How would you describe the recent projects you have been working on?
I don't know if you've had the experience when having a conversation, or experiencing an event, that you feel this moment has been already experienced once before. It is often called déjà vu (in French). I experience this a lot, and it makes me suspicious about what is really happening now, and is it associated with what had happened before? And what will happen next? My interest derives from this sensation and this suspicion. I work in a quite simple manner. Starting with cinematic materials, I try to experiment with different ways of experiencing and perceiving. How can an moment be altered when we view a narration from one point, and jumping to another, or starting from the middle, or if we were to then move the beginning to the end. My projects are mainly video projections and installations. Some of my works require interactions, through which, spectators can view it in various ways.
How did you become interested in the cinematic language?
The history of the language of cinema started with the very first cut. I have been quite interested in cut-up techniques. For example, French Surrealists' game of Exquisite Corpse, Tristan Tzara's cut-up poems, William S. Burroughs's and Brion Gysin's fold-in technique, etc. They were mainly used in literature and later on extended to video making. Although, there are more or less unpredictable randomness in cut-ups, what is important for me is the meaning behind making with visual materials. The unknown and unpredictable can be turned into suspense, and the strong suggestive possibility is what I seek for in the cinematic materials. I treat them as raw material and continue to rework with them. Although those movie materials I am using were produced rigorously, I find that there are still loads of possibilities to interpret them differently. Another angle is another experience.
The films you are working with as material can all be characterized as closed systems. However, by cutting them up and introducing them into a database, you are playing with their limitations and boundaries. What made you choose to experiment with them as opposed to user-generated material?
I understand by closed system you mean the director's choice of moving image sequences, the final result. But the film rests on a database upon which choices can be made. I read an article from writer, Daniel Coffeen, in which he states "a film is the product of a selection from different shots, hours of dailies and coverage – the film rests on a database." As he told the film, what we end up seeing is only one possibility. Cut it again and there's a different movie. Therefore, it is not hard to imagine a film has the potential to be treated as raw material. It is open-ended. The database of it here is autonomous. The footage is related to themselves in one or other way, which makes the permutation more exciting. So I think their "delimitations and confines" can be turned into potential and possibility. As for user-generated materials, I don't consider them as opposed to films. UGC contains quite complex media form like blogs, wikis, forums, posts, chats, tweets, and also video, audio you name it. It is a bit distracted for me to start with. I work through two ways with film material - the cinematic language (the movement of camera, the transition of spaces) and the script (the subtitle). I found it quite interesting that I can provide alternative ways of watching. There is no real or fiction, it's all about how to express, therefore to make spectators to think about their own experiences which are differed by different means of expression even with the same materials.
In your work, the key element seems to be an interaction with the audience. At one point, you mentioned the permutational quality of the search function. How do you see this in connection with the affective experience?
The work I am doing right now is simply a chat-pot like Eliza which uses films as its database. I want to invite people go into a dialogue through my work with different characters in films. In this work, I hand out the permutation to participants, they can lead the dialogue, cut it and reassemble them. It is a bit different than searching. Since in all search functions, users have already expected results but here spectators cannot predict what the character will respond. Only a vague topic bouncing back and forth. But it is the vague topic which provides suspense or curiousness, which I believe make people attentive and even affective. Although, it is not only my goal to achieve affective experience with this piece but indeed there were stories that human being emotionally engaged with artificial intelligence, and the same for Eliza. It was sometimes so convincing that there are many anecdotes about people becoming very emotionally caught up in dealing with doctor Eliza.
You make a few references to cut up techniques and other methods of generating randomness, including code. What is the role of the algorithm in your work?
I mentioned some artistic method of cut-ups, and indeed there are more or less unpredictable randomness. But it is not randomness that they aim to create. On the contrary, they work with rules and conditions, especially algorithm which is not neutral. It works in such manner to specify the results. This is the manner that I look for and use to make meaning out of it.
How do you imagine your work to be developed in the future?
In the near future, I think the synthesis between cinematic language and databases would be my main focus. Meanwhile, interaction plays also an important role in my work. Interaction requires people to mentally and physically participate. It is possible that I may use my own material instead of movies and with all the sources, I would like to present my way of seeing. At the same time, I consider suspense as a main feeling that brings attentive and affective watching. Like what I had a lot in déjà vu experiences. It's hard to tell its a mystery, is it because of my nervous system or memory system, or was it in a dream that was brought into my reality? It indeed makes me rethink the time-space. I even could imagine that I am in the dream of a dream. So in fact, I am interested in not only the virtual media but also the physical media like machines people make to induce this kind of feelings. That which is unknowable would be imaginable. So maybe in a longer term, I would like to bring a imaginary reality, technical reality in a speculative manner.