This paper delves into the “peculiar” over-titling phenomenon in China. American visual culture tends to treat the subtitle as a “pariah” in the imperial territory of the visual regime: it is not only suppressed at the peripheral zones of the screen since it was invented, mainly at the bottom, but also minimalized to ensure the spectator’s immersion in cinematic space and time. In contrast, Chinese media culture has manifested a love of the hated subtitle since the transition to digital media in the 2000s, featuring both the excessive use of titles and the subtitle’s intrusion into the center of visual space. This paper focuses on two exemplary instances of title-overflowing:1) the “magic title” in reality TV shows which was attached haphazardly to the surface of the represented three-dimensional space. Its flat cartoonish form was used to exaggerate nonverbal sounds, signify inner thoughts and emotions and point to the accidental, easily ignored but more interesting details in the image, through the use of a prosthetic pointing hand. 2) Danmu (弹幕, or Danmaku in Japanese), the titling system of online video-sharing websites （i.e. Bilibili and AcFun） which allows previously obscured subtitles along with off-screen comments to not only intrude into the central visual choreography, but also overlie and even fully obscure the visual images. Although magic title ensconces itself in television while Danmu is more commonly used in online entertainment, current Chinese media culture witnesses an intermediary chiasm of these two over-titling practices. By conducting a neo-formalist study of the over-titled (moving-) images, this paper argues that the heterogeneous over-titling practices in Chinese media culture question the default visual hierarchies and aesthetic prioritization which are secretly shaped by dominant Western visual paradigm and demonstrate alternative possibilities in the relationship of image and text. The unique form of over-titled (moving-)images calls our attention to computational process whose traces are often erased or concealed to maintain a continuity between analogical and digital media – “business as usual” as Thomas Elsaesser claims. Considering post-production which produces magic titles and real-time interactive system which enables danmu, this paper argues, on one hand, that the new power of digital media could derive from its manipulability and susceptibility --the qualities oft-deprecated for its threats to photographic creditability, the recalcitrant norm of visual depiction set by photography and film as the supergenre of all (moving-)images. On the other hand, (moving-)images are no longer in the past perfect tense; rather, over-titling systems remediate them to be what I called “augmented/augmenting media,” opening them up to further manipulations of post-producers and audiences.Over-titling thus produces new modes of seeing and mandates a new type of spectatorship. A film is encouraged to be watched multiple times, with or without the overlaid titles, instead of being the one-time entertainment as theatrical cinema institutionalized. The spectators, as the epitome of our current society, are multi-tasking, silent-but-chatty, distracted-but-observing, oscillating between the sadistic spectators and what Jacque Ranciere called “the emancipated spectators.” BIOJianqing Chen（陈剑青）is a doctoral student in Film & Media at U.C. Berkeley, and holds a M.A. degree in Film Studies from Columbia University.
CONSPONSOR: DHAsia gratefully acknowledges support from the Stanford Modern Thought and Literature (MTL) program for this event
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