Project info 本館簡介
Catherine Clover, 陳世樂 Chan Sai-lok
With the theme of ‘Writing Sound’, the 3rd Mentorship Programme had the fortune to have Catherine Clover, a Melbourne-based multidisciplinary artist, and Chan Sai-lok, a local Hong Kong artist and art critic, as our artist-mentors. They brought with them a number of important dimensions with which to provide local context for the workshop.
On 3 March 2018, we held our first meeting with eight local artist-mentees from various backgrounds, ranging from a musician, a sound designer, visual artist, theatre director, researcher, and journalist. Catherine’s introduction to her artistic creations illustrated some general ideas about writing sound and how this could be converted into artworks.
“As our mentees are all bilingual speakers of Cantonese and English, I could learn about and from their experiences of working with two or more languages, such as their considerations when navigating between the different languages and their unique relations with each language,” said Catherine.
Catherine also talked about Rambling, her performance in Hong Kong in late 2017. Rambling focuses on the voicing and speaking across different species, especially the vocal connections between humans and birds. This performance inspired the artist-mentors and -mentees to start a discussion on bi- or tri-lingualism, based on their own backgrounds. Catherine shared her experience of speaking English and French as a British-native before she moved to Australia. She observed that Australians mostly speak English, Italian, or Greek, and Hong Kongers speak Cantonese, English, and Mandarin. Besides these dominant languages in society, both places have long been cradles of various other languages and dialects. Hong Kong, for instance, is home to a vast variety of local dialects, and Australia has an impressive range of indigenous languages, among which over 300 are now extinct.
“‘Sound’ is a kind of physical presence that does not carry ‘meaning’ in itself; on the other hand, ‘writing’ has a semiotic presence that exists to represent something else. ‘Listening’ is the reception of acoustic waves, but our brains are too accustomed to sort words by sounds and neglect the meaning and the act of listening itself,” says Donald Chung.
We live in an environment with a mix of sounds, while language has been continually evolving according to social and cultural changes since the beginning of time. To a certain extent language is not always reliable, despite its authority and authenticity. Catherine therefore encouraged the artist-mentees to pay and call for more attention to the sonic properties of language and words without being bound by the usual linguistic barriers such as spelling, grammar, and sentence structure. The process of writing sounds should embrace the dysfunction or deconstruction of linguistics.
The first workshop concluded with an evening soundwalk along the river, under the Ap Lei Chau Bridge. The trail provided a mix of the urban and the natural, with blocks of industrial buildings on one side and planned green space on the other. The sound walk was not only a listening exercise focusing on paying attention, but also a creative one. We interpreted our surroundings by switching between languages and ways of communication, translated the sounds we heard into homophones, and avoided judging the meanings of sounds based on our common comprehension. In our initial attempts to accurately record sounds with words, we realised how insufficient our writing ability was. Apart from the lack of a suitable Chinese vocabulary, our documentation was a double simplification – we might have already forgotten half of the sounds as we struggled to write them down, leaving us with only a general impression. During the listening process, sometimes we even mixed up some sounds. For instance, how much did the “gib-gib” squeak of the squash players’ sneakers sound like bird calls, or was it that the birds were mimicking the squash players?
Throughout the Mentorship Programme, every artist-mentee kept a sound journal to jot down their creative responses. This included writing four texts on sound and drawing four sound maps – two in Hong Kong and two in Kuala Lumpur. After their glimpse into the ideas of writing sound on the first day of the workshop, the artist-mentees started to develop their own visuals, their languages, and strategies to solve this conundrum in the following workshops.
「藝術家學員都能以廣東話及英語作雙語溝通，因此我可從他們身上了解有關運用兩種或多種語言的體驗，例如他們遊走於不同語言時的考量，以及他們跟每一種語言所產生的關係。」Catherine Clover 說。