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Jue
Yang

Quiet Times (this is going to be a working title for as long as needed)

Project details

Year
2020
Programme
Master Media Design: Lens-Based

I don’t have much intention of using this site for promotion. If anything, this is a site for reflections and questions. Why do we feel the need to produce and promote and perform as if nothing has changed in the world (where, in reality, much has)? 

fragment from Quiet Times (working title)

I made a film between April and June, 2020, using visual and audio footage from inside of my apartment. I did a tentative edit and named the work Quiet Times (working title).

For a few months, my work space for filmmaking — consisting of a desk, an iMac and relevant editing software — was inaccessible due to COVID-19 closures. Before March, I referred to a triangle of places as “home” in this city: my apartment, the studio at school which I share with nine other Master’s students, the yoga studio where I practice weekly.

During the lockdown, I lost two corners of the triangle — the two studios. Everything conflated in my living space, which I had turned into part-gym and part-office. I couldn’t edit films on my small MacBook Air and found it impossible to continue working on a film project I had started in September 2019.

I turned my focus to writing my thesis. Writing was not only enjoyable — as it had been part of my practice — but also one of the only things that I could carry out with the resources I had. On the few days I had energy for it, I was able to take some shots with my own camera, which resulted in Quiet Times (working title).

Some communications we received during those months as Master’s students: we would have the space, opportunity and budget to continue working as alumni during the fall to complete our stalled projects.

I went back to the studio at school when it finally reopened in May. First, to rescue the plants I had left there for months. Second, to finish my graduation assessment in July (including the preliminary edit for the film).

I tried to use the space again after the assessment and, to my chagrin, was not able to get much done. The place smelled of old plates, dehydrated leaves, dust. The other computers sat abandoned after too many unannounced departures. The building staff came by and told me not to linger after 17.00. The building staff asked, “are you done?”, watched and asked again, “are you done?”

It was summer. The place I used to be able to work felt like limbo filled with loneliness and apathy. I could no longer work there. (It was summer — why was I working anyway?)

I left the dust for the freshness in the mountains for a few weeks.

It is now October. I have not moved beyond the (working title). When I tried to go back to the studio last month, I found out that there was no more studio for me. I was told that I must wipe the data off my computer.

I waited for the space intended for alumni. It was set up a week ago, in early October. I went there for the first time last week: a space with a few computers floating in the middle of the room amongst noises of the printer and masked chatters from people I do not recognize.

Not ideal for editing.

I went online to book the editing suite in the other building. “Bookings can only be made by students,” the system responded, unapologetically.

To use the editing suite: I would send an email and knock on the door of one of the key holders. We would do a weird dance of distancing before they unlock the door for me. I would stay in the darkness trying to focus on the footage in those few limited hours and try to ignore the logistics to be repeated for the next day.

To use the editing suite: I am not motivated.

The environment in which we are given to work is restrictive and reactionary. The promises made to us have become partial.

I admit my disappointment. I am a little angry.

What I find contradictory to the unfriendly working environment and unmet promises is the pressure to promote work. I have gotten more than three emails from the promotion team for this graduation catalogue, urging me to fill in this space with content — as if we are supposed to produce regardless of external conditions.

The energy of this type of “support” is misaligned with reality. In a year of cancellation, postponement and constant imminent policy changes — especially in the field of culture — what we need is not so much “keep calm and carry on.” We need to acknowledge the difficulties, take care of ourselves and each other and, perhaps, more importantly, pause. Only from that pause can we define what real support is and distribute and share that accordingly.

Will I still edit my films? Yes. I would very much like to finish them. However, my timeline has changed based on my coming to terms with what I have to deal with — namely, the institutional insensitivity. As I prioritize my capacity to maintain empathy and steadiness, the (working title), given the current situations, might stay a little longer than I have expected.

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