Voices Seen, Images Heard
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Voices Seen, Images Heard is a work of experimental visual historiography based on visual ethnography. I have always been an earnest image-collector – photos, newsreels, movies with real location shots, drawings, found texts and graphics. I attend especially to the less noticeable details of these found objects, and I realize there’s a lot to the ‘surfaces’ of things handed down to us from the past. I naturally find collage a powerful artistic form and strategy, and have adapted it to videography. In the process of it, one intriguing creative problem is how to embed still images in a video work; the other is what to do with available fragments that do not immediately form a rational whole. What I have done in Voices Seen is to liberate the fragments of found sounds and images from the domination of discourses, juxtapose them with my own video diaries, to let each fragment speak and perform to us.
Voice is the first of a series meditation notes in the form of video essays on the thought process of a historian attempting to re/un-cover the lost sights and sounds of a city whose ‘appearances’ constantly ‘disappear’ by the logic of progress and development. I have been driven by a strong desire to ‘see’ and ‘hear’ for myself… What did people look like? Who walks on the street? How did they talk? What did they sound like? In the light of phenomenological thinking, I highlight the historian’s desire to gain access to, and the impossibility of sensual perceptual dwelling in the past -- even in the presence of a huge archive! The irony is – a lot of the Cantonese sounds I’ve found are not comprehensible to me. I look at them and listen – much like a stranger in the midst of a foreign tongue.