On and Off-Screen Imaginaries

Tiffany Sia


This collection of writings by artist and filmmaker Tiffany Sia gathers six essays that offer a framework for an exilic, fugitive cinema. Sia addresses geopolitics in cinema, image circulation, and national imaginaries, highlighting the stakes of deterritorializing the discursive formation of new media and film practices, and making the case for the continued relevance of cinema in an era of networked images and screen ubiquity.

An essential counterpart to Sia’s films and artworks, this volume is a critical intervention into global film studies, the politics of film/photographic practices, and experimental approaches to documentary. As a practitioner and thinker, Sia has been at the forefront of a new generation of filmmakers working with new vernacular media to trace and comment on social unrest and political crackdowns. Drawing from personal experience and historical study, the essays in this volume offer urgent reflections on a cultural landscape changed by national-security policies, shadow bureaucracies, censorship, and surveillance.

Written in the wake of the 2019-2020 Hong Kong Protests ignited by the Anti-Extradition Bill Movement, Sia’s essays survey the rise of a new documentary vernacular and fugitive cinema being produced by a wave of emerging filmmakers who have broken from the nostalgic overdrive of Hong Kong’s cinematic golden age. Turning her focus to the Cold War, the artist confronts its afterlives and visual regimes, attending to ad hoc distribution networks, speculative and performative modes of re-enactment, and countergeographic landscape imaging that disrupt the politics of place, representation, and nationhood. Sia advocates for an exilic practice that moves beyond categories of national identity, media, and genre.

The publication includes a foreword by film and media studies historian, Jean Ma. Film stills from filmmakers Chan Tze-woon and the anonymous collective Hong Kong Documentary Filmmakers; photographs by the artist An-my Lê; and images from Sia’s short film, The Sojourn (2023), are interspersed between each essay, inviting the reader to construct or consider a cinema by other means.

Tiffany Sia is an artist, filmmaker, and writer living in New York. Her work explores the politics and relations of media circulation and considers how material cultures, particularly print and film/video, trace and enable power, governance, and perception, and how such forces play out and construct imaginaries of place, especially Hong Kong. Sia has directed several short films, including Never Rest/Unrest (2020), Do Not Circulate (2021), and What Rules the Invisible (2022), which have screened at New York Film Festival, Toronto International Film Festival, MoMA Doc Fortnight, Flaherty Film Seminar, and elsewhere. She has exhibited work at venues including Artists Space, New York; the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Seoul Museum of Art; FELIX GAUDLITZ, Vienna; and Kunstverein für die Rheinlande und Westfalen, Düsseldorf. Her books include Too Salty Too Wet (Speculative Place, 2020) and Salty Wet (Inpatient Press, 2019), and her essays have appeared in Film Quarterly, October, Artforum, and LUX Moving Image.

208 pages
4.25 x 7.1 inches
February 2024
ISBN: 9798987624975

Editor: Rachel Valinsky
Managing Editor: James Hoff
Designer: Bryce Wilner
Copy editor: Allison Dubinsky