No.5 A Place Where the Spirits Rest


A Place Where the Spirits Rest

Hu Fang

I am not a “Dangling Man”. I have plans and schedules to follow. I know when to go to a wedding, when to attend a funeral. My job is one that everyone knows about,it is nothing special. It requires me to work hard and be responsible, just like any other kind of occupation. My job keeps me rooted in reality. It always makes me consider “what reality is”. It gives me a feeling of security.


On a gloomy and windy afternoon, I left the office for a funeral held in a cemetery in the distant countryside. It was the funeral of a friend who had died young. I got on the Metro, which was not crowded and became less so as it travelled further away from the city center—thedestination was a place that people didn’t particularly liketo visit.

A young man in glasses came aboard at the second or thirdstation before the end of the line. He walked easily, carrying a strangely shaped box. The train was nearly empty at this point, but he sat down right next to me. He smiled at me, as if wealready knew each other, then opened his box and took out a concertina.

It was only later that I found out that the concertinawas actually a bandoneón. And it was only after I had heard its sound, that I believed his words: “listen to it once and you will never forget it.”

He told me he was invited to play a song at his friend’s funeral. It was his own song, called‘The Song of Wind’, which was a favorite of his late friend. He started to play in the train. Winter was just arriving inour sub-tropical city, but I suddenly had a feeling that our bodies were still warm, as warm as a honeymidsummer’s night.A sweet wind was blowing over a fieldin the countryside. Many people were on the pier, waiting for the waves to bring them mangos, sea grass and messages of fate.The abnormally warm weather slowed everything down and created a special rhythm of life.

When he had finished, he carefully put thebandoneón back into its box then turned to me, quite unexpectedly, and asked: “Can you believe that our encounter is real? ”

I experienced a certain moment.I found the same experience in Zhou Tao’s videos Collector After Reality. The videosoffer somethingfar more complicated than what I had experienced in reality, yet I can only use myself as a medium through which to describe these works. In this time-space that is not “either-or” but “both-and”, it allows us to create and enter with our own ways. In the “moments” that we have, time is never cut. Therefore, my experience may just set the “depth of field” for viewing Zhou’s videos. When “we” long to surpass the limited time of our existence, our experiences will start to interact with this world.

We are travelling, not through images, but within a “volume of time”. It is only when the threads hidden within time link with our perceptions, at “that moment”, that existencecan be revealed. This is why Zhou Tao does not perform (when you perform, you will be blocked by your own performance), but rather he moves.He moves, seeminglyunaware of his own movements, as one “does not enter into communication with the outside world except unawares.”[1]He does so in order to throw himself to this vast field of the world, to follow the footsteps of fate, to wait, to urge for the “revealing” of an invisible existence. But to reveal is not the goal. To reveal, but what for? If revealing equals to intervening and distortingthe “shelter” where “existence”hides,all it will reflect will merely be our own confusion and desire. After all, since existence is invisibleand silenct, humans have to step forwards, transformingtheir own selves as the mediawith whichto test its depth. Perhaps it is this “moment of unawares” that makes the elegance of human action possible.

But back to that afternoon:I saw a new pond when I came out of the Metro station. The leaves reflected the last bright rays of the setting sun. And faraway, the river was flowing quietly as if making a silent statement: to this piece of land, we are all accidental intruders, strangers in exile. The way to return may be difficultat first to locate, but we can probably capture it, unexpectedly, in the ambiguous and carefree life of the plants here.


 (Translated from Chinese by Anthony Yung)


[1] Robert Bresson, Notes on Cinematography, translated by Jonathan Griffin, Urizen Books, New York, p 51