Lin Li - So near, so far

4:33, 2012, Video Art
Water in nature has a mystical quality which is comforting to some people but unsettling to others. This video seeks to evoke such a quality through an inter-modality alchemy of vocal sounds (breathing, whispering and humming) and field recording combined with the more abstract visual elements of waves.
DirectorLin LiProducerLin Li

CountryUnited KingdomEdition2013 Screenings• Façade Video Festival, Plovdiv (Bulgaria), September 2012
• Whirlygig Cinema Au Naturel programme, In The Woods Music Festival, Kent (England), September, 2012
• Art Lending Library (Resource Section), Glasgow International Festival of Visual Art, Glasgow (Scotland), April/May 2012

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Who is Lin Li?
Originally from Hong Kong, I now live in Glasgow, Scotland. My academic and employment background was in Social Sciences and disability service, and I started learning to paint about fourteen years ago and since 2011 I have been using sound and moving image in my creative work.

What is So near, so far about?
Gently moving waves have a mystical quality which is comforting to some people but unsettling to others. In this piece of work, I wanted to create a soundtrack using my own voice to evoke such a quality.

How did you start with film? And do you have an educational background in art or film?
I do not have any formal training in art or film. I have been painting and singing in choirs for many years, and am interested in the relationship between sound and image. Having made some pieces of work combining painting or sculpture with manually produced sound, I wanted to explore moving image and the digital medium. I acquired my first DSLR camera with video facility in 2011 and since then moving image and sound have become core elements in my practice.

Could you explain how you work, what themes or concepts you use and what is important to you?
Many themes interest me and my artwork covers a wide range of subjects. Some of the recurrent themes are the ephemeral elements of nature and the transience of human experiences. In particular, the energy and movement of water in nature, such as the sea, features in a number of my videos. The starting point for my work is my mind, my life experiences and how I relate to my social and physical environment. To me the creative process is one in which I discover something about the world and about myself. The end product is not only the outcome of the discovery but also a tool for further reflection.

How long do you usually work on one project?
Difficult to say because it depends on how long or complicated the piece is, and what other commitment I have. For ’So near, so far’, I probably spent about a month because it is relatively straightforward. The projects I am working on now will take at least a few months.

Do you carefully plan the production process or do you work more intuitive?
For the short videos which I have produced so far, I rarely plan systematically. I collect video clips when I go walking or travelling and then store them in my hard drive until one day I suddenly remember certain images and feel I can make a piece of work with them. During the course of making a video, I may feel a need for additional images which I would then have to search for or create. There are also one or two videos which started with an idea and I tried to produce the images which fit the idea. However, even in these situations there was usually no careful planning and no clear overview of the structure or content of the work at the beginning and I would allow the images to suggest to me what to do during the production process. However, my current projects do involve a bit more planning and structure and will probably steer me to a new direction.

How does the title relate to the work, and how do you find a fitting title?
The title suggests the contrasting feeling of being comforted and at the same time disconcerted by nature. There is a sense that there is something that I can feel but cannot come to grips with, something which is within me (so near) but also much bigger than me (so far).

Where do you get your ideas or inspiration from?
My ideas are sometimes suggested by the materials themselves and often occur when I am falling asleep. Psychologists may be able to tell us the role played by the unconscious in creativity. To me every experience I have had in my life could inspire me and I certainly feel that there is some process at work which I do not fully understand.

How important is sound in film, and if you use sounds, do you create your own or use existing?
Sound in film is important to me as it can have very direct impact on our emotional response. I try to create my own soundtrack but on a few occasions, I have used existing music because it is more appropriate or better than what I could produce myself.

How does content relate to the form of your work?
In some other pieces I have made, the content relate more clearly to the form. For example, in a piece of work entitled ’Day by day by day’, the images are arranged in such a way that they convey the flow of time and emptiness.

What possibilities of the web are yet to be explored?
I am not knowledgeable enough to answer this - perhaps more collaborative work over the Internet?

Did the web changed your view on art, or your career?
The web makes it easier for me to find out about other artists’ work and opportunities for sharing my work. The accessibility of digital cameras and software for editing and better digital printing has definitely influenced the format of the work which I do now.

Where would you place your work; cinema or art. And what is the difference between those according to you?
My work is not commercial and so it’s definitely not suitable for commercial cinemas. Most of my videos also do not have a narrative content and so I would classify them as art rather than cinema.

How influential is the reaction to your film by the audience?
I am interested in how diverse people’s reaction to the same piece of work (my own and others’) could be. I’d like to find out what viewers get out of my film because after all when we show our work, it is a form of communication and it would be good if the communication is two way. However, while artists/film-makers can learn from the reaction of the audience, they ultimately have to follow their own vision and make their own decisions about whether or how to respond to other people’s critique.

What is your next project about?
I have just completed a residency in film and moving image and I am working on the footage and interviews I collected during the residency and hope to make a few short video pieces out of them. One of the themes I am focusing on is about the multiple interpretations of the concept of ’peace’.

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