Minority or majority is not about quantities. Majority practices could often be the conventions set by the minority few whereas what is broadly held may not be represented as “majority” positions. Being in the minority is not being weak. A “minor literature,” to Deleuze, is a strategic position for “de-territorialization” to occur. The video essay could be considered a minor literature for today. Or should we ask, “How do we enact video essay-writing as a minor literature?” 多數或少數與數量無關;多數人奉行的操作可以是少數人所決定的,而大部分人視以為閒常的,未必為「主導」「主流」所涵蓋以至凸顯。特勒茲論述中的「少數文學」並不弱勢而是個可用的據點,是語言表述活動的「反收歸化」(「反山頭主義式佔領」)的開始。「錄像文章」本身就帶著「少數文學」意味,迎向翻新。又或說,怎樣的錄像文章才是「少數文學」的彰顯?

**background graphics by Kel Lok 背景圖案:駱敏聰

**updated 17 November 2020 with summary Chinese translation, English version updated 22 November 2020

 

微言 = 精深微妙的言辭 [1] shrewd, subtle, exquisite words
塵埃落定 = 定局 established views
平地 [2] = getting the land ready
平地數碼 = digital normal
平地素馬 🐎 = a plain horse strolling on ordinary horizons

 

“A minor literature is not the literature of a minor language but literature a minority makes with a major language.” 少數文學不是少數族類語言寫的文學,而是用大多數人的語言去完成的少數創作。
“…Even if it is major, a tongue is capable of intensive use which spins it out along creative lines of escape, a use which now forms and constitutes an absolute deterritorialization.” 即使用的是大多數人的語言,我們的言辭大可以透過精細運用,翻吐出具創意的擺脫路線,探索語言表述上的反收歸化。
— “What is a Minor Literature?” Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (16, 27)

 

《平地數碼》錄像文章由幾個簡單的生活中的觀察開始。很多我看過的有趣的錄像創作,並不符合影展影節的規格,未得到流傳分享。如何搜羅這些浮盪著的遺珠?新冠狀肺炎持續,網上出現了很多錄像講座、對談與研討。如何善用這個為成年人持續教育展開了新的一頁?一個普通的智能手機也可以定期從「照片簿」編選材料自行為你輯成小小的錄像日記。如何放大,進行再創作?如何搭些臨時的帳棚去看看可以蒐羅到些甚麼發表?《平地數碼》不以長線的另類自居,卻以長線的決心去不斷臨時搭建,按時變陣。

Digital Normal, Video Essay (D-Normal/Video-Essay, DnVe). It all began with a simple thought…

Looking around at film/video festivals and curated screening events, what are the kinds of works that would likely be left out? Where are the expressive individuals who have something to say but are likely to fail to be heard because they do not fit in existing platforms of circulation?

Next, riding on the COVID-19 waves, I saw lecture videos sprouting on the internet. Like many people, I have attended and spoken on several virtual meetings. Without giving up serious book-reading and moving image works viewing, my adult education continues on-line: I have made more and faster connections on issues of my concern, I am readier to grasp the facets and gradation of viewpoints and arguments across broad geographies. No euphemism. Reduced mobility remains a different problem to tackle. Perhaps there is a time for everything, and right now, let ideas float, flow and shoot.

My smart phone churns out automated/edited videos from my album. At first I was annoyed (being a video artist myself with some arrogance), then I was amazed with the shot-to-shot connections the hidden algorithms “sensibly” make. But why not take up these short videos and use them as the raw material for more thoughtful works — with our own re-interpreting collation, added voice-over, playful commentary of the events preserved, serious reflection of the build-in “editing,” subversive commentary of a visual language perpetuated by imaging methods “prescribed” to be the majority mode, and the list goes on.

All these thoughts and sensations spin off to land on the horizon of minor literature, as the opening quotes borrowed from D/G’s writing suggest: how do we turn around “majority” languages set by algorithms of our digital device manufacturers for a minority use? What are we resisting? Conformity. Self-technology embedded in readymade ways to visually represent our life stories. The diminishing space for differences. You name it. The question of media democratization, then, is not really just about distribution-access or supply-affordability. We should look at circulation-exhibition, the circuity between stake-holders and gate-keepers and the openness and closeness of the resulting systems. What does deterritorialization embody as textual production and as events?

Balance and equitable opportunities are not what minor literature is after. The demand for differences underlining minor literature changes as our dynamic lifeworld “unfolds.” Jean Luc Godard’s Brechtian approach to (counter-)cinema could have made a strong moment for minor literature, but then Brechtian methods, too, have become a kind of tradition, or a widely accepted emblem of the avant-garde. (It must be pointed out, though, that what made Godard’s cinema in the 1960s powerfully critical was far beyond just screen aesthetics: it was the entire package of cinema as a critical event, which rested in his founding of the cinematheque, his activist fraternity with other progressive filmmakers of the time, and the forums and debates that grew out of his filmmaking practices.) I still honour Godard for his ceaselessly pushing himself to respond to the changing world through his veteran artistry. To ascribe a minor literature desire to the video essay is to mean that we have to keep asking how well we are doing, how minor we can be, and how shrewd and thorough we are playing with the language of the majority. That requires regular review.

Our world now is in an unprecedented split; open views are as free as they are also the pretense of spin control.  We have total data control by a minority who owns the majority of IT technology that decides how the world is run and what we know. Control and surveillance is procedural, algorithmic and measured by data experts who operate on the “cloud” level. On “earth,” we are voluptuously fed with gadgets that keep us busy, feeling ourselves trendy, well-connected users. For D-Normal/V-Essay, it is an open question yet to be answered. How do we try it out to ensure an open platform? Would our jury system, for example, play a role that is bigger than we have imagined, in terms of facilitation and selectivity? What kind of jury work? What editorial principles? Who would actually respond and send in a work? The open categories are wide open although we have pinned down seven groups. Those who want to speak… how would they speak?

 

Minor literature de-territorializes what is considered great

/ the desire to escape codification… codification is territorialization

要創新,最好就是發明自己的語言啦,但這不過是出路的一種。該怎麼樣才能把耳熟能詳以至擅長的語言能力變成「異數」?用少數的方法去使用大眾的語言。這是「少數文學」的精義 (Deleuze / Guattari)。而表述的「政治性」(Jacques Ranciere) 並不在於表達關於政府政權的議題,而是就地的對著表述的傳統和約定標準作出翻新。由此,「少數文學」的角度裡沒有先入為主的偉大、經典。那麼,選擇甘於「少數」的錄像文章, 可否靈活擺脫「釋經學」式的符碼解讀的框框,實驗出不怕不經典,無須通過深層文化闡釋的表述?可以想像張開「閱讀」、遊樂於「閱讀」法則的錄像文章嗎?

 

“What remain interesting is the possibility of making one’s own tongue, supposing it unique, or, if a major tongue now or in the past, then supposing the possibility of a minor use. To be as a stranger in one’s own language.” (Deleuze/Guattari, 26)
“Literature intervenes as literature.”
— Jacques Ranciere on the politics of literature (Ranciere, 4)

 

How do we consider the video essay as literature? What is literature? In The Politics of Literature, Ranciere describes literature as “a new system of identification of the art of writing,” which is “a system of relationships between practices, the forms of visibility of such practices, and modes of intelligibility.” (7) The novelty of literature lies in its provoking “a new way of linking the sayable and the visible, word and things,” as well as “human action and significance.” (9)

D/G summarizes the characteristics of “minor literature” as follows: 1/ the de-territorialization of the language; 2/ the connection of the individual and the political; and 3/ the collective arrangement of utterance. (18) What makes something minor is its questioning what is great or established.

If every video essay is comparable to a map, a picture of reality, or a work of cartography, a key question would be: “the map will change if a different entrance is chosen.” Where (and what) is our entry point? The principle of multiple entries is itself the political strategy. Multiplicity “blocks the introduction of the enemy… the attempts to interpret a work which does not offer itself to anything but experimentation.” (editor’s note, D/G, 13)

Thus, a minor literature begins with creative/artistic strategies that challenge and resist interpretation without denying it. Interpretation premises on deep hermeneutics, like in studying religious scriptures, or, broadly speaking, affirms codification within a culture. Interpretation can be territorializing. On the readers’ part, interpretation begins with codes. Once a reader starts to interpret, s/he necessarily brings in established frameworks and conventions; the result of interpretation is to reproduce “the material it considers as instances of the code.” (13) This very act to turn a singular utterance into just another instance of cultural norms is stripping a work of its unique voice and sentiments, undermining individuation, and subjecting it to cooptation. In the end, each of our utterances falls back onto typification and achieves nothing but reinforcing established codes.

+         +         +         +

I see a plain horse strolling unhurriedly on a prepared horizon where it trots, gallops, grazes, whinnies, neighs or dashes off as it wills.

平地素馬。
我夢見了閒常的馬,如平地一聲雷的冒現於已料理好的地面上,隨心隨意棲息走動。

Take for instance, the Chinese title of this article reads “D-Normal/V-Essay: a plain horse on the horizon, …” A plain horse to me is a picture in my mind mysteriously linked to a nonchalant state of being, burden-free from the anxieties of under-achieving or not holding attention. I am fully aware of the burden of codification, of someone coming in with culturally charged allegorical meanings of a horse, which will “imprison” this project. Like the use of the horse here, Dn/Ve wishes all participants would be free enough to steer away from codes and habits to assert a fresh language for themselves.

 

an early trial design by Jess Lau

 

 

Who are the minorities?

/ dare to be different

無懼於不入格不入流,擁抱差異。即便如此,我們的「少數」也必然是社會文化歷史的一部份;「少數」的根繫著當下的一切。「少數」的發表同樣構成群體行動,因此自然具政治性,即使是獨思獨行。

“What the solitary writer says already constitutes a communal action, and what he says or does is necessarily political — even if others do not agree with him.” (17)

Minor literature does not privilege the masters.

In an essay on video diaries by non-professionally trained individuals who video-recorded their own first year (1997-98) after Hong Kong’s handover, I have argued that the lacking in “proper” film/video production experience can be understood as an advantage of being free to deploy sight-and-sound for one’s use. Without informed view on cinematic norms and conventions, their works shuffle between laying out their thought paths and mobilizing the kind of “film language” they acquired as common sense through years of lay viewership. Invoking the video essay/diary as the phenomenology of thought paths, the audio-visual diaries not only “[lend] a voice to private sentiments, but the deployment of necessary writing tactics”; it is itself “the embodiment of everyday sensibilities suppressed by the overtly monumental sweep” of current events of the time. (Lai, 463) Despite the apparent roughness and unevenness of the sight-and-sound discourse, the video diaries in question articulate a sense of freedom that is at once subdued and ruminating. Nonetheless, each is a thorough engagement of their lifeworld, through concrete everyday practices, including poetics and the use of artistic evidence, doing as being, all of which pertain to a kind of new attentiveness. The diaries also speak to us as “everyday creativity” — in the everyday activities they quote as well as the playful response to the pressing of the button to record. (464)

The minorities are those “who want to remain minorities” in order to “affirm perspectives that are not those of the culture they inhabit.” (D/G, 13) And we are all sharing the problems of the minorities. We all suffer from interpretation. We all suffer from the “powerful signs which massacre desire.” As D/G wrote, it is not about liberating oneself from submission — “it is a matter of line of flight, escape… an exit, outlet. … Experimentation is an alternative to interpretation.” (13) In Deleuze’s well known terms, Kafka’s novels, for example, are compared to a rhizome: a rhizome does not have a unifying form … … A desirable work that is experimental should be like a map: it opens up new horizons, raises new questions, makes new connections between familiar points as much as with what is less known and less noticeable.

/ long circuits

長行路徑,是對應存在問題尋找快速出路的衝動回以放大、放緩的心思,騰出廣闊一點的空間,讓夢想、策略、代與代之間的獨立性、歷史的包袱和存在經驗的豐富等等,可以共融,創作多層次的活的可能性。

It takes courage to stand alone, to appreciate the voice of being different from majority views. Video essay for the here and now seeks to diversify channels of expressions and articulations, and examine how we do so. We align with, and depend on, KOLs, which is a welcomed phenomenon that may sometimes stifle free expression and discourage confrontation with our personal experiences. Alliance is inevitable. Social political contingencies push us to take side, often by accepting short-circuited arguments. The question is not forming alliances, but about accepting differences. In discussing the collective development of human consciousness, Stiegler critiques our over dependence on short circuits (as quick solution to problems), which sacrifices long-circuits to allow collective effort and the time to learn from one another more thoroughly. (Kingdom) Longer circuits make space for concrete issue as much as for dreams, for inter- and cross-generation exchange, and for the tyranny of history and its residues to meet — in the long run, the space for (trans-)individuation.

The D-Normal/V-Essay initiative seeks to prolong the circuits of engagement regarding problems of our existence. And D/G’s minor literature reads:

“Only expression provides the method.” (16)
Articulation first: the act gives birth to the method.

Let’s expand the following list of verbs that describe the functions of the video essay:
請為《平地數碼》的錄像文章繼續延伸以下這串動詞 –
reason 推論
persuade and argue 說理
assert and describe 陳述、描述
confess and express 抒情剖白
question and interrogate 發問審視偵查
analyze and interpret 剖析、演繹
present field-reporting 報告田野觀察的發現
… … … … … … …

Let’s look for the combination and integration of the following familiar genres and what lies in between:
「錄像文章」是多種我們耳熟能詳的表述體裁的交叉點 –

film/art review, film/art criticism 影評藝評
prose 散文
argumentative writing 議論文
exposé 說明文
expressive writing 抒情文
reportage 報告文學
sketches and portraits 素描寫生(人、物、地、事件)
scientific description 科學說明
found footage/found sound recreation 現成聲影二次創作
documentary 紀錄片
video poem 錄像詩
lecture video/lesson plan video 教案錄像
DIY video 自學錄像DIY
documentation video (background, processes and outcome of an art event) 藝術展的背景、紀錄和解說

… … … … … … …

D-Normal/V-Essay

 

NOTES

[1] 「微言」出處:(1) 南朝梁.劉勰《文心雕龍.論說》:「昔仲尼微言,門人追記,故仰其經目,稱為論語。」(2) 唐.李白〈別韋少府〉詩:「多君枉高駕,贈我以微言。」隱微諷諫的言辭。《宋書.卷六九.范曄傳》:「熙先素有等嘧,盡心事之,曄遂相與異常,申莫逆之好,始以微言動曄,曄不回,熙先乃極辭譬說。」http://pedia.cloud.edu.tw/Entry/Detail/?title=%E5%BE%AE%E8%A8%80

[2] 「平地」:(1) 形容詞:忽然的(例如「平地一聲雷」)。(教育百科)(2) 動詞:把地按平,平整地面。(百度百科教育百科)(3) 平穩地;穩當地。(新華字典,百度在線漢語字典,百度百科)。

 

REFERENCE

Deleuze, Gilles; Felix Guattari and Robert Brinkley 1975/1983. “What is a Minor Literature?” Mississippi Review, winter-spring 11:3. 13-33. Stable URL: http://www.jstor.com/stable/20133921

Kingdom, Cyrus 2018. “A Short Summary of Bernard Stiegler’s Theory of ‘Short and long Circuits” in Society”; Cyrus Kingdom, July 20.

Lai, Linda Chiu-han 2015. “Documenting Sentiments in Video Diaries around 1997: Archaeology of Forgotten Screen Practices.” A Companion to Hong Kong Cinema; ed. Esther M.K. Cheung, Gina Marchetti and Esther C.M. Yau, Wiley Blackwell. 462-488.

Ranciere, Jacques 2011. “The Politics of Literature” (chapter 1); The Politics of Literature; trans. Julie Rose. Polity Press. 3-30.

Stiegler, Bernard 2009. “Pharmacology of the Proletariat.” For New Critique of Political Economy. London: Polity. 14-44.

Stiegler, Bernard; Irit Rogoff 2010. “Transindividuation”; e-flux Journal #14, March.

 

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