This paper explores several cinematic and media art works from the late 70s to early 21 century which tried to apply the methods and ideas of French Lettrism into works created in a Chinese context. The French Lettrism is an avant-garde movement established by Romanian/French poet Isidore Isou in the 1940s. Influenced by preceding art movements such as Dada and surrealism, Lettrists aims to reduce language to its smallest particles and liberate it from linguistic signification. For Isou, “words” limited our expression and thought to the bourgeoisie ideology. Thus, to break the words for art creation is also a revolution itself. Isou’s legacy mainly succeeds by the more well-known Situationist International (SI) movement in the 60s which inherited Lettrism’s political thought but largely abandoned its letter-based methods. However, by studying several cinematic and media art works which created in Chinese related contexts, this paper will examine how the idea of Lettrism survived and evolved in a very different language and culture. For example, Lettrism’s original methods only considered the alphabetical languages (i.e. French). Its adaptation to character-based Chinese shows that it could draft away from the originally idea of restoring non-semantic meaning in letters, and creates unique aesthetic results and political meanings differ from their counterparts originated in French.
Yue-Jin Ho, The Open University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong