Tell Me Terrible Things They Have Known (2016)
Single channel video installation
The victim’s narrative – the very process of bearing witness to massive trauma – does indeed begin with someone who testifies to an absence, to an event that has not yet come into existence, in spite of the overwhelming and compelling nature of reality of its occurrence…The emergence of the narrative which is being listened to – and heard – is, therefore, the process and the place wherein the cognizance, the “knowing” of the event is given birth to…The listener, therefore, is a party to the creation of knowledge de nova. The testimony to the trauma thus includes its hearer, who is, so to speak, the blank screen on which the event comes to be inscribed for the first time. - Dori Laub, “Bearing Witness, or the Vicissitudes of Listening”
This video is part of a larger project on Iris Chang, author of The Rape of Nanking (1998), which brought intense and overdue attention to the Japanese military atrocities committed against the Chinese in WW II. Using a doubling of testimony – one given to me in 2013 and one given to Iris Chang 18 years earlier in1995, the video suggestions a rupture of the spatial and temporal unity of the scene of the site of the “real” evidence – that of the remains of those slaughtered in the massacre. A long tracking shot of the remains of the massacre at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum in Nanking – a kind of excess of evidence – is juxtaposed with the testimonies heard by Xia Shuqin. Also concerned with language, the video also suggests the relationship between the speaker and listener, and how we are constituted through each other in language. Tell Me Terrible Things You Have Known attempts to lay bare this relationality. The tracking camera that can never attain a totalizing view; the disembodied voices that float between the past and the present; the repetition of testimony, reminding us, of the limits of self-knowledge and our dependency on each other to know that.