No Power To Push Up the Sky

Lana Lin

2000, 23:00 minutes, colour, English


"No Power to Push Up the Sky" takes its name from a literal translation of the slogan 23-year old student leader Chai Ling wrote on her clothes during the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square. In an interview conducted in Beijing on May 28, 1989, Chai Ling recalls this expression of the students' sense of helplessness during the turbulent days preceding the massacre. For the video, fifteen people spontaneously translate excerpts of the original Chinese interview into spoken English. This performative translation allows viewers to witness the active struggle to articulate meaning and highlights the transformation that is produced through each individual. The video also features running headlines from major and marginal newspapers and journals in the West that chronicle the events in Tiananmen Square from May 28-June 9, 1989. Both forms of translation demonstrate the complex process of locating meaning across language, culture, and politics. By positioning translation as an interpretive act, the video points to the subjective motivations underlying any understanding and narrativization of history.

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