pictured above: Devil's Peak (2021) by Simon Liu
SCREENING: E-Ticket (2019) by Simon Liu; 35mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 13 minutes. Signal 8 (2019) by Simon Liu; 16mm screened as digital video, color, sound, 14 minutes. –force– (2020) by Jennie MaryTai Liu & Simon Liu; digital video, color, sound, 9 minutes. Happy Valley (2020) by Simon Liu; 16mm screened as digital video, color, 13 minutes. Devil's Peak (2021) by Simon Liu; digital video, color, sound, 30 minutes.
Disconnected from the flow of daily life, Simon Liu’s incursion into the alienation of Hong Kong is an enigmatic symphony of the city’s discordance and fury. Something belies the trance cast by this tapestry of 16mm images—is it unrest or is it complacency? Or is it already too late? (MUBI)
With dramatic kineticism, a thrilling use of color, a freewheeling and improvisatory approach to editing and deeply layered soundtracks, the dynamic films of New York-based, Hong Kong-born filmmaker Simon Liu paradoxically embody attitudes of travel, drift and observation. All filmed in his hometown of Hong Kong, the films on this program explore that city at a moment of historical and political uncertainty, a moment at which the future is unclear yet at which life goes on. Generally avoiding overt politics and summarizing statements, Liu instead focuses on the luminosity of the city’s surfaces, the energy of public space, the wary motions of inhabitants and the uneasy flow of life. Distantly intimate, visually and sonically roving and vaguely unsettling and fragmentary, Liu’s works of ravenous and overwhelming audiovisual synesthesia are obliquely personal and diaristic approaches to the city symphony genre. Bonus! Screening includes the anomalously animated —force— (2020), in which Liu’s lush visual lyricism collides with sister Jennie MaryTai Liu’s digital animation in a vaporwave parody of dystopian surveillance state semiotics. (Steve Polta)
A film 16,000 splices in the making. E-Ticket is a frantic (re)cataloguing of a personal archive and an opportunity for rebirth to forgotten images. 35mm photo negatives and moving pictures (taken during the artist’s formative years) are obsessively cut apart, reshuffled then tape spliced together inch by inch in rigid increments. Fragmented views swipe between a school trip to India then culminate with a protest of a 2005 World Trade Organization summit in Hong Kong. My photographs may have all be cut up and mixed around, but at least they’re all in one place now. A retelling of Dante's Inferno for the streaming age; a freedom of movement reserved for the modern cloud.
Signal 8 (2019)
Simon Liu’s eerie, entrancing portrait of contemporary Hong Kong tracks a series of strange disruptions to the city’s urban infrastructure. Deceptively tranquil 16mm images of everyday life are accompanied by muffled music cues, ominous radio transmissions, and intimations of an impending hazardous event that may never arrive.
(Projections, New York Film Festival)
Placid views merge with dizzying, semi-abstract digital animations; avatars in a parable about control. A mesmerizing, menacing voiceover—part body politic regulator, part cyberpunk travel guide—promises order, accountability and satisfaction while threatening trouble, polarization and tears. A fire has been started, movement has gone on to reach multiple points of no return.
(Jennie MaryTai Liu & Simon Liu)
Happy Valley (2020)
British Colonial-era structures overlook scenes in the aftermath of civil unrest as Hong Kongers work to retain some semblance of normality. The sound of petty arguments from local TVB soap-operas of the ‘80s are put in concert with captive animals, political graffiti and desolate highways. Suspension cables and ship anchor lines reveal a fragile urban anatomy; the structures that keep the city moving along. As civic functions grind to a halt, the limits of our empathy and control come into question. As the days teeter toward an uncertain future, Happy Valley cinematically probes the role of the so-called “little things.” A rendering of the perseverance of spirit in Hong Kong—an attempt at irony that can’t help but be emotional.
Devil's Peak (2021)
Through overlapping poetic narratives and coded references, Devil’s Peak reflects on recent unprecedented shifts in the socio-cultural fabric of the artist’s homeland of Hong Kong, creating a site of remembrance for a time and place that may never be as it was.
Simon Liu (b. Hong Kong, 1987) is an artist filmmaker whose films, video installations and expanded cinema performances function as dense and lyrical repositories of the rapidly evolving psychogeography of his homeland of Hong Kong. His work has been exhibited at film festivals and museums globally including the Berlinale International Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, New York Film Festival, Sundance Film Festival, New Directors/New Films, CROSSROADS with San Francisco Cinematheque, The Shed, M+ Museum, Tai Kwun Contemporary, Portland Institute of Contemporary Art, MOCA Los Angeles, Moderna Museet, Dreamlands: Expanded and a solo screening at the Museum of Modern Art as part of their Modern Mondays series. He has received grants and commissions from the Jerome Foundation, NYSCA, M+, and The Shed and his films and performance works are in the permanent collections of the M+ Museum and MoMA. Profiles of his practice have been in publications such as The New York Times, Art in America, Cinemascope, MUBI, Nang Magazine and Millenium Film Journal. Liu is a teacher at the Cooper Union School of Art, a member of the artist-run film lab Negativeland, and is currently editing his first feature film Staffordshire Hoard.