Fiona Tan: Elsewhere
Fiona Tan’s work explores how memory, time and history all affect our reception and understanding of images.
Tan often looks at notions of representation: how we represent ourselves and the mechanisms that determine how we interpret the representation of others. Photography and film – made by herself, by others, or a combination of both – are her mediums; research, classification and the archive, her strategies. Her skillfully crafted, moving and intensely human works, expanded film and video installations, explore both past and present and our place within them.
The works in this exhibition have been prompted by utopian literature such as William Morris’ News from Nowhere (1890) and Tommaso Campanella’s The City of the Sun (1623). These novels made Tan wonder why our age is so much more inclined to dystopian narratives rather than utopian ones. Made while in fellowship as artist-in-residence at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, the pieces are influenced by a year living in the USA. The installation is also related to the artist’s major ongoing project l’Archive des ombres / Shadow Archive, which similarly deals with utopian dreams and plans and which will be exhibited at Musée des Arts Contemporains, Grand Hornu, Belgium, in spring 2019.
The central work Elsewhere takes the form of an HD film installation made using footage shot directly from Tan’s former studio overlooking the city of Los Angeles. A voice-over provides a comprehensive description of a form of utopia written without irony by the artist herself. Trying to imagine and formulate such a world can be surprisingly difficult and brought Tan to the realisation that she would never want to live in such a detached and insular state. The imagery of a decidedly urban environment with its pollution and endless streaming traffic combined with the report of a chillingly ideal world seem somehow at odds with each other while at the same time entirely pertinent to the contemporary world.
Three other film works are shown on vertical flat screen TVs. These pieces depict the endless streaming traffic on LA's highways with the trails of tail and headlights creating a mesmerising and luminous moving surface. For one of these works, Vertical Red, Tan has composed a seemingly simple piano soundtrack which responds and echoes the rhythms of the vehicle brake lights.
Fiona Tan (b. Indonesia, 1966) studied at the Gerrit Rietveld Academie, and the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunst, Amsterdam. Recent solo exhibitions include, De Pont Museum Tilburg (2017); MMK Frankfurt (2016); Izu Photo Museum, Japan; Mudam, Luxemburg; Nasjonal Museet, Oslo; Baltic Gateshead and Maxxi, Rome (2013 – 14). She has written to date two feature length films. Tan’s work is represented in numerous public and private collections including Tate, Guggenheim, Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam, National Galerie, Berlin, New Museum, New York and MCA, Chicago.