PL: The idea of making this film came to me over a long period of time. In 2016, Hong Kong artist Wai Lau contacted me and told me that she had some copies of 8mm films from her grandparents that she never had a chance to have a look at as she simply couldn’t find an 8mm film projector in Hong Kong. Knowing that I had been working on a project about visual archives, she wondered if I could help her find a projector. Unsure about the condition of these films covered with dust, I contacted my film studies friend in Nagoya, Japan, and she told me it would probably a good idea to bring these films to Japan for a veteran projectionist in Nagoya mediatheque to check them and advise what the next steps should be.
A few months later, I brought the films on a research trip to Japan and arrived in Nagoya. The projectionist used a viewer to check the very first part of one of the film rolls. I immediately saw the faces of Wai’s grandpa, whom I recognized from the photos she showed earlier. I think it felt a bit like I was on an archaeological site as some ancient objects were being unearthed. But on the other hand, the film was not that old – probably only a few decades. I guess “new” obsolete media holds such magic for me because of its paradoxical nature: it’s something stuck in the middle of time. It’s touchable but also inaccessible.
The suggestion from the projectionist was to digitize them as soon as possible before they deteriorated further. I actually think it’s lucky that these films were not in too bad a condition considering the humid climate in Hong Kong, sleeping there untouched for at least 50 years. Until we woke them up.
Several weeks later, we received the DVD copies of the films. The content amazed me and Wai. We could definitely tell that some of the films were shot in in Tokyo in 1964 by cross-referencing them with pictures in the family photo collection taken during the Tokyo Olympics. From a Chinese tourist’s eye (mainly her grandpa), which was extremely rare for the time, we see the moving images of the opening ceremony, the football game and the track and field games in colour. The rest of the film was mainly documentation of family outings and business trips in Japan, as well as sightseeing tours in Hong Kong and Macau. Wai was excited about the films too but I was even more inspired by watching the footage. I have always been considering a way to reapproach my own home videos shot on hi8 in the 1990s. Now I seemed to have found the way.
More coincidences happened when I visited Taipei in early 2018, when I was roaming around an abandoned house in the city centre with some Taiwanese artist friends. We were thrilled to discover, totally beyond our expectations, many colour slide films and hi8 cassettes on the floor of the house, lying there as garbage for probably more than 10 years. The slide films documented their previous owners’ trips to the US, Japan and some more everyday scenes in Taiwan. I of course had no idea who they were, or where they might be now, but was again struck by the uncanny familiarity of these images on obsolete media. After getting a slide projector, I began to view all the snapshots from the eye of some unknown Taiwanese back in the 1950s (as was noted down on the margin of the slide cases). With all these images from others, I feel closer to making a film by myself.
The process of collecting the raw materials has expanded my view on my own home video collection, which focuses on the very private, time-specific experience that relates only to my own childhood, family and memory. I decided to make a film that tells a story with this cross-border home video making. I thus shared my idea with Yu, who I know had the experience of migrating from Japan to the US in the late 1990s. He was excited about the idea as, not surprisingly, his family has a big collection of home video on hi8 films too!
YA: Let me start off by sharing our timeline: if my memory serves me correctly, I met Lu for the first time in January 2017 in Tokyo when I gave a small presentation for Boris Groys’ master class at the Goethe Institute and she happened to be in the same venue. I was introduced to her through our mutual friend though it was very brief.
PL: Haha, actually I wasn’t at your talk. We were in the talk by Boris Groys at the University of Tokyo and were introduced to each other after his talk!
YA: Oh really? See, this is why I can’t trust my brain and need to externally store my memory on videos/photos…lol. Anyway, we sort of lost contact after that but a year later, I was a guest resident at ACC (Asia Culture Center) in Gwangju, South Korea and was in the same program there as artist/filmmaker Bo Wang, a long time friend of Lu and her close collaborator. Bo and I also became good friends, and Lu visited us in Gwangju in October that year. At that time, they were working on their feature length documentary Many Undulating Things (2019), which I had the privilege of recording a voice-over narration for. Prior to that, I had also cast Bo in my short film Bivalvia: Act I (2018), and so all these collaborations were happening organically.
PL: Here you go with the early formation of the squad!
YA: That’s right! Then, on December 26th, 2019, Lu and I reunited at an izakaya in Tokyo. It was a small gathering of artists, filmmakers and curators. I had just returned from Italy, so the timing worked out perfectly. As we were catching up, Lu told me about her potential collaboration idea, which I really loved, and I remember telling her about my family’s home video collection and that is when things started to roll. We shook hands firmly that night.
PL: Haha, the hand-shaking feels so close yet so far away at the same time.
YA: Yes and this was literally a few days before the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan. At first, we were chatting about meeting up somewhere abroad to shoot additional materials and such. Then came the pandemic, so the project was put on hold. We still wanted to make our film though, and during several months of idling time, we came across an open call by the ACC Cinema Fund. Luckily, we got the grant, but the collaboration had to happen remotely, hence, our working condition itself became the structure of Anachronic Chronicle: Voyages Inside/Out Asia. We managed to use limitations and constraints to our advantage I think. It’s definitely mirroring the atmosphere of 2020 as an added layer, which was intended yet inevitable at the same time.