Wong Yan Kwai, a true renaissance man who expresses his creativity in multiple forms, this time got inspired by the spirit of Mongolian Steppe. He was kind to share with us his reflections and amazing images he took while filming in Inner Mongolia.
'Notes on Steppe' by Wong Yan Kwai
Grassland and Steppe
'Grassland' is a name used by outsiders. Mongolian herdsmen call it 'Steppe' instead. Maybe it is one�s perspective that makes us see things differently. If we try to interpret it using movie terminology 'Grassland' would be called 'Panorama', while 'Steppe' would be called 'Top-Shot'. A 'Top-Shot' can be taken either when you stand up or from a higher point when you ride on a horseback.
Double meaning of 'Turf'
In Chinese, we often use the term 'Turf' to refer to people with low social status. Not a lot of people know how an impressive sight a 'turf' is. I saw the tassely roots of grass on the slopes of steppe; they were around 1 or 2 meters long. In order to see the real 'Grass' you have to see both the 'Grass' and the 'Turf' at the same time.
When Jiya, the Hulunbeir (呼倫貝尓) singer, was 'Throat-Singing' , it reminded me of what Rodin had said about sculpture where a sculptor is like an invisible hammer that knocks from the inside to the outside of the artwork. Jiya (吉雅) said, 'I don't want to sing a song that doesn't have well cultivated sentiments.'
Mongolian Long Song
'A long song is not about the length of the song itself but about the philosophical concept of 'long-drawn-outs', Ah-Wing, a long song singer, told me. What is a 'long-drawn-out'? I think it is the imagination of Infinity between the stills and the flows; you have to witness infinity-related things to be 'long-drawn-out'.
One-string fiddle of Buryat (布里豆特族)
I saw a one-string fiddle of Buryat (布里豆特族) in a museum. The strings were simply rubbed with a bow and the pellicle acted as an amplifier. When I asked a staff in the museum how it was tuned up I was told that the pellicle was bound with a cow bladder. For unknown reasons some musical instruments aren't used anymore because the information about them failed to be passed from one generation to the next.
I heard of the death of Pina Bauch when I was on the steppe. I couldn't help to wonder if watching her favourite art of dancing would be a 'Top-Shot' for herself.
Lunch hour on the Mongolian steppe
During lunch hour herdsmen would uproot some scallions from the grassland. They would eat it with meat and bread. The contours of herdsmen uprooting scallions are far more appealing than those of the peasants depicted in Millet's 'The Angelus'.
When Mongolian children draw a yurt they start with the skylight. Perhaps it is the view of the sky in a yurt that captivates them the most.
Yearnings from the Mongolian Steppe
People from cities yearn for grasslands. So what do people from grasslands yearn for? The ocean. I saw adornments of ships in various eateries I went to.
「草原」是外來者的叫法, 蒙古族牧民的說法是:「草地」, 兩者的差異, 也許來自視點的不同, 用電影的術語來談, 「草原」是「大全景」(PANORAMA), 「草地」是「俯鏡」(TOP-SHOT)� 你站在自家的腿上看, 是個TOP-SHOT; 騎在馬背上看, 是高一點的TOP-SHOT。
我們常用「草根」代表社會上最低下卑微的人, 「草根」有多壯觀, 沒多少人見識過。我在草坡塌方的地方看到草的根鬚, 有一兩米長。草和草根加起來, 才是「草」的真正面貌。
「呼倫貝尓」(HULUNBEIR)歌手吉雅(JIYA)唱起「呼咪」(THROAT-SINGING)的時候讓我想起羅丹(RODIN)關於雕塑的論述: 有如一隻無形的鎚子, 從(作品)內往外敲。吉雅說:「沒有培養好情緒的歌, 我不要唱。」
「長歌」(LONG-SONG)歌手阿榮說:「長歌的『長』, 不在於歌的長短, 而在於�『悠悠』。」「悠悠」是什麼? 我認為是一種介乎凝固與流動的「∞」(無限遠)想像; 你見過「∞」的東西, 才「悠悠」得起來。
我在博物館裡看到一隻布里豆特 (BURYAT) 族的單弦琴, 以弓擦弦; 皮膜擴聲, 問館員琴弦調音為何? 答:「皮膜是用牛膀胱繃的。」每件樂器失傳, 都有各自的原因。
在草地上聽得PINA BAUCH的死訊, 從此她看她鍾愛的舞蹈藝術, 該也是個「俯鏡」(TOP-SHOT)了吧?
午飯時分牧民會在草原上拔點野蔥, 吃肉吃包子時都用得上, 他們拔野蔥時的身影, 比米勒(MILLET)畫的《晚禱》裡的農民更動人。
蒙古族小孩畫蒙古包, 先從圓形的天窗畫起, 也許天空是蒙古包裡最吸引孩子的景觀。
城市人嚮往草原: 草原人嚮往什麼? 海洋。我在不同的飯舖子裡看到船形的擺設。