Repeating Reflecting the Moment of Being:

on Su Hui-Yu’s “Stilnox Home Video”

反覆映照的存在瞬間

Chang Ching-Wen
Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours | 21mins | 2010 (still of the video)

Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours | 21mins | 2010 (still of the video)

1. Suspension/Slowness/Violence

The pace of Su Hui-Yu’s latest video Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours is extremely slow – so slow that there is more than enough time for us to gaze at every single frame of the video in length before we finally fix our gaze on whatever captures our concentration.  It’s almost as if the image would be penetrated if the gaze lingered for another minute.

With silent moving images running at a frame rate that is made deliberately slow, this video thoroughly tests the viewer’s patience.  In a world that seems to border between the real and the illusional, we are presented with some sort of a reality television program based on the artist’s own life experience.

As we focus on the nervous, insomniac person tossing and turning through a sleepless night, we gradually lose our patience. What is strangely intriguing is that such growing sense of impatience seems to mirror the protagonist’s mood.  In extreme slow motion, the video is, in effect, violating our senses and pushing us into a welter of infinity.  With no sound whatsoever to draw away our attention, we have no option but to be fully absorbed into the visual language of the video.  As the camera slowly moves, we are only reminded by the movement of the chest and the hand during breathing as well as the diffusion of smoke that it is, after all, a temporal process, not a freeze-frame.

It is now finally confirmed that we are going through a lengthy process of waiting.

When the body is fully relaxed or drugged and the physical senses give up any possibility of resistance, an image saturated with dramatic tensions can really summon our senses to the unrelated fragments of a dramatic non-narrative, even though the setting is only an ordinary, familiar environment.

In the artist’s statement, Su Hui-Yu notes,

According to a survey conducted by the Department of Health Bureau of Pharmaceutical Affairs, as of 2009, Taiwan has over 3,000,000 sleeping pill users.”

Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours | 21mins | 2010 (still of the video)

Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours | 21mins | 2010 (still of the video)

In other words, drugs have violently intervened in our everyday life.  In two of Su’s pieces, Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours and A Horror Day, the artist resorts to drug effects in his exploration of the experience before and after sleep.  Although the two videos are considerably different in pace, with Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours being deliberately slow and A Horror Day looking like some kind of a suspension thriller, they both manipulate and control our senses by delaying or repressing the much-awaited reaction.  In the case of the Stilnox Home Video series, it does so by fostering a sense of slowness among the viewers.

Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours conveys the sense of slowness in two ways.  On the first level, the slow pace of the video evokes a sedated state of semi-consciousness as well as disorientation of the senses.  As the video unfolds, it reveals the grey zone between sleep and awake, dreams and daydreams.  Within this short window of time, which seems to occupy a different state of consciousness, every nuance of feeling is no less real than material realities, even though it seems to defy common sense.  When dampened by medication, the mind is no longer in its normal state, yet it is not quite the same thing as the senses dulled by drugs.  It is worth mentioning here that every single camera shot in Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours lasts no longer than 90 seconds, yet as far as the viewer is concerned, it feels as if the video has been running for hours and hours.  In a slow and silent manner, the video follows a medication-affected state of mind that is helplessly tired yet completely relaxed.  The random flow of events featured in the video resembles the activities of the mind just moments before sleep.

On the second level, the sense of slowness also derives from the accumulation of every seemingly light and insignificant detail featured in the video – the lights, the simple furniture, the naked body, or smoke.  It should be noted that in fact, these elements do not lighten up the video; quite the contrary, they gradually add weight to the piece as the video slowly pans from one side to another.  Suddenly, the light and sweet atmosphere in the staged, dreamland-like scene becomes heavy, allowing no space for any sense of joy or excitement at all.

The special effects used in Su Hui-Yu’s earlier works have often involved the manipulation of speed.  For example, The Fabled Shoots (2007) and Bloody Beauty(2009) both entail that the artist capture the moments of explosion of fake blood capsules using a high-speed video camera and then unfold these moments in extreme slow motion, so that it looks as if the blood was exploding like fireworks.  One of the most effective ways to get close to the reality of this moment is to show it in a slow motion.  The irony of it is, however, that the change of speed has effectively removed the actual reality of the moment from the image.  In other words, we have inadvertently tampered with fact itself in our relentless pursuit of the fact.  This is a trick often used by the mainstream media and uncritically accepted by the audience.  Su Hui-Yu exposes this trick by deconstructing and invalidating its inner logic in a way which appears exciting, yet is devoid of any real passion or emotion.  In the case of Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours and A Horror Day, the former is extremely slow in its pace and the kind of emotional state that it evokes, whereas the latter has a narrative constantly interrupted by a stream of close-up shots.   These deliberately engineered effects disturb our senses not in the sense that they affect the pace of the video, but that they keep postponing the much-awaited moment.

2. Reality/Performance/Mise en abyme

Reality television is a genre of television programming that presents purportedly unscripted dramatic or humorous situations, documents actual events, and usually features ordinary people instead of professional actors.[1] The two pieces in Stilnox Home Video series cannot be perceived as reality television in a strict sense of the term.  Nevertheless, they still reflect part of the author’s daily life.  The old apartment that is being used as the setting of the video is in fact where Su Hui-Yu lives.  Very little rearrangement has been made in the apartment to suit the purpose of filming, and Su’s personal appearance in the video further evokes the voyeurism and schadenfreude of contemporary reality television.  Although the viewers may not be aware of their own voyeuristic act, they are, nonetheless, peeking into the (staged) everyday life of the artist, thanks to the artist’s selfless sharing.

A Horrol Day | HD Video | 6mins | 2010

A Horrol Day | HD Video | 6mins | 2010

On the other hand, A Horror Day has all the basic ingredients of a suspension thriller: a fairly ordinary scene of everyday life involving little drama or emotion, a couple of tantalizing clues, exaggerated sound effects, fast-paced editing, an endless sequence of close-up shots as well as a seemingly never-ending story.  It is worth noting here that this piece was inspired by the artist’s personal experience of the side effects after taking the medication Stilnox.  Under deep trance, the imagery from the horror movie that he had seen the night before seems to persist in his mind, making him suspicious over every little thing that surrounds him.  Having said that, we can also entertain the idea of seeing A Horror Day as an exaggerated version of everyday stories, or even a variation of fantasia.  Excluding the jumpy close-up shots and the background music, the content of the video is extremely banal and uninspired; it is those eye-catching special effects that distract us from the banality of everyday realities.  As a horror video film, A Horror Dayreflects the consciousness and imagination of the narrator who happens to be the actor and artist himself trapped in the limbo between sleep and awake.  However, it appears at first sight that the artist is scoffing at the film industry.  Although the video attempts to deliver some horror scenes, the well-trained viewers are not easily fooled.

Like Su Hui-Yu’s one-man show A Horror DayStilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours again features the artist himself.  This format is in line with the intrusive nature of reality television into one’s private sphere and deeper state of consciousness; it also opens the possibility of directing one’s gaze at oneself.  It echoes the off-world world of reality television, and at the same time explores the multi-layered consciousness under the effect of medication.

Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours also makes reference to Su Hui-Yu’s earlier works.  These references not only provide the artist himself with a channel for articulating self-consciousness, but also give the viewers a comprehensive understanding of Su Hui-Yu’s works.  While watching the video, we see not only the insomniac artist himself, but also the details of his repetitive and banal everyday routines as well as the interplay of all kinds of performances and creative actions.  It is worth noting here that whereas the photo excerpts from Bloody Beauty are part of the original décor of Su’s apartment, The Fabled Shoots and A Warning (2007) which are being played on the video screen are props used for the filming purpose.  Also seen in the smoke-filled room is the author doing a striking impression of Michael Jackson, making a reference to his earlier piece Bad (2005), in which Su Hui-Yu imitated Michael Jackson’s famous dance moves, as well as the theater play of the same year Michael Jackson, which featured Su Hui-Yu, Wang Chia-Ming and Huang Yi-Ju.  Just like how those background images from Su’s earlier works complement and enhance each other to map out the complete thoughts of the author, in Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours, the interplay of two separate consciousnesses of the drug-induced artist highlights the multi-subjectivity of the author and illustrates the state of consciousness typically experienced while under the influence of drugs. As a TV-addict and artist who tries to deconstruct the inner logic of television by way of creating a mock television show, Su Hui-Yu employs the strategy of Mise en abyme in both Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours and A Horror Day,inserting images from earlier works into the videos to highlight the multi-level dynamics of intertextuality. As a result, the video not only comes to embody the artist’s alternative identity, but also serves as a reminder of the rich tapestry of the artist’s work.  As the viewers peek into the private space of the artist, their minds are saturated with a mixture of imagery of bomb explosions, gunfights, advertising images, stills from horror movies, excerpts from music videos, and so forth, just like the narrator’s mind is saturated with fragments of images from the television programs he had watched the night before.

Collected from a whole series of Su Hui-Yu’s works, these moments of trance, which are hard to articulate, converge at Stilnox Home Video, turning the piece into an assembly point for all the ambiguities that characterize Su’s works.  As a result, the artist’s insomnia inadvertently helps him express his true state of being: that he is in fact trapped in the hazy limbo between the self and consciousness.  In Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours, we see once again the unsolvable paradox of moving images: the things that appear closest to the fact tend to be those that betray the fact.  It can be argued that Stilnox Home Video:The Midnight Hours and A Horror Day disclose those unseen, or even invisible moments of being in our repetitive daily routines.  The flashing bursts of imagery from Su’s earlier works as well as the repetitively occurring images of the “I” and other characters are intertwined together to create a world deformed by the side effects of Stilnox.  At the same time, the viewers get to peek directly into the life and consciousness of the author.

So as we watch the “I” entering through the gap of time, time gradually disappears in the slow process of its own accumulation as well as its indefinite postponement.

 

1. 慢感|慢|暴力

〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉速度極慢。一個畫面要耗上好久的時間讓眼光在上面打轉。幾乎每一個細節都已經掃過,但還有好多時間。接著,視線在畫面裡尋找任何能夠專注的地方,再多看幾眼,好似要把畫面都穿破。

這件作品著實考驗著觀眾的耐心。無聲的畫面,刻意拉長時間播放的影像,在似是虛幻又來自真實的情境裡,我們看到這一場創作者提供的「實境秀」。

失眠的人輾轉反側,焦躁地橫度黑夜。不耐的心理和觀看這件作品的狀態是有些類似的。這種對待感知的方式是有一點暴力,我們跌入無盡之中。鏡頭極慢的推移速度致使觀看的人承受飽滿的視覺效果,畫面無聲,在一片靜默之中沒有其他排解或分散注意力的出口,我們只得看,隨著鏡頭緩緩移動,看見因為呼吸而輕微起伏的胸口或手勢,還有煙霧如浪擴散,提示我們這是一個帶有時間性的過程,不是定格。

我們確認了自己正在經歷等待。

假使感官放棄抵抗,投入這些片段而無連貫的非敘事之中,在富含戲劇張力的畫面裡,還真能召喚彷若用藥之後鬆懈的神經和身體,其實那也只是平常且熟悉不過的環境。

蘇匯宇在創作自述裡提到:「根據衛生署藥政處統計調查,截至2009年,台灣有300多萬的安眠藥使用者。這是一個看似驚人的數字,但其實稀鬆平常。我身邊就經常有朋友服用過這類藥物。失眠,早已變成一種時髦的流行病。」藥物做為一種暴力介入日常生活,蘇匯宇的〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉和〈恐怖的一天〉仰賴藥物的意外效果,表現睡眠之前與睡眠之後兩種作用的反應。這兩件作品乍看有極大的速度差異──〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉步調緩慢,〈恐怖的一天〉以遲遲未出現的懸疑營造驚悚的戲劇效果──然而兩者都以延遲、壓抑的方式左右我們的感知,在「使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀」的展場塑造出觀眾心理的「慢感」。

〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉的「慢」,一方面在形式上呼應所欲傳達的意識和感官狀態──在醒與睡之間的灰色地帶,所見所感既非白日夢也非夢境。這段脫序的時間像是意識分岔的存在,所有感覺無疑都是現實,卻違背常理。被藥物介入的意識已非尋常狀態,但卻也不是迷幻藥作用下被放大的感官。在〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉裡的每一個鏡頭,最長其實不過90秒左右,但是對於觀看作品的人而言卻異常難熬,像是幾個小時那麼久。蘇匯宇以緩慢而無聲的表達方式,再現被藥物干擾的精神狀態,不可抵抗的疲憊、鬆懈,所有見聞物事的隨機拼湊,正像是人在睡著之前意識裡漸漸荒腔走板的劇情。而另一方面,慢感也從每一個輕盈的細節累積而來──光線,簡潔的家具陳設,裸體,煙霧。這些元素並未讓整件作品輕快起來,反而隨著慢速移動的時間累積了重量,在刻意營造的輕飄飄有如幻境的現場,那些看似最能撩撥情慾的部分,反而都轉變成為一股欺身而上的沉重,快意不起來。

在蘇匯宇以往的作品中,諧擬電視、電影媒體的特效手法,或多或少都包括了對於速度的操控。例如〈槍下非亡魂〉(2007)和〈血腥寶貝〉(2009)以高速攝影捕捉血漿包爆炸四射的瞬間,再以慢動作播出,讓這些鮮紅的漿液有如煙火綻放。爆炸的瞬間何其短暫,要呈現這關鍵的0.1秒,放慢速度可能是接近真實的一種方式;但荒謬的是速度的變形已經逸離了事實。這種藉著失真而接近事實的矛盾,或許早已成為媒體表達這個世界現狀的慣性伎倆,觀眾也逐漸被馴養成接受這類話術的眼睛,而蘇匯宇向來對媒體的興趣,就在於這些內在邏輯的調控。他的作品拆解所有能夠透過操作而煽動的情緒,看來很嗨,但激情不再。

而〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉內在與外在的一致緩慢,以及〈恐怖的一天〉不斷以特寫鏡頭打斷平順敘事,它們對於感官的壓迫,不只在於影片步調的快或慢,而是讓觀眾不斷等待那個還未到來的時刻。

2. 實境|演|套層結構

在一般的定義中,真人實境秀(又稱真人秀)是一種強調實時現場直播、沒有劇本、不是角色扮演,聲稱完全反映真實的電視節目[1]。「使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀」的兩件作品並非嚴格定義下的實境秀,但仍然反映了蘇匯宇個人生活的部分實況。做為場景的舊公寓正是他的住處,其間的擺設並未為了拍攝作品而有太多變動。除了生活場景的直接取用,蘇匯宇本人的入鏡和扮演,都讓「使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀」和一般的實境秀同樣具有表露自身狀態的意味。實境秀將被拍攝者的種種公諸於媒體之上,滿足了旁觀者窺人隱私和八卦的心態,在「使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀」裡,觀眾不見得意識到正在窺視藝術家(經過編排與設計)的生活日常,但卻或多或少已經透過他無私的分享,觀看其存在。

〈恐怖的一天〉可以說具備了驚悚片最基本的幾個條件──普通的生活場景,沒有交代太多的劇情,一些帶有暗示意味的線索,誇張的音效,急促的剪接,不斷的特寫鏡頭,以及永遠都不會完結似的劇情。其實這件作品的想法來自蘇匯宇某個晚上吃了使蒂諾斯之後隔日醒來的感受,恍惚之間,前夜睡前看的恐怖片似還殘留腦中,以致對於身邊一切感到疑懼。〈恐怖的一天〉也可以看作日常生活的誇張表達,或者一種奇想的變奏;如果去掉所有跳躍的特寫以及配樂,其實內容普通得不得了。這些搶眼的特效遮蓋了平凡無奇的生活現實,做為一部恐怖片,它反映的只是敘事者的意識和想像,而這名敘事者正是演員自己,那個睡不著又醒不來的藝術家。然而對大部分的觀眾而言,看到的多半是對於電影工業的調侃,雖然它努力製造恐怖,但訓練有素的觀眾未必就此掉入陷阱之中。

除了由蘇匯宇一人演出的〈恐怖的一天〉,一如他過去的幾件作品,〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉也有他自己的身影。這樣的扮演方式呼應實境秀對於個人生活與意識狀態的揭露,同時也成為「自己觀看自己」的一種展現。這種表達方式不僅扣合所謂「實境秀」的意念,也進一步指涉了藥物作用下多層次的自我意識。

蘇匯宇的幾件舊作在〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉中出現,不僅做為他進出自我意識的洞口,也開放給所有觀眾成為觀看他個人創作的諸多鏡面。當我們面對著〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉,不僅看見那個該睡卻沒有睡著的藝術家,也看見他在不斷重複而平庸的日常生活以及各種扮演和創作行動之間出入遊走。牆上的〈血腥寶貝〉攝影是居家空間中原有的擺置,而螢幕中播放的〈槍下非亡魂〉和〈一個警告〉(2007)則是刻意的安排,除此之外,由蘇匯宇扮演的麥可.傑克森(Michael Jackson)也曾現身在煙霧彌漫的房間裡(2005年的〈好壞〉即模仿麥可.傑克森的MV及舞步,同年他也與王嘉明、黃怡儒等人共同演出舞台劇「麥可.傑克森」),這些作品相互補充也相互做為對照。〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉展現藥物作用下意識流動的過程,這個吃了安眠藥的藝術家在我和我之間遊走,互文的重重深淵突顯實境演出的「我」的狀態,在此,做為一個重度電視迷和不斷在創作中以相似手段破解電視邏輯的藝術家的現形,〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉以及〈恐怖的一天〉以套層結構(Mise en abyme,或譯「敘事內鏡」)的手法顯現這些文本之間多層次的動態互動關係,嵌入過往作品的某些畫面,不僅成為那個「我」的身分宣告,也再度翻攪過往作品所投射的種種豐富意象,在觀眾偷窺私人住家景觀之餘,關於爆破、槍戰、廣告、恐怖影片、MV等的混雜印象再度浮現腦海,如同那個敘事者的腦中也正疊合著種種眼前所見的節目與景致。

這些難以再現的恍惚,沿著蘇匯宇一貫的創作脈絡鋪陳開來,讓「使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀」成為串連眾多語意曖昧畫面的總站,在睡眠障礙的作用下,竟在昏沉之間說清了關於自我和意識的受困真實。失真反而接近真實的影視謬論,在「使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀」裡再度展現,或許可以說,〈使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時段〉和〈恐怖的一天〉演出了重複生活日常裡不可見的存在瞬間。那些短暫重現的舊作影像以及不斷出現的「我」和人物,以反覆映照的方式堆疊出使帝諾斯之後意外變形的世界,同時也在這一刻為觀眾們直播了創作者的生活與意識。

我們看著那個我潛入時間的縫隙。而時間也在緩慢且不斷累加、延遲的過程裡沉沉消失。

—————
[1] 此處關於「真人實境秀」(reality television)的定義參照自維基百科。

 


[1] See Wikipedia, “reality television” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_television.