Val Lee

Murmuration Lecture Perfromance Script

Lecturer: Val Lee


-The maglev experimental center in Tsuru, Yamanashi Prefecture recently held a test ride for reporters on the Linear Chuo Shinkansen. The reporter, too, experienced the speed of up to 500 kilometers per hour and the comfort of the ride. The test run was conducted on the 42.8 kilometers of track between the cities Uenohara and Fuefuki. The reporter sat on an aisle seat among rows of two seats on each side of the aisle. Ten seconds after departure, an announcement was heard that the train would now be "switching to maglev traveling". Shortly thereafter, it seemed that the vehicle was rising slightly, but almost no swaying was detected. One minute 38 seconds after departure, as the train reached the speed of 300 kilometers per hour, some stimulation could be sensed by the ears. At two minutes 53 seconds, the train reached the speed of 500 kilometers per hour. The water in a cup was vibrating gently. There was a sense of the body being pushed into the seat, but the sound of the travel was barely noticeable. It was an experience that seemed "surprisingly normal".


- This news about subtle movement reminds me of Shikinen Sengu. Every 20 years, the Ise Grand Shrine is relocated to a space of almost the exact same dimensions next to its main sanctuary. Everything is recreated with the craft of the thousand- year-old shinmei-zukuri style, be it the inner shrine, outer shrine, any shrine halls, shrine gates, bridges, sacred treasures offered to the deities, or ornaments. The shrine would spend eight years conducting all the rituals involved. Each step of the process, including logging cypress trees and acquiring timber, has its own ceremony.









- On the night of the Sengu, in the pitch-black darkness, hundreds of priests would carry torches as they invited the symbol of the deity out of the main palace. They would use white silk to form moving walls, so the symbol of the deity could travel slowly behind the silk. It is curious that the tradition is termed a "relocation" although the shrine is no longer the original Ise Grand Shrine. There is no explanation as to the whereabouts of the decayed wood or old sacred treasures. Nor is there any announcement that the Goddess Amaterasu of yesterday is no longer, because the new goddess of today has been born."











- And then there is the Shimabara Rebellion, the largest-scale uprising in Japanese history, launched by the Christian peasants of the Amakusa Islands. The main cause of the uprising was a revolt against the economic exploitation and religious repression that people were subjected to under the Tokugawa military government. The Amakusa Islands were one of the first areas in Japan to be introduced to Christianity. The religion had almost a million followers there. Yet the power difference was too overwhelming between the two forces. The number of Christian followers was decimated, going down from a million to thousands, hundreds, until all followers eventually went underground, becoming secret believers. Disguised as Buddhists, the believers built attics that saw no daylight in their houses and worshipped in the dead of the night. Because of the similarity between the Virgin Mary and Guanyin (the Buddhist Goddess of Mercy), Christian crosses or Virgin Mary figurines were often hidden on the back of Guanyin statuettes. It was as if the Virgin Mary moved to the back of Guanyin.











- I proposed a question in my previous work, The Library Tapes. Does our collective consciousness resemble a collective brain? It has its own shape, weight, and can float or move about in the sky. Could we substitute parts of it indefinitely, like with a grand shrine, in which every element could be new? If its elements are

replaceable like those in grand shrines, is it comparable to the ship of Theseus in the philosophical question? Is it still the same collective consciousness? Is the deity still the original divinity? Would the collective brain be willing to move, as the deities did, to a place that is almost exactly the same? If it moved to a nearly identical place, would that still be moving?


-I discovered the works of artist Xavi Bou while researching murmuration. He presents the flight of birds with incredibly mathematical lines, as though capturing the intention of the birds.


-Xavi Bou told me he was studying the massive wave-like lines that birds would leave in the winter skies when escaping the pursuit of eagles. He said if I looked closely, I would see that there was an eagle in every photo. He said the lines were like instant sculptures that eagles carved into the sky.



















-  When birds form murmurations, every bird can in fact receive signals from only seven neighboring birds. The information they take in includes a large amount of noise and disturbances, and birds need to constantly adjust their course. Animals are often required to form communal decisions. In animal communities, information about migration routes or food sources is often commanded by only a few individuals. Individuals may prefer different options, but collective decision- making ensures that the flock does not break apart. In their 2003 report, University of Sussex Professors Conradt and Roper proposed that for non-humans, democratic mechanisms are more beneficial than despotic ones. This is not because the opinions of every swan or cricket are respected or heard, but rather that democratic mechanisms tend to produce less extreme situations. Animals, too, exhibit voting behavior: Red deer express their wish by standing up. African elephants indicate their stance by giving low-frequency grumbles; the group adopts the majority decision of adult females. Swans communicate with head movements; once the intensity of signals reaches a certain threshold, the entire flock instantly takes flight in synchrony. African buffalos cast votes using their direction of gaze. Honeybees express their opinion through dancing, and reach the final conclusion by integration of signal strength and frequency.


-  Movement is crucial for animals. Movement is not the conclusion, but if we imagine the conclusion to be a massive, unfathomable entity, the means of movement determines the perspective from which we delve into the endgame.


-  During my residency in Mexico, my research was focused on femicides. We arranged for two strangers with feminine characteristics to meet at different rooms in two different houses. Different events would occur in the rooms. The strangers do not need to be dramatic; the photographer only has to capture their presence on film. Jo, my curator at the time, told me that a family of magicians showed up on weekends at the mouth of an alley near our place. The father would be covered in silver body paint as he juggled ignited props. The child would perform complex whistling and hand signals. I imagined having a room where one would open the door to find the magician family toiling to earn their living. Or the door would open to the gaze of a magician family. We began trying to contact this family. Because Mexico adopts a fairly closed social stratification system, people must be especially careful when interacting with members of a different social class and remain highly courteous. We asked our executive producer Beth, who was Mexican herself, to communicate with the magician family. They set up dates to meet with us several times. Every time, we would prepare snacks for the child and tea, pretending to wait in a relaxed manner. But not once did they come. At long last, the mother sent word through the father: she thought it extremely dangerous to allow the child into our house. There was a girl who used to perform at the street corner. That was how she got into someone's car and never returned. At

that moment, I realized that for street performers, our houses could be places at which they vanish.


-  Video: Buenos dias mujeres (8 minutes)












-  Ciudad Juárez is the major site of femicides in Mexico. After the North American Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1991, Ciudad Juárez became a center for maquiladoras. With the imbalance of political power, economic strength and business profits between the U.S. and Mexico, Ciudad Juárez became an offshore second-class city where America obtained petroleum, natural gas, solar power, wind energy, and also set up military bases. Ciudad Juárez became the symbol of the Mexican government's inability, its indulgence for impunity causing violence to become normalized and institutionalized. Due to the failure of the justice system, mass media, gang influence, and governmental institutions, femicides were systematically ignored. Factories of ready-made clothing often hired young female employees. These young women obtained financial independence and freedom for the first time in such a city, while men in the city faced large-scale unemployment. The economic statuses of men and women were highly unbalanced, and women became targets for revenge. Clothing factories in Mexico often set up one building next to one cotton field, next to another building, next to another cotton field. The endless stretch of roads next to a cotton field seemed like a passageway where prayers are needed. You could practically see the rise and descent of various political forces here. At that moment of descent, the women disappear.


- Video: Murmuration (13 minutes)












- Movement on documents is the most concise kind. Nine months before they massacred the Jewish people, the Nazis in fact conducted euthanasia experiments on children with intellectual disability. The victims totaled to 60 thousand people. This murder project of the Nazi diagnostic regime includes: Filming pre-euthanasia images for documentation, disposing of the bodies, forging causes of death, issuing death certificates, and sending condolence letters to family. Doctors needed to select one from a list of 61 causes of death, and fabricate the pre-death symptoms and treatment. Byung-Chul Han wrote in Topology of Violence, "There are things that don't disappear. Violence is one of them. Modernity is not distinguished by an aversion to violence. Violence is simply protean. It varies its outward form according to the social constellation at hand."


- Flocks under attack would contract as a whole, expand, or even split up, incessantly altering its density and structure. And yet, no bird would remain isolated. Before long, the flock would undergo a drastic change. No matter how history replaces its elements, the path ahead remains unfathomable. Once we start contemplating the future, thousands and millions of years suddenly fly by in the blink of an eye. Deities move to the backs of one another. And birds, in the moment of being chased, draw enigmatic lines in the sky.



-在山梨縣都留市的「磁浮實驗中心」內,日前舉行了開放給記者乘坐的磁浮 中央新幹線體驗乘車會。而記者也實際體驗了時速最快500公里的速度感與 乘坐舒適度。 實驗路線為該縣上野原市至笛吹市間的42.8公里的距離。記者坐在左右各2 排座位中的走道側。而在發車後的數十秒,便有廣播表示「將切換成磁浮行 駛」。隨後,雖有感覺到車體稍微浮起,但幾乎沒有感受到晃動。 在出發1分38秒、達到時速約300公里之際,記者的雙耳感受到了刺激。在2 分53秒到達時速500公里。裝在杯子裡的水,小幅度地震動著。雖然身體有 被推向座椅的感覺,但記者幾乎沒有注意到行駛的聲響。是能讓人覺得「意 外地普通」的體驗。


實驗路線為該縣上野原市至笛吹市間的42.8公里的距離。記者坐在左右各2 排座位中的走道側。而在發車後的數十秒,便有廣播表示「將切換成磁浮行 駛」。隨後,雖有感覺到車體稍微浮起,但幾乎沒有感受到晃動。

在出發1分38秒、達到時速約300公里之際,記者的雙耳感受到了刺激。在2 分53秒到達時速500公里。裝在杯子裡的水,小幅度地震動著。雖然身體有 被推向座椅的感覺,但記者幾乎沒有注意到行駛的聲響。是能讓人覺得「意 外地普通」的體驗。


-這則關於微妙移動的新聞,讓人想到神宮遷徙。伊勢神宮每隔二十年會在正 宮旁邊幾乎一模一樣大的空地上,重新打造。不管是內宮、外宮、社殿、鳥 居、橋、奉神的寶器與裝飾物,都以一千多年前的「神明造」技術重新製 作。神社會花八年時間舉辦關於一切的儀式,包括砍伐檜木、取木,都有屬 於自己的祭典。遷宮當晚,在一片漆黑中,百名神職人員舉著火把將神體從 正殿請出,他們以白絹製造成移動的牆,讓神體在裡面緩慢移動。



-我想到另一件事。日本史上最大規模的人⺠起義島原之亂,由天草群島的基 督教農⺠所發起。主要原因為抗議德川幕府的經濟剝削與宗教信仰壓迫。天 草群島是日本接觸基督教最早的區域,有上百萬的教徒。然而在勢力懸殊的 狀況下,基督教徒從百萬名被殲滅至萬名、千名、百名,最後隱遁到了地 下,成為秘密的信仰者。他們偽裝成佛教徒,在屋子裡建造不見天日的閣

樓,進行深夜崇拜。由於聖母與觀音的相似,因此觀音的背上時常藏有十字 架或聖母像,就像是聖母移動到了觀音的背面。



-在上一件作品《圖書室錄音》時,我曾有個廣泛的提問。我們的集體意識是 否像是一個集體的腦, 它有自己的輪廓、重量,它可以在天空飄浮、移動, 它是否可以無限地抽換,像神宮一樣,每一個元件都可能是新的。如果它像 神宮一樣可以替換,那是不是就像是泰休斯之船的哲學問題一樣,它還是原 本的集體意識嗎?神還是原本的神嗎?集體的腦願意像神一樣,移動到幾乎 一模一樣的地方嗎?如果移動到了幾乎一模一樣的位置,那還是移動嗎?


-在我研究鳥的團塊移動時,發現了藝術家 Xavi Bou 的作品。他以非常數學 感的線條呈現鳥的飛行,像是捕捉到了鳥的意念。
-Xavi Bou 和我說,他最近在研究冬天時,鳥為了逃避老鷹的追趕,在天空 中留下的龐大像是海浪的線條,他說如果我仔細看,每張照片其實都有一隻 老鷹。他說那像是老鷹在天空中刻劃下的瞬間的雕塑。


-當鳥進行團塊飛行時,其實當下每隻鳥只能接受到身旁七隻鳥的訊息, 而 這些訊息也包含大量的噪音與雜訊,牠們必須進行不斷地修正。動物時常需 要進行共同決策(communal decisions),在動物群體中,通常只有少數 個體掌握關於遷徙路線或⻝物源頭的資訊。雖然個體間有選擇偏好,但集體 決策確保鳥群不會分裂。Sussex大學的 Conradt 與 Roper教授在二〇〇三 年的報告認為,對非人類而言,⺠主機制比專制機制更有益處,這不是因為 每隻天鵝或蟋蟀的意見都受到了尊重或被聆聽,而是⺠主機制能避免極端狀

況的發生。動物也有投票行為,紅鹿透過站立表達意願。非洲象用低頻鳴叫 表態,由成年女性進行多數決。天鵝透過頭部扭動,當訊號累積到一定的強 度閥值時,牠們會瞬間一起起飛。非洲水牛用凝視的方向投票。蜜蜂透過舞 蹈表達想法,並由訊號強度與數量,綜合出最後結果。



-移動對動物而言非常重要。移動不是結局,但是如果我們想像結局是非常龐 大、深不可測的實體的話,移動的方式,決定了我們切入終局的面向。



-我在墨⻄哥駐村時,以女性殺害為研究主題。我們安排了兩個具有特別女性 特質的陌生人,他們會在不同兩棟房子裡的不同房間相遇。房間裡會有不同 的事件發生,他們不需要有非常戲劇性的反應,攝影師只要捕捉他們的在場 (presence)就好了。當時策展人 Jo 跟我說,家裡附近巷口每到週末會有 一個魔術家庭出現。爸爸會全身塗成銀色,拋接著火的物件。小孩則表演繁 複的口哨和手勢。當時我想像有一個房間門打開來,會是魔術家庭在鍛鍊營 生,或是打開門時會是一個魔術家庭的凝視。我們開始聯繫這個家庭,因為 墨⻄哥階級相當分明,和不同階級溝通時,必須格外地細緻與維持高度的禮 貌。我們請同是墨⻄哥人的執行製作Beth,和魔術家庭溝通。他們和我們約 了許多次碰面,我們每次都準備了小孩子吃的點心、茶,假裝很輕鬆地等 待,但是他們一次都沒有來。最後的最後,媽媽透過爸爸轉告,她認為讓小 孩子進到我們的房子,非常危險。因為另一個在街角表演的女孩,就是這樣 上了別人的車,再也沒有回來。那一刻我理解到,對在街頭的表演者來說, 我們的房子,是他們可能會消失的地點。

-影片播放(8mins)


-華雷茲是為墨⻄哥女性殺害事件的主要城市。一九九一年,北美自由貿易協 定簽訂後,華雷茲城為免稅加工廠區域。在美墨雙邊政治經濟實力、商業利 益失衡之下,華雷茲城為美國取得石油、天然氣、太陽能、風力與設置軍事 基地的境外二級城市。華雷茲城不但成為墨⻄哥政府失能的象徵,更因為有 罪無罰(impunity)的態度,讓暴力正常化與機構化。因為司法系統、大眾 媒體、黑道勢力與政府機構的失能,女性殺害事件遭到結構性的忽視。 成衣工廠多半雇用年輕女性當員工,這些年輕女性在這樣的城市第一次擁有 經濟實力與自由,而城市中的男性則面臨大規模的失業。在男女性經濟狀況 失衡的狀況下,女性成為報復對象。墨⻄哥的成衣廠往往是這樣佈局,一間 加工廠、一塊棉花田、一間加工廠、一塊棉花田,那條漫⻑的棉花田旁的道 路,像是一條需要祈禱的通道。你好像可以看到各種政治作用力的起飛與降 落,在那降落的瞬間,女性就消失了。

-影片播放(13mins)



-文件上的移動,是最簡約的移動。納粹在屠殺猶太人之前的九個月,其實曾 經針對一群人進行安樂死實驗,對象是智能障礙的兒童,受害者有六萬人。 納粹診斷政權的謀殺工程包括:執行安樂死前的攝影存檔、遺體處置、偽造 死亡原因、開立死亡證明書、寄送家屬慰問信。醫師需要在六十一項死亡原 因的名單中挑選一項,並虛構死亡前的病徵與處置。韓炳哲在《暴力拓墣 學》寫到,「有些事情不會消失,暴力就是其一。現代性並不厭惡暴力。暴 力千變萬化,它會根據眼前的社會星系,改變其外在形式。」



-鳥在受到攻擊下整體收縮,擴張甚至分裂,不斷改變其密度和結構。 然 而,沒有任何鳥會保持孤立,不久,鳥群進行徹底的變化。不管歷史如何更 換元件,前方依舊看起來深不可測。當我們開始討論未來,時間突然過了千 百萬年。神,移動到了彼此的背面。而鳥,則在被追逐的時刻,在天空中, 劃下深不可測的線條。





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Sabino 276

Santa Maria la Ribera

Mexico City

06400