Lau Kar-leung with Walter Benjamin: storytelling, authenticity, film performance and martial arts pedagogy

Article


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
TypeArticle
TitleLau Kar-leung with Walter Benjamin: storytelling, authenticity, film performance and martial arts pedagogy
AuthorsWhite, L.
Abstract

This recent article considers how we might understand the politics of corporeal identification that stands at the heart of the pleasures of kung fu cinema, and how might this be built on the forms of pedagogy – the ‘embodied knowledge’ – of the martial arts themselves. Might the forms of visual-corporeal communication at the heart of ‘kung fu’ (as cinema and physical practice), harbour emancipatory impulses, even if – or paradoxically because – they are rooted in a ‘premodern’ past? In order to argue that this is indeed the case, this essay examines the work of Lau Kar-leung, one of kung fu cinema’s most innovative auteurs during the 1960s and ’70s. Lau’s films, made in the wake of the countercultural and anticolonial turmoil of 1960s and ’70s Hong Kong, are posited as part of a culture of resistance with their protagonists (also ostensibly his own martial arts ancestors) in revolt against Manchurian occupation and semicolonial domination by the West, connecting to a history of the Chinese martial arts as involved in resistance from below.
I analyse these through Walter Benjamin’s thought about aura and authenticity. Thought the famous Artwork essay primarily posits ‘authenticity’ and ‘aura’ as retrograde, some of his other late essays open up ways of thinking the auratic body of the kung fu performer in a more positive light. I draw on Benjamin’s ‘The Storyteller’, examining parallels between the forms of embodied memory and experience (Erfahrung) transmitted in storytelling and the oral pedagogies of Chinese martial arts in order to argue that ‘Kung fu’ culture thus entails a storytelling mode that, in the context of (post)modern, (post)colonial, globalisation, presents a counterforce to the abstraction, atomisation and instrumentalisation that characterise capitalist social relations.

KeywordsLau Kar-leung, Walter Benjamin, Storytelling, Authenticity, Film Performance, Martial Arts Pedagogy
Research GroupDiasporas
Visual Culture and Curating cluster
LanguageEnglish
PublisherCardiff University
JournalJournalism Media and Cultural Studies (JOMEC)
ISSN2049-2340
Publication dates
Print01 Jun 2014
Publication process dates
Deposited12 Sep 2014
Output statusPublished
Accepted author manuscript
License
Digital Object Identifier (DOI)https://doi.org/10.18573/j.2014.10277
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