Monday, April 26, 2010

Collab in Hong Kong 3

This is a still from the karaoke loop component of Drifted Narratives, basically a distillation/ summary of the ideas/impressions engendered by hanging around the Pinay workers in Hong Kong. Ideas about travel, exile, camps, temporary recreations of home and so on.

The incorporation of the karaoke seemed like the thing to do. It recalled the prevalence of karaoke at Filipino gatherings, it was an ironic way to serenade the girls, it adds a weird layer of associations to a saccharine pop song (something I find enjoyable in and of itself), and it was a chance to point to the brainless massacre that is karaoke imagery. I hadn't thought it was possible to do worse than generic bikini girl shots, but the production companies have apparently taken to incorporating montages of American NBA footage as well. Call it folk/corporate surreality, I dunno. An essay/post for another day.

As per the photo below, the installation itself became a kind of triptych that basically took over the 2nd floor of the Hong Kong Arts Centre, framed as it was by a huge photographic banner mounted on a wall made of recycled cardboard boxes bought from the same vendors who sold boxes ( for1 HK$ each) to the Pinays.

The left and right panels hosted projections of the timelapse footages from the IFC mall and the ground floor of the HSBC. The photographic panel showed Tita in the astronaut suit standing in front of the Pinoy village:

The center of the triptych was occupied by what Ming-chong and I referred to as the "shrine", a functional sculpture hosting the karaoke loop.

The suitcase contained a science-fictional distillation of the idea of "a Pinay's life-support system": a Santo NiƱo (= Baby Jesus, lit with a votary candle-bulb, which I thought tied nicely in with the fact that many Pinays are engaged as yayas/governesses for HK kids) ; iconic comfort/junk foods; shampoo sachets; romance novels; toilet paper; sanitary napkins; a DVD player; a car battery (that had earlier served to power the mobile time-lapse lab I built) ; a power inverter; and so on.

The DVD player that ran the karaoke loop was one of those jobs with a microphone jack, which I hooked up to a live microphone, so it was theoretically possible to sing the work, as it were. Ming-chong and I actually did this at the opening, but of course the shrine was locked behind a glass door most of the time.

The video was a lot of fun to shoot. It wasn't until I was halfway through it that I realized I was reprising a technique from Roxlee's brilliant short film Juan Gapang, which was a major inspiration for me when I stumbled onto filmmaking at the Mowelfund Film Institute way back when. The short remains edgy and watchable to this day, filled with images that fuse the fantastic with public performance and abrasive social criticism. For my part, I particularly liked the fact that the Pinays on the street immediately recognized the person inside the astronaut suit as a fellow Pinay, but were flummoxed by the fact that she was being followed and attended to by a crew of Hong Kong locals who would do things like fan her and hold her helmet for her in between takes. It constituted an inversion of the class structure that they lived in, and it was a spectacle I was happy to stage for them.