Yim Wai Wai, Blues Wong, Carl Cheng Conversation | Going beyond perceiving the world only through the eyes

Untitled, 1995, Graphite on paper
無題,1995,石墨紙本

 

Cheng: You accumulate experience as you grow older. So what are your thoughts as an adult on ‘seeing’? What does it mean?

 

Yim: To me, the important part of seeing is about using eyes instead of hands to contact objects. I am actually a very tactile person, which is why I enjoy ceramics. But I often use my eyes to ‘touch’ or ‘read’ objects, especially objects I am not allowed to physically touch with my hands.

 

Cheng: So you will use your imagination to get some sense of its texture or temperature.

 

Yim: To me, seeing is related to touching anyway. In fact, sometimes I take a tactile perspective to look at or read things.

 

Wong: When I was teaching at the Hong Kong Art School, I took the students to do some photography in the streets. They went in pairs, with one responsible for operating the camera while being blindfolded, and the other leading the way. Sight, I believe, is ultimately not necessary for photography. The students were shooting the whole night, and many of the resulting images were blurry. But they began to realise that their sense of smell and sound could even be more important than sight.

 

Yim: So what would you say about the pictures?

 

Wong: They were disastrous, of course. But I hoped they would go beyond perceiving the world only through their eyes. If you are capable, your photos can represent the smell or sound of an object. Another time, I told the students to sketch what they saw while walking from Shek Kip Mei to a cafe in Sham Shui Po. I was asking them draw from memory, which is not the same as photography. I told them that memory is more important than photography. Photographs are ultimately for viewers, not only the tangible image itself, but also the intangible concept behind it. Without any preconceptions, a photographer may not be able to capture something good on film, something that might provoke the viewer to think. Therefore, I told them they could ‘shoot’ with or without a camera. They can do so while walking down the street, a la The Matrix, as if they were detectives collecting evidence.

 

Yim: This idea about concepts seems very programmatic, but with some very powerful presumptions.

 

Wong: Not necessarily. Why did I use this method to guide them to observe their surroundings before doing creative work? It is the same as allowing them to shoot overseas – a lot of people pay no attention to this and just take pictures of the same landmarks, like the Tower of Pisa. Everybody takes pictures of the Tower of Pisa. It should not be this way. I hope they won’t rush to shoot as soon as they see, but first take in their surroundings – sights, sounds and smells – before pressing the shutter button. A picture taken this way is better than a simple snapshot.

 

Cheng: The only quasi-professional photography training I have ever received was at the headquarters of Readers Digest when I was working there. The Art Director and Chief Photographer trained me how to choose photographers and photographs according to the standards of international magazines. It is impossible for a photographer to send in pictures within one day. Instead, it takes a few days to one week. For instance, a photographer who needs to take photographs for a story set in a mountainous region will need to spend time living there and ask questions – a bit like a journalist. The result requires more observation or sensation, such as sounds, smell and touch.

 

Feeling with all the senses

 

Cheng: Much post-impressionist development in art has been influenced by technology. How significant has it really been?

 

Wong: Definitely very significant, especially in the commercial field. In photography, technology is the key to success. But standing out from the crowd is still about one’s prior training. That is to say, by taking a purely technological approach, you lose the potential of other sensory inputs to affect people. Many well-known designers like Uncle Kan [Kan Tai Keung] still… well, they have passed the stage of using pencil and paper and feeling the friction and messiness which were the sources of their inspiration. A generation that is familiar only with iPad…

 

Yim: That is vastly different. That kind of touch, I think, is very important.

 

Cheng: Technologies such as iPad and iPhone put the emphasis on the visual. However, what people see is only the surface of a screen. There is a lot more underneath.

 

Yim: In my definition though, I call this situation ‘using the eyes’ more, but not actually ‘seeing’ more.

 

Cheng: Dr Ian Fong Ho Yin, who is in cultural studies, calls this being ‘eye dominated’. Like you said, it is only about the eyes, the movement of the eyeballs. How does this impact the life of the current generation?

 

Yim: The function of ‘seeing’ is restricted. That is to say, this is a phenomenon of sight. An artist, however, does not merely see the form of an object and its physical context, but engages all his senses to experience the object. If you limit yourself to purely what you can see, you are inhibiting your other senses. That is simply what the body does when we focus on a specific function. It’s a very natural response. For example, if I am listening to something very intently, I won’t really notice or sense anything else that might be happening around me. When I am looking at something, all the sounds around me will seem to be switched off. Our sensory knowledge, then, is partial and limited. When we only perceive what we see, our understanding becomes restricted. I think the current situation is leaning increasingly this way.

 

Wong: I was saying this while teaching last night. I was talking about ‘see’ and ‘look’. To look is to gaze at something, which is relatively superficial. For example, ‘Angelababy has the look of a Japanese doll’. I encourage students to ‘see’. What is seeing? I take the word apart into ‘s’, ‘e’ and ‘e’: namely, sensibility, explore and express. Sensibility involves technique. For instance, you need to at least know how to paint and to feel through your senses. In addition to technique, it needs to be rich in emotions. Explore is about investigating the theme, while express is using the media you have mastered to present the theme you’re exploring. That is why I always say to my students that as well as having techniques and using your senses, you need to know what you want to present, as well as how to do it. This is far more in-depth than just looking. ‘Look’ can be easily transplanted and copied, and thus is not very long-lasting.

 

Cheng: Looking back at what was said about old-fashioned photography – actually being able to ‘see’ takes time.

 

Wong: Indeed, years.

 25_opt
Self portrait, 1993, Graphite, colour pencil and watercolour on board
自畫像,1993,石墨、木顏色及水彩紙本

 

Cheng: To look, on the other hand, is different. It’s fast. In this age of copy-and-paste, searching and communicating is super fast. It only takes a split-second for someone to receive an email. It is so different from the old days when one had to wait patiently for a letter to arrive. We have lost that sense of waiting, but some things need to let time do its job.

 

The domination and popularisation of the image

 

Cheng: Image is what we see mostly. Image ruled Western civilisation even before modern technology. It is comprised of authority and communication, and even acts as the window through which one may know the world. Photography has taken down many things, and now we are at a time when the development of photography is also being questioned. From past to present, what does the image of photography contain?

 

Wong: According to academic theory in the 1960s – namely classical studies – photography contains symbols with meaning. However, new photography has already abandoned what it originally represented and has begun to raise questions against it. Hong Kong is far behind in this respect. The vast majority of people still cannot accept this type of photography. Conceptual photography here is generally greeted with contempt from people who do traditional salon, realist and documentary photography.

 

I don’t know why this unbridgeable chasm exists between documentary and conceptual photography. They still consider that photography should represent what is real, and what is conceptual is not real. This gap is too big. For a whole year I was rebuked by the magazines. In a few exhibitions we deliberately placed documentary photography into the conceptual photography section. The same thing was done in the fine art circle ages ago, but traditional photographers and photography magazines feel that it is some kind of heresy.

 

Cheng: They still think that image is king.

 

Wong: And they still believe that the image has to be realistic, close to photojournalism. You are not allowed to alter it even slightly or it is considered heresy.

 

Cheng: And now everybody can use a camera.

 

Wong: Yes. The popularisation of photography has its benefits, but it has also trivialised images.

 

Yim: The same is true in art history. It has always been the minority who challenges the status quo and the majority who is being subverted. The same thing always happens in the progress of history.

 

Cheng: In the realm of ceramics, image has no domination. Ceramics are mostly vessels to contain things.

 

Yim: The problem is that ceramics always had an identity crisis. Is it a craft or an art? A few other mediums suffer the same fate. What is mainstream is not considered a medium. But sculpture, photography, ceramics and printmaking – those that are found in cultural museum collections – are being marginalised by the mainstream.

 

Cheng: Why?

 

Yim: On one hand they despise craftsmanship, and on the other hand there are those who look down on contemporary art. I do not harbour such discrimination, but there are definitely people like that in the field. It is a conceptual issue.

 

Cheng: Is it because those who have been doing creative work with images feel that they are superior? For instance, photography obviously is not about being creative with images, but recording them. To record with tools which used to be expensive but have now become so cheap that everybody can do it. Ceramic are mainly used as practical vessels. It is an image, one that is tangible and utilitarian. You can even find a cheap labourer to make them. We tend to think that creating a painting is awesome because one can imagine what is up there in the sky, and God in the heavens. Is this kind of thought that makes people consider something as art?

 

Before I started teaching, I was proud of being able to draw quite well. But having taught a few thousand students, I found that… well, hundreds of them could draw quite well, and would surpass me if they kept up the practice. I began to take myself less seriously and considered drawing to be less personally significance than before. However, they only draw objects that are realistic, not imaginary or impressionistic things. That is when I take myself more seriously again.

 

Wong: If media and the work of artists must respond to the world in order to be orthodox, contemporary artists need not be bound by forms used by artists in the past. This is the reason for the emergence of installation art. Should only 3D wooden sculpture or realistic painting be considered as art? I think standards change with time. Once people thought it would be fantastic if everyone were a Michelangelo, but such talent is one in a million. Even if we can find one now, instead of having him create carbon copies of what Michelangelo was capable of, his view would probably be transformed. Something has to change in order to make us appreciate it.

 

Yim: Ceramics have been slighted not because of whether there is image, but because times have changed. Uniqueness is being emphasised more in our generation’s artistic circles. However, the artisanal elements of ceramic art are easily associated with being ordinary and generic. Crafts, of course, can be transformed into something unique – that is, by using craftsmanship to highlight the unique features of an object. But its association with craft often leads to its marginalisation.

 

Moreover, a myriad of things can be mass-produced, and people may feel that it is rather foolish to continue making things by hand. What they fail to understand is that craft is an important step of human evolution and a monumental accomplishment. Our relatively fast-paced and pragmatic society is often blinded by end-products and results, and people fail to see the significance in the continuation of craftsmanship. If the product is the only concern, then all we have to do is to make, mould and mass-produce it. Nonetheless, our hands possess some sort of magic.

 

Marginalisation of craftsmanship is due to the change of social values; our attitude being shaped by our commercialised and industrialised society. Values have changed. Uniqueness has become commoditised. Why is something auctioned off at a sky-high price? If it is something a craftsman can make, the price will be diminished by virtue of similarity. But if it is so unique that only you can get it done, its price will be far higher.

 

The self and selflessness of photography

 

Yim: Regarding the differences between the observation method for photography and drawing, I can only say that my limited understanding of photography restricts me to do most of the comparisons merely through the more traditional method of using a camera to capture images. Actually, the wall dividing photography and drawing has been torn down.

 

Wong: It is true with regard to art, but not with non-artists.

 

Yim: Let us use a traditional explanation of photography for the time being. If it is a painter looking at painting, the starting point of the creative process staring at a blank canvas, and not necessarily looking for an image out there. Photography, on the other hand, is to use one’s eyes to constantly look at what is happening out there and then to feel it. Once you have sensed what you want to capture, you frame it. With painting, however, you look at a canvas and think about what you can extrapolate out of this blank space. This may not be coming from the outside world but could be an image from your heart, or a feeling triggered by the material itself. That’s how you start. The starting point of the two processes are different. Besides, it is a process of behaviour-photography, which I think is about capturing images. Catching and hunting are by nature very proactive. Painting is more about constructing, extrapolating and shaping.

 

On the topic of self, one finds self by making choices from a multitude of photographs; and self is expressed through the production of a painting. The self is expressed through perspective in photography, where the viewer speculates how the self is perceived through the angle from which the photo was shot. The relationship between the one seeing and the one being seen is more apparent, easily distinguishable and clear. Not so with painting. There are times when the painter may be overshadowed by the powerful material of a painting you are looking at. Those who paint often may not be concerned about the relationship between seeing and being seen. The painter and the painted are oftentimes merged, with one lost in the other, or the self projected and permeated into the painting, removing the distance between the two. Upon finishing a piece, the self may not be there and can be hidden.

 

Cheng: One of my own pieces just came to mind. On Facebook I collected a pile of food photos taken by my friends. Then I went to eat at a restaurant in K-11 and drew a picture of my food before eating. Taking picture is very convenient, but drawing your meal is unheard of, so I filmed the process of drawing and now I can review how I drew. It took me a few hours to draw before I eventually ate it. The food was cold and quite unpalatable by then. Then I thought, what would it have been like back in ancient times? Perhaps in writing, it would be like using prose to elaborate on what has one consumed.

 

Yim: Ya Si has written many poems about food!

 

Cheng: This piece was done as a reflection on the behaviour of photographing food. But why did I take these pictures and put them on Facebook? It is because I am eating, a point well represented in the picture.

 

Yim: That is true, and very direct.

 

Cheng: Unlike magazines, Facebook is even more straightforward. A reader looking at a food picture in a magazine will not consider who is behind the camera, because you may want to eat it when you see the picture staring at you as if it were the real thing. On Facebook, however, the photographer’s identity is obvious; ‘Oh, so and so went there to eat’. This behaviour and phenomenon are inexplicable to me, including the mentality, phenomenon, and the pivotal ‘I’. Take the painting of the ancient Popes as an example. Looking at the photorealistic painting of the Popes will generate the sense of the seeing and the seen. However, some paintings need to blend in with the environment, regardless of whether it is the seeing or the seen. The same can be said about installation art because one is present in its midst.

 

The doubt and rejection of image

 

Yim: Sometimes I imagine how a pair of shoes painted by Van Gogh would differ from a photograph taken by him – had he ever done so. A pair of a poor man’s shoes coming from the tip of Van Gogh’s pencil would be different from a snapshot taken by him.

 

Wong: He never photographed, but Munch wrote a book Munch and Photography, which is comprised of pictures taken by Munch that look like paintings. Photographs back in those days were not that sharp, so they had a somewhat painting-like quality. What you said earlier is similar to what documentary photography is. But when it comes to conceptual photography, many want to approach the ‘de-selfing’ nature of painting. A recent development in war photography is to abandon the documentary style of reporting. They are employing a shooting method that is real and the photos are not staged, yet the dimension is somewhat like that of filmmaking. In fact, some photographers entrenched in the photorealism camp have begun to display their work as film, using this mode to watch a war. Many contemporary war photographs do not depict an actual war, but leave you wondering whether this is a real war or one from a movie. For example, there is an Iraqi who has fallen on the ground in landscape orientation. A standard ratio would be 2:3, but the photographer deliberately captured the object in panorama and framed it in the centre. Although this is a fading soldier, it feels as if he were Jesus levitating in midair. These war photographers no longer use pure documentary style. There are also photos of postwar buildings in ruins shot in 16:9, as in a movie. You will not see the symbolic war photo of explosions or casualties, but the aftermath of ruins and the scenes with fire dotted here and there.

 

People these days watch too many movies. They will always wonder whether a photo is real or fake. Many of these photographs began to surface after September 11 because everybody thought that was an act. Why did a plane fly into a building and then the entire building collapsed? That triggered a shockwave, causing us to question whether documentary photography and journalistic photography are indeed reporting what is real. Then more and more renowned war journalists began to play with form, cinematising the genre. Certainly, this had already been done in fashion advertisements 10 years earlier. Everything has taken on a cinematic look. It may look like a screenshot, but it’s real.

 

Cheng: Documentary photography in the past really was documenting reality, that is, recording. It was very trustworthy. But with the use of artistic techniques, there is now more room for imagination. But now there is a plot, reading it will lead people to speculate what the cause and consequence are, and what has happened. This is very dramatic.

 

Wong: And it is very difficult to discern what is true.

 

Yim: There is very little separating this from drawing.

 

Wong: It is becoming almost impossible to tell where one ends and the other begins.

 

10_opt

Blue wind, 1996, Acylic on board, 31 x 43 cm
藍風,1996,塑膠彩紙本,31 x 43 厘米

 

Yim: And yet, the colour and texture of painting can be very subjective. As for image, since any manipulation is still based on the original, a large scale departure from the original is, generally speaking, quite impossible – unless it is of a very special kind. With painting, say Van Gogh painted a pair of shoes compared with a photograph of the same object taken by him, the difference would lie in the thickness of the strokes. They are so strong, like a fiercely burning flame, and his self-projection results in this: he is the shoes, and the shoes are him. If it is captured on film, the shoes will still be shoes. It is a lot harder to have viewers associate the shoes with the photographer himself.

 

Cheng: Let’s set photography and painting aside for a moment. Image per se… the internet is flooded with parody of pictures, pictures of different varieties, pictures that make you wonder if they are real. Like you said, there is a lot of doubts, and quite necessarily so.

 

Wong: Yes, doubt and rejection.

 

Cheng: That’s because there are people who will send anything out, even pictures which are blatantly fake. Therefore it is easy to question the authenticity of pictures these days, because images are inherently unreliable. The problem is not with photography; to some extent it needs to document history, but if this becomes an enormous challenge…

 

Wong: A firm moral ground can still be maintained in pure journalistic photography. Even though there can be colour adjustment, a hand that is intact should never be altered into a severed one. That is to say, there is a very fine line in moral standards and it is only found in journalistic photography. Anything beyond this category can be modified.

 

Yim: It is hard to say whether it borders on lying. In terms of worldview, photography defines the relationship between us and the world through ready-made images. Therefore, the situation will become very difficult when both the approach and the world have become lies, where it is impossible to draw a line anywhere any longer. Under such circumstances, perhaps painting may be more realistic because while painting can be based on readily available images, it can also bypass them and define the world in its own terms. It can do so through disassembling, simplifying, enriching, or using methods like brush strokes, lines or distortion, etc, to define the relationship between self and the world as well as our understanding of the world. Unless it is in the hands of a liar, these are unfalsifiable.

 

Cheng: If you meet a photographer with honesty and integrity whose techniques are well grounded, and his approach are characterised with thoughtfulness, his work will be known and felt by others. The same is true for painting. Authenticity sends shockwaves through a world of lies.

 

Wong: There is another important category of photography – namely, family portraits. Its requirement for technical prowess is low, but its nature is very private as sharing with others may not be necessary. This may be in conflict with what you have said, that only you alone can share your own family portraits and childhood photos. Similar to painting, it is unique. But it’s private and exclusive to one’s family members, friends and oneself. This is in some way similar to what you have said about treasuring paintings, only that it is fully realised in photography because this is your family album. Thus, it is a very significant category. The privacy of it is irreplaceable by painting because this is just so personal and private. Moreover, family photos are usually made small to fit into the wallet, carrying with it some kind of residual warmth. Unlike a painting, a photograph is an object that can pick up odour and temperature from our bodies.

 

Yim: Because it can be highly selective, painting can fool people too. You can take away the undesirable elements and emphasise what you want. Sometimes, photography will record without discrimination what a painter would try to avoid, and confronts him with it – that is, the lies within the painting. Therefore, these two are relative.

 

Wong: Every medium is unique in its own way.

 

Painting and photography, relatively speaking

 

Cheng: You can get a glimpse of a photographer’s style and perspective through his work, but rarely do you get a sense of temperament.

 

Yim: That is shown through his choices.

 

Cheng: You can tell Van Gogh was somewhat neurotic through his work…

 

Yim: And painting can show you something beyond what the eyes can see. Say, a little kid drawing a lift will show you what people are doing inside. Due to the limitations of perspective, photography cannot do so without superimposing or juxtaposing other images in order to bypass what the naked eye is not capable of seeing. Selection and compilation in photography are still based on what the eyes can see, but painting can bypass all these.

 

Yet thanks to technology, and depending on what lens is used, photography can also capture what the naked eyes cannot see, such as macro or microscopic photography. That is the beauty beyond the range of the physical eye.

 

Moreover, painting and photography are different in how they handle the instantaneous as well as the here and now. A photographer embraces the external changes of the world, and photography presents the present with a very strong temporal sense. To a painter, the present and the instantaneous moment are infused with the material he is touching, the texture and the impact of the colours. Your interaction with the paint at the present is fused together with the present moment you are observing.

 

Painters and photographers also process sense of distance differently. Painters tend to keep a distance from the here and now while embracing it because they need time for precipitation[??rain??] before working on it. The temporal sense presented may not necessarily be very strong, but what is seen in a photograph is captured in a split second. This kind of ‘now’ really means ‘now!’. The so-called recipitation[????] is done when one takes the time to choose.

15_opt

Alice, 2005, Graphite on paper, 22 x 27 cm
頴思,2005,石墨紙本,22 x 27 厘米

 

 

 

 

嚴惠蕙、黃啓裕、鄭志明對談──衝破單靠眼睛接收世界

 

 

嚴惠蕙(嚴)/ 當代陶藝及藝術教育工作者

黃啓裕(黃)/ 攝影師、策展人、藝評人

鄭志明(鄭)

 

 

 

鄭:從小到大,我們累積了一些經驗──在「看」這方面,你有什麼想法?何謂「看」?

 

嚴:對我而言,「看」比較重要的是用自己的眼睛代替手去接觸物件。我想自己除了「看」以外,其實也是個頗觸覺型的人,所以我喜歡陶藝。我覺得可以用自己的眼睛去觸摸一件東西,尤其是不讓我碰的,就用眼睛去閱讀。

 

鄭:也很關心它的質感、溫度、感覺,會去想像。

 

嚴:是的。比如說光很美,在這時候,眼睛就代替了我的手去觸摸它。對我而言,看見是與觸摸有關係。我比較少畫畫,有時候我會以一個很觸覺的角度去看事物,這樣子去閱讀。

 

黃:我在香港藝術學院教第二堂,帶學生去街上拍攝的時候,讓他們兩人一組,其中一人要戴上眼罩並負責操控相機,另一人則幫蒙眼的那人看路。我覺得攝影最終未必要用眼睛看東西。他們拍了整晚──當然很多人都「鬆、郁、矇」──但是他們開始知道嗅覺或聽覺可能比視覺更重要。

 

嚴:那拍出來的相片如何?

 

黃:一定是不行的了。但我希望他們衝破單靠眼睛接收世界。因為你強的話,相片表達到有嗅覺的東西,或是表現出有聽覺的東西,這樣行不行呢?我就是挑戰他們這一點──挑戰他們只懂得用眼睛。第二次是叫學生由石硤尾走到深水埗的茶餐廳吃東西,讓他們將路途上所見的畫出來。讓學生畫出來的意思就是要他們根據剛剛的記憶畫出來,這個記憶並不是攝影。我告訴他們,記憶比相片重要。因為所拍的相片最終要讓觀眾看的,並不只是那可觸摸到的相片,也要看有思想的意念。作為攝影師,如果自己不先有一個有思想的意念,那就未必能拍到一張好的相片,令觀者看完後有思想的意念。所以我告訴他們不要在有相機的時候才去拍,其實在街上走的時候,已經可以像Matrix一樣,當自己是一個正在蒐集證據的人──偵探。

 

11_opt

Portrait of Alice, 1996, Watercolour on board, 27.5 x 19 cm
憶,1996,水彩紙本,27.5 x 19 厘米

 

 

嚴:這個意念的想法,似是有點像題目式的方式去做,其實先設性甚強。

 

黃:未必。為什麼我要用這個方法引導他們先看環境再去創作?這等於讓他們在外國地方拍攝。很多人都不管這一點,一看見很標誌性的,像是旅遊照的斜塔,人人都去拍斜塔。其實不該如此。我希望他們不要馬上就去拍,而是先感受整個環境,不單是視覺,而是感受聽覺、嗅覺的東西,才再按下快門。如此的話,拍出來的相片會比一張單純的相片好。

 

鄭:我唯一比較正式的攝影訓練,就是在《讀者文摘》工作的時候到美國總部受訓,設計總監及攝影總監訓練我如何依據國際雜誌的標準,挑選攝影師和攝影作品。攝影師不可能一日內交出相片,而是數天至一星期。例如攝影師要去拍攝山區的故事,是要去山區生活,要花時間,要問,可能會有點像記者。結果,是需要更多的觀察,或者是感受──聽、嗅、接觸等。

*                              *                              *

用所有感官整體地感受

 

鄭:其實印象派之後,藝術發展很多都受到科技的影響,這是不是真的很大衝擊呢?

 

黃:一定有很大影響。特別是商業的工作。對攝影來說,科技一定是取勝的關鍵,但怎樣在眾人中突出自己,就要看之前的訓練。也就是說,如果只是純粹從科技出發,可能會失去了部分用其他感官去感動人的潛能。就像現在有名的,如靳叔(靳埭強)那一代的設計師仍然……也始終經過用鉛筆和紙所感受到的摩擦、骯髒,才能得到他的構思,這跟現在人們一用就用iPad……(Carl,你給我的第一個版本有iPad這個字,第二個版本卻沒有了。看語意我懷疑是應該有的,請自行確認是否應保留)

 

嚴:很不一樣。那種觸摸,我認為是需要的。

 

鄭:一些如iPad、iPhone等新科技,它們很強調「看」,不過看的是螢幕而已,其實裏面有很多東西。

 

嚴:不過,依我自己的定義,我把這種情況稱為「多用了眼睛」,而不是「多看了」,只是用了這種器官。

 

鄭:從事文化研究的方浩然說這是「eye dominated」,即廣東話的「𥄫」;就像你所說的,只用眼睛──眼球轉動。這對我們現世代的生活有什麼影響呢?

 

嚴:將「看」的功能狹窄化了。也就是說,這是視覺的現象。但藝術家不單是看──不是只看見這件東西的現象,而是用所有感官整體地感受一樣東西,包括周圍的空氣、味道等等。但要是主要只用眼球──通常身體的功能是,如果你專注於某種功能,其他的功能就會封鎖了,這是很自然的反應。舉例說,我正在聽某樣東西,有時候會看不見其他東西;而我正在看的時候,所有的聲音就像關掉了,這是人體的自然反應。所以說,多用眼球會封鎖了其他感官,這就不是一個整體的感知,而是變成了一種限制,對事物的了解反而會慢慢地狹窄化。我覺得現在的情況有這樣的傾向。

 

黃:我昨晚教書的時候也有說,我用「see」和「look」。「look」就是「望」,比較表面的。比如我們經常說的「像什麼」,舉個例子:「Angelababy像日本的『娃娃look』。」我主張學生們去「see」。「看」是什麼?我把「see」分為「s」、「e」、「e」三個解釋,分別是「sensibility」、「explore」和「express」。當中「sensibility」包括技術上的,像是畫畫,最少要懂得畫或是感官上的感受,除了要有技術,也要富有感情;「explore」是要探索主題;而「express」就是透過自己有把握的媒介,把要探索的主題表達出來。所以我教學生時經常說,除了技巧、感官外,也要有想表達的東西,以及懂得如何表達,那比只是「look」要深層次。「look」很容易「移植」,但「抄」是不會長久的。

 

鄭:想回到剛才所說的舊式拍照方法──其實,要做到「see」是需要時間的。

 

黃:是的,要經年。

 

鄭:但「look」就不一樣,是很快的。現在這個世代,像是剪貼、搜集很快,或是溝通很快。我傳送一封信,對方一瞬間就收到了,不像以前寄信那般要等──失去了等待──有些事物需要時間醞釀。

 

*                              *                              *

7_opt

Heaven and earth, 2000, Digital C-print, 50 x 300 cm
天與地,2000,數碼圖像紙本,50 x 300 厘米

 

red_opt

Red breeze, 2001, Digital Image
紅風、2001,數碼圖像

 
圖像的王道及平民化

 

鄭:我們看的大部分是圖像。其實圖像於科技發達前,在西方世界是王道,包含着權力、傳達訊息,甚至是認知這個世界,像是窗一樣。攝影打破了很多東西,而現在又是另一個時代,攝影的發展開始出現疑問。從以前到現在,攝影的圖像本身蘊含着什麼?

 

黃:如果按照六十年代的學術理論,就是古學,或者符號代表些什麼。但事實上,新的攝影已經離棄了它原本所代表的東西,而是開始存在懷疑。香港很落後,大多數人還未接受這樣的攝影,所以在舉辦攝影節的時候,想做一些觀念攝影,但傳統沙龍、寫實、紀實攝影的人看不起這些攝影。不知為何,香港的紀實攝影和觀念攝影之間有一道無法跨越的鴻溝。人們始終覺得攝影應該要代表真實,觀念的東西就不是真實。這鴻溝太大了,我也被雜誌罵了一整年。有好幾個展覽,我們刻意把紀實攝影推進到有觀念攝影的部分。藝術界早就做過了,但傳統的攝影師和攝影雜誌覺得我們是妖言惑眾。

 

鄭:仍然覺得圖像是王道。

 

黃:還有是仍覺得圖像就是要真實,接近新聞攝影的真實。不許改,稍微修一修相片已經是離經叛道。

 

鄭:加上現在每個人都能用相機。

 

黃:對。平民化有它的好處,但亦把影像變得很輕。

 

嚴:其實回顧藝術的歷史也是如此,永遠要顛覆的是小部分的人,被顛覆的是多數的人。在歷史的發展裏,總有這樣的事情發生。

 

鄭:陶瓷的話,圖像不是王道。陶瓷大部分時間都是一個容器,用以載物。

 

嚴:尷尬的地方在於陶藝經常在工藝與藝術兩者之間糾纏,其實有幾個媒介也是如此。現在主流的不叫媒介,但如果說雕塑、攝影、陶瓷、版畫,即是文化博物館收藏的那些──在主流裏是被邊緣化的。

 

鄭:為什麼?

 

嚴:一方面是他們輕視工藝,另一方面就是部分媒介的人有點兒不屑當代藝術。我自己沒有這樣的歧視,但在這個界別裏,的確有這種歧視,是觀念的問題。

 

鄭:其實這是不是因為能創作圖像的人感覺比較高尚。比如說,攝影很明顯不是創作圖像,而是把圖像記錄下來。記錄加上工具──以前很貴,但現在平民化了,人人都可記錄,整件事情就輕得多了。另一樣是陶瓷,它主要是作為一個實用的器皿,本身就是圖像,但能接觸、使用,而且找廉價勞工也能做得到。我們往往覺得創作一幅畫很厲害,因為可以想像到天上、雲上有上帝等等,是否這一種想法令我們覺得這就是藝術呢?其實仍未教書前,我覺得自己的畫也挺美的,對此也很自豪。但後來我發現……我教了幾千個學生,當中有幾百個如果繼續畫的話會畫得比我好……所以我覺得自己變得很輕,不再覺得畫畫對我而言像以前般重。但他們只會畫寫實的東西,要去想或是要去感覺的東西,他們未必做得到,這又令我覺得較重。

 

黃:如果說媒介與藝術家所做的東西要回應世界,才是正統的方法,現在的藝術家可以不需要用回以前藝術家的形式去做,所以才有裝置藝術的出現。是不是一定要立體的木雕,或是繪畫很像真的才是藝術呢?我覺得不同時代有不同的標準。以前,若每個人都是米開朗基羅的話當然很好,但現在很難有這樣的人才。就算有,可能他在視覺上會有轉化,不可能完完全全的做到米開朗基羅所做的東西。始終要有某些東西轉化,我們才看得上眼。

 

嚴:陶瓷被輕視,不是因為是否有圖像,最主要是因為時代的發展。這個世代的藝術界比較強調獨特性,而工藝的元素很容易讓人聯想到沒有個性,又或比較沒有獨特性;但當然,工藝也可以轉化為很有獨特性的東西,即是利用工藝突顯某些東西的獨特性。可是因為陶瓷沾了工藝的特性,很多時候被邊緣化。另外,就是因為大量生產的流行,很多東西都能大量生產,人們可能覺得還用人手去做好像是很愚蠢的行為,沒有去理解一件工藝其實是人類發展的一個進化,是很重要的成果。現今比較急功近利的社會,不會看工藝的傳承在人類發展中的重要地位,而是看成果、產品。如果只看產品,那就是造了一件東西,「起辦」,然後大量生產就搞定了。但其實手有一種魔法,被邊緣化是與社會價值的轉變有關;另外心態被商業化或工業化的社會模造,改變了價值觀,而獨特性也成為很市場化的東西。比如說一件作品為何能高價拍賣?如果是工藝者所造的東西,因為有相似性,價錢就會分薄了,但若然是很獨特的,只有你才造得出來,那就貴多了。

 

*                                      *                                      *

100_4685_opt
攝影的自我和去我

 

嚴:關於攝影和繪畫的觀察方法有什麼不同,因為我對攝影的認識很少,所以大部分的比較,都是用較傳統、拿着相機捕捉影像的方式去看。其實攝影與繪畫之間的分野已經打破了。

 

黃:在藝術方面是的,在民眾方面未必是。

 

嚴:姑且用一個「傳統」的方式去說明攝影。如果是一個畫家看繪畫,創作的起點就是面對一幅空白畫布,有時候並非先看外面有什麼影像;攝影就是看周圍的世界有什麼事情發生,眼睛一直的看,然後去感受,感覺到自己最想捕捉的是什麼,再定格。但繪畫,面對一塊畫布,很多時候是看這畫面,自己想要在空白裏衍生些什麼,那種東西未必是從外面的世界而來,而是一個心像,或是從物料掀動一種感覺,然後去做。所以兩者在起點上有所不同。另外,是行為的過程──我想攝影是關乎捕捉影像、攝取、狩獵,主控性很強;而繪畫以建構、衍生、塑造為主。

 

攝影要拍很多相片,從選擇中找出自我;但繪畫是從製作顯現自我。攝影的自我是從怎樣看去顯現,觀眾可從照片的拍攝角度猜想「我」是怎樣給別人看出來。看與被看的關係比較明顯,兩個角色可以分辨和比較清晰。攝影裏的「我」即使多隱晦還是有跡可尋,「我」的存在較為容易找到證據。繪畫則未必如此,有時候觀看一幅畫,物料性強的話,是可以看見物料而未必看得見人。畫畫的人不太着意看與被看的相對關係,他們與畫裏的東西很多時候是二為一體,即所謂的物我兩忘,或是自我投射融入了裏面,令看與被看的距離消失。完成作品後,「自我」未必存在,是可以隱形的。

 

鄭:我想起了自己的一件作品。我在Facebook收集了一堆我朋友所拍的食物相片;而我自己到k-11的食肆吃東西,不過在吃之前,我先把它畫下。現在拍照那麼方便,以前卻從不見有人畫,所以我把畫的過程錄影下來,再看回我怎樣畫食物。我畫了數小時才去吃,食物都變涼了,很難吃。後來我再想,回到古時又怎麼樣呢?可以寫出來,例如以新詩的形式去講吃了些什麼。

 

嚴:也斯寫很多關於食物的詩!

 

鄭:我的創作是反思拍攝食物這個行為。但「我」為什麼要拍下這些相片,放在Facebook呢?因為是「我」在吃東西──相片很能表現這一點。

 

嚴:對,很直接。

 

鄭:現在Facebook更加直接,因為不同於雜誌。在雜誌看見食物的相片,讀者不會去想是誰拍的,因為你看見那張相片像是實物般放在自己眼前,會想去吃。但在Facebook的相片就會知道這是誰拍的,原來某某去了那裏吃。這個行為、現象,對我而言是莫名奇妙的──無論是背後的心態、現象,還有關鍵的「我」的現象。比如說古時教宗的畫,我們看着「教宗」好像拍照般那麼寫實,就會覺得有觀者與被觀者;但有些畫需要融入空間,不論是觀者還是畫者。另外裝置藝術也是如此,因為會身處其中。

 

*                                      *                                      *

影像的懷疑加否定

 

嚴:有時候我會想像假如梵谷是拍照的話,那跟他去畫一對鞋會有什麼差別?一對窮人的鞋,假如梵谷拍照的話就這麼拍,但跟梵谷用那樣的筆觸畫一對鞋,是很不一樣的。

 

黃:他沒有拍攝,但Munch有一本書Munch and Photography。Munch自己拍的相片像是畫的,因為當年的攝影沒有那麼鮮明,反而有種朦朦朧朧的感覺,有些畫意。我覺得你剛才說的與紀實攝影是相似的,但當來到觀念攝影,其實很多都想接近畫的「去我」。近年發生了一件頗特別的事,就是新的戰地照片開始離開紀實式的報道。像是在伊拉克的,他們會用一個方式──不是擺拍,不是造的,是真的;但他們拍時所用的「度」,已經開始接近電影。寫實派開始有一班攝影師將它變成電影的顯示,以這種方式去觀看戰爭。現在反而有很多戰爭照片並非拍正在打仗的場面,而是會令你覺得這究竟是真實的戰爭還是電影呈現的戰爭。例如有個伊拉克人在地上跌倒,橫向的,一般的尺寸是二比三,但他故意用全景去捕捉,置中。你會覺得雖然是個奄奄一息的士兵,但也很像耶穌浮在空間的感覺。他們這班戰地記者已經不是用純紀實的方向拍攝戰爭。也有些相片是拍攝戰爭後的建築物,例如頹垣敗瓦,但拍得像電影的十六比九。你不會看見很標誌戰爭照片的爆炸或傷亡,相反他們是拍事後的頹垣敗瓦,有點烽火的那種。現在的人看太多電影,會聯想到這究竟是真實還是虛擬。其實911之後就開始多了這類相片,因為大家都以為那是一台戲。開了電視機,為什麼有飛機撞了上去,然後整座建築物倒下……那時候開始有很大的衝擊。究竟紀實攝影和新聞攝影是不是真的在報道真實的東西呢?於是越來越多出名的戰地記者開始玩形式,將其電影化。當然,這在十年前的時裝廣告早已有了。所有東西變成如電影般,感覺很像劇照,但其實是真實的。

 

鄭:以前的紀實攝影是真的紀實,即是紀錄,是可信的,但現在包含藝術手法,多了很多想像的空間。因為紀實是停滯在一瞬間,觀者好像也停在那一瞬間。可是現在的多了劇情,看上去會令人聯想前因後果、發生了什麼事,很有戲劇性。

 

黃:而且難以分辨真假。

 

嚴:跟繪畫的界線真的很少。

 

黃:開始不能分辨。

 

嚴:但繪畫的色彩和質感是可以很主觀的;攝影始終都是靠原有的圖像而再修改,普遍而言都不能離開原有的東西,除非是特別的類型。至於繪畫,比如說梵谷畫一對鞋,跟他拍一對鞋,兩者的不同在於筆觸有多厚,那種強烈好像火燒一樣的手法,以及他自我的投射──他就是一對鞋,鞋就是他。如果是捕捉的話,那對鞋始終是鞋,沒那麼容易讓人覺得鞋就是攝影者自己。

 

鄭:先別說攝影或畫畫,影像本身──網上有很多惡搞的圖像、各類型的圖像、難分真與假的圖像──就像你所說的,真的令人多了不少懷疑,而且是需要的。

 

黃:是的,懷疑加否定。

 

鄭:因為有些人不管怎麼樣都會傳出去,即使有些圖像一看就知道是假的。所以說現在質疑圖像是很容易的,因為圖像本身不可靠。我覺得這也很難怪罪攝影──攝影在某個層次而言需要紀實,但假若這是很大的挑戰的話……

 

黃:道德可以在純新聞攝影裏堅守,就算是改色,也不會把沒斷手的人改成斷手。也就是說,道德的界線可能很窄,只在純新聞攝影裏。那就變成只要離開了這個範疇,所有東西都能改變。

 

嚴:如果牽涉到謊言這個元素,就很難說。攝影是藉着現成的影像去界定你與我跟世界的關係,當用的手法是謊言,而這個世界也是個謊言,無從界定的時候,處境會變得十分困難。繪畫在這個謊言的世界裏,反而可能比較真實一點,因為它不單是藉着現成的影像去界定世界,還可以繞過現成的影像,用一些自己想擁有的元素去界定世界。比如說化整為零、複雜化為簡單、簡單化為複雜,又或用自己的筆觸、線條,以及用變形等各樣不同的方式去界定自己跟世界的關係,以及對這個世界的理解。那是無法欺騙的,除非是個說謊的人。

 

鄭:如果你遇見一個很誠懇、很真心的攝影師,經過醞釀,用一些很踏實的方法去拍照,那他拍出來的東西,有人會知道、感受到。畫畫也是一樣。那份真實,我相信對一個謊言的世界是很大的衝擊。

 

黃:其實攝影有一個很重要的類別,就是家庭照,它需要的技巧很低,但它有私密性──不一定要與別人分享,所以這可能跟你們所說的有些衝突。就像你們與家人的照片,以及小時候的照片,可以是只讓自己欣賞的。它同樣像繪畫般有其獨特性,但它是私密的,只給自己與家人,又或熟悉的朋友分享。這跟你說的珍惜繪畫有少許相同,但卻只有攝影才能做到。這是你們的家庭相簿,是一個很重要的攝影類型,那種私密性未必是畫可以替代的,因為這是很私隱的東西。而且很多時候家庭照都是小小的,因為可以放在銀包,它有一種餘溫。相片是一個物件,身體的溫度可以傳到相片上,這跟一幅畫未必相同。

 

嚴:繪畫也有騙人的地方,它可以非常選擇性,可以刪掉不想表現的東西,突出要表現的東西。有時候攝影會將繪畫裏的謊言戮破,要畫家面對一些逃避的東西,因為相片赤裸裸地把所有東西記錄下來。所以兩者是相對的。

 

黃:每個媒介都有其特性。

 

*                    *                    *

 

Opposite Shore_opt

彼岸,1996,塑膠彩紙本,103 x 116  厘米,夏利豪基金會藏
Opposite, 1996, Acrylic on board, 103 x 116 cm, Phillippe Charriol Foundation Collection

Doctrine of Bridge_opt

Doctrine of Bridge, 1997, Mixed media on wooden panel, 160 x 120 cm, Private collection
橋,1997,塑膠彩木本,160 x 120 厘米,私人收藏

Compact Metropolis_opt

Compact Metropolis, 1999, Digital zinc, film output, acrylic, 145 x 51 cm
壓縮都會,1999,數碼鋅版、菲林輸出及塑膠彩,145 x 51 厘米

 

Blue City Blue_opt

Blue City Blue, 2000, Digital C-print, 50.8 x 76.2 cm, Asia One Collection
藍城藍,2000,數碼輸出紙本,50.8 x 76.2 厘米,Asia One 藏

繪畫和攝影的相對性

 

鄭:從一個攝影師的作品,或多或少都能看出他的風格,或是看出他怎麼看這個世界。但我們甚少從攝影師的作品中看出他的性情。

 

嚴:從選擇表現出他的性情。

 

鄭:看梵谷會知道他有點神經質……

 

嚴:還有一點,是繪畫可以畫出超越肉眼所見的東西。像小朋友畫升降機,會透視地畫裏面的人在做什麼。但攝影因為牽涉到視點的問題,除非拼貼或者重疊影像,要不然挺難超越肉眼所見,因為它始終要以肉眼所見的東西為基礎,然後再組合、挑選等,但繪畫可以跳過這個。

 

又因為科技的關係──視乎用什麼鏡頭──攝影也可以拍下肉眼看不見的東西,像是超近的事物,又或利用顯微鏡頭。超越肉眼所能見的美感就在那裏。

 

另外,在當下與瞬間方面,我覺得繪畫和攝影有不同的做法。攝影師擁抱世界外在的變化,呈現當下,作品往往就是當下,時間性很強。但畫家的當下,除了看見的瞬間,還滲入了跟另一樣東西的交融,就是手上所觸碰的物料和跟它相處的當下,造成質感和色彩的震撼等等。那種當下跟所見的當下是交融的。

 

至於所謂的距離感,攝影師與畫家又有所不同。畫家對於當下會保持一點距離,他在擁抱當下的同時保持距離,因為他需要經過沉澱後才做出來,表現的時間性不一定很強。但攝影裏的當下,是需要在分秒之間獵取,或是捕捉。那個當下真的是當下,所謂沉澱是在選擇的時候才去沉澱。

 

 

 

 

 

 

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