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

White, Luke ORCID logoORCID: (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. ISSN 2049-2340 [Article] (doi:10.18573/j.2014.10277)

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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.

Item Type: Article
Keywords (uncontrolled): Lau Kar-leung, Walter Benjamin, Storytelling, Authenticity, Film Performance, Martial Arts Pedagogy
Research Areas: A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts
A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Diasporas
A. > School of Art and Design > Visual Arts > Visual Culture and Curating cluster
Item ID: 13788
Useful Links:
Depositing User: Luke White
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2014 15:03
Last Modified: 29 Nov 2022 23:32

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