The woman in the cheongsam and upswept hairdo walks into the audience’s line of sight from behind a pillar, carrying a tiffin carrier. She poses, every gesture and expression countenanced to project drama and artifice, and many of her poses are notably contorted, emphasising an arched foot, her thrust out hip. The man enters, dressed in a suit, carrying a suitcase. His gestures are likewise pronounced and protracted. Behind them, the six channel video shows a man dressed in a suit sitting in a car, and his expression flits from pensive to slightly frowning; facing us, it’s as if he too is part of the audience, watching the man and woman centrestage. This stage enactment is meant to portray a segment from In the Mood for Love, directed by Wong Kar Wai (Hong Kong, 2000) which artist Brian Gothong Tan has manipulated in terms of his video footage. The iconic scene where the man and woman sit across from each other in a booth with the wallpaper behind them is immediately recognisable, but instead, in Tan’s vignette, what we might find are two women in cheongsams, but they are different women, and they dance the swim from the ’60s. The soundtrack is a loop, hard to place in terms of era, but hypnotic in its repetition.
Entitled Lost Cinema, Tan hopes to capture through vignettes from three films — besides In the Mood for Love, he’s also re-enacted Eric Khoo’s 12 storeys (Singapore, 1997) and Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Tropical Malady (Thailand, 2004), the idea of dreams and narration in the construction of cinematic images. When we dream, according to Tan, it’s the cinema of our subconscious, and when we wake, these vignettes are often not remembered. The curation at Institute of Contemporary Arts poses these key questions to help unlock a series of thought-provoking intersections: “How does our perception of a film change when live performances by the actors are introduced? How does the mood or narrative change when colour and sound are removed from a film?”
To that end, I loved the nested narrative structure in this work, the larger video channel in colour, the smaller video channel in black and white, and sometimes the images track, sometimes they don’t, with the performance as an additional third layer, triggering all manner of associations and allusions.
Read more of Elaine Chiew’s review on Invisible Flâneuse.
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