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你聽得到那鍋子裡還剩下多少水?︱Could you hear how much water is left in the pan?

阿開 Ah Hoi

還記得有一趟經過教授失明人士烹飪的課堂,除了嗅到陣陣飯香之外,隱約聽到導師跟他的學員說了一句令我非常深刻的說話:你聽得到鍋子裡還剩下多少水?

我對精神病患者的認識,始於小時候住在樓下的一個女士,每晚都用髒話大聲咒罵那些不知名不在場的人,或總是大力搖晃老式公屋的鐵閘式窗戶,沒有人和她攀談過,我也不知她叫甚麼名字,只曉得我很多甜夢都栽在她手上。現在她還是住在那裡,咒罵聲搖閘聲沒有了,大概是累了罷。所以我接手這個計劃時,是有猶疑的,不是忍不住追究我失去的甜夢而出了亂子,而是恐怕找不到進入他們的內心世界入口。

在過程中碰到的釘子對我來說卻是加深了解他們的方法,例如不小心把被訪者喝完了僅餘冰塊的汽水杯碰跌,惹來了一陣謾罵。或是遇上正在病發的病友,僵硬的身軀配上空洞的眼神,對旁人的說話不聞不問,見證肉體和靈魂割裂是個令人震悚的經驗。

對精神病患者我們總是單一化用「黐線」來概括,但他們就是他也是你和我,各有自己的強 烈性格,有自己的一片天空。我會覺得他們只是自處於另一種生活的秩序,一種與我們截然不同的秩序,排山倒海的舊書或Hello Kitty霸佔了僅有的生活空間,在極其貧乏的環境下想辦法取悅自己。那些秩序我們可能會覺得難以忍受,或嗤之以鼻,排斥有之,唾棄有之,但那卻是他們找到撫平傷口慰藉自己的地方。

現在回想起來,公屋那位女士可能得不到適當的治療,大家卻對她出奇的容忍體諒,沒有刻 意把她邊緣化,或作一些無謂的投訴,相安無事,皆因那時候我們都是被邊緣化的一群。社會進步,我們自覺優越了,反而在包容別人方面卻退步了。

我們不要奢望用攝影、文字能描繪他們生活的一點一滴,但可以提供一個入口去一窺他們的 內心世界。他們的物件、他們營造的環境氛圍,都是旁敲側擊他們心靈的途徑。還是希望這 一批造像能夠為大家提供對話、互相正視的機會,面對他們渴望溝通的眼神,我們的眼光已沒有逃避的藉口。

或許他們每人背後不平凡的過去,配上這批在鏡頭前極其從容的造像,會令人覺得有點風馬 牛,但相信他們絕對不要一個個悲情的標籤。快門開合的瞬間不能捕捉「過去」和「將來」,可以掌握的只有「現在」。我們可能會覺得要了解他們的內心世界是匪夷所思的,正如叫失明人士憑聽覺去判斷鍋子裡還有沒有水。我們或許會覺得那是不可能的任務,但飯始終要吃,根據那陣飄來的飯菜香味,那頓飯味道應該不錯。

你聽得到那鍋子裡還剩下多少水?

(原文為2007年香港社區組織協會出版的《活一生人》攝影文集的所撰的前言,與其去慶祝香港回歸二十年,倒不如回顧一下自己這個十年前的拙作。)


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I remember once passing a classroom where blind students were taught to cook. The smell of cooking rice apart, I heard the teacher asking a question I would never forget. The question was “Could you hear how much water is left in the pan?”

My understanding of the people with mental illness disturbed stretched back to a lady living downstairs when I was young. Every night she would shout and shake her flat’s old-fashioned window frame with all her strength.

No one ever talked to her nor asked her about her name. I only remembered all the sweet dreams she ruined. The lady is still living in that flat, and yet the noise is gone. Maybe she is tired. So when I took over this project, my hesitation was not that I might not be able to refrain from looking into what the culprit of my sleepless nights is after, but whether I could find a way into their world. The stumbles I made during our shooting sessions had offered me a shortcut to getting to know them. Whether it was the cursing resulting from my accidentally knocking off the soft drink bottle where only ice cubes were left, or the empty staring of the relapsing scoliosis patient. Witnessing the fragmentation of body and soul is a chilling experience.

We say the people with mental illness are ‘crazy’ and yet like you and I, each of them embodies his or her own character. I believe they just live by their own set of rules, different from ours, struggling to experience what little pleasure they can attain in the otherwise restrained environment. To us, their ‘rules’ could be unbearable, irrelevant or loathing. To them, however, these rules provide enclaves to nurture their wounds. The lady in that public housing estate where I lived might not have received proper treatment but we did not try to marginalize her. Perhaps it’s because we were also a group being marginalized. We thought better of ourselves as we and the society progresses. However, we fare poorly at the same time in being more accepting of others.

We try to provide an entry point for people to find a way into our subjects’ world. Their living quarters, their possessions, and the ambience created by their presence give us clues leading to their souls. We also wish to provide a platform for dialogue and a place to meet them eye to eye. The relaxed faces found in the photos might not make sense when juxtaposed in their life stories, yet none of them wanted the unnecessary pathetic labeling. We cannot capture ‘the past’ nor ‘the future’. Only ‘now’ is in our hands. Trying to understand the people with mental illness might seem ‘mission impossible’, as is asking the blind to hear how much water is left in the pan. Yet judging from the smell coming out of that classroom, it should be a nice meal.

Could you hear how much water is left in the pan?

(This statement is written as the foreword for my very first photobook Live Alone a Life - people with mental illness published by Society for Community Organization in 2007)

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