Cici Wu, Belonging and Difference, 2023
Belonging and Difference (2023) is a collaborative endeavour with Beijing-based photographer Yuan Yuan, that intricately weaves together 16mm film and DV video, and is interspersed with textual intertitles in traditional Chinese and English and fragments of voice-over narration in Cantonese. The cinematic work stitches together elements of cinema, landscape film, and home movies. Capturing scenes from Manhattan Chinatown, Hong Kong, and Beijing, the film explores, in profound ways, the intricate interplay between the physical and spiritual amid the rapidly evolving contemporary landscapes of the places depicted. The film captures a sense that these environments and social conditions are as much a product of material progress and organised functionality as they are myths of order. The film effortlessly navigates iconic monuments and anonymous streets and emerges as an intimate reflection on the fluidity of existence. The scenes and substance of these cities are invariably imbibed with care and violence, liberation and oppression, love and hate. The streets are saturated in both personal and collective memory and struggle, and we see in the film this rich imprint of history at each level.
The film marinates in this, and we feel the friction between distinct modes of expression, thought, and emotion. The narrative drifts through these landscapes marked by the trace of shifting temporalities and mythologies. It becomes a visual and auditory journey, a contemplation of the nuances of social belonging. The film captures an essence of transience, holding the boundary space of the familiar and the unknown. From the struggling East Broadway Mall of Manhattan’s Chinatown in 2021 to the multifaceted urban tapestry of Beijing during the violence of lockdown to the memorial site of the siege of Poly U in Hong Kong , the film unravels a visual narrative that is provocative in both poetic and political terms. Layers of meaning are embedded in each frame that reveals the complex interplay between personal and collective histories. With its veneration of cinematic tropes and blend of techniques and style, Belonging and Difference serves as a testament to the power of film as a medium to convey the intricacies of human experience. In the end, it is a treatise on how landscapes shape our sense of self and the other as well as how film itself can capture the complex dynamics of identity and memory in such landscapes.
Yuan Yuan (b. 1994) is a Beijing based photographer and writer who, through a queer view on the subtle details of everyday life, reflects on how political moods and cultural alienation permeates the ordinary. Yuan specialises in visual communication, using their experience of dreams and other dimensions of consciousness in their text and images.
Music by Victor Au and Emilia Wang.
|16mm film transferred to single-channel digital video (colour, sound), DV video