Algae Dream 藻夢迷離 (2020). Single-channel video, 10.03mins.. Above: Screenshots from video.
About the Essay Video - On view here.
We live in a time when masks are rewriting wearable protocol but in dire shortage. Masks protect, hide and morph the identity of the wearer against surveillance capitalism. How could we take these entwining narratives around masks to speculate on the symbiosis between the masked and the mask? Amidst all-too-familiar dialogues and interrogation of mass consumption, futuristic fashion, as well as the toll this takes on earth and society, how can future masks subvert the Anthropocene, instead, by provoking sharing, individual agency, and communal production? How about a mask that breathes, that is, made by organic raw materials? As we confront and question narratives of our new normalcy in the year of hindsight and the time of pandemic, these frames have coalesced in a vision of the mask as an emblem for open-source eco-consciousness- functional, accessible DIY living wearables made with biomaterials, such as algae.
Speculative project ‘Algae Mask’ explores the symbiosis between humans and other beings, layered as second skins. The video Algae Dream rides on the prospective prototype and the sleek languages of market economy to smudge the fine line between fiction and reality. In the bricolage of source videos and original footages, motivational video mock-up and authentic presentation documentation, the video challenges audience in a multiplicity of narrations stemmed from discourses of business and science, displacing viewers within the muddy ground of faith and evidence: is this a real happening, or just utopian rhetoric?
Special Credit: Michelle Lai, Project Collaborator
About Algae -
Algae is found in a vast range of objects from medical usage to food, furniture, and beyond. Chlorella pills made out from fresh water green algae, for instance, are gaining currency in alternative medicine, with their many purported health benefits including detoxifying heavy metals (according to a rumour during the days of heavily tear-gassed Hong Kong). Increasing disquisitions show algae to be a biomaterial, a self-regenerating energy source that is exceptionally minimalistic. New imaginations and methodologies around algae include algae type photography, algae-bioplastic, and a prototype for a fully algae-powered building (though too expensive to be commodified -- alas, another capitalistic excuse).
Algae also has a queer spirit. It has an all-encompassing means of reproduction, from vegetative, asexual to sexual, and its extreme versatility allows it to persist through the whirligig of time. In fact, the name ‘algae’ does not have a specific indication; it loosely refers to a polyphyletic, non-cohesive, and artificial assemblage of oxygen-evolving, photosynthetic organisms; it is an umbrella term, a metaphor. A term that still feels distant to many of us, but from the many instances that algae have interwoven biological and ecological histories into discourses of food, medicine, design and more, we might as well realise that we are all just a bit algal.
Juror's Special Mention @ D-normal/V-essay by Floating Projects Collective
Funded by the Hong Kong Arts Development Council
'Queenie Li’s Algae Dream stands out on my “must include” list. As a video essay, it is deploying varied rhetorical strategies with versatility, building a strong audio-visual architecture to substantiate the subject matters of the author’s concern.
The 10-minute work is a much needed effort to challenge disciplinary boundaries and what amounts to a timely video essay. Much needed: there is a lot of room between personal confession and scientific instruction that could be playfully experimented in the domain of a video essay. Timely: there is the urgency to make sense of our fast deteriorating human conditions. Algae Dream is a fine supplement to the rather impoverished and biased discussion of the pandemic, and it proves artistic methods could be relevant.
Using the first person “I,” Li achieved an artistic documentary that is at once personal and curious of scientific realities. These days, our routine media platforms are jammed with scientific images such as those of COVID-19, which weigh on us with an authority we have no way to reject. Yet perhaps they are simply pseudo-scientific, or pure visual strategies – how do we know, and what do we really understand from them? What I like about this work is that images do not push for objective accuracy: somewhere between concrete forms and poetry, they impress on us the power of imageries, a kind of perceptual apprehension requiring inquisitiveness over analysis, whereas the voice-over affirms the place for doubt and enquiry without losing the magic of curiosity. Neither the “I” nor the work pretends to be authoritative. At points, it is a reading report, a confession of doubt and helplessness, commanding critique, and other points it simply forces us to see imaginatively what is supposed to be invisible.
Though sticking to a scientific discourse of health and disease, the work is strongly affinitive with critical theory issues, in exposing the “class” base of progressive values such as green life, sustainability, organic life-style and so on. Though overall inspirational, the tentacular thinking employed cleverly links the algae to the mask, from the originary of life forms to contemporary symptoms of the Anthropocene, thus imploring renewed eco-consciousness from its readers. As well, Algae Dream cleverly imbues queer thinking into a refreshed understanding or our relation to other species.
A rich conceptual map that persuades with poetry and artistic overtones. Following her unique documentary impulse, Li aptly finds the aesthetic and poetic to discuss science without being dogmatic… and allows science to be contemplated poetically without the burden of objective absoluteness.' (-Dr. Linda C.H. Lai)
A special dual-screen video installation with the series of Weeds , 16:27mins.
The two-channel audio-visual essay ruminates on the notion of displacement through a strategy of scale distortion. Conceptually, the work foregrounds the quantum relationship between weeds and algae in their pluralistic forms, and artistically orchestrates found and original materials including photographic and photogrammetric imagery, textual fragments and edited field recordings inspired by Musique Concrete and Spectral Music. The metaphors of weeds and algae open up a passage to parallel worlds of ecology and feminism on a micro and cellular level, yet attempt to unpack power relations on a macroscopic dimension.
Private view URL upon request.