Localized Blindness (2019=2020) is a video work by Winnie Yan (Yan Wai-yin), to be included in the (video) Manifesto 2 project. In contrast with the deliberately subdued sight-and-sound articulation in the video work, Yan spotlit the backstage of the work’s making process to perform the complex world of thoughts and emotions traversing within. 忻慧妍的《局部失明》含蓄如密碼佈陣,定睛創作的後台是另一種風景。與其說是她的心情和動機上的剖白,不如說是我們現在進行式的隨著她的思緒找發聲的調韻。聽一個人所訴之白跟看著一個人訴白,是兩個不同的經驗,都連線到記錄的衝動。

***Our Manifesto 2: Videography, Documentary Impulse will be out end of April. Please stay tuned. 《我們的錄像宣言2:記述的衝動》將於2021年4月底面世,請密切留意。

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2021.04 (English version)

Proper Nouns

Confession on ending things with “Localized Blindness”

All and All

The motivation to compose “Localized Blindness” stemmed from the desire to put an end to the whirling cycle of self destruction, the overthinking and the seemingly never-ending accumulation of negativity. In late 2018, I laughed as hard as I could then cried even harder afterwards. I would then call it a day, go to bed and let everything repeat itself again the next morning. I thought about pulling my own hair out one string after another, kept on sleeping till my head ached as if a million clouds had been made. I consulted a therapist on whether I should seek medical treatment to control these emotional upheavals, never have I thought about suicide though. As one of the many silver linings, L had been listening and analyzing my thoughts calmly. Meeting a serene therapist regularly would be the other. I have learnt to face and acknowledge different mental states. I have learnt to calm myself by deep and regulated breathing. Now I am much more stable, for at least no one expects anyone to “be happy” anymore, as if sorrow has become the default setting of the city at the moment. My city is ill, it relapsed.

Here I attempt to record all steps and details of the production process as far as possible. As a creator, in addition to clarifying some of the causes and consequences, and the challenges confronted throughout the making, I also seek to make the work as transparent as possible through writing, as if such an exhausting act could bring forth a state of fulfillment, a sense where after all these have been said, we could begin to “confront” the work. This is, afterall, not an explanation, perhaps it is an introduction to a certain extent, or rather plainly, a set of stretches.

 

“I Miss (Him/Her) Badly, Just Leave Me Alone.”

I was 24 in 2018. I was struck by the consecutive passing of a relative and a friend within two weeks. As the intense grief was gradually relieved, I was informed to attend a funeral ceremony of my close friend’s family member. In some other moments I felt as if all relationships were about to break. I fell into a state of extreme speechlessness: I cannot comprehend my situation in the midst of such boundless loss and restlessness, like a malfunction. It is not a diagnosis based on self-reflection, but rather an intuition derived from the inability to make clear my thoughts and feelings with a very few fragmented sentences I was able to pull out during the countless conversations with friends. I could not equate my feelings with words no matter how hard I’d tried. Those uttered words pulled me further away, while my friends appeared to have grasped my condition, my emotions remained morphing, mutating and dividing unceasingly into new shapes and patterns, gradually forming an erosive form of self-loathing: all the expired explanations, the misunderstandings from projecting thoughts into one another, and the overcompensating acts… The lack of words denoted my inadequacy in verbal expression, casting yet another layer of pressure on top of my existing anxiety. Some of my very close friends were kind enough to stay by my side, toning down a lot of tugging moments by sharing with me their anecdotes here and there day after day.

 

Frankly, I didn’t seek to confess any twists or turns of the aforementioned relationships I had with the people who are gone. On one hand, I could not handle the weight of those stingings, on the other I simply do not have the courage to repeat. There was an urge for an outlet, however, where all the distressing turmoils could be released. I had been entangled by contradictions and yet I still yearned to express the scattered emotions. “I understand (your feelings)”, they said, a line which one might often say to express their condolences, such an act of concern was at first alienating, until later I began to guess if something had also happened to them, if they had gone through something that echoes mine, or perhaps we all experience a kind of loss at some point. What exactly are we mourning? What triggers sorrow? C told me that she was not immensely sad, yet whenever she passed by some particular places, she would recall those “proper nouns”. Weekends that were usually packed with companionships are now emptied out, and yet to fill them with other arrangements would seem inappropriate. I once suspected such mentality of never letting go might be the best way to preserve a piece of memory, if the emotional burdens could be taken out of the context. The pleasure of crying and bowling so easily is tempting, until later when I cannot be presumptuous anymore, time gradually pushed me away, “distance” suddenly became something that I couldn’t be more aware of: the distance between me and the missing person or thing (memory-vision), the distance between me and my friends (expression), the distance between me and the body (emotion), and the distance between me and the viewer in the film (author). To magnify these various losses directly and clearly is not something I would like to do nor something I seek to remember and make public. What I look for is to visualize the blindspots that plague me. I want to tone down my identity as a narrator by constructing a shared space-time capsule, while I stored my emotions in “Localized Blindness” with my own metaphors, other viewers can still experience the work as a first person, or as an individual who has a different visual acuity.

 

Test – Seamless Borders – Daily with “No-bodies”

“Localized Blindness” takes 19 minutes and 45 seconds. It consists of two parts: testing and describing the symptoms. I originally intended to make it last for 25 minutes. There is no specific reason, a part of me wanted to push myself to try and to hysterically pull out all the pain, and at the same time, to convince myself that the presence of this work is necessary. Eventually, it took a whole year to draw an end. The wanderings in 2019 seem to spread across some akin moments from 2018.

I would like to consider this approach I applied to editing this film as “Seamless Cut”. From the very beginning since I have learnt video making, I have noticed an unexplainable resistance from within myself towards the act of editing. It is not because I am not fond of making or watching films, though oftentimes I will be carried away by the time difference clearly divided, and it bothers me to absorb the work more thoroughly. I wonder why I do not have such doubt while reading a book, for instance. Is it because of the minute interval of “words” as a unit, or if books allow viewers to move back and forth at any time? I think of this every time I watch a long shot. Long shot does relieve some breathless anxiety. It blurs the difference between the motion time and the real time, it however does not solve my concerns towards editing. A long shot itself has nothing to do with editing, it only affects the decisions in editing. Animation or drawing can easily solve such a state of “clear division”. Indeed, many examples of experimental animation can facilitate a complete worldbuilding without any editing at all. I do not want to settle for a long shot, therefore I try to construct a matter-of-fact editing model as a “grey area” for experimentation, which is also the backbone of ​​”Localized Blindness”. The presence of such editing approach in the film is to simulate the process of an eye test, it is not made to facilitate what is “after”, the test is presented as a structure, or solely a metaphor.

It was not until I was stuck in the black-or-white nature of a test that “Localized Blindness” shifted from a one-part structure to having an additional section on describing visual defects. I wonder whether scientific texts contain perceptual or imaginative expressions between lines, for instance, in tooth brushing demonstrations, medication guidelines or physical therapies. Compared with horoscope predictions, although describing muscle pulling seems to be more down-to-earth, is it possible to utilize a visual language to express that pulling without directly showing muscle movements? I referenced a number of audio-visual materials that feature patients with different visual impairments. They explained their personal experiences and conditions in detail, such as their sensitivity to light, their initial suspicions on vision loss, and the common misunderstandings from people with normal eyesight. Among them, I pondered upon French psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatien de Clérambault’s writings which document his change from being a cataract surgeon to a patient. Titled “Les yeux de Clérambault”, the book consists of three main sections which include his observations towards his declining visual acuity, the operation procedures, and the recovery process. In my work, I extracted some words from the text as an undertone to sculpt an anxiety towards the vision loss. Most of the image materials presented in “Localized Blindness” were quotidian fragments taken ages before having the idea to compose them into a film, some of them are group photos, some are travel images if not the most common visual records of the daily surrounding: the sky, the roads, and the landscapes. I deliberately avoided human faces. Many images in this film have been greatly enlarged. This is one way for me to store metaphors.

 

video still courtesy of writer/video artist Winnie Yan

 

Encryption and Decryption: To Escape the Reality by Reaching People with the Same Illness

Feeling paralyzed in the middle of the process, I kept escaping into the books. A and I often describe our thoughts as “somewhat with a slight touch of sorrow”. I often go to the Mourning Diary from Roland Barthes when I am down, looking for a companion who wrote a line or two on the same date in 1977/1978. At times I also read Lee Chi-Leung’s A Room Without Myself, where words are so refinely put together as if the words have become a set of temporary harmless anesthetics prescriptions. I appropriated these time-space fabrics from the others to cover my own. I think of the eyes and that of the peacock from Hera and Argos, the sapphire eyes and the swallow in the Happy Prince. I quoted sentences from these works, extracting the connections between the persona and the loss of “identity and relationship”, “existence”, or “memory” at the moment when the eyes were lost or given up. There, I hid my images in them.

 

Are You Done Yet?”

The very first scene in this work was created on August 22, 2018, whereas the last update of the file was time stamped on November 26, 2019. There was a slight procrastination throughout the making. Even though there was no deadline, deep down I knew it would go by the board if I did not have it rounded up before 2020. Once the work was shown, I finally felt as if some part of me was being accepted. This was not because of the quality of the work, but rather the fact that although it appears to be extremely abstract, I did keep the actual fragments inside. To me, it is one feasible way to expose the naked emotions at a right distance.

The self that writes will pause here for now.

 

2020.03 | 專有名詞-以《局部失明》作結的自白

所有所有

創作《局部失明》的動力源於自身想要終結那個自暴自棄顧慮太多不停放負無限輪迴的自己,2018 年下半年經常以十倍的力量笑,再用百倍的力量哭,然後睡覺,一早醒來再接再厲。想過把自己的頭髮一條一條拔下來,不斷不斷睡覺睡到腦袋神智混濁不清,查詢是否要食藥控制突如其來的情緒,沒想過自殺。幸得L 一直冷靜聆聽和分析,見了幾回治療師,學習面對及承認情緒,恆常以呼吸平伏自己,現在穩定多了,起碼這年再沒有人覺得「你要快樂」,憂愁彷彿成了當下的內定值 (default setting),我城也生病了,又再一次復發。

這裏我會嘗試盡量記錄所有創作過程的步驟及細節,除了想以創作者的身份釐清一些前因後果及重整途中一些難以啟口的關卡外,也期望藉筋疲力竭的書寫把作品盡量透明化,盡可能實現一種「把這些能說出來的都完了,我們可以開始面對作品。」的狀態。這並非作品的解釋,充其量是一篇緒言,又或是一節伸展運動。

「好掛住佢,你由得我啦。」

 2018 年,二十四歲。我在兩週內先後得知一位親人與一位朋友的離去,在情緒逐漸紓緩之際,又再次經歷好友摯親離去的儀式,還有種種關係擦邊快要決裂的瞬間。接二連三地的失去與不安令我陷入了一種極度失語的狀態:我不能夠理解自己的近況,像一種機能性故障。這並非一種自省過後的發現,而是從朋友交談中得知無論我如何竭力解釋,仍無法把那些支離破碎的句子與自身的情感畫上等號。那些吐出來的話語把我越拉越遠,朋友把對我的擔憂安置好了,而我的情緒卻仍在不斷分裂變形,漸漸形成一種侵蝕性的自我厭惡:各種過期的解釋、互相投射的誤會、還有過份用力的改正。斷斷續續的三言兩語突顯了我言語表達的殘缺不堪,為我已有的焦慮再蓋上一層壓力,比較親密的朋友都默默地陪伴著,偶然說點毫不關連的事情,為我淡化了好些拉扯。

說實在,我沒有想要跟任何人剖白那些關係的起承轉合,一方面是沒法拿捏那些刺痛的重量,另一方面大概亦是沒有承受不斷複述的勇氣。我需要一個出口,好讓我透過複述一種情緒起伏釋放那些擾人的躁動。我一直在前後矛盾中纏繞,想要好好表達各種不帶關連的情緒。面對旁人回應「我明 (白你的感受)。」那種看似設身處地的關切,起初是一種拒人於外的排斥感,直到後期我嘗試提問:他們是否也發生過些甚麼,才會流露這種「過來人」的語氣。也許是我們都會不斷經歷著各種失去,究竟失去之痛在於哪,喚起傷痛的又在哪⋯⋯ C 跟我說她沒有感到太大的悲傷,只是每每經過一些地點就會喚起那些「專有名詞」,原先充斥著互相陪伴的週末一下子被掏空了,現在硬塞其他總覺不太對勁。我曾一度懷疑這永不以「康復」作正視狀況的方法,撇除為自己帶來的情緒壓力外,可能是一種最佳的記憶方法,那種輕易刺痛流淚嚎叫的快感,直到後期我再沒法放肆,時間把我逐漸推開,「距離」突然成了我極度在意的一環:我與失去的人或事物的距離(記憶-視覺)、我與朋友之間的距離(語言表達)、我與身體的距離(情緒)、還有創作當中我與觀者之間的距離(作者)。我認為直接把失去的各種清晰放大呈現並不是我最想牢記或者公開的事,我所需要的出口是把困擾著我的各種盲點以視覺呈現。我想透過建立一個共同的時空洞,把我作為一個敘述者的身份淡化,在我把我的情感以各種隱喻存放於《局部失明》之中,它不斷重覆並提醒我的同時,其他觀者猶如不同視力的人,一同以第一身的身份經歷《局部失明》。

測試-無縫的邊界-無人的日常

《局部失明》整部作品長19 分鐘45 秒,主要分為測試及形容病患兩部分。在未有任何實際考量之先本想做一部大約25 分鐘的作品,理由無他,是想藉以長度嘗試歇斯底里把所有痛楚拉出,也同時借以說服自己這作品存在的重要,最終《局部失明》花了一整年才劃上句號,把2019 年的徊看與 2018年重疊交錯。

關於當中的剪接,我暫時想把這個想法列為:「無縫剪接」(Seamless Cut)。由始至終我對於剪接錄像還是有一種沒法解釋的抗拒,這並非我不喜歡造/看錄像,而是很多情況下我會被剪接所清晰劃分的時差牽走,令我沒法好好理解。我好奇為何看書沒有這個疑惑,是因為「字」作為單元的微小,還是書可以讓我隨時向前向後?每逢觀看長鏡頭的拍攝我都會想起這些問題,長鏡頭的確紓緩了一種透不過氣的焦慮,把框內的影像時間與我觀看的時間矇糊化,但我不認為長鏡頭解決了剪接,又或是長鏡頭本身與剪接這個行為無關,長鏡頭只是影響了剪接。動畫,或者繪畫都可以很輕易地解決「清晰劃分」這個狀態,很多實驗動畫的例子都可以以無剪接的姿態把整個世界帶出來。我不想安於用長鏡頭解決,所以我嘗試塑造以「理所當然」的剪接行為作為一個「灰色地帶」進行實驗,也是《局部失明》的想法。當中的剪接存在是基於影片作為一個眼睛測試的過程,而不是因為擁有什麼「後着」,測試在作品之中只是一個比喻,或是以一種建立結構的形式存在。

對《局部失明》的起初構思並沒有形容病患的第二部分,直到自己一直卡住在測試中非黑即白的狀態。我在想究竟科學上的文字會否容許感性或具想像性的表達,簡單如刷牙示範,用藥指引,物理治療練習等等。與星座運程相比,形容肌肉拉扯固然比較「實在」,但同時我又如何以視覺語言,在不直接呈現肌肉的動作同時,表達那種拉扯感呢?其後我看了好多關於不同眼疾的病患者所形容的狀態,例如他們的感光能力、最初懷疑失去視力的情況、一般視力健全人士對病患的誤解,當中以法國精神醫學醫師德‧克雷宏波所著《德‧克雷宏波的眼睛》一書,克雷宏波由白內障醫師變成白內障病患者後,為自己所經歷的視覺變化、手術的過程、及痊癒狀況三個階段最為清晰,我亦以此段文字作為形容病患的基調,作為對視力衰退的不安的表達方式。

當中的影像素材,主要都是在有《局部失明》的構思前的日常記錄,有的是合照,有的是旅行影像,或是日常最普通不過的琑碎記錄,天空、道路、風景,我刻意迴避人面,片中很多影像都放大了好多好多,這是我其中一種存放隱喻的方法。

video still courtesy of  Winnie Yan

 

加密解密:以找尋同病相憐的人逃避現實

創作中途一度癱瘓,不斷逃跑往書裏去。我跟A 兩人常以「淡淡的哀傷」形容自己的想法,失落的時候總會想翻一翻羅蘭·巴特 Roland Barthes 的《哀悼日記》Mourning Diary,以巴特於1977/1988年同月同日的傷痛陪伴,還有李智良的《房間》,如此精煉的文字猶如短暫無害的麻醉藥。我一直挪用不同時空的情感覆蓋自身的傷痕。我想起伊俄與阿爾戈斯的眼睛與孔雀,想起快樂王子的藍寶石眼睛與燕子。我引用了這些作品的句子,抽取了他們在失去眼睛的同時所失去的「身份關係」、「存在」、「記憶」等的連繫,把自己的影像藏進去。

以下是羅蘭·巴特  的《哀悼日記》 裡的幾篇:

October 29, 1977:

How strange: her voice, which I knew so well, and which is said to be the very texture of memory (‘the dear inflection…’), I no longer hear. Like a localized deafness…

October 29, 1977:

A stupefying, though not distressing notion – that she has not been ‘everything’ for me. If she had, I wouldn’t have written my work. Since I’ve been taking care of her, the last size months in fact, she was ‘everything’ for me, and I’ve completely forgotten that I had ever written. I was no longer anything but desperately hers. Before, she had made herself transparent so that I could write.

November 10, 1977:

Struck by the abstract nature of absence; yet it’s so painful, lacerating. Which allows me to understand abstraction somewhat better: it is absence and pain, the pain of absence — perhaps therefore love?

August 1, 1978:

[Perhaps already noted]

Always (painfullu) surprised to be able – finally – to live with my suffering, which means that it is literally endurable. But – no doubt – this is because I can, more or less (in other words, with the feeling of not managing to do so) utter it, put it into words. My culture, my taste for writing gives me this apotropaic or integrative power: I integrate,* by language.

My suffering is inexpressible but all the same utterable, speakable. The very fact that language affords me the work ‘intolerable’ immediately achieves a certain tolerance.

*enter into a whole – federate – socialize, communize, gregoriate.

 

以下是奧斯卡·王爾德 Oscar Wilde 的《快樂王子》Happy Prince 其中的幾句:

One night there flew over the city a little Swallow.

“When I was alive and had a human heart,” answered the statue, “I did not know what tears were, for I lived in the Palace of Sans-Souci, where sorrow is not allowed to enter. (…) So I lived, and so I died. And now that I am dead they have set me up here so high that I can see all the ugliness and all the misery of my city, and though my heart is made of lead yet I cannot choose but weep.”

“Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow,” said the Prince, “will you not stay with me for one night, and be my messenger?

“And here is actually a dead bird at his feet!”

“As he is no longer beautiful he is no longer useful,”

 

「完啦好嘛?」

開始作品的第一個畫面大概是 2018年 8月 22日,而檔案的最後一個更新是2019 年 11月 26日,期間拖延好了一陣時間,又提不起勁,但想著再拖延至2020 年大概便會無了期消失。作品公開的瞬間,我也好想得到了被接受的感覺,這不是因為作品本身的素質,更大的原因是儘管它看似極度抽象,我的確把實在的片段放進去,我對而言是一種在適當距離下把情緒赤裸地公開的可行途徑。

書寫的我就在此作結。 (2020.02.02)

極度矯情草稿:「記住記住記住記住鎖住」

《局部失明》最初的訂名為《失明碎片》,只因當時打碎一個玻璃樽的畫面在我的腦海裏不斷重複,亦有可能是當時還未有可以整理碎片的冷靜和能耐。創作之前,我建立了一個文字檔案,把想法和相關的圖像放進去,草稿筆記總共有十八頁,我把沒有在影片出現,但偶然還會想看一下的草稿放在這裡。

「八秒後天空還會是藍色的。

原來八分鐘路程與八千幾公里的距離其實沒差很多。
抬頭看的是八秒鐘前的藍色嗎?
每一個最終的道別好像也只能在兩處藍色的地方之間發生。
若然八分鐘過後我便雙目失明。」

「我聽人講:瞓覺之前唔好睇唔好用電話,唔好睇電視。有一日我發現,如果好專心咁望住一張相,我就會可能係夢境夢見你。」

「今年係第七年喇,原來我哋已經冇見咁耐。」

「These are just questions.」

「當我們行進時,周圍景物才逐漸展現;遠在天邊,我們一無所見,即使近在眼前,也僅是連續不斷、變幻不定的表象。⋯⋯納塔納埃,你要仿效那些手擎火炬為自己照路的人。⋯⋯
你一路只管觀賞,哪裡也不要停留。關鍵是你的目光,而不是你目睹的事物。」
安德烈·紀德 《人間食糧》Andre Gide: Les nourritures terrestres (The Fruits of the Earth)

「或許我們還會再見吧,在那遙遠的時間之輪相接的地方。我只是存在於你少年時代回憶中的青春幻影。」
松本零士 《銀河鐵道999》Matsumoto Leiji: Galaxy Express 999

‘Her absence is like the sky, spread over everything.’
C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

‘I am going to look at the stars. They are so far away, and their light takes so long to reach us…… All we ever see of stars are their old photographs.’
Alan Moore, Watchmen

‘You cannot swim for new horizons until you have the courage to lose sight of the shore.’
William Faulkner, Old men

 

記憶歌單:「我會一直記住你。」

自己其中一個比較奇怪的習慣大概是可以一整天不停重複一首歌,自然而然很容易將一首歌連繫到一個特定時段的我,以下是創作《局部失明》中曾經循環播放的歌曲。

Anna Chim – 單戀一萬年
AMK – 浪漫是您的本性
Arvo Pärt – Spiegel im Spiegel
Bach – Goldberg Variations
Gorillaz – On Melancholy Hill
Grieg – Cello Sonata in A-minor
Hyukoh – When October Goes
joji – thom
玉置浩二 – 行かないで
鄧麗君 – 我只在乎你
張國榮 – 明星
Maurice Ravel – Pavane pour une infante défunte
Mac Miller – Self Care
Thundercat – Dui
Sufjan Stevens – Visions of Gideon
Schubert – Arpeggione Sonata
王冠聰 – 來仔細欣賞
Unknown Mortal Orchestra – Hunnybee

//完

***You are welcome to write to Winnie Yan [yanwywinnie@gmail.com] if you want to watch Localized Blindness,