reading 相關閱讀：
“Videography. Micro Narratives. Temporal Beings. Our Manifestos” －Book Launch | 「我們的錄像宣言：微敘事。 存在的時間書寫。」－ 新書發佈會