Tiffany Sia, Yuri Pattison

2021 | 00:11:51 | Hong Kong SAR China / Ireland | English | Color | Stereo | 16:9 | HD video

Collection: New Releases, Single Titles

Tags: Environment, Expedition/Travel, Politics, Post-colonialism

A meditation on maritime trade routes, SEA – SHIPPING – SUN is a short film directed by Tiffany Sia (b. Hong Kong) and Yuri Pattison (b. Dublin) shot over the span of two years to render a simulated duration of a day, beginning at twilight and closing at sunset. The film is set against shipping forecasts from archival BBC Radio 4 broadcasts. The sun emerges and disappears, again and again.

Issued by the British Meteorological Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, the shipping forecast functions to disseminate “gale warnings for seafarers and [communicate] weather information from coastal stations,” originating in a time before GPS and satellite telecommunication technologies when sailors had only the radio to rely on. These broadcasts, continuing a British maritime tradition and no longer serving a practical purpose, are purely nostalgic. Sia and Pattison draw from the poetics of the shipping forecasts and reassemble recordings pulled from two pivotal dates of recent history, 23 June (i) and 30 June (ii), and set them against an anachronistic setting of shipping channels in Hong Kong.

Multiple scales of time and place come to the fore. Are historical shifts seeable? The term “sea change” originates from Shakespeare’s The Tempest:

"Full fathom five thy father lies; Of his bones are coral made: Those pearls that were his eyes; Nothing of him that doth fade, But doth suffer a sea-change Into something rich and strange."

The contemporary usage of the idiom, denoting a paradigm shift, obscures the original meaning that Shakespeare intended. Here, “sea change” describes a putrefaction of a corpse brought on by the organisms and salt of the ocean bed. The sea contains a submerged history. Currents trace trade routes, and also draw a means of escape. While the sea binds communities together, it also disappears and drowns them. An ambient archival broadcast roils over footage of sea channel traffic.

In the detritus and wakes of empires, these times necessitate embracing the eternal restlessness and statelessness that befalls the fate of a colonial or postcolonial subject. Achille Mbembe warns that to bind oneself to a fixed notion of place threatens “fixation, confinement, and strangulation, as well as the threat of disassociation.” (iii) Inspired by audio and visual media, from lullabies to ASMR videos, created with the intention of inducing sleep or relaxation, SEA – SHIPPING – SUN gathers a vision of entanglement. We are left with history’s residue: A gentle, rocking waltz over the sea.

Commissioned as a response to Yuri Pattison's show at The Douglas Hyde Gallery, the engine.

(i) 23 June 2016: Brexit or EU referendum took place, resulting in 51.9% votes cast were in favour of leaving the EU. 23 June 2021: The pro-democracy newspaper Apple Daily announces its final edition will be released that Thursday, 24 June 2021 after five top executives were arrested under the national security law and the company’s assets were frozen.
(ii) 30 June 1994: 1) Patten Proposal goes into effect, countering a formal notification from Beijing that Hong Kong’s Legislative Council replaced by a “legal representative institution” after 1 July 1997; 2) Hong Kong Clock was unveiled in Tiananmen Square and began to count down the days and seconds to 1 July 1997, the handover of Hong Kong. 30 June 2020: Hong Kong’s National Security Law was signed, passed and took effect at 11pm. 30 June 2021: Deadline for most European Union citizens to apply to live permanently in the UK as settled residents after Brexit.
(iii) Mbembe, Achille. Necropolitics. Duke University Press, 2019. 189.

Available for educational use. Please contact VDB for screening and exhibition requests. 

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The Douglas Hyde Gallery

Exhibitions + Festivals

Flaherty Film Seminar (online), 2020