LAI Chiu Han, Linda

LAI Chiu-han Linda is a Ph.D. in Cinema Studies (NYU), currently Associate Professor at the School of Creative Media, City University of Hong Kong, and Leader of the Critical Intermedia Studies Expertise Group. She is a Hong Kong-based interdisciplinary artist and curator, and founded the new media art group The Writing Machine Collective in 2004. Her works have a strong concern for language and narrativity, grounded in a feminist sensibility that integrates critical theory, film theories and visual ethnography.

Door Games Window Frames – video version 
(2012 / 11:30 / B&W / Single Channel)

Door Games Window Frames: Near Drama is originally a generative 3-channel projection consisting of sequences of open-ended drama, now adapted into a single-channel, 3-window combinatorial drama. The work deploys a database of about 500 movie clips extracted from 11 HK Cantonese thrillers and melodramas from the early 1960s. Exploring the mannerism and formulaic structures of such films, I discovered a key feature – the frequent use of the opening and closing of doors to introduce a scene, and the use of windows to highlight emotively charged moments in melodrama.

In this piece, I have turned such door and window movements literally into a unique propeller of drama. As punctuations as well for emotive shifts, the combinatorial game I play with these clips constructs micronarrative movements. The ‘near drama’ resulting from the combinatorial exercise could be frustrating for not delivering one straightforward story; but my method liberates every segment between the closing and opening of doors and windows to allow them to stand alone to perform its dramatic energy.

In this video version, the work has 3 chapters — “Trial & Speculations: spinning the wheel,” “Getting Serious” and “Behind the doors, in front of the windows” — laying out the process of studying door and window devices, at the same time brewing dramaticity without ever arriving at any single stable story.

The 500 clips were extracted with the following interest: (1) door and window shots from the 11 films, (2) the performance of the male protagonists — mainly 2 actors — in scenes with doors and windows, (3) the close-up shots of the facial expressions of female protagonists in the 11 films; (4) close-up shots of everyday objects, and (5) outdoor scenes that contain visual view of the city space of Hong Kong. Whereas the first three criteria set up my analytical-visual studies of the genre characteristics of these films, the latter two criteria form the anthropological-ethnnographic objectives of this project, acknowledging photography and cinema’s intrinsic power to preserve the looks and appearances of material existence from the past.