The “Prolog” of the 365-page Our Manifestos II: Videography, Documentary Impulses (2021.05) explicitly examines videography as a way of living, an attitude of life, and the quest for in-depth transformation in the midst of complex, crisis living. In 5 parts, project initiator Linda Lai relates the process of the book-creation project and the different takes of the many artists involved. Part 1 describes the meandering journey. 「據點一杯茶」將以5次短篇連載《我們的錄像宣言2：記述的衝動》的序言。黎肖嫻開宗明義把錄像書寫看為一種創作人的活的型態和取向，以至於對深度轉化的渴求，以對應如何活在繁複、糾結、充滿噪音的當下。如是，錄像書寫的認知和反省遠超狹義的藝術操守和理所當然的影像美學。首篇記述召集各方創作人合力分享所穿過的崎嶇過程。
*Chinese version after English text 中文版在英語版之後
** feature image by Linda Lai
*** numbering in brackets refers to the actual session-page in the book.
We must continue to make manifestos. We must do so in order that we shall continue to fuel and nourish our capabilities to create new knowledge. Our “documentary impulse” is the starting point.
The project “Video Manifesto 2: documentary impulse” in ways resists a summary conclusion. That seems to speak of the inner dynamics of our heavily interrupted journey. This introduction is at once a retrospective curatorial statement, the documentation of a learning process, and a critical reflection.
A Meandering Passage: through spatial-physical disruptions and the spread of a pandemic…
A light in point was ignited in 2018. Through an open call, we have gathered many lights that shine, glitter, refract, project, simmer, swell, burst and burn, from around the world. What we have preserved here is the material evidence of our documentary impulses. In 2019, our assemblage of video works and initial written manifestos positively secured the Hong Kong Arts Development Council’s project grant to support a book + media publication. Green light, everyone ready to get set, and then the alleys, streets and avenues of our city were flushed with unprecedented, unanimous, openly played out desires and aspirations. Many wrote their hearts and minds under the sun – slogans, memes, sketches, banners, songs spilling – against which our somewhat high-sounding manifestos for videography deemed a bit idealizing and elusive. Nonetheless, many of our audio-visual works became the concealed habitat, where lost words and muffled voices found new shapes to fulfill their documentary impulse – and all this, in the midst of lies, slanders, hate-speech, and interpolated court sessions. My instantaneous personal response was to shift from video art to “video essay” of refreshed terms, from the emphasis of artistic principles and subjective authorship to also embrace communicativeness, through the inscription of the viewers into our work in search of a phenomenological mode of exchange. Production Manager Winsome Wong re-asserted videography as a daily exercise, a way of being that took her through the historical transitory. (03) Project Manager Elaine Wong resorted to the sculptural and moldable potential of affect via the moving image which gives our sentiments their material presence. (04, 07-29) The transience of the moment struck many of us whereas Deputy Editor Emilie Choi was keeping abreast of the difficult journey of writing her thesis on Hong Kong’s early experiments of the moving image before the 1980s.
Between February and April 2020, 39 participants (4 from the project team and the rest from the open call) met on-line in four sessions for a total of 12 hours plus to discuss our works and methods one by one. The documented conversations addressed the following questions:
1/ Account for one’s work as a work of art: what is the basic concept, purpose, technical strategies of the work presented to this project?
2/ Account for one’s documentary impulse: what to remember, motive for remembering, and how to remember (documentary strategies)?
3/ How do we connect with on-going social political unrest? In what ways had our general sentiments as a social being found way into our creative/artistic practices?
[*Summary or transcript of these four sessions will be presented on “Art Notes,” Floating Teatime, Floating Projects’ writing platform, May through August 2021: http://floatingprojectscollective.net/tag/manifesto2/ ]
The meeting sessions resulted in a long round of many participating videographers rewriting their manifestos, revising their works, or making alternative submissions, summer 2020.
With the COVID-19 situation deteriorating, and our routines collapsing awaiting a new normal that was not coming, it took us half of a year before work fully resumed in late 2020. The world is fundamentally different, and our city radically reintegrated, with our historical baggage and others’ growing on our backs. In March 2021, as we closed the project’s translation and copyediting phase, we noted the disparate existence of some young makers’ pieces that are all efforts to make a document of what they will to remember, around the same time our Manifesto project was on, from autumn 2019 through spring 2021. We welcome the 5 new and late additions to our Stop-press Collectibles (in section 08), and are grateful for the 5 (groups of) makers’ generous contribution. Preserve: it affords no delay.
Voices. Soundings. Muffled or Sonorous.
video still: ZHENG Tianyi 鄭天依
I read all the manifestos back to back and several times and found all kinds of echoes. But a voice is a voice, not a summary idea. The individual voices matter – for they each carry unique tonalities, sonorities, rhythms, temporalities, dictions, manners of speech, wordings and vocabularies, which must not be reduced to a type, a hashtag, or a set of adjectives. Isn’t this the integrity of art? Indeed, the manifestos in this collection show how we have lived through the same milieu but speak differently. Some of us are angry, some speechless, at arm’s length, sad, melancholic, ironic, provocative, striving to maintain one’s center of gravity, and …
Echoes or not, perhaps in unison, polyphony or clashes of harmonics. Most importantly, it is our right to be heard the way we speak (and spoke) that matters.
To speak it once again – with our own voice.
The thoughts carried by the writings are most likely to have been shared within each maker’s own community, and yet their articulations could be different as the context of speaking-making varies. Articulation is external, but it grows from and connects with internalized values, and only in action would articulations become impactful. Values require acting out.
Listening carefully I grasp the manifesto writers’ callings — slow down, pay attention, here are my intimate thoughts… — the core concerns the question of our existence. To live is to have a deep understanding of one’s body in space as well as the affordability and potentiality of the tools at hand.
Slow down, see differently, remember…
Videography slows us down. This thought was expressed in many words and manners among the participating authors. To some, it is survival tactics in our culture of the instant; to others, it is a call for renewing our attention economy. LAI Chun-ling’s 7-day dedusting exercises (07-15) and Wong Pak-hang’s drone-shot Habitation (07-13) are both the practice of slowness.
Highlighting videography as a way of being, Winsome Wong (07-33) wrote, “I am eager to create a video that is eternal and contains the passing of time, a space where I can hide.” Also speaking of slowing down and hiding, Esther Man wrote, “Whether it is during the shooting, editing, or screening process, I have a place to stand, to stop doing anything.” (07-23) I could almost hear the soaring noise that envelops her. But I also hear a new kind of self-awareness entrenched in not just being alone but also an intense relation being with their tools.
YU Wing-yan is highly conscious of the growing ubiquitous presence of imaging tools in contemporary life, including the many Apps for instant story-sharing on our smartphones: “all of the things above have quietly permeated my life: my profile picture might even appear in the luminous electronic sculpture in someone else’s home if I am not careful enough.” (07-38) Yu’s words caution us against being further commodified while we are all encouraged to feed our visual appetite. So, what does it take to stay being a self-conscious image user/maker as opposed to an eager consumer?
Esther Lam’s apparent escapism could be read affirmatively when she concludes in her manifesto, “Video is the medium that bails me from the jail of reality — through video, I can take off my mask, no more guise, and show the real me.” (07-18) This is a truthful response from someone who has spent years fighting off dogmatic values in her growing up experience.
Preserving one’s personal space is elemental to artmaking, thus also videography, and this is where art’s social relevance begins. There is no easy leap to art’s social responsibility unless we simplify art’s function to propaganda. CHENG Tianyi explicitly states her understanding of the social dimension of videography. To her, her documentary impulse could only be understood as acting out contextually, “Hong Kong is now facing an era that is increasingly turbulent and ruptured. With unspeakable traumatic memories, we need delicate and sentient imagination and ways of expression, as well as narrative energies with which we will record stories that might be forgotten, repressed, or ignored in the future.” She aspires her own video works to be not only representing reality and information, but also having the capacity for visions and diagnoses for the future. Thus she concludes, “I believe that art is not built behind closed doors, nor is it a tool for ‘engaging society’. Art itself is politics, it reveals, subverts and penetrates systems of power. All we can do is to safeguard our own sensitivity and uniqueness, and to express and create fearlessly.” (07-39)
In response to the on-going circumstances in the past three years, I have never felt such urgency to sustain one’s sobriety and independence of mind – that requires our mental and psychological strength, which then prescribes our integrity. Our sense of being, as many authors share in this project, is no transcendental self, but in the context of human-machine co-agency, as Marvin Hauck, CHAN Ka-wan, Ryan Chan, Don Tsang, Aurelia Laksmana and Sam Chan assert. Our “self” is necessarily a narratorial self, understood as a narrative agent at work, and being in action – this is the practice of our performative selves in the works of Selina Lo, Wong Chung-yan and Au Man-kit. […/to be continued]
video still from Winsome Wong’s Vi De O 黃慧心
這裡的文字，到底是策展導言？對策展過程的陳述？還是先行的回顧？《錄像宣言2 : 記述的衝動》是個無法「總結」的創作計劃。這也正是它的可貴之處。
2018年我們放下了一個點（公開作品徵集），聚集了眾多的光，折射、直投、反光、泛光、爆發、微燃。最終保留的，是我們都有記述的衝動的物理證據。期間，2019年的集件時段以至（來自藝術發展局的）獲得資助的確定，正值香港人的心思日夜寫在街頭上，延散也匯流，謊話官腔傳聞道聽塗說詭辯橫流光天化日之下，被唱出來的、動漫化的、迷因式流傳的，被口號化的，用血肉之軀去說話的，都衝著我們本帶點純真浪漫、理念高揚的「記述的衝動」而來。我們都在同一種氛圍裡， 包括那些在香港以外的錄像書寫人，各自摸底；這或刺激了我們對自身作品選擇上的考慮，或創作以自療，或一針見血，有時轉向另一些呼吸的空間。這些日子，我自覺尋找更唯物的錄像思維的探索，也是帶點衝動的把「錄像書寫」推向「錄像文章」，從主體自主性藝術性擴大而至顧及有對象的溝通。(07-14) 團隊裡的黃慧心感受著深陷夾縫裡的存在式的飄渺而求創作上的實在，錄像書寫就如做體操。(03)黃淑賢更著迷於情感的聲影結構和（可被）雕塑力，因為過去抓不住，當下轉瞬即逝。(04) 蔡倩怡這段期間則長處水深火熱中撰寫早年香港的實驗電影活動的論文，反覆的生病。
2020年初眾錄像人的書寫作品齊集，我們於四次共十二小時以上的分組會面，深入的討論彼此的作品，都因疫情只能在網上進行。這十幾個小時的檔案記錄了眾參與者對三大個課題的回應：一，各人用作者和創作人的角度去陳述自己的作品；二，從記述的衝動的角度去勾劃自己的「記錄」策略 – 如何記住，為何要記住，很想記住的又是甚麼；三，作為創作人我們如何個別的與當下的社會政治文化變遷扣上關係。到2020年末幾經波折回到《錄像宣言2》好好作總結；不能再長久的等待「正常」的復來，藍天之下日子已不一樣，全球是另一番的天下，我們的城市的內裡已產生了激烈的變化，「我城」已不能說盡變動中的處境，沈重的歷史包袱正在膨脹中。收筆的片刻，我們最終決定加進了最後一單元「珍貴搜獲」(08)；五組年青創作人，原來在我們的計劃進行之際也同樣用自己的書寫去記住、發出了自己的宣告。感謝他們慷概讓我們分享其作品。留住要即時、趕快，不容久待。
video still: YU Wing-yan 余詠恩
剛離開大學校園的文雅樂說：「無論是在拍攝、剪輯或放映時，我都可以在這個屬於自己的地方緩下來，得到片刻的喘息。」(07-23) 我聽見的，是裹繞著她的震耳欲聾。文雅樂說的，是對器具和自我的醒覺；這跟媒體科技普及化，手機消費文化所促成的影像的高度私有化截然不同。余穎欣便指出了記錄的工具無處不在，快拍快看，影像私有化的另一面。這些現象，「不知不覺間注入了我的生活。稍一不慎，自己的頭像甚至已經出現在別人家裏那枱發光電子雕塑裏去。」(07-38) 當我們被鼓勵主動去看的同時，我們是否被活化，成為更自主自覺的觀者，還是成就了單純快樂的影像消費？
林琬晴盤據的是影像把我們物化的對端。「錄像可以成為釋放自己的媒介 — 透過錄像，我可以脫下面具，不再偽裝，呈現最真實的自己。… 拍攝的目的，拍攝的內容，必須要發自內心，不要為拍而拍。」這話出自長年以來服役於特定的規矩生活的她，有求生和翻身的意義。(07-18)
保護、維護極個人的時刻不僅重要，而且是有其社會性的面向的。這些日子，我想了很多關於如何滋潤自己的能量、滋潤彼此的精神力量的種種。從來沒有如此刻的感覺到這些想法的迫切性。但怎能不從主體和主體的自主的孕育開始？難道一躍就談社會功能？我說的主體和主體的自主，不與科技分割，說的是人與科技的互為主體 (human-machine co-agency)。
有關錄像書寫的社會性的面向，鄭天依由衷道出「記述」行動此刻的獨特語境：「現在香港所面臨的是一個愈加震盪破碎的時代，創傷記憶更加難以言喻，我們需要細膩敏銳的想像和表述方式，用這樣的敘事力量來記述將來可能被遺忘、…忽略的故事。」她也意識到：「當代錄像藝術在如今有著明顯敘事轉向的趨勢。雖然『回到』敘事，卻不再是用故事來再現一個事件的過程，也不再單純是先由藝術家建構再由觀者來重組結構，而是一種瞬間的聲明 (momentary manifestation)，強調的是觀讀使用者在敘事段落片段與資訊片段之間瀏覽，從而衍生不同的追溯敘事的路徑。」(07-39) 天依是這個集子裡反思現實的模仿和再現的局限的眾作者一個代表性的聲音。
在「再現」這個世界與無言之間，胡文釗14分鐘的「夢」敘事，是佈滿了密碼的視聽文本，呼吸著恐防記不住以至忘掉的瞬間哀愁。夢，本來就是日常經驗的碎片的超脫組合，無論如何，都不能與現實世界脫鉤。可夢 – 我們可「按摩」、言及的夢 – 都以擁有獨特的文法的敘事體呈現。以「夢敘事」法去「記住」，就是「記住」重於「記清楚」或「記好所有的一切的」，而是留住一些叫自己驚艷的碎片，給這個必須記住的衝動留下標記。[…/待續]
video still from Elaine Wong’s Scrolling in the Garden 黃淑賢