(Performance) Live Cinema: Mountain Plague (2015)

16mm Film Projectors + Live Foley Sound

Conceptualized and performed by Au Sow-Yee

Live sound performances by JacAl Map

Initiated by Approaching Theatre in 2015, performed 28-30 May 2015 in Qidong Poetry Salon, Taipei.

 

 

photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan

Originally a short novel written by Malaysian writer Li Zi Shu (黎紫書), Mountain Plague (山瘟)tells a story during the demolition of Malayan Communists by British Army after the end of World War II, through flashbacks of incidents happened between grandfather and Wen Yi, a fictitious legendary  captain. However, Mountain Plague, the live cinema performance did not intend to adapt, re-narrate or re-stage story in the original novel. On the contrary, it attempts to construct a conversation, as well as to question, challenge and even turning over the original novel.

Often times, when looking at  Malayan Communist in the Cold War era, we tend to romanticised them as “losers” in a gigantic turmoil, they were imagined as tragic heroes in the forest. Blank pages in history were fill with certain kind of romanticism, as if the forgotten troops, who were being chased by the British Army, neglected by the China Communist, and eventually,left only is a disappointed and lonely shadow in the Malaysia-Thailand border. However, to question the notion of “loser” is very important in this performance. The narrative of Mountain Plague was being violently dispelled. Phantoms of history were unleashed from ruptures. Angelus Novus and storm of history by Walter Benjamin became a kind of presence. Multi layers conversation of history was re-initiated in a space of the colonial past (Qidong Poetry Salon was built during Japanese colonisation in Taiwan). As if the “Imperfect Cinema” argued by Cuban director Juan García Espinosa, “It is an answer, but also a question, a process to reveal its’ own answer through questioning.”

Using descriptive writings in the original novel as sound score, performed live as foley sound by guest sound artist duo JacAl Map, Mountain Plague, the Live Cinema Performance, tried to reverse our ideologies on image. Rather than feeding passive audience with the visible one, Mountain Plague attempted to provoke and summon images in our consciousness through construction of sound, an elements often times seen as the “invisible”.

山瘟

現場電影《山瘟》為窮劇場「馬華文學劇場」系列作品,於2015年5月28至30日在台北齊東詩舍演出。

概念與藝術構成、表演者:區秀詒

現場聲音表演:加卡地圖

演出的原始出發來自黎紫書的短篇小說《山瘟》。但,現場電影的《山瘟》並無意改編、重述或重現小說《山瘟》的故事,反而是企圖形成一種對話、提問甚至是抗衡與翻轉。現場電影的《山瘟》的整體概念或特色可從以下三個層面來理解:

山瘟與歷史

小說《山瘟》是一個關於二次世界大戰結束之後當時的馬來亞英軍試圖剿滅共產黨時期的故事,以一種倒敘的方式述說曾經參與其中的祖父和傳說中隊長溫義的種種事跡。如果說這個「演出」有遊戲規則的話,那小說《山瘟》、「現場電影」(Live Cinema)以及(空間)齊東詩舍三者便是。小說《山瘟》,無論是以其為本,還是拆解重構,或呼應或反思提問。我們對於冷戰時期馬來亞共產黨的認知,很容易落入一種浪漫的革命情懷的嚮往。歷史書寫中的空缺被某種「浪漫」塞滿,仿佛那支被遺落的部隊,被中國共產黨不聞不問,被英軍追殺,多重的遺落剩下的是最後留在泰國邊境的落寞身影。我們對於馬來亞共產黨作為一種「失敗者」的想像,被予以了某種叢林中悲劇英雄的形象。然而,對於「失敗者」的提問,在這個演出裡頭尤為重要。小說《山瘟》的敘事在爆裂消解的過程中,歷史的幽魂重新從裂隙中竄逃。班雅明的新天使和歷史的風暴仿佛成了一種在場,歷史的多重對話在一個和殖民歷史攸關的空間重新被啓動。也像古巴導演埃斯賓諾沙(Juan García Espinosa)提出的「不完美電影」(Imperfect Cinema),「既是答案,也是問題,一個透過詢問進而體現自身答案的過程」。

影像機器

16釐米的影像機器,是二戰時期和戰爭結束後冷戰時期最廣泛使用的影像機器。主要原因在於16釐米攝影機相較於35釐米的攝影機顯然比較輕巧且方便攜帶,對於新聞報導攝影尤為重要。因此,如今所看到大部分二戰和冷戰時期的新聞影片,都是16釐米的規格。16釐米的影像機器,無論是攝影機或者是放映機,其齒輪的機械運轉也突顯了那個年代對於機械作為一種現代性嚮往的迷思。影像機器的機械運轉,和槍支其實也大有關聯。在「演出」的現場,機器的物理性身體,和人的肉身博弈。或可以說,是人的身體面對機器許多不可預測的事,一遍又一遍的失敗演習。

影像與聲音

小說《山瘟》佈滿了身體和聲音的書寫。「現場電影」版本的《山瘟》採用了1941年到1959年英國百代新聞社所拍攝的新聞影片,從第二次世界大戰到冷戰的馬來亞緊急狀態時期(也就是剿滅馬來亞共產黨時期)。同時從小說裡頭抽取出聲音的描繪,以此為聲譜,在試圖從聲音建構「影像」的過程中,一切看得見和看不見的影像在空間中交織錯落裂解,不斷地失敗再重建。

photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan
聲音表演類音效師工作台 Work station of sound performance, pseudo-foley artists
聲音表演類音效師工作台
Work station of sound performance, pseudo-foley artists

《山瘟》的內容架構由撿拾出原始小說裡面對於聲音的官能描繪開始,這些對於聲音的描寫幾乎都源自於對於「影像」的想像。現場電影的《山瘟》以這些聲音的文字描繪為主要架構,將之按照小說裡面出現的序列排序,形成一個現場的「聲譜」。「聲譜」在演出現場,聲音表演者以電影音效師(Foley Artist)製造音效/聲響的方式即時呈現,過程中也形成一種最後喇叭傳送出來的聲音,和現場看得見的聲音創造過程的錯列。《山瘟》的演出從這個「聲譜」開始,以逆反的方式來建構看得見的或看不見的意識中的殘影。

《山瘟》演出現場的「聲譜」如下:

「照過相」

「算盤嘰哩嘎拉七除八扣」

「騎鐵馬飛馳」

「祖上主持黃老仙潭時妙舌生花」

「祖上在時我家終日被聲音籠罩」

「焚化爐中劈裡啪啦的燒屍之聲」

「沿山路走避日軍」

「耳窩還炸響打打打打機槍的頻率」

「風吹雞蛋殻,財散人安樂」

「那槍沈沈地叫他踩碎一路黃葉枯杖」

「又聽說有人搜糧時錯把隊友當野豬,連開兩槍驚散」

「那子彈堪堪在耳邊擦過」

「隨那剪刀起落」

「我祖上連溪水潺潺之聲也不復聽見,只聽得髮梢水珠墜落,穿越他們的呼吸」

「果真咔嚓咔嚓動了剪刀」

「叮噹叮噹清脆的聲音宛似風鈴搖曳」

「洗硫瑯」

「哼著周璇名曲低頭幹活」

「火車上只見無盡長路隨鐵道向前方舖展」

「拿槍的人在扣扳機的一刻」

 

演出現場預錄的英國百代新聞社的新聞影片旁白的原始片名如下:

尼泊爾傭兵活躍於馬來亞Gurkhas Active in Malaya (1949)

日軍在馬來亞轟炸平民Japs Bombing Civilians in Malaya (1942)

馬來亞徵兵Recruiting in Malaya (1941)

保衛馬來亞米倉Guarding the Rice Granary in Malaya (1950 -1959)

給馬來亞的直升機Helicopters For Malaya (1952)

1952馬來亞森林之戰Malayan Jungle Fighting in 1952

重新佔領檳城Penang Reoccupied (1945)

馬來亞女匪徒或馬來亞匪徒投降Malayan Women Bandits aka Malayan Bandits Surrender (1953)

 

(《山瘟》這個「演出」試圖提出一種跨「界」的可能。不是關於文學跨越「劇場」、「劇場」跨越「影像」的類別跨「界」。而是不斷地探勘既定認知的對於文字、影像、聲音、「劇場」(性)演出、歷史的邊界和多者間的現場博弈、不斷地失敗再重建。)

photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan

The Mengkerang Project : Pak Tai Foto (2015)

Pak Tai Foto (2015)

Two Channel Videos . 19 minutes . Light Boxes of Hand-drawn Maps

Photo by Lin Yu-Quan
Photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan

Pak Tai Foto is a photo studio located in the heart of Kuala Lumpur during the 1950s. Established during the age of British colonization, it is a photo studio older than the country “Malaysia” itself. Pak Tai Foto is also near the Merdeka Square (Independent Square), a place where the Malayan flag hoisted for the first time on 00:00 31st August 1957 (that is when Malaya declared its’ independence). There is only roughly a ten minutes walk from Pak Tai Foto to the Merdeka Square. It is also currently a site where many foreign labours passing by. Pak Tai Foto interviewed foreign labors connected to daily lives in or near their workspace. These foreign labors came from Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. In the interview, they shared their respective reasons, processes and experiences of leaving their home country to work in other parts of the world. In addition, they also tell an ideal place (be it a place of imaginary or reality) and share their favourite song when they were a child or teenagers.

Producer: Au Sow Peng, Alison Khor

Cinematographer: Lim Chee Yong

Production Assistant: Alphonse Chern

Participants: Amur Hossain、Hedayat Hossain、Yen-yen、Lin Khine、Aung Myat Thu

Excerpts from The Mengkerang Project

 

《百代照相館》 雙頻道錄像 . 19分鐘 . 手繪地圖燈箱

百代照相館位在吉隆坡英殖民時期吉隆坡城市發展的核心區域,是一座成立於1950年代的照相館,它的歷史因此比「馬來西亞」這個國家還要長。百代照相館的位置,距離獨立廣場—1957年8月31日零時零分馬來亞國旗正式昇起(即馬來半島正式脫離英殖民統治成為新興獨立國家)的地方—-只有約10分鐘的路程。目前也是外籍移工出入的地點。《百代照相館》這個作品從個人日常生活中遇見的外籍勞工著手,在他們的工作場所(或周遭)進行訪談。這些外籍勞工來自孟加拉、緬甸以及中國。此次訪問請他們各自分享離開家鄉到其他地方工作的原因、過程和經歷,並請他們述說一個想像中的或現實中的理想之地和記憶中童年或年輕時候最愛的一首歌。

製片:區秀屏、艾立森

攝影:林志勇

製作助理:蔡嘉誠

參與者:Amur Hossain、Hedayat Hossain、燕燕、Lin Khine、Aung Myat Thu

Remarks: This work is commissioned by “Habitation and Elsewhere: Image as Instrument / Au Sow-Yee’s Solo Exhibition” curated by Guo Jau-Lan.

photo by Lin Yu-Quan
photo by Lin Yu-Quan

百代照相館 作品影像截圖

———————————————————————–

Artist Statement:

Reconstructing Image: Mengkerang as Method

An unstoppable torrent of images has been generated from the contemporary real-life situation, in which almost everyone has a smartphone and everyone’s eyes become an automatic camera and a montage maker. A crisis of excess and fatigue over the momentum that images desperately long for erupts as a result from the rapidly modularized vocabulary of camera lenses, the competition over image spectacles, and even imaginations. Situated in completely different historical, social and political contexts, how should Asians reflect on the Western image machines and reverse the Western discourse and view upon the history of mechanical images? In other words, why and how do we restructure images? Treating Mengkerang as the method, I reflect on the history and political context of Malaysia (my birthplace) as well as various frameworks and propositions such as nation and nation state that are seemingly abstract but in fact matters of my vital interests. In the meantime, I seek to restructure a kind of image that transcends the confines of traditional images and possesses the momentum of “liberation (the predestined representation of illusions and images) – destruction – summons” by re-evaluating the relationship among the politics of images (rather than political images), illusion, community, history, and geography.

The politics of images here does not refer to the production of political images, but the resistance against “representation” as a “political practice.” In the early twenty-first century, the riotous profusion of opinions on “the death of cinema” is in favor of treating films as a creative material and concerned with the transformation of the cinema industry. However, the possible death of images has something to do with the fate of “representation” that lies in store for images. The issue of “representing” the “reality” has become illusory and vague in the present era of image explosion. Images’ fate of representing the “reality” in turn converges with the imagination and construction of the “reality” as well as the historical circumstances in our bio-politics. Such kind of convergence is more a mutual dialectical inquiry than inter-contextual and inter-formative relationships. It not only rejuvenates the politics of culture that has been oversimplified as series of issues, but also stretches our imagination to a greater extent.

The “moving illusions” (illusions as moving agents) of images is probably one of the kernel notions that have never been nullified in the long history of image. Nevertheless, is it possible for us to restructure images by tackling an alternative momentum of illusions (“Mengkerang ” as a method)? The quintessence of such reconstruction lies more in the invisible images restructured by the viewers’ consciousness than in the visible ones.

What kind of possibility would it create if images have been restructured in our consciousness long before the invention of image machines
or the emergence of cave paintings, shadow plays, optical toys in the history of moving images? Perhaps we may re-boost the resistant momentum of images with the after-image in our consciousness.

The underlying themes of the “Mengkerang” project include invisible images, the consciously restructured images, and the greater momentum built up by the “invisibility.” For an independent individual in Malaysia, a nation state established after the Second World War when Western imperialism gradually withdrew from Southeast Asia, the best approach to restructuring images may be working in concert with the restructured images’ reaction against illusions, reality, and the represented reality through bio-politics.

The first step of this project is to construct an imaginary “place”—“Mengkerang.” It is an “ideal place” located somewhere in the “Nanyang” region, namely the Malay Archipelago. The term “Nanyang” is actually reminiscent of the exoticism exuded by the Southeast Asian countries.

Images and Communities: A Day without Sun in Mengkerang (Chapter One)

In his book Imagined Communities , Benedict Anderson defined “nation” as a socially constructed community: “An imagined community is not a fiction or the illusions that politicians create to manipulate their people, but an ideal very much related to the changes in history and culture, rooted in the psychological construction at a deeper level of human consciousness.” Through an imaginary one- day trip in Mengkerang, A Day without Sun in Mengkerang (Chapter One) weaves together quotidian images gleaned from around the Malay Peninsula, documents containing specious arguments, and fables told in a “gotong-royong” style (i.e. continued by different storytellers) by the interviewees of different ages, races, and educational backgrounds, which constructs a strange narrative based on the reality and beyond. Besides, the transfer of ownership of copyright turns the narrative of images and documents into a possibility for action. The video takes the form of a pseudo-documentary, conjuring up a “utopian” vision with the assistance of the interviewed storytellers. What is paradoxical is that Mengkerang, the imagined “ideal place”, works in line with the image established by the state apparatus through its education system and travel propaganda in contradicting the sense of helplessness in real life. The paradox is perhaps what Jean-Luc Nancy argued in his book The Inoperative Community: “This is why political or collective enterprises dominated by a will to absolute immanence have as their truth the truth of death.”

Images and History: Sang Kancil, Hang Tuah, Raja Bersiong, Bomoh, the Missing Jet and Others

Malaysia’s complex cultural and belief systems have weaved rich and colorful tales and stories into folklore. Some of these tales and stories even contradict the belief system established by the contemporary political community, and are therefore belittled as heterogeneous others. Sang Kancil, Hang Tuah, Raja Bersiong, Bomoh, the Missing Jet and Others collects the folklore from the memories of Malaysians at different ages and deconstructs these collected materials. It then blends

the deconstructed materials with historical data, and thereby restructures the seemingly familiar but in fact strange “quasi-folklore” of Mengkerang . It transcends the dimensions of time and national boundaries to discover the trails left by the “phantom” (whether it refers to the migrant workers who become part of the phantom population during elections, the question of who the outsiders are, or the doubt over the existence of outsiders) along the boundary between reality and imagination by means of the film footages that narrate folklore in different times and the videos derived from the archive of British Pathe, a British news agency in the British colonial period. As the momentum amidst humanity and time, those “memories” reflect a historical view of time and a historical posture. Sang Kancil, Hang Tuah, Raja Bersiong, Bomoh, the Missing Jet and Others seeks to challenge the grandiose delusion of infinite “rigid finitude” by bringing imagination back to the history. This exactly echoes what Ashis Nandy argued in his article “Shamans, Savages and the Wilderness: On the Audibility of Dissent and the Future of Civilizations”:

“The shaman not as the heroic symbol of all non-cooptable dissent but the shaman as a more modest symbol of resistance to the dominant politics of knowledge, the shaman as one whose style of negation and whose categories do not make any sense center-stage but always seem to touch the disempowered in the wings. A shaman is not an expert and he or she cannot be produced through or coopted by institutional processes. Coming out of a transformative experience and, then, claiming to be a testimony to another way of looking at reality and intervening in it, the shaman is a combination of a mystic healer and an exorcist who identifies demons—popular or unpopular, traditional or modern. The shaman has one foot in the familiar, one foot outside; one foot in the present, one in the future or, as some would put it, in the timeless.”

Images and Geography: Pak Tai Foto

Pak Tai Foto, located at the site of Kuala Lumpur’s urban development
in the British colonial period, is an actual photo studio that has existed for over five decades, a history longer than that of the country “Malaysia”.
To meet the “need” for urban renewal and expansion, the dilapidated stores and houses in the region are gradually dismantled except Pak Tai Foto, leaving it in an unchanged time. This region has received a large influx of illegal migrant workers brought by the economic development and the great wave of migration. Pak Tai Foto is one of the studios designated by the Royal Malaysia Police to take the photo for police credentials, which is why it preserves a great number of those photos.

How should we assess the relationship between maps and images if maps serve as the reference to topographical features in geography? In the chapter “Subtopia” of his book The Atlas: Archeology of an Imaginary City , Hong Kong- based writer Dong Chi-Zhang wrote that: “At the moment when a map is produced, and even before it is printed out, the map has become obsolete, since no map can evolve with the course of time. A map represents the time that stops elapsing, the time that never changes and therefore fails to seize any precise moment. Different from photos taken with a camera, the production of a map cannot be accomplished in a split second, but requires a length of time allowing of changes in its external environment. Accordingly, the time captured in a map is fictional; to wit, it never exists. And the place depicted by the map is bound to be a subtopia.”

By way of comparison, the time that stops elapsing in Pak Tai Foto is in fact elusive and fictional amidst the changing external environment, which makes its interior space a map. The “subtopia” that the map depicts is no longer an imagined “place,” but an “external” space-time that constantly changes and an “immigrant” population that keeps fluctuating.

The work Pak Tai Foto represents the experiences and memories of immigrant workers. It highlights the “existence” of the studio (has ever existed or has transcended physical existence) that seemingly lacks the sign of “human” but in fact brings a subtle touch of life. In the absence of identifiable individuals, this work skillfully interweaves these experiences and memories into a stretchable imagination that allows us to challenge the rigid system. In the final analysis, does Mengkerang refer directly to Malaysia or a place beyond our imagination? Does it create the momentum of the illusion of immigrant labor within the framework of “globalization” or open up a greater number of possibilities for imagination?