Tsai Ming-liang loves movie theatre chairs. Addressing an audience at the National Central University in Taiwan following a screening of his film Face, he is quick to point out to them that the seats in the screening room come from the Fu-ho Theatre where his loving homage to old stand-alone neighbourhood cinema’s, Goodbye, Dragon Inn (2003), was shot.

Furthermore, we learn that he is active in “rescuing” all manner of abandoned or jettisoned movie-theatre seats. They have become a significant element in his work. In fact, when commissioned by the Venice Biennale in 2007 to create an installation work, he made a short film titled It’s a Dream about a derelict small town movie house in Malaysia; no doubt, a theatre he most likely knew well from his time growing up there. And then went a step further, as he says: “After shooting it, I tore down a bunch of chairs in the theatre and shipped them to Venice as part of the installation. The movie theatre is an integral part of the work instead of being merely a backdrop.” Therefore, the Venice audience sat in the seats that appear in the film, as such, each member of that audience is, if only temporarily, an embodied part of the overall installation.

As an avid cinephile, Tsai knows well the primacy accorded the film as object, but he respects equally well where and how the object is “housed”. When he recalls his childhood movie-going experience he speaks less of specific films seen as of the ritual of movie-going: the theatres, the ambience, the sense of community.

What are memories attached to? The film object itself, or the sometimes uncanny experiences that we have of the movie-going experience itself? Our memory of a given film may itself be encased in a bigger and more resonant memory.

Such thoughts are at the heart of the dossier Senses of Cinema-Going: Brief Reports on Going to the Movies Around the World. It is both illuminating and insightful to read how diverse and eclectic the contributors’ experiences have been. It makes for wonderful reading.

Thanks to guest editors Arthur Knight, Clara Pafort-Overduin, and Deb Verhoeven for assembling the Cinema-Going dossier; and to Erik Bordeleau, Shumay Lin and Beth Tsai for their work on the Tsai Ming-liang text.

Hope you enjoy the issue.

Rolando Caputo

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