Regarding what I am about to share with you, I must start with Marcel Mauss’s (1872–1950) concept of “things” (choses).
I usually use a few sentences to illustrate my argument, which is a bit like a language game:
Machinic image; imaging machine
A machinic image is a thing: the cinema is a thing; a text is a thing
An imaging machine is a thing: the camera, which deconstructs time, space, and movement is a thing; the projector, which restores temporality, spatiality, and movement, is a thing.
The relationship between these things [the camera and the projector] and the community, which produce, possess, consume, and abandon them, can be regarded as an imagistic culture and identity. According to Mauss, when we try to understand our relationships with identity, that is, with material culture and cultural identity, “things are in fact [our] reliable sources, as they are credible and autonomous. Therefore, in comparison with other phenomena, things can better describe a mode of civilization.” Moreover, “for other sciences, things are understood by being situated in their social context. Nonetheless, archaeology (as well as history and anthropology) must construct a social context from the things themselves. Hence, the way in which things and identity are related and understood is in itself a true representation of a cultural identity.”
In this light, in a community with an imaging-machine industry and the individuals within it––in comparison with a community and its individuals without such an industry––those machinic images are understood differently and form different cultures-identities according to their different contexts and bases. The main difference is determined by the relationship between these two different communities and the imaging machines, not the machinic images (works, texts). The system of the imaging machine and the contemporary cultural identity of things and people have a branded internal connection.
Imaging machinic images are always used in various scientific fields, such as: politics, society, business, science, entertainment, documentation, broadcasting, etc., and of course in the field of art. In addition, when using “imaging machinic images” for reproduction, we constantly reflect, ask and answer ourselves: what is visual, time and frame? What is reality, reproduction? And what is the relationship between myself and the imaging machinic images? …… The “imaging machinic images” that answers to this never-ending questioning and thinking is “experimental film.” Imaging machinic images are that which create a context from the materials themselves, as opposed to the above-mentioned imaging machinic images which are placed in a context of instrumentalisation (i.e., as Mauss suggests, understood in their social context) of art, science, society, documentation, entertainment, etc.
Hence, we can try to understand that communities and individuals in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines, South Korea and other neighbouring regions, are unable or find it difficult to produce materials that can be defined as “experimental film,” the kind of machinic image with its context and history. The reason is the lack of an imaging-machine industry in these communities. Among them, mainland China is a special and unique example. Because the mainland does have its own imaging-machine industry, for example: still film camera with 120 format as the mainstream, 16mm film camera (red flag), and even 8.75mm which is a small self-contained film system (although only projectors). In theory, there would be experimental films in mainland China, but in fact there is not, is this not very contradictory? The difference lies in the fact that most of the imaging-machine industry in China in the past was not supported and developed by consumer feedback. On the contrary, the development and system of imaging-machine industry in a capitalist society, as a prerequisite and condition for experimental film, is defined by consumerisation or not, i.e., it is supported by a family-oriented and personalised market feedback system. Does it mean that a non-capitalist society that has developed imaging-machine industry will not produce experimental films? Not necessarily, for example, the “Kino-Eye” developed by Dziga Vertov (1896-1954) in the Soviet Union at the beginning of communism was at a silent moment when the language of cinema was being nurtured. As for Taiwan, which was incorporated into the capitalist system led by the U.S. after the war and developed with a dependent economy, there is only consumption of machinic image, but no imaging-machine industry as feedback.