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The White House

Director & Photographer
Wenkai Wang

「經過嚴格地學術探究攝影與唯靈論之間的平行歷史,我選擇在『白房子』中用攝影敘事來描繪光怪陸離又似曾相識的巫性世界。受漫畫的視覺敘事和▸Dunae Michals的影響,我用電影置景以及打光的方式來盡可能還原一個巫性思維的空間。我從1692年的塞勒姆女巫審判案以及其他的神秘主義題材歷史中汲取素材,演員會按照我事先寫好的這個劇本在規定的空間中自由探索,我希望結果是一種介於紀實攝影和藝術攝影還有沉浸式舞台之間的視覺奇觀。我需要的是擺脫一種科學至上的正確,離開所謂的現實,回到想象構建的巫性空間中。」


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Photographer/director: @wen_kai_w

Producer&AD: @nicolezhouh

Actors: @simonaivanov_a @cat.tebo @jacquelinel_lan
Gaffer: @ben.howley @luc.ung
Stylist: @wqnmdp
Art direction&MUA: @ziyuan_chen_

The White House

Today scientific thinking may appear unassailable, yet magic remains surprisingly attractive to the modern mind. From the micro-superstitions that permeate our daily lives, to the fantastical tales of 4chan conspiracists, magic thrives in Western society.
Magic trades in spectacle. As sci-fi author Arthur C. Clarke has written, “any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic." Indeed, modern technology bestows the user with formidable powers; godlike, we now conjure alternative worlds with the mere tap of an OLED display.
Since its inception, photography has enjoyed a privileged relationship with the truth. But from capturing the souls of colonized subjects to the ectoplasmic séances of mid 19th Century spirit photography, the medium has maintained an equally close relationship with the supernatural. Despite its documentary credentials, even today it can be tempting to view photography as a window onto other dimensions. Dimensions that, as Barthes famously noted, are frequently located beyond the grave.
Spiritualists maintain that the deceased have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living. Because photography served as the primary method of “documenting” 19th Century Spiritualist phenomena, it could be argued that Spiritualism constitutes the earliest example of a religious faith emerging from modern technology. As Shannon Taggart has observed, it was certainly the first to have produced its iconography not by means of painting, but photography. What’s more, widespread belief in the indexical nature of photography meant that Spiritualist images - rather than merely being seen as idealized artistic depictions - were treated by many as “documentary evidence” of paranormal activity.
Nonetheless, if recent digital innovations have drastically undermined photography’s hold on truth, the first seeds of doubt were planted by Spiritualism itself only a few decades after the medium’s invention. In the late 19th century, the pioneering spirit photographs of William H. Mumler attracted the curiosity of scientists, scholars, and the general public alike. Following the American Civil War, Mumler saw great success in reuniting the bereaved with lost relatives by photographic means. Mumler’s claims that he could summon supra-normal apparitions in the form of silver halides did not convince everyone, however, and he was eventually taken to court for fraud and larceny.
Yet advocacy of Spiritualism also came from more respected quarters. Most notably, science and mysticism met in the experiments of the esteemed British physicist and chemist, Sir William Crookes. Crookes invented the cathode-ray tube; a core component of both television and the X-ray. But he is also notorious for having attempted lens-based communion with the spirit world - with rather less spectacular results.
Over the years, many other learned individuals championed the photo-occultist cause, employing that scientific apparatus par excellence, the camera, in the name of psychic research. As we’ve seen, though, in dialogue, spiritualism and photography not only symbiotically create each other, but also “expose” o ne another. At a time when photo-generated realities coincide with “fake news,” clearly magical thinking is once again ascendant. This calls for similar exposure.
Revisiting the overlapping terrain between photography and Spiritualism, The White House reflects upon these issues by means of a sequential photographic narrative depicting esoteric rites. Inspired by the visual language of comics and the photographic storytelling of Duane Michals, I was interested to discover how our ingrained proclivity for magical thinking would manifest itself when transferred to the realm of staged photography. In practice, although the narrative follows a “script” based on research into the 1692 Salem witch trails, I encouraged the actors to freely explore this theme for themselves within the defined parameters. The goal; to create a parallel docu-fictional reality encouraging magical thinking.

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