Towards a radical aesthetics of kung fu cinema: authenticity and the pedagogy of performing bodies in Lau Kar-leung’s Shaolin Cycle

Conference paper


White, L. 2011. Towards a radical aesthetics of kung fu cinema: authenticity and the pedagogy of performing bodies in Lau Kar-leung’s Shaolin Cycle. Radical Aesthetics and Politics: Intersections in Music, Art and Critical Social Theory. Roosevelt House, Hunter College, CUNY 09 Dec 2011
TypeConference paper
TitleTowards a radical aesthetics of kung fu cinema: authenticity and the pedagogy of performing bodies in Lau Kar-leung’s Shaolin Cycle
AuthorsWhite, L.
Abstract

RESEARCH QUESTIONS - To what degree can Hong Kong martial arts cinema be understood to contain within it currents of radical, emancipatory or resistant content? How can we understand such emphatically 'popular' cultural products as connecting to a 'longue durée' of the struggle of the oppressed? How should we understand the political valences of the performing body in martial arts cinema? RESEARCH CONTEXT - The paper was produced for an international conference exploring the intersections between radical political, intellectual and aesthetic practices. It drew together artists and other cultural producers, curators, historians, anthropologists, and those working in visual culture/art history and related fields, in order to set up interchange. The conference was set up by Critical Studies in Expressive Culture, a collective 'aimed at rethinking intersections between aesthetic practices and social theory'. My paper was the first formal output in a developing body of work on martial arts cinema. This larger project will be looking at the politics of such a cinema, in relation in particular to problems of the popular, and of popular culture as a vehicle of cultural counter-memory. The conference organisers are currently negotiating a deal with Cambridge Scholars Publishing for a book based on the conference, and I have been asked to develop my paper for this. RESEARCH METHODS - The paper draws on contemporary discussions of the body in 'kung fu' films, especially by David Bordwell and Leon Hunt, and wider theories of stardom and the action genre. The essay takes as its focus the work of martial artist, star, fight choreographer and film director Lau Kar-leung. Picking up on the questions of 'authenticity' that are so often posed around martial arts performance, it expands an analysis of the body in kung fu through a close reading of Walter Benjamin. Rather, however, than linger on the account of aura in the famous Artwork essay, I draw on "The Storyteller" to draw out a more positive take on authentic and auratic modes in Benjamin's work. I use such a theoretical angle to examine the relation between the myths and stories told in martial arts cinema, Cantonese folk cultures, histories of resistance and rebellion in that region, and the pedagogy of the martial arts themselves. I examine the forms of what Benjamin might term first or second 'technology' that we are faced with in these films, to understand further the figure of the body itself in relation to forms of industrial and capitalist modernity. FINDINGS - Lau's films, in particular, insistently retell the stories of his own martial arts lineage, that he traces back to Cantonese revolutionaries in the eighteenth century. I argue that such kung fu films link to longer storytelling histories in Cantonese popular culture, and these in turn are integrated into the oral forms of the transmission of martial skills, culture and values, keying the martial arts and their cinematic representations into forms of resistant 'low' culture. Just as Benjamin suggests that storytelling is a technology of the body, the martial arts as storytelling arts involve the preservation of memory, culture, identity and 'authenticity' in globalising and postcolonial contexts. Benjamin offers a way of thinking the martial arts, their cinematic portrayal and the forms of identification they elicit as offering a form of corporeal technology that runs counter to alienating industrial forms of technology.

KeywordsWalter Benjamin, Lau Kar-leung, Leon Hunt, David Bordwell, kung fu, martial arts, cinema, Hong Kong, Braudel, popular culture, memory, identity, the body, storytelling, postcolonial, technoogy, aura, authenticity, experience
Research GroupDiasporas
Visual Culture and Curating cluster
LanguageEnglish
ConferenceRadical Aesthetics and Politics: Intersections in Music, Art and Critical Social Theory
Publication process dates
Deposited30 Mar 2012
Completed09 Dec 2011
Output statusPublished
Web address (URL)http://chreculture.blogspot.com/
Permalink -

https://repository.mdx.ac.uk/item/8388q

  • 31
    total views
  • 0
    total downloads
  • 5
    views this month
  • 0
    downloads this month

Export as

Related outputs

Way of the intercepting pun: language and the body in Stephen Chow's carnival of kung fu
White, L. 2024. Way of the intercepting pun: language and the body in Stephen Chow's carnival of kung fu. in: Bettinson, G. and Lee, V. (ed.) The Cinema of Stephen Chow London, UK Bloomsbury. pp. 163–179
Sammo Hung: the Kung Fu comic's sublime body
White, L. 2024. Sammo Hung: the Kung Fu comic's sublime body. in: Barrowman, K. (ed.) Fighting Stars: Stardom and Reception in Hong Kong Martial Arts Cinema London, UK Bloomsbury. pp. 109–125
Retribution Shaw-Style
White, L. 2023. Retribution Shaw-Style. USA
Jackie Chan: a winning formula
White, L. 2023. Jackie Chan: a winning formula. USA
Fighting without fighting: Kung Fu cinema's journey to the West
White, L. 2022. Fighting without fighting: Kung Fu cinema's journey to the West. London Reaktion Books.
Reappraising the Kung Fu comedy film: from the protestant ethnic to hysterical resistance
White, L. 2022. Reappraising the Kung Fu comedy film: from the protestant ethnic to hysterical resistance. 7th International Martial Arts Studies Conference: Martial Arts, Tradition and Globalisation. Universities of Lausanne and Geneva 29 Jun - 02 Jul 2022
Crippled warriors: masculinities and martial arts media in Asia
White, L. 2022. Crippled warriors: masculinities and martial arts media in Asia. in: Kim, Y. (ed.) Media in Asia: Global, Digital, Gendered and Mobile London and New York Routledge. pp. 239-252
Legacies of the drunken master: politics of the body in Hong Kong Kung Fu comedy films
White, L. 2020. Legacies of the drunken master: politics of the body in Hong Kong Kung Fu comedy films. Honolulu, USA University of Hawai'i Press.
Conference report: Bruce Lee’s cultural legacies
White, L. 2018. Conference report: Bruce Lee’s cultural legacies.
How Jeff Koons sold out – and why his jumbo tulips don’t belong in Paris
White, L. 2018. How Jeff Koons sold out – and why his jumbo tulips don’t belong in Paris.
Toward an aesthetic of weightlessness: Qinggong and Wire-fu
White, L. 2017. Toward an aesthetic of weightlessness: Qinggong and Wire-fu. in: lok, s. (ed.) RoCH Fans and Legends Derby / Manchester QUAD / Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art.
Carnival of the drunken master: the politics of the Kung Fu comedic body
White, L. 2018. Carnival of the drunken master: the politics of the Kung Fu comedic body. in: Bowman, P. (ed.) The Martial Arts Studies Reader London Rowman & Littlefield. pp. 199-212
Netflix ninjas and the legacy of the Kung Fu craze: asiaphilia and asiaphobia in Marvel’s Daredevil
White, L. 2018. Netflix ninjas and the legacy of the Kung Fu craze: asiaphilia and asiaphobia in Marvel’s Daredevil. 4th Annual Martial Arts Studies Conference: Bruce Lee’s Cultural Legacies. Cardiff University, UK 11 - 12 Jul 2018
Enter the Xiaozi: youth in the Hong Kong Kung Fu comedy film
White, L. 2017. Enter the Xiaozi: youth in the Hong Kong Kung Fu comedy film. World Youth Martial Arts Mastership International Academic Conference. Cheongju University, Korea 03 - 04 Nov 2017
The ethics of violence in the Kung Fu comedy
White, L. 2017. The ethics of violence in the Kung Fu comedy. Martial Arts Studies Conference, 2017. Cardiff University, Wales, United Kingdom 11 - 13 Jul 2017
Jackie Chan vs. Walter Benjamin: postcolonial “Utopias of the Body” in Kung Fu comedy
White, L. 2017. Jackie Chan vs. Walter Benjamin: postcolonial “Utopias of the Body” in Kung Fu comedy. Research Seminar Series, Department of English Literature, Linguistics and Cultural Studies. University of Westminster, London, United Kingdom 08 Mar 2017
Marvel’s Daredevil: Ninjas, Blind Swordsmen and the Oriental Obscene
White, L. 2017. Marvel’s Daredevil: Ninjas, Blind Swordsmen and the Oriental Obscene. Them! The Visual Cultures of 'Othering' in Post-Referendum UK and Post-General-Election USA. Middlesex University, London, United Kingdom 13 Jan 2017
Through the window: Wing Chun as woman warrior
lok, s. and White, L. 2015. Through the window: Wing Chun as woman warrior. Martial Arts Studies. Cardiff University 10 - 12 Jun 2015
A ‘narrow world, strewn with prohibitions’: Chang Cheh’s The Assassin and the 1967 Hong Kong riots
White, L. 2015. A ‘narrow world, strewn with prohibitions’: Chang Cheh’s The Assassin and the 1967 Hong Kong riots. Asian Cinema. 26 (1), pp. 79-98. https://doi.org/10.1386/ac.26.1.79_1
Lau Kar-leung with Walter Benjamin: storytelling, authenticity, film performance and martial arts pedagogy
White, L. 2014. Lau Kar-leung with Walter Benjamin: storytelling, authenticity, film performance and martial arts pedagogy. Journalism Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC). 5, pp. 1-17. https://doi.org/10.18573/j.2014.10277
Damien Hirst: the capitalism sublime?
White, L. 2012. Damien Hirst: the capitalism sublime? Marxism in Culture. Institute of Historical Research, University College London 01 Jun 2012
Kung-fu cinema's Shaolin heroes in the Longue Durée of Chinese revolt
White, L. 2012. Kung-fu cinema's Shaolin heroes in the Longue Durée of Chinese revolt. Riot, Revolt, Revolution. University of Brighton 05 - 07 Sep 2012
Vicissitudes of violence: Hong Kong martial arts cinema and the 1966/7 unrest
White, L. 2012. Vicissitudes of violence: Hong Kong martial arts cinema and the 1966/7 unrest. Genre Beyond Hollywood. University of Southampton 08 Jul 2012
Nature, the metropolis and the apocalyptic sublime
White, L. 2012. Nature, the metropolis and the apocalyptic sublime. Landscape & Eschatology. Tate Britain
Radical, like in the 80s
White, L. 2011. Radical, like in the 80s. Radical Philosophy. 168, pp. 56-58.
Damien Hirst’s shark: nature, capitalism and the sublime.
White, L. 2010. Damien Hirst’s shark: nature, capitalism and the sublime. Tate Papers (Tate's Online Research Journal). 14.
Damien Hirst, Colley Cibber and the bathos of the commercialised sublime.
White, L. 2007. Damien Hirst, Colley Cibber and the bathos of the commercialised sublime. Taste, vision, transcendence: sublimity 1700-1900.. University of Sussex 05 Jan 2007
Sublimity, beauty and decorum
White, L. 2007. Sublimity, beauty and decorum. in: Petry, M. (ed.) Richmond Burton and Maisie Kendall: decorum Hornsey MOCA in conjunction with the Royal Academy Schools. pp. 5-10
Damien Hirst and the legacy of the sublime in contemporary art and culture
White, L. 2009. Damien Hirst and the legacy of the sublime in contemporary art and culture. PhD thesis Middlesex University Visual Culture / History of Art and Design
Damien Hirst's diamond skull and the capitalist sublime
White, L. 2009. Damien Hirst's diamond skull and the capitalist sublime. in: White, L. and Pajaczkowska, C. (ed.) The Sublime Now Newcastle Upon Tyne Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 155-171
The sublime in the work of Cornelia Parker
White, L. and Pajaczkowska, C. 2009. The sublime in the work of Cornelia Parker. in: White, L. and Pajaczkowska, C. (ed.) The Sublime Now. Newcastle Upon Tyne Cambridge Scholars Publishing. pp. 181-196
The sublime now
White, L. and Pajaczkowska, C. White, L. and Pajaczkowska, C. (ed.) 2009. The sublime now. Newcastle Upon Tyne Cambridge Scholars Publishing.
Ideal homes/artificial horizons
White, L. and Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture 2007. Ideal homes/artificial horizons. Museum of Domestic Design & Architecture.