Videography, Documentary Impulses: Our Manifestos II
Working with the Hong Kong-based art collective Floating Projects, I helped host an open call for manifestos on videography and personal cinema, and copy edited the English translation of what became a book of manifestos by 49 artists working in experimental video practices. I also contributed my own manifesto as well as a short essay on my practice. Included with the publication was a card that contained video works from each artist, which featured my videos Tearing and I Stood Before The Sea. The book was published in 2021 by Floating Projects Collective.
Manifesto (May 2019, revised May 2020)
Videos begin with imagining. They begin with not seeing. Videos begin with a kind of touching without seeing, touching that is its own kind of seeing, and they lead to seeing that is a kind of touch.
Video making is sculpting with materials that move and change, that dissolve in your hands if you get too close. It must begin as imagining because video exists in that space of dreams.
Video making is about speaking; it is about learning to speak. Videos are that process of coming to articulate. Arranging images together, we find that they say things we ourselves are unable to say—but that’s a video that I made, who else would be speaking?
Video making is about trying. Even when you don’t feel like you are getting it right, when you look back you will see that trying to speak is also speaking.
Many times, it is difficult to say the truth, especially to yourself. Video making is about finding the language to say those things you haven’t been able to say, don’t know how to say, and are afraid to say.
Images themselves are bodies. When we treat an image as a body, we approach it with a certain tenderness and respect.
Images speak many languages that we do not always know how to understand. In images, illegibility is its own kind of meaning.
Recording is collecting. It is an act of hope. To record is to believe in the possibility of meaning. It is precisely those things you could not have known about the image when you recorded it that will end up being the most meaningful.
With video there is no source or “true image.” Something will always get in the way. Videos are degraded, played on reflective screens, or projected onto uneven surfaces. These conditions tell us the history of the images we look at and remind us that the context in which we view an image is important.
At its best, sharing videos is an excuse to speak with someone else honestly.
I am drawn to making videos and I am also drawn to writing. Perhaps the two are not so different. My video practice is influenced by reading and writing—the way that language wraps itself in its twisting and turning forms, the ways in which words, like images, might become bodies themselves. Video making and writing are for me both processes of articulation. “There is no appointment with writing other than the one we go to wondering what we are doing here and where we are going,” says Hélène Cixous. And our appointment with video? It too exists surrounded by a kind of uncertainty. I record videos and don’t know what they will mean—if anything at all—when I sit down to look at them again. Perhaps this is the appointment we have with video: to look again, despite our own not knowing.
But before looking and looking again, videos begin with not seeing. My own videos begin with imagining. They begin at place that is both too far and too close. Making a video is a process of bringing my memories and dreams into focus, even if what is brought into focus is not always so clear. In this way, video making is a kind of sculpture—it is sculpting with time that is both far away and eternally present. There are many ways I might describe this process. Video making is searching, digging, waiting, hoping, ripping, tearing, writing,sharing. Video making is imagining; it is working with a medium that is both present and absent.
In this space between absence and presence, video exists as a movement. Videos are a gesture in time which is also a gesture of time. In repetition, these gestures become rhythms. Video making is composing these gestures as though they are songs. Just as sound might be distorted and filtered, I compress and expand my images until they are break open, spilling out broken pixels and revealing hidden forms. I am drawn to this failure to represent. The moment when a video tries to speak, but is unable to, tries to move away from itself, but returns to speak its only truth: “I am a video.” This kind of reflection is what interests me, that movement outward that concludes with a movement back—returning to the self. I speak of the world only to end up outlining the contours of myself.
Creating Tearing (2019), I imagined a video that began at loss. I imagined a video was already destroyed, that had already forgotten, whose fragments had been fragmented. A video that was broken but remained fragile. “What is indestructible is fragility itself,” write philosophers Jean Luc Nancy and Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, “…the fragility that dwells in speaking or in writing, in opening your mouth, in tracing a word.” I imagined this video that remained fragile, flickering in and out of visibility, that refused to take shape, that existed on the verge of becoming a body, a face, a reflection of light on water. I imagined a video that was so small it had already disappeared, a video that was already a shadow of itself. I found a video of the reflection of light on water I recorded two years prior and uploaded it and downloaded it until its colors began to blur and its forms started to wobble. I collaged multiple instances of it together and edited them until otherwise invisible patterns appeared with clarity. Through this process, I arrived at what I had touched but never seen. In creating a video, I encountered myself again.
I Stood Before the Sea (2019) was created after a trip up the coast of Northern California. Moved by the vastness of the ocean, I recorded a video out of the window of a moving car. In the unedited video, the image of the ocean is legible, but its presence is entirely absent. Through editing, I encountered the sea again. The presence of the sea appears in the few seconds of footage that I distorted, recolored and looped. Video making is this process of documenting in order to find again.Through images, I reunite with the world.
We organize around a screen. We get into groups and discuss the ways that images make us feel. Together, we try to find a way to talk about images and the videos we make. In talking about images, we find the language to speak to ourselves. Perhaps the use of video making is to be an excuse. Let’s use video as an excuse to speak to each other, and images as a way of returning. I once imagined an image that might be more like a mirror than like a window, an image that returns you back to yourself, that pushes you back as much as you push into it. After watching such an image, I imagine we might all turn to each other, joining the conversation that the video breathes into the world. If making videos is about finding a means of speaking, sharing them is about finding a way to listen.
 Hélène Cixous, Three Steps onthe Ladder of Writing, trans. Sarah Cornell and Susan Sellers, (NewYork: Columbia University Press, 1993), 100.
 Jean Luc Nancy and PhilipeLacoue-Labarthe, “Noli Me Frangere,” in The Birth to Presence, trans.Brian Holmes (Stanford University Press, 1993), 268.