Download: Prologue II: Making My Own Rules & Performing My Selves: Breaking through the Labyrinth of Signification and Discursive Practices (PDF)

General Introduction: Crypto-glyph(中文版)
dialogues in many tongues in the hidden crevices of an open city

“Crypto-glyph,” or “Photo-Text-Text-Photo” (suggested in its Chinese title), is a book of maps composed of photographs and written texts of trans-genres.  It is a map work of many worlds: visual, conceptual, linguistic, emotive, rhetoric, and of desires – juxtaposed, superimposed and crossing one another.  We dream, aspire, recall, hypothesize, fantasize, reminisce, concoct, … -- in our own ways we make perceivable the abstract notion of heterotopia, that is, incommensurate geographies and emotions in one.(1)

Crypto-glyph is a quest for original dialogues between two distinct media, photography and writing.  We seek to break away from the conventional image-text approach of making one subservient to the other.  With each of their own boundaries, histories, conventions, classification systems, aesthetic/expressive vocabularies and norms of style, the talk of any possible dialogues or exchange between the two modes of creative activities begs for a bold step beyond translation or illustration.

Photographic images are elliptical; texts do not explain.  Automatism meets conceptual engineering.  Our textual assemblage and image-word collage activities are to bring together our many voices and faces in captured time and space.

Crypto-glyph is, therefore,a project of creative communication, multi-directional and dialogic in nature.  Our creative work is an attempt as well as the process to capture the heterogeneity of material existence in the urban space: our sense of loss and the struggle to feel entrenched; the paradox of representation; the futility of signification; the instability of the text, the flimsy, artificial boundaries between the factual and the fictional, the visible and invisible, poetry and prose, the utterable and the inarticulate; and our very effort to insert our subjectivities as well as our bodies into the divergent urban dwelling.

Crypto-glyph has two authors, but there are more than many tongues in dialogue in the hidden crevices of many open cities.  Each is several, and together we form a crowd.(2)  The engagement with multi-media art has become an ordinary fact in the domain of art.  We believe in the book.  But we look at a book as an open-ended assemblage of the multiple.  What does all this really mean?  Thanks to Deleuze and Guattari.  A number of beautiful passages from their A Thousand Plateaus offer a token for the many complex thoughts and desires of ours in this book project:

“A book has neither object nor subject; it is made of variously formed matters, and very different dates and speeds.  To attribute the book to a subject is to overlook this working of matters, and the exteriority of their relations. … In a book, as in all things, there are lines of articulation or segmentarity, strata and territories; but also lines of flight, movements of deterritorialization and destratification.  Comparative rates of flow on these lines produce phenomena of relative slowness and viscosity, or, on the contrary, of acceleration and rupture.  All this, lines and measurable speeds, constitutes an assemblage.”

“There is no difference between what a book talks about and how it is made.  Therefore a book has no object.  As an assemblage, a book has only itself, in connection with other assemblages and in relation to other bodies without organs.  We will never ask what a book means, as signified or signifier. … We will ask what it functions with, in connection with what other things it does or does not transmit intensities …”

“A book exists only through the outside and on the outside.  A book itself is a little machine; what is the relation of this literary machine to a war machine, love machine, revolutionary machine, etc. – and an abstract machine that sweeps them along?”(3)

In many ways, this book is in the end about us though it is not on us.  Exploring the idea of “auto-ethnography” (autobiographical ethnography) we take the photographic and textual works in this book as documents of our having lived over a vast span of time and space in which we were/are different personae and playing a multitude of roles.  The act of collecting material objects and making notes on what we see and experience is that of ethnography.  Collecting, seeing, studying and assemblage for ourselves as if we were somebody else make auto-ethnography a contradictory term in itself by which the “I” is the narrator, seer/observer as well as the seen/observed.  And here lies the creative impulse.  There is no direct, explicit self-narrative – no confession, but no doubt, our photographic works and writing activities are a special kind of “self performance,” destabilizing conformity to any single, definable identity.

Among the many creative principles, automatism penetrates the entire project: it allows us to tap our unconscious mind as a major form of creative resources; it also governs the actual process of the making and assemblage of photographs and texts with a rule-driven, game incentive.

Our dialogues also presume a critical re-examination of many established norms of the two media.  We question assumptions on the photographic image’s indexical transparency and documentary function.  We also dethrone the referential transparency of language as a tool-access to thoughts.  We choose the performative mode, presenting instantaneity as a fragmented space-time, and here-and-now-ness as a process being unfolded.  In the end, we land on the controversial erasure of any essentialist distinction between writing and photography without giving up contextual engagement with medium-specific possibilities.

Ideally, the book should have five different tables of content.  In addition to the conventional treatment of a table of content as a guide to the sequential order of works displayed from page to page, we think the book can also be understood as a spatial dispersal of themes, methods, locations and tools within a map work.  In this sense, one book is actually five books.  And ideally, this book could have been a huge folder with rings and loose leafs with multiple paginations for the readers’ own re-ordering – had we been provided with sufficient funds.

Next to a shared commitment in creative principle, this book would not have been possible without the workshops that Theresa and I have conducted with our students over the past years.  We therefore owe a lot to our dear students whose presence and active participation have encouraged us to take our “madness” further to more methodical, pedagogic experimentation.  This book no doubt owes to its two graphic designers Nancy Tse (Tse Yuet-na) and Kenneth Chan (Chan Chi-ching), who have shared and survived all the hardships Theresa and I have gone through in securing sponsorship, and remained trustful to the worth of the project.  Without their talents and rapport, our dialogical exchange would not have materialized in its book form.

I myself, in particular, would like to thank Hector Rodriguez.  His “hard-core” lectures on automatism in a course he taught had faithfully paralleled my automatic writing workshops for the past few years, without which the automatic principle would not have been so fully fleshed out.

Linda Lai
General Editor/Concept
August 31, 2003

  1. I borrow this term from French philosopher Michel Foucault.
  2. The original line reads, “since each of us was several, there was already quite a crowd,” which is a self-characterization of Deleuze and Guattari’s collaboration.  See DelGilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari, “Introduction: Rihizome” (chapter 1), A Thousand Plateaus: capitalism and schizophrenia; trans. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press, 1987), p. 3.
  3. Ibid., p. 3-4
下傳:楔子2 在表徵與論述的迷宮裏創作自己的嬉戲規則


《象文•文象》是兩個不滿於城市悶局的女子的放任對話,瘋癲有時,大方雅緻有時,不拘一格。一個提著各式各款的照相機移形換影,一個咬著筆桿在桌面、廢紙堆或筆記本上“不假思索”地玩著文字湊合的遊戲。有時先有照象才有文字,有時倒對,最後更交換角色。“文”並不彰顯晦意,“象”往往聲東擊西。不假思索的寫和拍。 作為一組我們想寫入辭典的新進項,“象文·文象”該理解為一項雙向的創作性傳意活動:以對話為基礎形式,鋪排多層多義的“文象”、“象文”行動 (見書首“點題”頁),捕捉城市空間內物質的摻雜性、個人主體的著地與失落、表徵活動的吊詭、文本的既失效又不可或缺、語言的變異與虛晃、從看得見到聽不見之間的流動性與未可知。


  1. 這本書可看為作者兩人的生活實錄,或技術性一點可稱為“自傳性的民俗田野記述”。只是我們凈想留些蛛絲馬跡,把真實的片段、碎片匿藏於虛擬為大體的文字堆中或不一定有註腳的照片裏,就像卵石礦物粒寄藏於礫岩般。虛構和事實的揉合、互相攙雜也是對寫實主義的質疑:我們是否能夠全盤的、完整的掌握事物?可能嗎?
  2. 這本書可看作為“不假思索法”(automatism) 的展現、實踐、和誘發的可能性。(另文再作詳述。)
  3. 對文字工具的透明性 (transparency)以及攝影的自動紀實性的假設作出質疑:攝影、文字和書寫都是主動積極的介入,是選擇性的命名。
  4. 每一張照片、每一篇章的文字排列都可看成一個敘說體 (narrative scheme)。 而每一個眼見的敘說體 (manifest narrative) 之外還有別的平衡的、隱藏的敘說體 (parallel narrative);同一個敘說體又帶著拼圖(collage)的個性,充滿著不同指向、源頭的引述(quotations),構成每個敘說體的多層多義性,展現著眾數的時空。例如第一部分的“PUSH”,從具體的層面看是一篇對照片進行想像的描述性文字;同時它又是我履行寫作任務的過程,展開了我從猶豫、不太甘心去服從任命,然後不斷推開、戰競地層層推進,直到我終於登陸在祖母及童年的界域的故事。當然你也可以把它看成簡單的個人往事的追憶;又或一篇有關我祖母說故事和我聽故事的的方法的事後分析。同樣,”PUSH” 前後的兩張照片,也包裹著攝影者拍照時、以及兩張照片之間的時空距離的多重故事,有待讀者去推拷。

呼應上述的多元多向多聲度多層次的理念設計,我們編排了五個不同的“目錄”表 – 就像構築五間傢俱相同但間隔不一的房子 -- 去把我們的創作串連出多種閱讀與漫遊的軌徑,讓讀者自行調配、自創遊戲規則。多種閱讀法除了是向錯綜複雜的眾數的實存世界(many worlds) 的敬禮外,也指向整個作品作為思維地圖的性質。這是思維的地圖,是情感的地圖,也是語言和修辭的地圖,相互重疊並置。也不單是重疊並置,而是對既定類別的界分和割裂進行清拆,顯露其人為性。驟眼看,這個世界有板有眼,凡事凡物各從其類,坐落有緻。轉眼間又嘆其虛空,一場意氣。誰說每物有其定位?“象文·文象”肚腹裏養著的就是一只要拆毀疆界的猛獸。

我們的目錄表其實也有很技術性的編排:換個角度,我們都不過是數據的一種,或貨場清單上的一個項目,又或技術方法學的一個成因。如是,所謂主體客體,在《象文•文象》的地理藍圖上,都變為吊詭的浮動體。這令我想起紀爾・特雷斯和菲裏斯・加塔里(Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari) 在《千座高原》(A Thousand Plateaus) 的引言的講法∶“書既非主體也非客體,而是由不同的既成物所組合。這些合成的份子又各有不同的歲月、運行的時態與速度。光把一本書歸為主體就是漠視了物質本身的作業的能力,以及各份子的外在性所牽引的關聯。”對他們而言,書也沒有客體的對象,並不一定關乎甚麼,因為∶“一本書所談及的,跟其如何創作出來其實就是同一件事,… 。我們決不能問一本書是甚麼甚麼的符號(能指/代號),又或書的所指是甚麼須解釋而來的意義。我們只能夠問一本書在那種情況下操作、如何操作,又跟甚麼別的其他東西發生聯繫,以至它在散發或不能散發某種的強勢、力度。”

在hyper/cyber-text當道的年代,我和陳超敏仍選擇相信書,相信書尚待發掘的奇趣。我們也自覺的、甚至是掙紮著,務要放開那種文藝人以筆、以照相機、以個人洞見去鑒別世界、暢論人生、評斷真偽、揭露黑暗、平服世界的唯心主體位置。反而,我們只想在物界的可觸可見的外殼和表層走走蕩蕩,合成一宗城市組圖多面體,強調看見和聽見,把感知合一的主體擱置,視整本書的製作為一次現在進行式的“自我”的表態和上演 (self articulation/self-performance)。

這本書由構思到出版面世,何止幾經波折!我和陳超敏都不會忘記2002年12月的某一天,藝術發展局寄來的通知書,說我們的出版資助的申請落敗,一分錢也不會拿到。我們面對著那原封不動、像沒有打開過、連一個給揩過的小角落也沒有的三寸厚的手稿,還有那一句解釋也沒有的通知信,除了費解、狐疑之外,就是頓時給挑起我們要繼續下去的意決,確信自己所要探究的,用自己的方法去生存。這本書的最終出現,要感謝好些認同我們的確信、甚至比我們對這份創作更感到驕傲、更看到其中的可能性的支持者,尤其這書的美術設計謝月娜、陳子正 – 沒有他倆對這個創作的珍愛,根本不能成書。