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Man Ching-ying's works (Leung Po Shan 23.02.04)
This article is a revised version of the speech I prepared for the forum on Man Ching-ying's works in the Microwave Festival 2002. Thanks for Yeung Yang to translate and summarize it into the present length. (or other appropriate note.)
I am not familiar with studies on the virtual world; nor can I use the trendy "cyber" perspective to read Ching-ying's works. What I would like to do, though, is to return to artist and the works and analyze them on an imagery level.
Concept of the "hollow" and bodily sensation
The three works are <<Washing the Light>> (2002), <<Rewind Autumn>> (2001) and <<Inside a Bed>> (2001). All of them deal with images of "hollowness" and some very "sensual" bodily sensations.
I saw <<Washing the Light>> for the first time in the Gwangju Biennale. The concept of <<Washing the Light>> is very simple: a ray of light is projected onto a piece of glass. One washes the light with water and soap. The intangible is transformed into a graspable substance. In the Gwangju video version, the image was projected onto the ceiling of the exhibition venue, creating the illusion of a ceiling hollowed out. When this work was shrunk into the size of a television image, the light that seemed to go through space became a cave. The power of the image was very strong. The gentle touch of the hand and the glaring light that would not admit the naked eye stood in the most extreme opposition, and yet, piercing the bodily sensation of a viewer. There was no way the viewer can figure out whether s/he was inside or outside the cave, seeing or being seen, the object of the voyeur or its subject. Compared to previous works in which Ching-ying also dealt with bodily sensations, this work is ambiguous and pure.
<<Rewind Autumn Moon>> is also a video installation. In the light of the small number of female film directors in Hong Kong, Ching-ying pays tribute to them with her work. She chose an excerpt from Lo Chuek-yiu's <<Autumn Moon>>, and re-interpreted it by changing what were originally the lines of the male character into the murmurings of a female. The solitude conveyed by that excerpt was enhanced not because of the content of the lines, but the duplicity of "spectatorship" in the short film. In <<Autumn Moon>>, viewers view people, events, sex and death through the male character's camera. In Ching-ying's film, all becomes sex/love/death in Ching-ying's eyes. Ching-ying's back is at the foreground of the image. Viewers become cinema-goers who sit at the back rows.
In the work <<Inside a Bed>>, the kind of loss mentioned above is turned into a self-contained positive force. She admits viewers into the private/quilt hole. Viewers are no longer trapped in an ambiguous in/out space. The pattern on the sheets and the effect from having the camera focused on the mirror create a symmetry as in a kaleidoscope. A whole lot of feminist theories can be used to write about this work, but for me, what's most important is that in this work, she is finally facing up to her own bodily satisfaction. She is no longer speaking about her own desires through objects and other people.
The mutual respect of theory and creativity
Since working with Ching-ying in <<P-read>>, both of us have been given the hat of "feminist artists." I detest how some people treat works as theoretical writings. There was a period when Ching-ying and I both did works that were very preachy. The word "female" was always present. Whether "female" or "theory" takes the stage is a contextual political strategy. As a practitioner of creative work, I think the ideal situation is to have theory and creativity respect each other. The more direct and pure, with one work dealing with one problem, the richer and more confident the way Ching-ying's works open up imaginative space. I think she is going deeper in her creative work.