Disobedience, Abstraction, and Post-colonial Lemon Tea: a Screening & Conversation with Simon Liu
Center for East Asian Studies
Film and Media Studies
Stanford Global Studies Division
355 Roth Way, Stanford, CA 94305
Join us for a screening of Signal 8 (2019), -force- (2020, co-directed by Jennie MaryTai Liu), Happy Valley (2020), Devil’s Peak (2021), followed by a conversation with the filmmaker.
Frenetic and kaleidoscopic with diaristic fragments of memory abstracted into dynamic light, color, and idiosyncratic soundscapes, the experimental documentary films in this program archive a psychogeography of Hong Kong amid historic socio-political upheaval in the 2019 protest moment. Produced in phases of filming in Hong Kong and editing in New York, Liu’s work captures a distantly intimate diasporic relationship to homeland shaped by dislocation and postmodern passages between local, personal, family, and collective memory. Made in response to the city’s rapid transformation in this moment of historical and political uncertainty, Liu’s films avoid overtly political images of protest in favor of the haunting warning signs of dis-ease that flash at the edges of attention. Liu uses abstraction to identify lacunae between recognition and indecipherability, opening up new ways of documenting a crisis through the disarticulation of discrete events into atmospheric conditions.
Simon Liu (b. Hong Kong, 1987) is an artist filmmaker whose films, video installations and expanded cinema performances function as dense and lyrical repositories of the rapidly evolving psychogeography of his homeland of Hong Kong. His work has been exhibited at film festivals and museums globally including the Berlinale International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, CROSSROADS with San Francisco Cinematheque, The Shed, M+ Museum, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, MOCA Los Angeles, Moderna Museet, Dreamlands: Expanded and a solo screening at the Museum of Modern Art as part of their Modern Mondays series. He has received grants and commissions from the Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, M+, and The Shed and his films and performance works are in the permanent collections of the M+ Museum and MoMA. Profiles of his practice have been in publications such as The New York Times, Art in America, Cinemascope, MUBI, Nang Magazine and Millenium Film Journal. Liu is a teacher at the Cooper Union School of Art, a member of the artist-run film lab Negativeland, and is currently editing his first feature film Staffordshire Hoard.
This event is generously co-sponsored by the Film & Media Studies Program, the Asian American Art Initiative, the Center for Global Studies, the Center for East Asian Studies, and Asian American Studies.
Signal 8 (2019)
They said a storm is calling this way but we’re still waiting. Lives carry on in Hong Kong as traces of civic upkeep morph into sites of remembrance. Decorative structures mimic nature then occasionally malfunction - transforming common spectacle to warning signs. The light urges to tell us something but can't quite get its point across, patience tested for another day.
Placid views merge with dizzying, semi-abstract digital animations; avatars in a parable about control. A mesmerizing, menacing voiceover—part body politic regulator, part cyberpunk travel guide—promises order, accountability and satisfaction while threatening trouble, polarization and tears. A fire has been started, movement has gone on to reach multiple points of no return.
(Jennie MaryTai Liu & Simon Liu)
Happy Valley (2020)
British Colonial-era structures overlook scenes in the aftermath of civil unrest as Hong Kongers work to retain some semblance of normality. The sound of petty arguments from local TVB soap-operas of the ‘80s are put in concert with captive animals, political graffiti and desolate highways. Suspension cables and ship anchor lines reveal a fragile urban anatomy; the structures that keep the city moving along. As civic functions grind to a halt, the limits of our empathy and control come into question. As the days teeter toward an uncertain future, Happy Valley cinematically probes the role of the so-called “little things.” A rendering of the perseverance of spirit in Hong Kong—an attempt at irony that can’t help but be emotional.
Devil’s Peak (2021)
Through overlapping poetic narratives and coded references, Devil’s Peak reflects on recent unprecedented shifts in the socio-cultural fabric of the artist’s homeland of Hong Kong, creating a site of remembrance for a time and place that may never be as it was.