All images courtesy of the artist.
Interview by Ari Newman
Once in a while, I watch a film, and after it is over, I just slump down in my chair, let my camera fall to the floor and shatter, just like my dreams. My feelings of inadequacy usually build gradually over a two-hour period, like when Charlie Kaufman writes soliloquy after soliloquy that perfectly encapsulates the human experience. However, Viola Liu's film Self manages to do this in 7 minutes and 26 seconds. I interviewed Viola to discover where she finds her inspiration, how it feels to be a young, aspiring filmmaker, and whether she could save some awesomeness for the rest of us.
What is your filmmaking story?
So far I’ve made several short pieces. I’ve always loved films, or stories in general. Last year I finally got the courage to actually become a filmmaker. The first film I made was really bad and I remember when we were screening it in class, many of my classmates did not know what to say about it. I know that they were trying so hard to find something good to talk about. However, there was none. I totally understand them but I don’t know for what reason, I really did not care that much at that time. Because from the process of making that film, I realized how much I enjoy holding a camera in my hand, thinking about a story that might be interesting, planning out for each shot and editing the footages to make it something else. I love telling stories, be it a traditional narrative or an experimental piece, I love seeing the thoughts flowing in the frames. I love hearing the images on the screen singing to me.
What is a quote/piece of advice/work of art/person that inspires you and keeps you motivated to keep creating?
I think I’ve been influenced a lot by Freudian and Lacanian theories. I believe art is about the unconsciousness. I believe making art means finding new ways to stimulate and make human beings realize about their unconsciousness. Going from that, my current theme, which I think will also be a lifelong theme, is a discussion over the notion of “self”. What is the self? In Lacanian theory, it is the misrecognized image of the self that we took as the ego. But what does it mean in our life, in every single action that we take, and in every word we have in our symbolic system? That is what I’m most curious about.
I know you have been studying film at the U of M, and recently participated in HECUA: Making Media, Making Change. How has your education changed or impacted your art making?
Studying at the U make me really familiar and interested in Lacanian theories and that have been influencing most of my works. HECUA makes me more interested in what is actually going on in our world. Learning about the ways people think about things really inspires me.
Please describe your artistic process.
For me, making art is part of life. Riding on a train, walking on the road, cooking, sleeping, I’m always thinking about it, and making it in my head. If I have come up with one idea, I would spend months to just think about how I want to film it, days and nights, whenever I have a moment, I would always think about it and when I have something that I really like, I will write it down on my notebook. In the end, I collect all of my ideas and make them one. I love working alone but I’m also trying to learn how to work in a team and make everyone on the team feel happy working on this project.
Where do you see yourself going next?
I want to keep making films while feeding myself well.
What do you want your relationship to be with the local arts/film community?
I want to be as close as I can with the local arts/film community. On one hand, I’ve got so much from the community and I would love to dedicate what I can do back to the community. I’ve been helped by many of them, and I want to become one who can help others as well. On the other hand, that is also where many of my idea of works come from.
Other than film, what else are you passionate about?
I also love photography. I do film photography as well as digital very often. I am also a singer.
Check out Viola Liu's film Self, nominated for Ae's Creative Vision Award, on Friday, July 29. More info can be found here, including how to buy tickets to the screening.
Previous film fest posts from Altered Esthetics blog: