Tuesday, 15 September 2020

A book review by Loring Knoblauch

BOOK REVIEW: Siu Ding, Not for a Second Did I Think of Backing Down 
By Loring Knoblauch / In Photobooks / September 2, 2020

Link: https://collectordaily.com/siu-ding-not-for-a-second-did-i-think-of-backing-down/ 
 

JTF (just the facts): Published in 2020 by Soft D Press (here). Softcover, 13×16 cm, 136 pages, with 115 black and white reproductions. Includes song lyrics (in Chinese/English) from various bands/songwriters. In handmade editions of 15, 50, 50, and 50. (Cover and spread shots below.)

Comments/Context: Over the last half dozen years, Hong Kong has existed in an intermittent state of protest. As China’s efforts to exert further legal and political control over the former British colony have expanded, the forces supporting democracy, the “one country two systems” construct, and the autonomous rights of Hong Kong people have risen up to voice their opposition. In 2014, proposed changes to electoral procedures led to the Umbrella Revolution, and last year, proposed changes to the extradition laws (which would have allowed Hong Kong citizens to be extradited to the mainland and charged under Chinese law) brought the people into the streets once again.

As the Anti-extradition Law Movement protests escalated in November of 2019, many of Hong Kong’s universities were occupied, and then surrounded by police, creating protracted and in some cases violent standoffs. Siu Ding’s photobook Not for a Second Did I Think of Backing Down brings us inside those events, providing first-hand witness evidence of the aftermath. Her images document the scene at four of Hong Kong’s most prominent universities (Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Baptist University, University of Hong Kong, and Hong Kong Polytechnic University), offering a compelling visual record of the specific flash point locations. The title of the photobook comes from a song by the Hong Kong band RubberBand, which was sung by the protesters at PolyU (and is reprinted at the beginning of the book).

Ding’s black and white photographs don’t capture the fervent action of the rallies, speeches, sieges, and confrontations, but instead memorialize what came immediately after. There are almost no people in her pictures, aside from a few stragglers and curious onlookers – her scenes are eerily quiet, documenting the zones of previous violence like a war photographer exploring scarred battlefields, which is exactly what these once mundane educational places have become. By day, a sense of crisp brightness exposes the once urgent but now subdued textures of the conflict; by night, the mood darkens and the ghosts emerge, the emptiness echoing through the pock marked streets.

Moving from campus to campus, Ding retraces the steps of the protests. Many of her images document improvised gathering spaces, like tennis courts, dry swimming pools, plazas, parking lots, walkways, and smaller connecting roads. It is here that hundreds of people once huddled together and built barricades and temporary walls out of whatever was at hand to protect themselves. The day after remnants scattered all over tell compelling stories: petrol bombs, empty gas canisters, plastic projectiles, piles of clothing, umbrellas, and countless bricks and uprooted paving stones, many splashed across the ground with obvious force. Overturned desks, chairs, and dorm furniture have been piled into defensive heaps, blocking access to entry areas or feeder roads. Brick walls and screens of bamboo scaffolding have been built, debris and netting have been used to block passageways and escalators, and junk has been thrown onto the nearby subway tracks. Inside the schools, cafeterias and lounges have been commandeered as staging grounds and improvised meeting places, the walls covered with signs and posters. The once tidy halls of academia have been transformed into an impromptu war zone.

Some of Ding’s most haunting photographs show us wide open spaces filled with small piles of bricks. Like Eleanor Antin’s black boots, they seem to represent hundreds of disembodied people, the bricks used as places to sit or stand for crowded protests (and ready as potential projectiles). In the aftermath, they remain, like totems or tombstones in the expansive plazas, scattered across the streets and into the distance, providing a sense of the scale of the crowds. *

Ding is also fascinated by graffiti, her pictures documenting words sprayed on walls, sidewalks, poles, stairways, overpasses, and countless other locations, including the barricades themselves. For those who don’t read Chinese, the message of most of the inscriptions and tags will be lost, but the sporadic English language contributions certainly provide a sense for the emotions of the moment: “All day all night we are gonna fight”, “freedom isn’t free”, “you can’t keep me quiet”, “Be aware or be next!”. Several have an endearingly academic tone: “Ideas are bulletproof”, “please treasure the book” (sprayed outside the library), and even an Albert Camus quote in French “Je me révoltedonc je suis”. As photographs, these marks (in whatever language) feel resolutely human, the urgent need to communicate covering nearly every available surface.

The success in Ding’s photographs lies in their emotional immediacy – we feel like we can see what the schools looked like at that time, and also feel the heightened tension, determination, and even anguish that filled the air in the aftermath. Not for a Second Did I Think of Backing Down is a powerful protest photobook, and the images resonate with that charged energy. While Lele Saveri’s photobook Barricades from 2017 (reviewed here) highlighted the abstract patterns found in some of the barriers built during the Umbrella Revolution, Ding’s photographs offer a more intimately melancholy and quietly resolute mood. Especially at night, her pictures of lone chairs, shadowy passageways, candle lit flower memorials, liberty statues, and empty battlegrounds echo with the sounds (and commitments) of passionate engagement. Ding stands a step back to thoughtfully (and artistically) frame the situation, but her heart is in full solidarity with the will of the people of Hong Kong.

In the end, the protesters were successful in creating enough pressure to have the extradition bill withdrawn, and so, in a sense, Ding’s photobook stands as both a memorial to that collective action, and as encouragement for those who will take on the next challenge. With a new national security law recently imposed by China, the legal and political situation in Hong Kong has gotten even more fraught in recent months, with protests and resistance continuing, even amid the virus pandemic. Ding’s empathetic photobook shows us one specific moment in the ongoing struggle, and offers hope for those that continue to fight.

Collector’s POV: Siu Ding does not appear to have consistent gallery representation at this time. As a result, interested collectors should likely follow up directly with the artist via her website (linked in the sidebar).

 *The meaning of the piles of bricks

Tuesday, 25 August 2020

在安不定的日子,夢遊


昨晚做了一個夢,一個奇怪的夢。 

 盛夏,我又回到了日本,在 W n M 的田裡幫忙。這實在讓我很開心,自往年在這裡住了一星期以後,便打算每年來一趟。可借,他們也快要搬家了,幸好在他們離開前還可以再看看田裡的風景。 農忙完畢,我便四處走走,雖然村子很小,但仍有不少未走過的地方。 

從大街一拐進一條小巷,才發現這裡是英國的唐人街,不過看上去像香港的糖街多些(哈哈)。一個外國男人忽然很用力地捉住我,忽然變得熱鬧的街道,路過的人不但沒有上前來幫我解困,只是圍觀訕笑。我用力爭扎,爭脫了洋男,便一直跑。走進一間屋去,再跑上樓梯,樓上的房間正在用舊電視機放映電影。

三個女孩子和一個外國人男孩子 -- 我的朋友 -- 歡迎我來,我們一聊起上來,放映變成背景音樂。但我其實並不知道他們是誰,我心裡感到孤單,嘗試理清到底我是在哪裡和正在做甚麼。 

 房內以文化大革命的物件作主題裝飾,這真是讓我感到很不舒服,我明明不可能有這種喜好的朋友,他們不可能不知道這些物件所代表的邪惡。房間暗暗的,電視裡放著的影片是關於一位在文化大革命時期寫書法的中國女孩的故事。而房內的其中一位女孩就是這影片的女主角。

這時,二個女孩子已經走了,男孩子吻別了女主角,再向我輕輕說再見。只有我和女主角的房間,她便和我聊起自己的身世。她告訴我她正在英國學習中文書法,所以會一直待這裡,也不知道會不會回老家。她是那種既瘦又四肢長長的美女,像那些荷理活電影中的中國女孩。她再說了一堆話,我沒有記住,然後她也走了,房間內只有我一個人。

我正在發呆,想着該到哪裡。



Echo by V: 

Great! I will be ready. With joy.... Here are some beginning thoughts According to Ernst Bloch, we are still capable of creating a new world from a utopia. Now we have to start. Life has been given into our hands. We should use our ability to think utopia, - against these vicious attacks on democracy. It seemed to be essential, including for Hannah Arendt, that people learned to believe in it at all and to remedy their grievances, that they would be able to create a better world. Like an intellectual General Staff we should act revolutionising this seemingly desperate reality towards a real, humane, civilised society that is sustainable for human beings. There is never enough tangible utopia! The counter concept to utopia – maybe is our sense of Home ? Not the home of origins, and not the home that must first come into existence, whose blurry, yearning images drives hope, like in Ernst Bloch's great illustrated book of utopias of all millennia and dimensions To make oneself at home, or "to land on this earth", means closing the gap in consciousness. But home as the reason and the network of relationships on which we depend, which - quite literally - keep us alive and inspired. Like Hannah Arendt speaks about the importance of her friends, that she loves them and not the one nation. We all need this kind of emotional stimulation, and the opportunity where and with whom we want to be?

Thursday, 13 August 2020

緊守崗位,努力生活

早前大病一輪,也不知從向說起,休養了一個月。本來以為能靜心下來寫寫感想,誰知道養病其間整天不是在廚房煮食煲藥,就是吃完又睡,睡醒又吃。難得有點空閒又要下樓走動,希望讓推進康復速度。 

很快又好起來回到日常生活裡去,雖然在國安法下香港在各方面產生的變化其實很難用「日常」去形容每一天。

71不可遊行,前幾天810大拘捕亦是史無前例的荒翏,極權借助疫症無限擴張,有樂觀的K埋首淘寶,有最失望的B決定離開香港。

在這種讓人以為世界快要發瘋的時刻,我正感無助,幸好打開文宣台還是一樣鋪天蓋地的撐,J冷靜的說:加油!必須加倍努力在香港生活。

回顧這段期間周末在山野漫遊的風光,這麼難過的一天總算捱過去。

香港仍然很美麗。









Tuesday, 30 June 2020

滋養生活的咒語



【滋養生活(的咒語)】生活需要滋養,創作是其中之一。

國安法下,大家對在香港的日常生活可能有另一種覺悟或感到恐懼。身邊不少帶著孩子的朋友認為,為人父母寧願移居別國,不想讓孩子在思想受到箝制的環境中長大,怕孩子在學校被「洗腦」,回家又要再被父母重新「洗腦」,讓孩子無所適從,在芧盾的思想中成長,難分是非對錯。

現時世界上的獨裁國家仍有不少,順境逆境,人們一樣堅持活下去。強權在前,也許像譚蕙芸新書《天愈黑,星愈亮》的名字一樣,假如決定堅守下去,可能活出不一樣的人生。

為 K 手製她的第一本小說,只是小學生的她已經開小說寫作,實在難得。

生活在我城,環顧四周,還有很多人和事值得你我去發掘和支持。未來的香港,願你留底一起作見證。








Thursday, 23 April 2020

活在真相中 living in truth

🌼書寫自己的歷史🌼

2019年尾,抗爭運動尚未結束,在沉重的心情下,我選取了在香港四所大學拍下最深刻的十四張相片,製成月曆,盼以這薄薄一冊的圖象,提示未來,銘記過去的反抗。我在理工畢業,對母校有很多情意結,於學校遊走之間既親密又陌生,當時百般思量未能處理好所有拍下的相片。到今年4月,終於圓滿地整理好整輯相片,製成小書《一秒從未想折返》Not for a Second Did I think of Backing Down,作為《浪漫是你的本性》You are Born to be Romantic的延續。

2020年初新冠肺炎蔓延全球,大家都盡量留在家中,趁機回顧2019年的抗爭運動。過去幾個月,基乎每星期都有新的抗爭社運影集、文集出版,有攝影師朋友卻擔心開始氾濫,對自己的出版計劃諸多考慮。我卻認為不必猶豫:宏觀過往幾千年歷史都由官方撰寫,民間能留下的少之又少,歷史主角鮮有能自說自話,總是由人代筆,箇中刪減與修改不由自主,有多少是「真實」已無從得知。今天有機會能自主出版,應當無需猶豫。即使近如三十年前的「六四」,猶記得在當時一周年紀念關於「六四」的攝影集及書籍不勝枚舉,但今年仍然流通的「六四」出版物卻所餘無幾,又或者已經被刪減篡改了。

一本書能流傳多久實難以估計,若你說無謂獻醜多一本不多少一本不少,我卻認為有心有力的人,多做一本就是多一分充權的力量,根本沒有不出版的理由。

極權臨近,夜半不能入睡便想著誰又死了誰被消失了,在夢中看見示威者與警方對峙槍戰,血濺一地。我驚醒過來,滿身是汗。

假若你和我同樣,決定留下來見証,我們便要有勇氣戰勝恐懼。試著多讀經典去提示自己應當做些甚麼,為未來在極權下的生活該如何應對做好準備。除了讀《動物農莊》(Animal Farm)、《1984》、《極權主義的起源》(The Origins of Totalitarianism)和《暴政》(On Tyranny),A還建議讀哈維爾的書:「哈維爾提出『活在真相中』(living in truth),乃一個持續尋找真相的過程,踐行自己所相信的事,有話直說,縱使只屬少數,也不向權貴低頭。」

讓我們一起 🔥 活在真相中 living in truth🔥
共勉

ACO,見山書店有售
(第一版只印了15本:P,金色封面,手快有手慢就等下一批了)(回應那些認為自己黃過黃金既人)
下星期也會在清明堂找到第二版(橙色封面)




Thursday, 16 April 2020

在相遇的一剎那許願

半夜睡不着,樓下街燈閃爍,忽明忽暗,似要壞了。街道上完全的黑暗快將到來,像極權的趨迫,大家就在毫無防避或無法防避之下,束手就擒。而,黎明還在很遠的未來。

半年前還不曾有過這種心情,這一種恐懼,在半夜就湧上心來。居住在高處的人,在白天聽說了誰往下跳了自殺了又有誰死了,而他們還都年輕。我們從前不相信的,變成不想相信的,之後可能是不得不信的。我不想去散播恐懼,反而想與它正面交戰,讓勇氣戰勝恐懼。

假如,明天我就要離鄉別井,我出門前會帶甚麼?一個多大的背包才能塞入最重要的東西?

假如,明天我就要死了,今天我能否再讀一本書?聽一首歌?看一下海?

假如,明天命運降臨,我打算如常地過得再努力些,就像昨天那個心理測驗說的,我的生存源自自我鞭苔,痛苦與快樂無分。

《人類大歷史》(Sapiens)寫道人類自古以來的生活方式並沒有公義可言,千百年以來人類發明不同方法去合作和共同生活,但人體內的基因卻沒有賦予我們這些因子,我們總是透過虛構的故事去維繫不同的制度,一旦大家都不再相信這些故事,制度就算失效了,而人的分爭與階級總是以不同的形式重複出現:像帝王與奴隸、貴族與僕人、精英與庸人、男人與女人、富人與窮人。如是我們也同樣在不斷受虐與自虐的路上,最終是否能到達「真」?或者說,像切爾諾貝爾(Chernobyl)災難事件裡,無論我們知不知道、承不承認、相不相信,真相只有一個。就算真相被活埋,它是永恒不變的,它也會在未來顯靈,以另一種形式在眾人面前展示,就像一場又一場的瘟疫,死纒爛打。

想起不留心上歷史課的同學,或者根本沒有選歷史課的,藉口以後工作上用不到歷史學到的謀略與事件前因後果。我們以為帝王與屠殺、文字獄與坑儒,是遠古的故事,背誦只不過為了應付考試,卻沒有想過歷史可以重新包裝出現——在今日的香港出現。身處在極權臨近的時限中,我問 A 為甚麼不走?她說她去過柏林,但那裡像是生活在過去,能夠讓她取得更大的機會是留在香港,就算是廣州和北京她也相當喜歡,因為這些地方充滿了可能性,人們活在「真正的」現在。

我也希望我是活在現在。回想我的旅途,轉眼五年,即使重回舊地卻總是記掛著香港的事情。未來無論如何,願我能留低一起作見証,願能緊握著自己的心,正義與勇氣與我同在。

是枝裕和的電影《奇蹟》中,小朋友提到只要在兩輛列車相遇的一剎那許下願望,願望便會成真。在此,為病重的朋友、同事、可能為我們而死、自己尋死、被消失的、病逝的、或所有遭遇不幸的人,為你們許願:求我能體恤你的心,祝你一路順風。也願我能繼承你的勇氣,等到黎明的到來。