A wedding video is deceptive. It’s seemingly everything but a non-place—so personal, beautiful, and filled with memories, it’s difficult not to be moved. Some people will tear up at the sight of any wedding, even those of strangers. And so the picture of a ritual—like a family album, an epic television commercial, or a 30-minute history of the last century—can actually become a non-place, specific and generic at the same time.
Perhaps the story of the Chao Family, later also known as 超生产 Chao Co-op or Chao Productions, can——despite all of its longings to found something new and revolutionary——be seen as just another emotional story of human relations at their best and worst. There is a mother, there is a child, there are joys and betrayals and everyday struggles. There is love and fear and hate.
Mother Miao always wants this story to be told from a polymaternal angle. She knows she can’t do this alone. But can we all be mothers to this ultra, extra child when the tyranny of blood authority still flows through each of our veins? If this is a multi-faceted, rough diamond of an alternative family, does choosing one mean choosing all? That is the most specific and generic story of family, a nuclear bomb.
This video essay has been edited by 何子 Naniko, one of the newest participants of the family. The footage is from various other friends and members of the Chao constellation and spans the time of Miaozi’s pregnancy to the present, one-and-a-half year later. The constellation, the name, and ways of collaborating have evolved; financial struggles pervade everything. Sometimes the group is a working cooperative, sometimes an art & design collective, or maybe even—cāo, which sounds like chāo and means “fuck”—a fucking family.
The last time I edited a video was in 2013, so I want to preface with an apology for this rough, learning-everything-anew work. It actually turned out much differently than I first imagined, as perhaps I could not find my own words with which to describe and narrate the many stories of the Chao constellation, but it turns out there was among the footage given to me a recording of an online meeting that took place a month or two ago between mother Miao, Pop and Aunty Na. These three people are not blood related, but their conversation, which forms the backbone of this video, can perhaps offer a glimpse behind some of the difficulties faced by parenthood and considerations of alternative kinship, including generation differences, urban/rural divides, financial struggle and emotional entanglements. “「Ultra」 Kinship” is not an authorised documentary though. The three of them have not seen it yet, because I did not finish it until yesterday. And so I want to thank Zoénie for your patience, and the Chao family for your trust (or maybe it’s not caring? Who knows…it’s complicated).