Play It Back, and Forth

The mixtape emerged from music cultures of the 1970s and 1980s,[1] where it allowed DJs, performers, and listeners to create, select, and share, and to define informal, underground cultural networks.[2] In its current resurgence, the mixtape has become an adaptable vessel for the contemporary, moving beyond its original association with a physical object. Highly malleable and accommodating, the mixtape offers an alternate narrative, prompting dialogue between creators, selectors, and audiences. It enables us to document, compile, sample, reference, and recreate content that is established, authorised, archival, or conventional. As a device and as a method, the concept of the mixtape demonstrates the creator’s novel and sometimes highly personal interventions; it allows for new understandings of long-held truths and affirms the importance of individual experience. The mixtape is a hybrid of sequences and adjacencies, challenging expectations and questioning notions of authority, authenticity, and even memory.

This edition of M+ Screenings uses the idea of the mixtape as an entry point into the programme, and as a general framework for understanding certain tendencies and motivations in contemporary era moving image practice on and around Southeast Asia. Among the dozens of films selected—most of which were made in the past decade—there is a strong sense of the present in many forms. Some films, such as My Mother and Her Darkness (2008) and People Power Bombshell: The Diary of Vietnam Rose (2016), propose sensorial readings of the here and now, as well as critical inquiries—or even re-imaginations—of the past. Filmmakers capture an essence of time in their practice, using the material qualities of film to situate their perspectives within displaced, untold, or lost narratives. Whether they use old footage or invoke its qualities through editing or sound work, they come into contact with a moment in time through an artefact of their own making.

Beyond rearrangement, reuse, or re-enactment, certain films in this programme challenge the accepted historical record and highlight the possibility of counter-mythologies—especially in relation to ethnography and postcolonial discourse. Infusing their work with visual cues, multiple narrators, and sometimes even multiple timelines, filmmakers disrupt the presumed stability of both truth and fiction, as well as of people who lay claim to these absolutes. Films such as Snakeskin (2014) and Slow Action (2010) plainly present the tensions and abrupt discontinuities in the politics of representation and their power structures. By re-mapping entangled ideas, voices, and stories between spaces and across time, these films offer a more complex picture of human experience and a deep emotional resonance.

Inspired by Thai filmmaker Pathompon Mont Tesprateep’s interdisciplinary work with sound, image, and materiality, this programme aims to challenge our attitudes towards the framework of what can be defined as Southeast Asia moving image. Selected works, including those Tesprateep chose expressly to highlight his influences, demonstrate the inherent power of sound, music, image, and text, either in spite of or due to their borrowed, transposed, or subconscious origins. The Story of Ones (2011) and India Song (1975), for example, encourage us to reset our habits as spectators so that we can pay attention to each one of these components, and to refresh our appreciation of the moving image as polyphony, as mixtape.

My sincere thanks go to Kok Siew Wai, Mary Pansanga, Pathompon Mont Tesprateep, John Torres, and many others, whose insight, perspective, and intellectual generosity guided me on this continuing journey of discovery.

Chanel Kong
Associate Curator, Moving Image

 

[1] Matthew D. Catania and Gaetano D. Marretta, Generation Mixtape: A User’s Guide to Online Copyright (New York: Tribeca Square Press, 2011), 2.

[2] Alex Sayf Cummings, Democracy of Sound: Music Piracy and the Remaking of American Copyright in the Twentieth Century (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013), 164.