It is perhaps a maker’s natural obsession to narrate oneself, deliberately or not, but through one’s life-time. A Trip to There, Tracey’s graduation thesis, is in a way a monumental push to enter this journey in flux. Embracing all she can, there also always seems to be void to fill. Traces of her having been there are as concrete with a forensic rigor. 每個創作者都曾經 — 以至窮盡一生 — 有意識或不自覺的記述自我。年青藝術創作人魏芷軍很用力的穿過這甬道，滿滿的收穫，卻又惘然若失；追憶是一種消耗。實在的卻是用時間和身體鑄出來的創作道途。愛看（錄像）作品的朋友們：這裡，你會讀到一個認真地記下來的寶貴創作歷程。潛進後，我們會對藝術的耕耘多一份敬意嗎？
A Trip to There 《我在追憶，我在追，我在》
NGAI Tsz-kwan Tracey 魏芷軍
2021.05 | 20’16” [to view on Vimeo]
我曾經思考過，究竟是我本身愛記錄生活，還是生活為我提供太多記錄的誘因和源動力，所以我的紀錄才會如此氾濫，自我形象亦變得複雜多變。在我成長的世代，科技提供了各種便利的生活工具，記錄儀器隨手可得。我經常追求能夠呈現最接近現實 (最寫實；近乎複製現實) 的生活記錄 ，不但是影像上，聲音上還是較折衷的書寫上，能記錄下來的我都會記下。漸漸不論是實體還是電子文件，也膨脹得無處可釋，而我亦愈加步入時空碎片所積的那個消亡但又鬼魅般閃爍的世界。
只有在那個已逝的時空裏，我才找回真實的自己。因為紀錄本身是誠實而且可靠的，我所呈現的虛偽和矯裝在紀錄面前是一個赤裸表現，我就得誠實地表現了自己的這個面向；以時態閱讀的過去和後來，紀錄更誠實地展現了自我形象的趨向和廣度。正因為我追求貼近現實的記錄，我必須覺悟到要兼顧作者視覺、作為觀眾的期待，和表現者欲求的自我揭露。我，作為記錄自己的作者，必須滿足在任何時候這三重身份的需要 — 即我要保留我的歷史，作出當刻複雜的反應，好回應將來的重遊和質問，以及行動主體的自觀及反省。作為觀眾，我對即將並已展開的訪遊有著一定的期待和疑惑。我質問有關自己的歷史，預想歷史推移過程，反省歷史與作者的距離。作為表現者，我有我的自白和體現，我在編制並嘗試表現多面向的自我形象。記錄，大概對我來說就是這樣的事。
我參考了電影《去年在馬倫巴》的敘事結構，故事以大量回憶 / 想像 / 話語等脫離單一時空並與現實相對的虛擬片段 (德勒茲提出的 “virtual” 相關概念的中譯 – 虛擬性) 建構角色的行動意義，即角色的背景、姓名和關係等資料，以及事件發生的所在地及時空都不是已有和被設定好的，而是透過敘事推移的揭露下所定義的。故事的時空錯亂，事件之間關係曖昧不明，交疊於呼應和介入的兩種姿態。另外故事內容更內部的自我指涉，不指向真實世界的任何歷史、文化或政治事件，而是一個內部循環的系統，即沒有故事以外的世界 (– there is nothing outside the world of the film)。在這個結構中或之上，電影必須有一核心命題作為推動力 (momentum) 引領事件的敘事層層遞進，以免發展散亂失焦：男主角渴求說服女主角他們去年相識並彼此約定今年重聚。這是想像、錯亂的記憶，還是純粹的敘事遊戲的結果？如何肯定？
在整個創作中，我都在不斷改變自己的工作模式來適應不同挑戰。在構思期間我對於作品仍沒有太具體的想像，只是想到要把自己的紀錄和個人物件重新安置，令隨之而來的不同面向在一個封鎖的空間鮮活起來 (預想在拍攝上完成)，並在碎片中重新閱讀及理解自己，回應反覆拷問的問題 (預想會在拍攝和剪接上完成)。但實際上，我要拍攝甚麼，我要怎樣拍攝，我在構思時沒有太大想法。慢慢我組織了團隊，為了方便溝通我寫了一個拍攝大綱 (不是劇本)，然後在拍攝時專注已有場景並同時兼顧即興剪接 (用作有投影的場景，投影的片段舊至個人記錄，新至拍攝期間錄製的片段) 及拍攝安排。但整個過程除了拍攝大鋼的內容外，我更要求伙伴們隨時地記下大家共事、一起翻看我的舊照片和各種追憶及思考的過程，因為這些時光與紀錄的時光一樣誠實，我只是更大規模地實踐我的記錄習慣。
在創作後期，我無法以日常應對問題的方法應用於這次的創作上，我沒有文本可參照，拍攝大綱亦不是完整的作品大綱，收錄的素材大多亦散亂無序，我只有不斷思考、回帶、寫作、任意創作不同聲軌蒙太奇，以尋找可以前進的方法。然後，在以各式各樣的方法對作品置入想像，我慢慢在實驗中找回製作的節奏和推動力。我發現自己在實驗期間誤打誤撞地實踐了一種沒有接觸過的方式：系統式即興方法 (structured improvisation) ，多應用於藝術教育上，主要提出教育宗旨訓練學生在思考及實踐藝術創作時如何平衡個人自主與課程上的限制，以開拓思考空間及創作自由。在拍攝期間，大部分的時間主體都是浮動的，沒有清晰的故事線，大綱也只是一些環境的佈置，所以我會形容拍攝上我們大多都在「記下最有可能的」(capturing the most likely)。而在剪接時，我任由拍攝過記錄過的素材自動播放，沒有邏輯的聲影體驗反而讓我重新投入想像，它們有時成了片語，有時成了轉折句，有些更組成短詩般。漸漸我開始系統地進行即興創作，以自動寫作代替聲影組合，再以影像書寫錄像，以聲音書寫聲軌。作品就這樣在沒有預期目標的情況下，在斷段式的書寫間向前推進，然後走出多條遊轉的軌道來。
I traveled along the timeline, carrying clumsy fragments of my past, not knowing to where I could be led. I pursued, at points apparently getting somewhere, yet no one speaks to me except me wandering alone.
A Trip To There is an experimental video essay that forms conversations from my old documentations in response to the act of me reading my past and concerns. With the practice of systematic improvisation and automatic writing, I reposition my materials along the timeline, transforming past and unchangeable events into dialogues with new contexts, as well as creating a journey that penetrates spatial and temporal boundaries.
Documentation, in my view, is a gesture of resistance, almost like refusing the complete vanishing of happenings, if not the death of everything. I have been documented by others and myself ever since I was able to distinguish “I” from others. These images reveal how I see myself and how I am shaped by my surroundings.
From the original ideas I had a year ago to the current stage, this project has become more condensed and honest in terms of its value to me and the audience. I was fascinated by Lacan’s theory about the mirror stage when reading The Practice of Looking in the brainstorming stage of the project. It suggested babies encounter psychological change in self-perception when they first see themselves in the mirror, which has been applied to film theory in around the 70s to 80s. However, I have been more familiar with a materialist approach to image-making, and have produced works and studied courses grounded in a more phenomenological view on narrativity. In order to do justice to both my curiosity and a framework of practice to which I have committed myself, I unraveled the notion of the “mirror stage” like a seed to explore how it would generate new insights about self-images.
As for self-image, I got special “nutrients” from The Social Photo On photography and Social Media, which has enabled me to interpret my self-image through the years more objectively. I was born in a generation in which images of our own selves is no longer exclusive and private when compared to generations before us. Self-image in a way has become a kind of commodity, and its degree of authenticity is implicated in more than a handful of factors. As mentioned in the book, ‘the self-produced by a selfie and a traditional self-portrait are not the same. The connection of the hand to the cell phone at the moment of recording makes the selfie a sort of externalized inward look…The selfie undoes this photographic fourth wall because the observer is observed. You all see me, the same me, the me that I see and choose to share…’
I am my own loyal audience
I have studied images of myself like they are crystallized forms of me. In becoming my own audience, I found myself in constant expectancy of the potential revelations — what would my self-documentation revealed to me? As a performer cum protagonist, I was certainly deliberate in what to show about myself. Yet as the documenter of my own self, the other “I,” I have been driven by the how the past, the present and the future me could come together, gratified, forming a history of mine that could be told. And I have been very honest about the constructed-ness of a journey that seeks to reveal for the present and fulfil my curiosity as a future spectator of my past and present.
Unwritten principles have been established spontaneously in the many moments of me self-consciously rejecting my past lived experiences as a “closed case.” With all the footage I have stored carefully, I was led to the question, ’Why am I so insistent on not letting my past self go? Where would all this take me and how?” I also heard the voice in me, “I don’t want to be solely nostalgic, narcissistic and indulged in imaging, and there must be more to my drive [for my auto-ethnographic exercises*].” I want to create a work that at least provides me with some clues to my question, as well as to reconfigures the question critically. New focuses continued to emerge alongside my adamant thinking process and detailed documentation for the project. Bit by bit, I shaped the work into a video essay that reveals how I read myself, and one that concerns spatial and temporal changes.
Unsettling noises; internal circulation
Reminiscence is always fatal and I can’t help denying it. The more I cherish my records, the closer I walk towards the erosion of them. I image my life as a habit, even as my instinct, but I have never got as close to them as to the point when I feel I am also inevitably bringing in potential destruction to my lived experiences. Documentation often replaces my memory and my immediate perception of what happened. Time and again, I found myself in the vicious circle of destroying what I treasure.
As memories are turned records, they become unsettling noises, symbols that arouse connotations of the past and the present self — they come uninvited, like I have no choice but to witness what happened happening again and again. And I expect all this.
I have no intention to pull all the records back to reality like a documentary of one’s growth, nor to demonstrate how much I have changed. The records already form their own temporal domain and could have only little relationship with what is current; they are what they are and stand by themselves.
I am greatly inspired by the structure of the film Last year at Marienbad [Alain Resnais, 1961], in which the impact of virtuality (fantasies, memories, dialogs etc.) on the present impression is to define the character’s existence. Space and time are juxtaposed, generating new actions and meanings. The fluid flow between different space and time challenges the possibility of any chronological order of events that could be reconstructed. The film’s narrative has extreme demand on the spectator’s attention and her ability to distantly observe and draw connections from the constantly disrupted gestures and actions. It is not the plot points of a story but the flow of momentum bringing together disparate states of mind that sustains the narrative body: a man is trying to convince a lady that they have met last year and promised to meet this year. To. further destabilize the “story,” there is no background information about the characters but only their gestures and behavior, and the unpredictable “next step” of action in the unfolding narrative progress. Who these characters are is defined and revealed within the narrative trajectory.
In A trip to there, an internal audio-visual system is established without the relations of any system that is outside the work itself. Soundscapes, imagery and collisions of fragments are defined by their positions in the video work, and they develop and generate new contexts along the narrative trajectory.
During the making of this project, I changed my work method constantly to be more adaptable to different situations. When planning the scenes for shooting, I could not just simply film what I have brought there — that would be without a focal point. But making up stories seemed artificial to me so I focused on just a few ideas about (1) planting my memories in a chosen location to let it grow, and (2) discussing the relationship between modified memory and its representation. Initially, I thought a majority of the final video work would be from planned shooting, but soon I found since 13 days in a rented location was not enough for an immersive experience to plant and grow my memory documents. In the end, the location mostly became a place for me to organize my thoughts; a lot of time was spent on assembling and organizing records, and to come up with possible treatment. The whole process is always in flux until post-production.
In the final phase, which I called post-production, it was difficult to apply my usual problem-solving method. I assumed that editing would be a matter of “targeting and implementing” during the shooting. But since the project is not scripted, there is no direct corresponding realization, scene by scene, point-to-point, but approximating the potential use of my footage and experimenting. Through a series of collapsing my prior assumptions, I came to realize that my game is about adaptation and re-adaptation, that is, structured improvisation as an artistic method. As a result of this, I became much less product-oriented, and what what it meant by problem-solving took on new light. My attention shifted to the overall shape of the work as trial endpoints to perfect my overall improvizational structure. “Capturing the most likely” was not only my principle of shooting process, but also throughout my composing process, which is how I define the experimental nature of the work. While editing, audio and video files were played randomly. Like in a game of automatism, they collided with one another, building seemingly relatable dialogues. They are no longer trapped by respective contexts and settings, they acquire new meanings as they form new phrases, gerunds and conjunctions that serve for longer sentences, and even full essays. Writing occurs not only in my expression of thoughts, but also of audio-visual entities; together they generate the momentum of my construction, like editing with a script, but one that evolves in the present continuous tense.
The editing process took me a lot of time, which I believe was when artistic creation really took place, and when this project acquired its life.
Writings during the project-making (Excerpt)
My memories are always shaking, humid, annoying, strange and rejected. Wandering along the timeline, I feel too much to utter(speechless, aphasia-like). I can’t defend but accept the past me. I can only witness the events happening again and again, as same as I expected. I am like a soul finding a place to be rooted, or combing a living path from the inner unsettling, or keep questioning myself, asking and finding things that I truly concern about.
After the loss of words, it’s an inescapable confrontation. I need to confront that there is no forever staying or repetition; I have to confront that there is no compensation for the absence of time; I need to confront the records I have made, they repeat, play; pause; fast forward; pause; rewinding… My impression of it erodes as it repeats. I’m afraid that the documentation is the only thing left eventually. I have to confront the moments that haven’t been recorded, memories without proof, like the moon in water, always bothering me. I am stuck in the midst between the present and the gone world.
There is relentlessness in me, she wants to know what I truly embrace.
After facing them straight, I am going to comb the confrontation and imagination during this time. I return to the scene of this actuality, displaying everything I have honestly; I am reminiscing. Although I am still searching and asking where I am going, in this journey, the answer seems to be not that stubborn and relentless. It may be relieving.
This is undoubtedly a difficult project for a young artist to initiate which is about her reading her short and fresh past lived experience. After going through this journey, the question I raised in the beginning is still awaiting answers, yet the answer seems to be not that relentless. The question seems to be less important than the process of reading and writing.