8 JUL – 21 AGO, 2021
I MAY DOZE FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS
4K, 13'54", MÉXICO, 2021
Director & Script: Val Lee
Producer: Jo Ying Peng
Line Producer: Elizabeth Calzado
Cinematographer: Yollotl Alvarado
Editor: Yollotl Alvarado, Val Lee
Sound Designer: Hao Luo
Sound Recording: Erick Ruíz Arellano
Costume Designer: Alberto Perera
Production Designer: Mía Ourgant
Performers: Mónica Nepote, Chantal Garduño, Cristián Mandujano, Damián Mandujano, Mauricio Carranza, Alberto Perera, Juan Manuel de la Trinidad, José Luis Mellado
Special thanks to Tang Fu Kuen, Chang Jui-tzu, Victor Costales, Eric Namour, Dario and Nicolas Namour Lira
THE FILM I MAY DOZE FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS IS MADE WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE NATIONAL CULTURE AND ARTS FOUNDATION (NCAF), TAIWAN.
BUENOS DÍAS MUJERES
4K, 8'40", MÉXICO, 2019
Director: Val Lee
Producer: Jo Ying Peng
Line Producer: Elizabeth Calzado
Cinematographer: Yollotl Alvarado
Sound Recording: Erick Ruíz
Camera: Assistant Hugo Sandoval
Characters: Mónica Nepote, Alberto Perera
Performers: Mauricio Carranza, Víctor Hugo García Camacho, Israel González Arreola, Marco Antonio González Nava, Carlos Eduardo Hernández Cedano, Abraham Hurtado Hernández, Uriel López Romero, José Gerardo López Sánchez, Juan José Luna Alvarado, Iván Martínez Montes de Oca, Francisco Martínez Uribe, José Luis Mellado Zamarripa, Adrián Robert Gutiérrez, Moisés Segura Ramírez, Manuel Rogelio Soriano García, Gregorio Vara Hernández, Saúl Mandujano Jurado
Special thanks: Mauro Giaconi, Saúl Mandujano Jurado & Family, Vera Ramírez, Noé Adolfo Riande Juárez & Hush, Germán Rosales, Jesús Quijada, Estudio Tacubaya
THE FILM BUENOS DÍAS MUJERES IS MADE WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE OF TAIWAN.
HD, 23’59", ESTADOS UNIDOS, 2019
Director: Val Lee
Photography: Paul Shih
Performers: Vinson Fraley, Tajee Harrison
Production: Ollin Miranda, Laurie Abad
Documentation: Bruno Ruiz
THE FILM N IS MADE WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE ASIAN CULTURAL COUNCIL (ACC).
THE EXHIBITION I MAY DOZE FOR MILLIONS OF YEARS IS MADE WITH THE SUPPORT OF THE MINISTRY OF CULTURE OF TAIWAN.
I May Doze for Millions of Years is made by Taiwanese artist Val Lee. The title is taken from her latest film which was premiered alongside Buenos días mujeres and N. Three works comprise the trilogy to outline Lee’s research on contemporary violence in society, following her interest in experimental documentary.
The history of violence culminates in this merging of victim and perpetrator, of master and slave, of freedom and violence (Topology of Violence, Byung-Chul Han).
Focusing on the sociological investigation of violence and complex political situations, Val Lee explores the psychological state of perpetrators and the theoretical context on the spatial and psychological characteristics of the total institution. The concept is associated with the thesis of the sociologist Erving Goffman, where a great number of individuals are isolated from the wider community for a considerable time, together with leading an enclosed, formally administered life.
In the film N, the characters V and T met in a hotel room in Manhattan and performed 'action scripts' for an appointed duration. As the first work in the trilogy, it elaborates a social relation experiment based on Lee’s field research of the young prisoner in New York.
Buenos días mujeres depicts two others, M and A, who encounter in different sites around Escandón following action scripts that designate their journey. Confronted with several scenarios, the main characters dwell in the narrative as if on auto-pilot. Devising a wholly cinematic language between auto-cinema and auto-documentary, Lee’s ‘action script’ is designed beforehand but played out in the absence of the director. Buenos días mujeres deals with the theme of gender crime, also referred to as femicide. With a rare poetic take on the subject, the work provides insight into the inner system governed by a pulsating toxic masculine behavior.
In the new work, I May Doze for Millions of Years, M comes across C and other characters who perform in various fable-like sets that lead their journey to an unknown destination. Staged in the surreal cantina La Faena, the scenes are forged with ‘trance’ and ‘hypnosis’ which serve as metaphors to interpret the unstable collective consciousness while confronting politics with diversified ideologies.
The exhibition I May Doze for Millions of Years encompasses film, installation, a sound piece made by Marcos Lutyens in collaboration with Val Lee, fragmental writings that sketch the scenes behind the screen, and a reading corner with a selection of books that draws the artist’s research path.
Val Lee is a director and co-founding artist of Ghost Mountain Ghost Shovel, an art collective employing constructed, ephemeral situations as a form of live art where the audience enters a poetic constellation of action script, installation, sound, hypnotic rhetoric, composite structure, and mise-en-scène. GMGS is drawn to urban violence, criminal acts, political riot, abrupt historical reenactment, and the diversified modes of psychological absorption and participation.
SLEEP: A DRAFT
By Val Lee
A series of photos on the Internet about incarcerated adolescents, accompanied by audio recordings.
I wrote to make contact and received no response. A few people in the community offer services for newly released youths. One service was called mock interviews; participants emulate job interviews, affecting how flying solo is judged in the real world. Like guide runners for the visually impaired, using a rope tether and pulling in the guide rope to run closer together. The young prisoner has his back to the view, dressed in a grayish-white shirt and dark gray pants, hands cuffed together and giving secret hand signals in his palms.
I chatted with the man who left. We watched the video recorded at the hotel. Two black young men meet at the John Hotel in Flushing. According to the script, they clear the bed of cornbread, canned beans, and mineral water. A young man is wiping down his body in the restroom, muscles showing all over his body. Another stands gazing out at the window. The hotel was under renovation. On the grounds of photography, I rented it for two nights and checked with the manager about using the water heater, clock, and the school’s PA system. I wanted to broadcast a tape of natural sounds, lightning, and thunderstorms, made in the 70s. But I feel shy about it and give it up. Two people wrestle in a room. They wrestle for a while and end the sport themselves, following the notes and moving on to the next part. Fluorescent colored notebooks, one for each person; the two of them wear my and Arron’s Casio calculator watches. Black ones. A man wearing a softshell helmet designed for injured patients. I’d seen a hundred severely disabled children enjoying steaks at a party in an auditorium. Saliva, metal trays, and gray steaks. The party was not noisy, for there weren’t many who could speak clearly. No conversations were seen. Conference tables in arrays, about twenty rows, or perhaps thirty. In the crowd, only one person is wearing a soft shell helmet. Its paint is peeling off, but the helmet still has a pinkish-gray hue with red stripes. His skin is pale, with a bruise-like tint to it. His eyes stare into some otherworldly place.
The man who left analyses the cut. Two people wrestle, perhaps gripping each other by one hand, circling the surveillance camera, and fighting each other with the other hand. The man works at the medical facility, handling registry of illnesses, surveillance monitoring, writing reports, transfers, and emergency treatment. Always break the ribs during first aid to get closer to the heart; the equipment is simple, the administration point records complex: successful treatment or death can cut off or delay the time of leaving. From long-time observation and comparison behind the surveillance monitors, those in solitary confinement often develop a performance system, or meaningful gestures while under watch. The man speaks of swelling, deformation, loss of intelligence and function in a body, but only the eyes of a parent killer remain unforgettable. This person is mentioned three times in the man's story: the first time at check-in; the second time seeming in a trance, staring away throughout the night. The third time it was on the floor, at night, silently looping hundreds of rubber bands around his neck until death.
By Val Lee
I proposed a question in my previous work The Library Tapes – Does our collective consciousness resemble a collective brain? It has its 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 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 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 conclude 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.
By Jo Ying Peng
This is a curator’s note. Or to say, a project diary. Perhaps, it is more likely a clapperboard slate of the making of Buenos días mujeres. It starts from a conversation behind the scenes and ends on the day of the shoot.
The Take 13
“Female, age 16 or above, no experience required.” Gina Arizpe showed us the recruitment ads she collected from the streets at random. She had been approaching the advertises for the auditions. They normally take place in a kind of small room in buildings with no resemblance to any office. It can be understood as a method of field research. It’s translated as a provocative act.
In a different scenario, missing person’s ads in search of the disappeared in Juárez are somehow resemblant to those above.
“If I don’t come back tomorrow, please call the police.” Gina said by end of our meeting.
Running, pushing, anchoring. Territorial power is portrayed by a group of wifebeaters. The initial concept of the storyboard focused on the contrast of collective against individual and majority crushing minority. Through the gaze of the photographer, masculinity shaped the abstract unbreathable oppression while the nature of weakness formed the universality. It brings the questions: how does the collective consciousness internalize and absorb violence? How does society normalize barbarism? And how does the host of violent parasitism rebirth and return repeatedly?
From 7am to 7pm. As the scene shifts from place to place in Escandón - an abandoned school, an empty property and the house of Vernacular Institute - the action scripts activated the leading characters in sets.
Uncertainty is employed through the scenarios. However, resistance dominated the narrative.
But why is the world still sponsoring violence?
I saw Saúl. I saw him the other day holding his baby juggling on the usual junction, as he does on a daily basis. This condition of encounter is utterly different. Not at all as if I told you ‘Hey I bumped into Gina around the conner yesterday' or ‘Guess what? Last weekend, I saw Alberto at a small dinner.’ Because who I am talking about here is Saúl, a man and his family earning a living by juggling on the crossroad between Av. Revolucíon and Av. Benjamín Franklin. For a while, after the pandemic began, I noticed that Saúl and his family seemed to have disappeared. Once I mentioned it but you didn’t write back. I assumed you didn’t know what to say. Maybe the words I left hanging were quite negative. Perhaps the lockdown magnified the uncertainties. Many worst-case scenarios could be imagined.
‘Qué tal, Saúl?’ I had to shout as loud as I can when spotting him out there from the car. He was hovering among the vehicles to perform for the rewards. The transient moment of red light is in charge of the family’s daily income. I immediately rolled down the window to get his attention, even took off my mask just to be sure that he could recognize me. I didn’t know how much time the traffic light would allow us to greet one another. I waved vigorously with whatever note I hold in hand. 20 pesos? Or 50? I couldn’t remember. Time was running out for me and for him. Every second was so precious during the traffic jam. How many drivers would like to pass him some change within 52 seconds of wait? Actually, I didn’t see any hands retracting out. Finally, Saúl saw me. He ran toward the open window with a big smile on his clown makeup that had run from sweat. When he brought his baby in front of me, she laughed so brightly in his arm, just for a moment, we were so close and the little thing nearly kissed my face. ‘Adiós!’ We must say goodbye hastily due to the change of the light. How many seconds were held? 5 or 8? Probably as short as the scene in which Saúl appears in Buenos días mujeres. Then I realized that I might not see them again. A couple of days later, I would move to a different area so that junction would no longer be a routine of my day.
Juggling. The crossroad. Saúl and his family. The intersection seems to have converted into a disabling space, a place that carries the excess products of social classes. The neighborhood landscape became the threshold that I intended to traverse but… Ever again, I questioned myself: once crossed the border, are there responsibilities I am meant to take?
Back in 2019 while we were casting for the filming, Saúl refused many times to come for rehearsals in my house that were only a few hundred meters from the crossroad he works. His wife stopped him from coming as she doubted our motivation and was afraid this casting invitation could possibly be the other advertisement of human trafficking. After several negotiations on the roadside, our executive producer Beth returned with frustration. I understood that she didn’t want to be the one that puts others at ‘the feeling of’ risk. Indeed, as you ever wrote ‘Every space offers time and interest to its members and provides a world for them. The term “home” can inspire multi-faceted images.’ However, my house has become the possible locale of murder in the suspicions of others.
The free will of social deprivation cannot be expressed in an instant, effective and authentic manner. The people subject to it are those who are not able to control their own destiny, nor have ability to act without constraint. The bottom line of their liberty is that they are not adjacent to any degrees of freedom-whether it is freedom of speech or freedom of choice. Is their mere existence a symbol of inequality? Could it be said that, in our everyday life, they are belong to the victimized group?
Saúl appeared 40 minutes late on the day of the shoot. I couldn’t guarantee any solution for the waiting film crew, only the hope of being trusted. It seems very unfair in this deal: for him, it is a gamble of life; but, for me, it is only the cost of the filming production. What we paid for our exchange can never be equally calculated.
December, 2020, Mexico City