On Tiredness – Notes on Landscape, Duration and Abstraction in Wang Bing's Traces



Cinema, History, Wang Bing, Monumentality, Tiredness


In Wang Bing's filmography, we find possibilities for a cinema of the encounter. This article will deal with one of his most discreet – and yet monumental – films: Traces (2014). While preparing the shooting for The Ditch (2010), the Chinese director made a detour to collect images and sounds, exhaustively, during a long pedestrian walk through the deserts of the Gansu region, one of several places where the ideological dissidents of the Chinese communist regime were sent to be 're- educated' by forced labor. From this investigative deviation transformed into an aesthetic and ethical experience of tiredness emerged Traces, a ‘small’ film of 28 minutes, consisting of repetitive, nauseating and unstable images that seek to reveal human or material vestiges that remained on the surface of that tragic historical space.In accordance with a famous theory by Paul Virilio, we can glimpse in Wang Bing's cinema a combative idea of polar inertia, from which a massification of man's physical and mental inactivity is predicted, in a world in which everything but man himself, is increasingly on the move. If thought according to Virilio's thesis, Wang Bing's cinema is formally constituted by a desire for physical experimentation in the cinematographic space. Exploring cinema’s capacity to create effects of monumentality, the director uncomfortably traverses the vast historical landscape, so that, when moving away from it, a “long-range look” is produced, a look which, as in Adorno’s words, “is always the one in which the impulse in the direction of the object is detained and subjected to reflection”. Through Traces, we intend to outline an aesthetic theory in which a radical humanization of the technical condition invites us to think historically about the real. In other words, Traces takes the cinematic experience to its boundaries by making it a form of contact experience. This text aims to develop an analysis on a form of expression in which the historical space can only be thought of in correlation with a cinema of the encounter. We will therefore speak of a cinematographic experience that takes place precisely because of a perceptual time that is anchored in a particular experience of tiredness.



How to Cite

Florêncio, P. (2020). On Tiredness – Notes on Landscape, Duration and Abstraction in Wang Bing’s Traces. Cinema: Journal of Philosophy and the Moving Image, (12), 94–109. Retrieved from https://cinema.fcsh.unl.pt/index.php/revista/article/view/16