Shanzhai Lyric & Solveig Qu Suess
15 min 47 sec
Timeless is a collaborative project by filmmaker Solveig Qu Suess and poetic research unit Shanzhai Lyric. It takes inspiration from shanzhai, the Chinese word for counterfeit, which literally translates to “mountain hamlet” in reference to an enclave on the edge of empire where bandits redistribute stolen goods. The installation brings together three speculative, geographical, and hypothetical “hamlets”: New York City’s Canal Street, the Jura Mountains of Switzerland, and the famed hermit retreat of Mount Lu in China. Hamlet is also an iconic Shakespeare character caught in a haunted web of stolen power. Taking these various confluences and double meanings as a point of departure, the film examines the entanglement of trade and notions of authenticity with the colonial projects of nation building. In the work, translation—or rather creative mistranslation—emerges as a generative poetic act, and a place where apparent errors become possibilities for new meaning. The viewing structure, designed in collaboration with the architectural collective common room, takes cues from the ship as stage: the first ever recorded performance of Hamlet was in 1604 aboard an East India Company ship anchored off the coast of Sierra Leone.
Shanzhai Lyric x Solveig Qu Suess
Shanzhai Lyric is a body of research focusing on radical logistics and linguistics through the prism of technological aberration and nonofficial cultures. The project takes inspiration from the experimental English of shanzhai t-shirts made in China and proliferating across the globe to examine how the language of counterfeit uses mimicry, hybridity, and permutation to both revel in and reveal the artifice of global hierarchies. Through an ever-growing archive of poetry-garments, Shanzhai Lyric explores the potential of mistranslation and nonsense as utopian world-making (breaking), often in the idiom of scroll, laundry, runway, and heap.
Solveig Qu Suess (1990, Switzerland) works within the fields of documentary-making, research, and writing. Her moving-image practice has been researching embodied and ecological politics across infrastructures of circulation, attentive to new spatial configurations of power. Suess is a former Digital Earth fellow, holds a master’s degree from the Centre of Research Architecture at Goldsmiths, and is currently a Junior Researcher at the Critical Media Lab. She is part of Geocinema, whose collective work uses expanded cinema as a method to investigate aesthetics in geopolitical systems. Solveig Qu Suess is based in Basel and Berlin.
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