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[**Images from L to R: stills from video works made 1995-1997 presented to the Hong Kong Arts Centre]

"Documenting Sentiments in ‘Hong Kong 1997’ Video Diaries: belly buttons, absent cameras, moving house, fooling around…" / Linda C.H. LAI

** 2012 WCU Alltagsgeschichte: “Transnational Workshop: Everyday Coloniality: Postwar and State-(re)making”; Organized by the WCU Alltagsgeschichte Transnational Team at Hanyang University’s Research Institute of Comparative History and Culture (RICH), funded by the World Class University (WCU) Program of the National Research Foundation of Korea / November 2012



Hong Kong’s colonial period only ended in 1997. While a 15-year period may be too short for a historian’s critical distance, my ‘mining’ activities as a visual ethnographer led me to a dozen of video diaries submitted to a special program called “Digital Biography of 1997” organized by the Hong Kong Arts Centre to mark the changing sovereignty of Hong Kong from Britain’s to China’s. These diaries, by active members of Hong Kong’s cultural arena who are not filmmakers, took me to the micro-level of everyday life in each of the submitter’s living space and daily activities. These works are precious: as I watched them one by one, I realize abstract domains such as sentiments, emotions, anxiety, uncertainty, moods and other states of mind became very concrete for studying.

These video submitters do not represent the average Hong Kong person. They are all, in Gramscian terms, ‘intellectuals’ each trained and working with a very specific language to articulate their subjectivities. There is a poet, a novelist, a cultural theorist, an artist in political comics, painter and so on. Their ownership of a ‘language’ of theirs, and the position they each already occupy in the network of local cultural production, form the very basis for this research.

This group of works is relevant to the study of Hong Kong on the verge of de-colonization, and to the general concern of the project of “Everyday Coloniality” in the following ways:

  • It shows how states of mind and states of emotions can be perceived and studied with the textual construct of self-made media artifacts. Through the range of choices of subject matters, the naming of individual videos, and the automatic recording power of the video camera of intended or unintended details, I come into the presence of the complexities of the everyday.
  • The video diaries in questions are pictures of minds as well as documentation of a mind writing itself. They also give us glimpses of human agency at work – how an individual (as a non-expert of film/video) constructs and invents a visual language adequate and satisfactory for personal articulations.

(END of abstract)


[outline in ppt...]

PUBLISHED ESSAY: "Documenting Sentiments in Video Diaries around 1997: Archaeology of Forgotten Screen Practices" (Wiley-Blackwell, August, 2015) [...]


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