A Slow Universe Comes with Something Like Death

Single channel video, 2014

When with his children and starting to feel sleepy, Su Hui-yu is haunted by thoughts that have no relation to his children whatsoever, such as thoughts of death. For this reason, he created the series Whale Mass Suicide, which he produced during an eight-month period from 2013 to early 2014. The series, in Su’s own words, “looks at death and ideas closely related to death from the perspective of my own children.” The work A Slow Universe Comes with Something Like Death started from an early attempt at filming a scene from another work in the same series Papa Is Not Here. On the eve of premiering Whale Mass Suicide, Su came across this preliminary footage and played it back very slowly. Slowing down the playback renders the children’s voices very low in pitch and difficult to understand, and gives them a distant, ghost-like grace. The scene feels viscous and heavy as time slows down, the children seem to be drifting in outer space, and light flickers, all suggesting a state between waking and sleeping. This clip seems even closer to Su’s concept of “catching a glimpse of death while in a trance,” which was his inspiration for Papa Is Not Here. Hence A Slow Universe Comes with Something Like Death was borne of random footage—the artist had not intended on using it, but it seemed to generate meaning on its own. In a certain respect, A Slow Universe Comes with Something Like Death could be called a prequel to the Whale Mass Suicide series.

The feeling of stalled time in A Slow Universe Comes with Something Like Death is reminiscent of Su’s earlier work Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours as well as a more recent work  Sex and Death and the Boy Infant. These three works belong together; they all are about liminal states between wakefulness and sleep, and between fantasy and reality. This state is associated with life (clear consciousness), death (no consciousness), and sexual activity (consciousness of the body), as well as many other hidden secrets.

每當陪伴孩子卻昏昏欲睡的時候,我總想到這些詭異的畫面,一些與孩子看似無關的事情,例如死亡。於是在 2013 年至 2014 年初約莫八個月的時間裡,我製作了「鯨魚集體自殺」系列,那是一組「由自己孩子的身影去看見死亡以及與死亡息息相關的許多念頭」的作品。而《此刻看見似是死亡的某種緩慢》則來自於該系列中《不在的父親》一作的早期「試拍畫面」。就在「鯨魚集體自殺」的發表前夕,我無意間重看了這些試拍影像,並以極慢速來播放,霎時孩子們的兒語變成難以辨識的低頻,彷若幽靈般飄逸在空間中,一切變得粘稠而且沉重。時間被僵固了,孩子們彷彿在太空裡緩慢移動,光線時而刺眼時而昏沉,這讓我想起一種午睡後的狀態。雖然僅是「試拍」的素材,但它甚至比《不在的父親》更加接近一種「在恍惚之際瞥見死亡」的概念,一件作品於焉誕生。這些不太經過安排而隨意拍下的影像,意外地找回了它們自己的意義。我們或者可以說,這是「鯨魚集體自殺」系列的前奏,一件意外之作。

於此同時,在《此刻看見似是死亡的某種緩慢》裡那種僵固的時間感亦令我想起 2010 年的《使蒂諾斯家庭實境秀:午夜時刻》(Stilnox Home Video: The Midnight Hours)以及近作《與死亡為伍的羞恥男嬰》,對我而言,這三件作品極其適合被擺放在一起。它們都不約而同地談論著一種模糊地帶,那些介於清醒與睡著之間,幻覺與現實之間的地帶。在這個地帶,在這個邊境上,我特別能夠想起活著(意識清醒)、死亡(無意識)與性(身體),或者許多被隱藏已久的念頭。