Memories in performance: commemoration and the commemorative experience in Jia Zhangke’s 24 City

Research output: Journal PublicationArticlepeer-review

Abstract

In this article, I examine how the film commemorates the factory and its workers through combining memory, the act of remembering, and its recitation, thus creating “memories in performance” that construct an emotional history of this group. I use a Chinese word for commemoration, jinian, to structure this paper into the three components of memory, the act of remembering, and mindful thought and recitation, all of which combine to commemorate the factory and the sacrifice of the worker class. I examine how both the real and fictional interviews in the film create the same emotional meaning through producing emotions that are “real” regardless whether their source is real or fake, thus emphasizing that memory is not only about history and “fact,” but also, more importantly, about the emotion it conveys. I consider how the memories are affective in that they present a past that is being remembered, performed and retold in the present, thus enabling both the real and fictional memories to become “real” in their narration. I analyze how the lived and fictive memories and their remembrance produces a filmic space to commemorate the factory and the workers’ sacrifices, and argue that this produces an intimacy with the viewer, in that it presents the workers’ history as personal stories being remembered, recalled, and felt again, not sterile facts being repeated. I conclude by considering how this film is indicative of a larger commemorative turn, and how it offers not only a “sight” of commemoration (as an example of Chinese visual culture), but also a site of commemoration – a commemorative object as well as a commemorative experience
Original languageEnglish
JournalFilm-Philosophy
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Oct 2016

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