Once

Hui Huang

Graduate Student, School of Cinematic Arts, USC
 

 

The gate opens at 5:40 P.M. Students gather in front. They cannot wait to leave. This is an ordinary school day in May 2010. I wait among the crowd, still processing the immense insecurity about the upcoming College Entrance Exam. I think, what if it is the future on the other side of the gate.  If I walk over, would I have passed the Exam already?

Six years later, in my last semester of graduate school, I consider the video essay. Maybe it is the uncertainty of the future that makes me think of my high school gate again. The gate gradually turns into a visual metaphor of the border between the present and the future, a haunting image that gives shape to my anxiety. I come to realize the conflicts of time within my body, and I am not sure how I connect to them. So I begin collecting small memories and thoughts about time.

While in college, Wei and I often shared meals. I had the illusion that we would have infinite breakfasts, lunches, dinners and snacks together. But the last time eventually came. Future tense shifted into past tense overnight.

One day in the late 1990s (when you mark time in centuries, the near past feels ancient), my dad carried me on his motorbike. He told me the Chinese used to work six days and had only one day off weekly.

My friend Gentaro takes a photo every day at the same metro station from the same angle. He has been taking these photos for almost a year. Inspired by his map of life traces, I decide to take a photo at the same time every day. But I keep forgetting about the plan.

If you look around, you will see that ovens mark time. Microwaves mark time. Laundry machines mark time. Cell phones mark time. Computers mark time. Now it is 6:23 pm, Friday, July 1st. It has been three months since I made the first draft of this video essay.

The more I write, the more I realize all things are temporal. We are temporal. We are made of memories, and these moments can never live outside ourselves.

This project is about how I practice building resiliency against fear, weakness and disturbance, through cultivating my relationship with time. Perhaps this will be an ongoing project. After all, one thing I believe in, at least for now, is that time is open: it never closes.

 

References

Brakhage, Stan. Cat’s Cradle, YouTube, 6:19. 1959.     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cur2P5Ym3Yw.

Brakhage, Stan. The Wonder Ring, YouTube, 5:36. 1955. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uD7uqs4y7tQ.

Brakhage, Stan. Scenes from Under Childhood (Section 1), YouTube, 11:43. 1967.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qfXHoQUzaGg.

Brakhage, Stan. I…Dreaming. YouTube, 6:37. 1988.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lkJK01toHww

Grudin, Robert. Time and the Art of Living. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 1997.

Self-Portrait and Three Women. Directed by Mengqi Zhang. Beijing, China: Home Video, 2010. DVD.

Stoa, Simland. Alice In 1, 2008, CD.

 

The Cine-Files, issue 11 (fall 2016)