Linda Lai / Temporal Being. Writing as performance. Unfolding and refolding the singular.

Linda Lai / Temporal Being. Writing as performance. Unfolding and refolding the singular.

Linda Chiu-han Lai 黎肖嫻

Linda Chiu-han Lai 黎肖嫻

發表於: 03 Oct 2020

A trimmed down version of this long automatic poem was published as part of a collaborative project with “Return Flights MEL <—>HKG” in the September 2019 edition of a Melbourne-based literary journal Going Down Swinging. This is the full version of the original work. This poem was written as my overall response to all the image-text pairs as a commentary in the form of creative writing. It appears in the middle part of the publication amidst all the artists’ creations. The inter-play of present and past tense is deliberate in contemplating the nature of memory — the fixing of attention onto nit-bits of the chaotic ocean of the past. I am also influenced by moving image creation — every work being the negotiation between the present continuous of the camera at work and the “already-past” of its articulation. — a self introduction of the work 現在進行式與過去式的時態的交替共用是源於「不假思索」法的必然對策,也是現象學的意識論的創作性延伸,在猶如汪洋大海混沌波濤翻滾的「過去」投擲零星的關注點,構成接點的「回憶」,以至構成可被陳述的「經驗」。



Do I want my voice to be heard to be understood?
I reach out knowing I may not get there.
I step out, perhaps I should never have directed myself to that end.
(In) Black and white is too much of a stark sharp contract.
Better the infinitely divisible in between…
Some tones and colors I’m avoiding: they belong to a different scheme.
I raised my voice to sing with others
but there was only a cracked vocal cord,
Me mouthing the diphthongs with no vowels but the airing of an e and an a…

Writing is airing

Airing out until I’m totally still …

I feel so sad that I just want to write. 心沈了就想寫。

Travel experiences are often handed down to us as smooth, coherent narratives, as sequential orderings of assured causal logic to overcome the fear for the loss of (control of) sense-making. I crave to enact the courage to lose such fear, to be in that particular unnamable state of mind, to see my constant travels as singular moments traversing space and through realms of sensuous encounters, to…
Traversing via writing is an inquisitive assertion.
The “Return Flight MEL>HKG” project – a playful challenge of singularities.

June of a certain summer. Taipei. 03:30pm.

I hear nothing but the rain. 聽見的,只有雨聲。

Pulled back by the wind,
my strides weighty and measured,
Long scars grow between words and sentences, and yet
endure as waltzing lights.
Indoors. A mall.
The winds are nailed to the mall’s walls.
A salad with smoked salmon and three giggling girls nearby fill my hours by the minutes.
Come closer would you please?
I listen intensely. Noise and drone and din and echo subsiding…
Fragments of utterances conjure grand theories of life which
I fail to swallow or digest.

I hear nothing but the rain. But there is no rain.
I see myself in a mirror reflection and …
half shining half shimmering but also simmering. A disfiguring body
I’m losing my words.

I have heard nothing but the rain. Yeah, it was pouring, but now it’s drizzling.
June of a certain summer. Taipei. 07:44pm.

Temporal Being. Looking inward with my mind’s eye…

The first mental image. A flower floating flowing along the drifts of a river. What cliché. Headache. How to stop a headache, please? My neck stiffening, aching. Just want to sit there doing nothing. Pure sitting. What day is it today? Friday? Already Friday? It’s been a week since I started my journey.

The second mental image. I ask the first image, “Please slowly, procedurally, unfold yourself. Dance for me.” Young seedlings shoot up above water. A kind of soft green hairy fungus attaching, motionless. My feet under water, strolling, treading through. Three steps against a semi-quaver. We have not met before. Idea one. Idea two. Idea three. They all shine in the thick fog. I. You. You taking a deep breath. Breathing in as well the deep green glittering river. Isn’t randomness a bit too easy? Airing one’s thoughts. A sense of order. Warm light.

The third episode. Free association. Authority. Ripples. Wrong word wrong spelling. Aromatic. The tail of poetry. Cliché. Sitting down and standing up. Swirling. In the core of a flower is a flower. Flower is not fruit: two appearances, but same umbilical connection, two points of an emergent process. A fictional character is a happy mansion affording permanent inhabitance.

December 2015, Las Palmas, Spain. Talking to my shoulder pain.



Photography and automatic writing. She handed me a black-and-white print of a Chinese doughnut that year to challenge me in a game of image-text dialogue.

Why am I roaming through my kitchen at 3:00am looking for cup noodles?

You handed this to me…
A Chinese doughnut, which
I turned, churned and kneaded looking for a possible entry point.
// black and white, framed portrait, shallow focus, dark background…
// past, nostalgic, a record, pre-Instagram, chiaroscuro, a textural object, …
An image: imageries? object? or a test of impossible translation? An objectile.

As I am writing you (the doughnut) and re-writing,
I fathom your gravity, I re-configure your skeletal structure.
You lie there, not a word, I mumble and grumble, murmurs muffled.
I undress you, you dash off, I rush sideward.

Chinese doughnut, 50 cents, to go with plain rice congee. 1960s.
7:00am. Mom or Pop’s Sunday morning treat. 1960s.
7:00pm. Taipei. Evening classes. Taipei Train Station. 1990s.
12:44pm. I am making contact with you, through your travel photo. 2004. 2019.

I wish I could simply devour you
in one big bite. [1]



Offering to a pen 筆祭

Are you there? I can wait no longer.
There’ll be no spotlight, nor any curtain to draw…
Listen. I’m about to start.

You may keep muttering, as I take haste to make covenants of all sorts for multiple writing assignments that are too sluggish to take flight.

Overdue or expired? 過了期。
Brainless slime moulds migrate to cross uncharted territories…
A butterfly copulates with a frog, while
shedding a tear, leaving larvae-tadpoles to grow roots on an abandoned wall.
A pigeon lands, nodding to the telephone, down and lethargic.
No writing paper, but words and phrases write themselves and fill the top of the desk.
Giving up is not an option.

The uproars of demolition shake me from within … urban renewal!
Gravity de-centres and the stronghold of dangerous thoughts shatters.
Listen to the blaring traffic, its honking for unprecedented spectacles…
We all jump into the cauldron of sadness, losing our breath.

Are you still there? Are you still listening? And who else?

Three openings. 70% self-conscious. A big splash of techniques.

A soon-to-expire art moment. Writing breathes.
Counting the lines sharpening the words may I have a bit more time?
Soundings subside… It’s time.
I see. I can’t see.
I see. You barely see.

Keep writing.

Blow. Hit. Engrave. Inscribe.
Without curtains and a centre stage writing is a fleeting performance –
Like windflowers
words dissipate and flare up.
No formation but vivid traces…

An endless chain of chance encounters.
No path but my footprints… [2]
Ce sont mes traces sur le chemin…
Caminante, no hay camino

The present continuous

2000年空置的添馬艦。2020年大館。From Tamar site 2000 to Taikwun 2020. Admiralty. Central.





Post it.
Say it.
Announce it.
Dive deep.

Strike. Léelo… Read it aloud.

An ant’s chore rubbing a sunlit tainted table-cloth…
Aware, unaware, of…

Crop it. Nail it.
The boundary marks it; the frame names it.

Multiple takes.

Breadcrumbs on sale…
…a child’s hiccup, my childhood hiccups.

How tall, how deep, how wide?
Sonority smells soy
Fermented bean curd
A big fishing boat with a rotting bottom…
Strike, strike, and strike…
My little world extending expanding departing taking off exploding
It all begins with the wooden rails of the veranda and the smells of soya sauce…
and that heavy hammer’s shriek, mad over the death of a boat’s last journey…

Mud. Dust. Flakes.
Six permanent docks by the harbour like six proud dogs adamantly marking the shore.
Oh well my dish of octopus softened in Las Palmas Spain; the dying octopus dashing onto the damp floor of the fish wholesalers on Main Street Shaukiwan Hong Kong…

Look for the words…
Looking for the smells I can’t name.
Name it. Frame it.
Curving lines, thick and threaded
Strike the hour. Time for dinner.

June 2017. Where was I?



On watching the first cut of the women sequence [3]

I stared at images I made acquiring a new appearance,
Forming a world I did not know,
Born into a new life I’m yet to discover.
I found myself in the void of immobility,
Stuck with the 21-gram lightness to recall
Where these images came from,
What stories I had trespassed,
And whose histories I had appropriated.

Flashes of an ageing process,
Flashes of swelling bodies,
Faces that defy the containment of a shot…
They tell me nothing…
They tell you nothing…
Torrents of voluntary presence, or, streams of the unconscious?
There, being there.
Here, not there, never there ever.

Each face a token
Each other face the mockery of that token.

The optical unconscious,
Or energies in a flux?



Images are referential to isolated moments of being, disparate thought moments in our dense and elliptical mind-scape, the token of performative documentary impulses. As references to the past, images are at best muted yet surviving residues. The tangible traces grow out of, and point back to, torrents of the past and complex flows of energies, undifferentiated and impervious to words. An isolated image is a dangling voice calling upon scattered choruses of alien geographies and mental orientations. A single image embodies the potentiality of the infinite. Image-making and writing make potentiality visible.

Gilles Deleuze brings together such a view of realities and the necessity of art and art-making, which he calls “the fold(s)” of space, movement and time. Our lifeworld is infinite folding which points to the multifaceted nature of events and history as surviving traces of past existences. [4] The artist-writer unfolds and folds back, resulting in new “fold”-objects with new countenances and new flows of energies. Each image and every instance of writing embodies infinite folds and surfaces that twist and weave through compressed time and space. In the process of exchange – image-making versus writing, Hong Kong versus Melbourne – we enter the process of becoming while asserting that concrete geographic occupation could not be obliterated. The world is a body of infinite folded surfaces. The work of art unfolds and re-folds. That’s perhaps how art works, why art is vital, and one way our world persists for which only art-makers have clues.

[1] This piece of automatic writing was originally written in Chinese, published in Linda Lai and Theresa Junko Mikuriya’s photo-text dialogues Cryptoglyph: Dialogues in Many Tongues in the Hidden Crevices of an Open City (2004, 288 pages).
[2] The line was adapted by a fragment of a poem by Spanish Antonio Machado, “Caminante, No Hay Camino,” which translates into English as “Traveler, there is no road.”
[3] This poem originally appears at the end of Linda Lai’s video I Told Them My Camera Was On (2005) which the artist wrote upon viewing the first edited draft of the work.
[4] Adapted from Linda Lai’s artist’s statement for Lost Textures at “Exit Strategies,” H-Queen’s, March-April 2019. Deleuze, Gilles (1993), The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, trans. Tom Conley, Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

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