Between 2000 and 2020, a 6'38" single-take video footage has been turned into a generative series of art moments crossing artistic genres -- from videography, vocalization, sound collage, performance, sound sculpture, back to videography -- all manifesting automatism as a principle, and improvization as a main artistic method. Only the maker Linda Lai herself could elaborate on this secret history of emergence.
One Take (originally in three parts) seeks to experiment with the relation between image and sound by juxtaposing different soundscapes against the same set of images. Each part explores the new poetic possibilities of the digital video via automatism, an artistic method of the French Surrealists’ which I have adapted over the years in different creative media. I cherish chance encounter over deliberate planning, discovery over execution, and the tapping of the unconscious over intentions, to experience the amazement of turning what is potential into the concrete along a rule-driven creative process.
The basic raw material of One Take is one long take (about 6 minutes) made by moving my video camera over a few sets of lines, like writing, while waiting for my friends. Its many iterations began with a few round of improvised vocalization as I stand by myself in front of the 6-minute video being played in a dark room. The sound track was subject to varied over-layering and delayering, later on further materialized.
A short history: One Take‘s many iterations
*2000.06.08 (8 June 2000). One-take shooting/writing. Outside Cultural Centre, Macau.
*2001 (autumn). 4 rounds of recorded improvised vocalization.
Automatic writing against the video played in a creative writing class
*2002.02.20-03.10. One Take, part 1 – Meditations and part 2 – Polyphony, “Social Club,” Para/Site Art Space | small projection on a wall.
*2012.03.02-04.29. One Take parts1-2, 12m57s loop version, “The Fourth State of Water: from Micro to Macro,” an installation exhibition on water, CoCA (Center of Contemporary Art), Turen, Poland
*2016.05.07-07.03 / 2017.09.21-10.27. Sound Sculpture “Fish Tank with a Lost Voice” 失聲; in Mnemonic Archiving: a Dispersive Monument 記憶存庫：流散的碑誌, site-specific solo, part of double solo “The Third Script,” Pearl Lam Gallery, Singapore, Hong Kong
*2021.02.05-06.13. One Take (Many Folds) [一鏡到底千層疊 Una Toma (muchos pliegues)], part of “Linda Chiu-han Lai, Retrospective,” C3A (Centro de Creacion Contemporanea de Andalucia), Cordoba, Spain
Performative videography, improvised vocalization and sound collage: Linda C.H. Lai
Basic video: 6 minutes plus 2000, Macau
This day. A sudden urge to escape.
One day in June 2000, a few random thoughts came to my mind as I was waiting for my friends outside the Macao Cultural Centre… Can I paint digitally? Can I create the illusion of a montage sequence in one take? The result was the visual footage of One Take, which is one long take in 6 minutes by crossing 3 sets of lines against one another: a broad patch of water flowing down a slope, the horizontal lines cutting across the slope on which the water flowed, and a curving movement of the camera over the moving water. I played randomly with the zoom button, the colour balance, the speed and the exposure, like I was dropping words freely on paper. I was lost in time and space. Was I looking for something? It was a momentary desire to get lost.
A few months later, when I looked at the footage again, two sets of musical intervals — a whole tone, and the perfect fifth —struck me and would not leave my mind. I therefore turned them into the raw material (the motifs) for my vocal improvisation alongside the playing of my video. Four 6-minute improvised recordings were made as a result. I realised how long I have not been singing. I then laid the 4 recordings over one another against the video and made Polyphony, while keeping my most favourite round of recording in its entirety for “Meditations.”
The video is the untouched original footage — exactly what I produced on the spot that afternoon. The four recordings of my improvised vocal performance were a bit raw. But I decided not to clean up and leave them exactly as they were originally produced, to let the parallels generate the automatic sound it would be.
A small projection on a wall like a window opening onto moving water outside. 投影在牆上，像開了個窗，看著數碼的水在外面孜孜滑流。
A momentary drift-away from the realm of cognition one day in June (2000) as I stood alone in front of the Macao Cultural Centre, waiting for Bliss, Lauren and Didi… A tired voice was looking for its lost/possible sounds.
I know not what I want.
My shattered senses vanish into the wind and hail.
The unspeakable and the voiceless ring and circle and
Swim up my limbs like a stream.
I utter, therefore I am.
Written poetry proceeds from stanza to stanza. My visual poetry is equivocal, polyphonic and combinatoric.
Music, a chance matter.
Writing automatically… 不假思索。
嗎哈嗎哈嗎 哈 嗎哈 Maha mahama ha maha
[writing against… writing along… automatic writings generated on the spot while watching One Take – Polyphony]
嗎哈嗎哈嗎 哈 嗎哈 嗎嗎嗎嗎 嗎哈 嗎 哈 嗎 哈
Maha mahama ha maha mamamama maha ma ha ma ha
Awful to the ears, someone said.
Here’s the chaos in my mind. It flows, it disperse, but doesn’t come full-circle. Total loss. Chaos.
Strands of sensations. Shredded movements. A void. Bottomless…
A patch of yellow attached on the picture’s surface. Is there anybody out there?
New York. It flushes into my mind.
Loss speech. Muted enunciation.
A realm of enigma. That’s my daily.
And some unwanted colors seep in.
Blow and blow! Off I go. Fleeting afar… come reach me.
The sun’s motion -- writing on the surface of water and steam. Variations of geometric formulations?
What angle do rain showers form on the surface?
Maha maha… how many layers of concealed thoughts?
Leave if you may … The pool’s surface splattered by Atlantic’s vomits. Snow. Flower. Flake. Oats.
What size of vomit? What volume? How long?
Sigh and sigh… 32 seconds straight out to clear my lung of all stain, she and she
Approaching… time I faded out.
Out of the swirling streaming whirlpool.
Let’s swallow in rationality for a feud.
Who are you who dares to enunciate?
Noise? Din? A strum? Simply vibrations?
An author in need of hiding
Being part of a show on the 4th state of water… Micro? Macro? Water bodies and minds. Circulating bodies, thoughts gathering picking up forces….
Esther Moñivas Mayor quoted Yoko On in her introduction to “The Fourth State of water”:
You are water
we’re all water in different containers
that’s why it’s so easy to meet
someday we’ll evaporate together
but even after the water’s gone
we’ll probably point out to the containers
and say – that’s me there, that one –
we’re container minders.
(Yoko Ono, Lisson Gallery, London, 1967)
I sent in my suggestions for on-site presentation:
To be projected on wall in the corner of a room; eye-level compatible to a window opening on the wall; suggested dimension of projection: 40” x 30” (4:3); with sound on speaker (no headphone).https://vimeo.com/manage/videos/37074276
Alternative presentation: looping video played on an old-style TV set (crt) put on a rectangular pedestal for eye-level viewing.
One Take: Fish Tank with a Lost Voice 失聲
2016 a sound sculpture with a hidden video
Sculpture + Video
Cylindrical vase (the fish tank): 43cm (h), 25cm diameter
Rectangular lid: an acrylic transparent flat structure, carrying a 12’58” video (face down) on 14” monitor, mounted on top of vase
2 speakers hanging inside the vase
Bottom of vase: reflective sheet on polished stone
A rugged female voice is trapped inside the glass tank with restless waves of trapped water…
The video One Take: Polyphony, built into the lid of the vase, was played facing downward, casting no more than a fade shadowy movement on the reflective surface on the vase’s bottom. The only visible objects on display inside the “fish tank” are two small speakers, which project the video’s soundtrack onto the wall of cylinder, muffled and distorted like a dying voice, barely audible to the visitor.
One Take Many Folds
一鏡到底千層疊 (Una Toma (muchos pliegues)
A few random thoughts in a few moments of waiting have lingered, slept, swirled up, subsided and lingered… since 2000. The suppressed voice, the voice relentlessly performing its enunciative right, returns nonetheless.
Can I paint digitally?
Can I create the illusion of a montage sequence in one take?
Isn’t a coarse, rugged voice still an audible voice?
What can we make out of a voice without words?
Was I looking for something? Just a momentary desire to get lost?
I might have been lost in time.
The soundscape has changed, I notice.
Audio elements of Hong Kong in the autumn of 2019 are inserted as the video comes to its end, breaking the peaceful visual legato of Macau as the invisible presence of Hong Kong asserts.
[to be continued? / … 25 January 2023, Linda Lai]