The works in, eye, i, you, examine the concept of memory as an archive as a starting point, and particularly that a memory of present can be of something absent, the past. Like a palimpsest, archives are a form of storytelling which in turn link history and memory and, their common construct. Featuring artists: Camilla Bliss (1989, UK), Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee (1994, Singapore) and Fiona Ones (1986, Germany) - their works draw from myths, found photography, colonial text and poetry.
Camilla Bliss welcomes a familiar world of myths and folklore once visited in our childhood and now blurs into the background of our daily lives. Bliss resurrects a fable through her piece, Woodcutter Bell. The fantastical, bronze trinket acts as a totem, symbolizing the morals that stood as pillars in the fable of ‘The Woodcutter and his Axe’. The recurring motif of a face, features in a series of ceramic works with horse hair titled Guardian Tassels. These are inspired by different amulets and talismanic objects placed around the home for protection that can be found within many cultures across the world. The guardian faces that look outwards from each tassel are there to protect the wellbeing of people around it. Bliss’ practice is mostly influenced by children’s books as she incorporates child-like imageries and intertwines it to adult concepts such as death or grief. Perhaps here, Bliss is reminding us, as the audience, of our playfulness and that child-like wonder that still lives in the world of myths and fantasies as a way of coping with growth.
In Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee photographic series, We’ve Got the Sun Under our Skin, each image is accompanied by an excerpt from 19th-21st century ethnographic novels of colonial Malaya (current day Malaysia). Though the textual archives illustrate a story of oneself, or at times a historical event, colonial novels tend to act as a form of ‘soft violence’. Most of these historical texts were written by men through their Western lens. Lee sees that in these narratives, voices of the Other were drowned by the language of colonialism. It is imperative to Lee that the stories that were once lost and fractured by colonial literatures are heard. Lee deconstructs and reclaims the meanings of these texts by weaving subliminal images such as of foliage and traditional clothing as a means to decentre the colonial narrative and instead, embracing the stories of the unseen/unheard. In doing so, the artist utilizes the colonial archives and transforms it into a beautiful and empowering alternative history, shifting the dominant narrative.
Fiona Ones evokes a fictional narrative drawn from an archive of photographs. The series of works titled Just Like You, But Different is a collection of silent memories documenting the first half of the 20th century. Ones was drawn to the intimacy of these small but significant moments. Using a chemical process of isolating the respective elements in each photograph, what is left is a granular narrative from the past. Paired with the photographic works are pencil and needle drawings. Ones dissolves the past and the present into a cumulative experience invoking feelings of nostalgia of what once was.