Two artists read YU Hua’s novella World List Mists (1988) and translate it analytically and structurally into a pictogram form to augment textures of sentiments and narrative integrity, maximizing a fatal body of cybernetics through methods of scoring, cartography, chronology and storyboarding. 兩個圖像作品,兩個創作者對余華的《世事如煙》的轉化閱讀,呈現敘事性如何把哀愁、絕望化為結構,點對點的連線,網絡的展現,把個人的「命運」背後的人為操控層層展露。

To follow the daily newsletter the Ventriloquist Series… for the exhibition The Ventriloquists…Thinking Narratively (4-19 July 2020)

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Lee Chi-yin’s pictogram on Yu Hua’s World Like Mist, published on-line only

Experimental literature is “experimental” because such works challenge existing classification, question the absolute rule of conventions and traditions, and pushes the boundaries of what literature should do and can do. Some pictograms from The Ventriloquists…Thinking Narratively are taking experimental literature works for a transmedia journey to assert the need for new artistic resources to make sense of works that are meant to transgress traditions.

World Like Mist 世事如煙 (YU Hua 余華)

“In many ways World like Mist is a true ghost story. Ghosts appear without being explained away as illusion or dream. They are mostly seen at night and are described as lacking legs, yet moving freely about.” — from “Haunted Fiction: Modern Chinese Literature and the Supernatural” by Ann Wedell-Wedellsborg [1]

YU Hua and his World Like Mist is often understood as part of an experimental, (post-)modernist literary trend emerging in the 1980s in China whereby strange phenomena, as they are described, raise question of whether generic conventions and divisions in the West could be delimiting our understanding of these works. Is it surrealism? Is it a ghost story? Is it about the supernatural? The set assignment to turn to think narratively about Yu’s short fiction as trajectories, textures and interiority of a world. Once liberated from genre conventions and stock realities, we start to see the micro-level narrative machinery at work — a process that weaves back and forth between points (persons, locations, actions) to form multiple strands of connectivity, thus turning fragments of details into a self-enclosed system. The explanation of the strange things that happen in the short fiction lies not outside the story world but within: the individual parts are set up to explain each other without have the need for a world out there as a referential framework. World Like Mist as a narrative art form is about world-building, and story-telling is simply a function of it. Taking a long view, though, the enclosed world in World Like Mist is a world of total control and absolute loss of individual agency. The kind of connectivity is nothing about intimacy, but cybernetics kind of surveillance. Once this is understood, we can return to the question of context: what kind of social milieu and political regime produced such a work about a close system presented to us as fatal determinism with a touch of feudalist superstition?

Two pictogram versions are presented in the show. Martha Hatch highlights total enclosure, and Hannah Yune the fatal connectivity within the world, both visions of isolation under total control. (Linda C.H. Lai)

 

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Martha Mai Hatch: World Like Mist 
A pictogram for novella World Like Mist (1988)

World Like Mist is a pictogram that delves into the iconic postmodern literature of the same title by Yu Hua (1988 世事如煙), a postmodern writer. It carefully maps spatiality, timing, interaction and geolocation of Yu’s writing and visualises the old town in the form of a map. The bottom of the pictogram is the reconstruction of the spatiality and time of each character through the alignment of sequences. The spectator is encouraged to read through the timeline and visualise the scene directly onto the map to unveil another dimension of the work and the interactions of characters. (Martha Hatch)

 

YUEN Ka-hei HannahDream and Death 
A pictogram on World Like Mist

In Yu Hua’s World Like Mist, the fates of all characters are predetermined. Their lives seem to be dreams that they are not able to control at all. Characters keep stepping into death at the end. Besides, characters’ dreams also play a significant role in the writing. Their dreams help to link up different characters and form a ‘flash-forward’ of a future incident. In my opinion, World Like Mist is a well-written and fascinating story with multiple storylines. Metaphors and symbols are hidden between lines. The reader can discover new details if they read it over and over again. (Hannah Yuen)

 

Notes

[1] Wedell-Wedellsborg, A. (2005). Haunted Fiction: Modern Chinese Literature and the Supernatural. International Fiction Review32(1). Retrieved from https://journals.lib.unb.ca/index.php/IFR/article/view/7797

 

Feature image: video still from “Unseen Life,” a video pictogram by Kimi Chan (CHAN Wing-shan) on Yu Hua’s World Like Mist