Imagination of Freedom
Interview 採訪：Law Yuk-mui/ 羅玉梅, Liza Chan/ 陳曉盈
Editing 編輯、整理：Law Yuk-mui/ 羅玉梅
English Translation 英譯 : Winnie Chau/ 周潁榆
Transcription 謄錄: Janie Chan Tsang/ 陳錚
Hong Kong/ 香港
Steve Hui Ngo-shan (a.k.a. Nerve) mines the boundaries between contemporary music, sound art, multimedia theatre and underground subcultures. He is member of electronic music group VSOP, and DJ of the Sessions clubnight.
The Library: Let’s start with your recordings.
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: Strictly speaking, I didn’t go to Admiralty to make recordings with a strong purpose. My so-called record is the sound clip of the excerpt from the opera 1984 that comes with video. I think there is a difference between recording sound and recording image. Yet, nowadays, the two are often merged in most of the recording media. I think the sound from moving images is also sound. You can even just hear the sound of a moving image in your hand from long ago, without looking at the image.
The Library: After looking up some information, I noticed you started planning the opera 1984 two years ago and that shot was inserted only few days before the opera’s premiere.
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: Have you heard about the novel 1984? Let me talk about it briefly. The novel was written in 1948. The author imagined Britain in the future as a totalitarian society. There are CCTVs installed in streets and people’s home, watching and talking to people. The Party can talk to, or release messages to, anyone through the telescreens. Wherever you go, you are being watched by a CCTV. The novel talks a lot about how to brainwash and control one’s mind. I created this opera because I am interested in this novel.
I have always thought that performing arts on stage is a stand-alone creation. Yet, what makes it most worthwhile is often the interaction between what is happening inside the theatre and what is happening in the outside world. Such interaction is more important than that hour of experience in the theatre. As for that shot, I remember it was done on 3rd October, a few days before the move-in. It wasn’t until then did I consider whether to take a shot in Admiralty. The shot captures the female protagonist standing still on the kerb in the middle of the bridge. The shot was taken by the film director. Sometimes, when I recall the fact that I obtained that segment of sound at the field of the Umbrella Movement by chance, I still find it rather bizarre.
The Library: Other than this segment obtained by chance, do you have other recordings?
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: I have some bits and pieces recorded by my mobile phone but I haven’t re-listened to those clips. I remember they mainly capture people’s talking, e.g. the contents of the police speaking through the Megaphone.
The Library: Why haven’t you re-listened to those clips?
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: Partly due to emotional reasons, I seem reluctant to re-listen to those sounds of people. To me, these bits and pieces of recording are actually a bit like writing diary. I don’t write diary now, but actually taking photos with mobile phone can be a kind of diary.
The Library: Why would you want to record the sound of people?
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: I purely wanted to keep some records, recording that the Hong Kong Police actually spoke like that at this moment.
The Library: You mentioned that sound recording is like writing diary, which is something relatively personal. Have you thought about the significance of sound recording to society?
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: If it is significant for society, it should be shared with others. Yet, without proper organization of the recordings, the more time passes, the more reluctant I will become to share it. Sharing gives the first layer of meaning, while making recordings systematically gives another layer of meaning. Sometimes, I would imagine if I could listen to the sound at a certain place on a certain day in a certain year again, or hear the MTR announcements in different years. These kinds of things cannot be recorded comprehensively through text or images. Their nature is different. Although in terms of technological development, sound recording preceded video recording, it is sound recording that has been seriously neglected. Therefore, I think people should be encouraged to record sound systemically. This is meaningful to the whole society.
1994, Hong Kong
The Library: 1984 is a rather political subject. As an artist, what is your view on politics?
Steve Hui Ngo-shan: Some people asked me about the political stance in 1984. In fact, I didn’t want to express what is right, what is wrong or what I support through the work…… Art is much more mysterious than all of these. In the house programme, I mentioned I created this work because our imagination towards freedom is becoming increasingly limited. In the story, the male and female protagonists try to get together under such a political environment. This requires immense imagination to achieve, as no one under that condition would do that. Nor are they allowed to do that. 1984 would like to point out the imagination of freedom. Currently, there seems to be many problems in society, including those politicians’ inability to handle problems in creative ways; our environment has deprived us of imagination, forcing us to pull back and believe this is all that we are.
許敖山實驗電子音樂組合VSOP成員，派對夜 Sessions 唱片騎師。經常以多重身份遊走於現代音樂、聲音藝術、多媒體劇場及次文化之間。
許敖山: 如果對社會有意義，當然是要分享出去；如果沒有好好整理，愈久便愈不想分享。分享是第一重意義， 另一重意義是要有系統地去做聲音記錄。有時候我會幻想自己會不會聽到某年某日某地的聲音，或者不同年份的地鐵廣播。這些東西不是文字或影像能夠全面地記錄下來，性質很不同，雖然技術上是有先有了錄音才有錄影的，但偏偏聲音的記錄很被忽視，所以我覺得應該推動人們有系統地記錄聲音，這對整個社會都有意義。