President’s Young Talent Award 2018, Singapore Art MuseumRead More
Artist Residency with Molten Capital in Santiago, Chile
Artist WeiXin Chong (b.1988, Singapore) together with two other artists recently completed a three-week residency (30 November - 20 December 2017) which culminated in an exhibition at MAC (Museo de Arte Contemporaneo Facultad de Artes Universidad de Chile).
Just Like You, But Different
Interview by Cat Lachowskyj
After a chance encounter with a woman at a flea market, photographer Fiona Struengmann was invited to the home of her new acquaintance, an amateur snapshot collector looking to pass on her findings to a new owner. There was only one condition: “Take it all, or leave it all behind.” Moments later, Struengmann was the new keeper of an archive containing 7,000 photographs compiled over the course of 50 years.
Looking through the boxes of material, Struengmann was struck by a sense of familiarity and unity with the nameless faces and scenes in each image. While the age of the photographs were made visceral through their physical appearance, the themes depicted in them remained relevant to her somehow. Struengmann was also drawn to their more minute details, with specific objects and forms catching her eye. “These works put me in conversation with the past, held in present time,” she explains.
Using a range of different chemical and physical interventions, Struengmann alters the photographs from this massive archive, highlighting the fragments she finds most compelling. Arranging these reformulated images in conversation with one another, she situates them within a new narrative, mapping out our inherent relationship to the past. These tinkerings then become a part of her series called Just Like You, But Different.
Drawn to the intricate poeticism of Struengmann’s pieces, I reached out to the artist to discuss photography’s importance in the preservation and legacy of memory, and the role of the “citizen photographer” in contemporary visual culture.
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LensCulture: Can you tell me the story of how you came to possess all of these photographs?
Fiona Struengmann: One morning I was at a flea market going through a box of old letters and images when a woman came up to me and said she might have something for me. She asked for my number. It was a very bizarre interaction, but I was curious.
Weeks later, she called me with a time and place to meet her. When I arrived at the destination, I found myself walking through a dark room full of books and boxes with a table in the centre of the room. I sat down and started talking to the woman about her life while she brought out one box after the other, all filled with photographs. She had been trading them for over fifty years in Germany in exchange for signed movie cards, books and money, and was now at a point in her life where she wanted to get rid of them all. She said I could either take all of it or leave it all behind—no cherry-picking allowed. And that’s where this journey began.
LC: Why did you title the project Just Like You, But Different?
FS: We are all born the same way, and then our individual journeys begin. We all connect objects, gestures and people with different memories in our lives.
When I was going through the archive, I felt that I was somehow connected to the people in the images—but on the other hand, I also felt detached as an individual. I would imagine that the way I see the world and the way I feel are different.
From the series “Just Like You But Different” © Fiona Struengmann
LC: While the archive you inherited contains around 7000 images, you only work with a select few. How do you choose which photographs to work with, and what draws you to specific images?
FS: I think it’s the unconscious similarities that make me feel attached to certain things I am familiar with, even though they are from a completely different context. They draw me in unintentionally and let me tell a story.
I am always interested in creating dialogues within an image. Most of the time, I’m interested in things that are happening in the background, like gestures, silhouettes and landscapes—preferably mountains. I grew up in that sort of environment, and I find comfort in it. When I see mountains in images, I am immediately magnetized by them.
LC: How exactly do you alter your photographs, and how did you start working with materials in this way?
FS: I always loved experimenting with photography’s visual voice, whether I’m building my own camera or experimenting in the darkroom. Photography offers so many different ways to tell a story. For this specific project, it took me quite a while to figure out the right technique and chemicals to use. I would protect the parts I wanted to keep and then—through a chemical process—liquify the other parts of the paper. You only have one chance and can destroy the image within seconds, so it’s quite a challenge for each individual piece.
LC: While your photographs do contain recognizable images, there is something additional in your work—tactility, materiality, and the photograph as an object. Can you speak a bit about why these are also important elements in this series?
FS: Each photograph has already had its journey as a companion to people, whether it be in a photo album, hung on someone’s wall, or maybe even in a storage box. They come from different time periods that had different aesthetic trends in terms of sizing and shape. The backs of the photographs occasionally have inscriptions, sometimes including dates and places, which make you have a conversation with them and treat them as individual pieces.
Following that, I make other choices, like which brush to use, which colour to choose and how to position the objects within a frame after the alterations have been made. I love the fact that all the pieces communicate with each other, but also have their own voice when standing on their own.
LC: How do you reconcile with the act of altering historical objects? Is this something you think about a lot in your work?
FS: Yes, I do. I select pieces very carefully, and many images I find, I would never touch. I have been collecting old photographs since I was 14 years old, and with this archive in particular, I first made a selection of images that were never allowed to be altered. They were so perfect in their composition, light, printing technique or historical information. But on the other hand, who am I to judge? I become an editor and make a decision and choice from a collection of images that have otherwise been forgotten.
LC: You’ve described your work by saying that your photographs put you “in conversation with the past, held in present time.” This begs the question: what sort of narrative are you structuring with these images?
FS: These images come from the first of what we now refer to as “citizen photographers”—the first people to document their surroundings and everyday life using the medium of photography. I am always thinking about where we come from and how fascinating it is to have been born in this specific time period; there have been millions before us and there will be millions after. Even though time has changed and years have passed, we are still drawn to the same subjects that we want to keep in our memory: family, friends, lovers and special occasions like birthdays and vacations.
Most of the time, life is not actually every lived experience, but it’s what we keep in our memories; it’s the parts that we remember. Photography plays an integral role in this sentiment. It is not the moment, but the photograph that was taken at a given time that creates the memory. When I work on these pieces, I project my ways of seeing in the now onto the photograph, so that it then becomes a memory within a memory. It’s a moment in time that now echoes with mine, but that will one day fade altogether.
LC: How do you see your viewers engaging with your pieces? What do you want them to come away with?
FS: We are all citizens of the same planet, so I think the works are an invitation to start a dialogue with our natural surroundings. By neglecting certain parts of the image while giving the viewer more space to highlight other aspects like landscapes, gestures and silhouettes, the viewer can hopefully start a conversation with the images and project their own way of seeing onto them. Photography is a medium we can all relate to intimately and subjectively. And if it’s not the medium, then it’s the people that are like you, but different.
—Fiona Struengmann, interviewed by Cat Lachowskyj
Art of the Rehearsal is an immersive installation – a panoramic artwork that depicts traditional dancers across various cultures practising in back lanes of a city. Reflecting on their rigorous training, the film highlights the performers’ dedication and determination.
A.I. is pleased to present Flotsam, Jetsam Lagan & Derelict, an exhibition focusing on different strategies of constructing archives of encountered territories. A selection of works by three artists, Haffendi Anuar (b.1985, Malaysia), WeiXin Chong (b.1988, Singapore) & artist collective without appeal (b.2016, London), in the form of table-top sculptures and prints examine the versatile and paradoxical power of the flâneur.
Haffendi Anuar’s table-top sculptures entitled Migratory Objects trace the contemporary mutations that occur in cultural symbols as a result of displacement, digitalisation and commodification. Through the current velocity of digital dispersion and pixelation of traditional designs and patterns, these resulting objects become pseudo-artefacts. Their existence, inspired by kitsch decorative pieces and cultural debris, question their potential to enter Western economic exchange markets.
The series Toute La Nuit by WeiXin Chong developed in response to exploring the urban environment whilst on a residency in Paris. Utilising natural and man-made ephemera found at site-specific locations, for example: Bois de Boulogne and the resting place of French writer, Simone de Beauvoir (whose grave she shares with her lifelong partner- the famed existential philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre) -these re-compositions evoke narrative associations simultaneously alongside its flash, frozen-in-flight aesthetic.
without appeal are premiering two bodies of work: a paperback self-publication titled Enthusiasm Is Blasting Out of All of My Holes is the result of a six-month long project which took place between Hunedoara, Warsaw, Venice and Paris. With roots in Guy Debord’s ideas on psychogeography and cultivating a new awareness of our environment, the publication documents a subjective engagement with these spaces and explores personal micro-narratives interwoven in each location.
The series Everything that is Man-Made Requires Maintenance is a response to rising nationalist delimitations and a growing appeal for singular identities and restrictive borders. The hybrid landscapes metaphorically eliminate distances and arbitrary delimitations set between the urban, institutional and natural environments. The resulting fictional territories hold the promise of open access and multiplicity, while they speculate on the possibilities of collaboration and community.
7 Young Artists Making a Big Impression at Photo London
Classic images by the big beasts of photography are on show—and sale—at Photo London, the fourth edition of which opens to the public today, May 17, at Somerset House. The fair offers exhibitions of works by its 2018 Master of Photography, Edward Burtynsky, and one of the founding fathers of the medium, William Henry Fox Talbot, plus classic images by the likes of Brassaï and Bill Brandt, among many others. At the same time, collectors are sure to find fresh talent as well.
Here’s our pick of seven young artists who are stretching the medium, giving its traditions a fresh twist and attracting the interest of collectors and curators. One of them, Tania Franco-Klein, has already added a new prize to her burgeoning resume, winning the Photo London Artproof Schliemann Award 2018, which was announced last night. Something of a double whammy, the young Mexican artist who studied in London gets two residencies, one in Arles funded by Joana and Henrik Schliemann and the second in Tallinn at the Artproof workshop, which comes with a €10,000 ($12,000) production budget to create new works.
Fiona Struengmann, “Just Like You, But Different” (2017-18)
A.I. Gallery, London
The Munich-based artist Fiona Struengmann, who is a graduate of Parsons, has been mining an archive of around 7,000 found photographs and producing her own manipulated images. She transforms the snapshots of ordinary life in Germany from the 1920s to the 1950s by honing in on telling details, drawing attention to the way a woman is seated or a hand gesture, then blanking out the background, sometimes adding tiny drops of gold paint. Each is unique and at first glance the delicate monochrome images look like drawings.
“I was in a flea market and a woman came up to me and said ‘I have something for you,’” she explains of the source material. The artist kept some untouched but the rest form the basis of her series “Just Like You, But Different.”
She tells artnet News that she has discovered another trove, this time in France, this one “about slavery and colonialism.” Once again, a collector wants her to mine his archive.
Unique works at Photo London range from £800 to £1,350 ($1,000 to $1,820).
10 Feb - 11 April 2018Read More
17 Mar - 6 May 2018Read More
17 - 28 January 2018Read More
Like many of its Southeast Asian counterparts, Singapore has a complicated cultural heritage, one that is a conglomeration of racial, religious, regional and global influences.
Art Radar presents the research of three artists contributing to enrich Singapore’s arts and culture scene.
Over the years, Singapore has taken great pains to develop its art scene and consolidate its complex cultural landscape. The opening of National Gallery Singapore in 2015 marked the nation’s continued investment in the study and promotion of the region’s modern artistic history. Last year, the Singapore Art Museum hosted the fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale, which showcased contemporary artists from Southeast, East and South Asia. Institutions such as the Institute of Contemporary Arts, LASALLE College and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA) have also provided opportunities for contemporary artists to showcase their works.
These efforts have supported a burgeoning art industry that grapples with a rapidly changing Singapore, Southeast Asia and the world at large. This article highlights three Singaporean artists whose work captures the daily experiences of being in Singapore and perceiving the world beyond it.
Weixin Chong considers her artistic practice as nomadic. Exhibiting in and travelling to a variety of places including London, Paris, Seoul and Singapore, this young artist explores the intricacies of human relationships through material metaphors. Chong creates art that responds to the environment she inhabits while being keenly aware of her own perceptions. In Sous-vide/ 真空, Chong collaborated with artist Pauline Cambrai Emond to collect and display discarded clothes found on the streets of Belgium. The work was a response to the 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris. The collaborationwas followed by Chong’s series “Under dress“, which was first shown at BAU 13: DRESS CODEX, Italy.
“Under Dress” began with 150 drawings of undergarments and lingerie, and is an ongoing project. The sensuous subject matter is accentuated through Chong’s delicate graphite drawings on gossamer black tissue paper. Her detailed renderings of the contours of each garment leave no surface of that intimate fabric unobserved, untouched. She labels – in careless, cursive lettering – each drawing: demi-cup, V-back high leg, soft backless. Chong’s transition from exploring states of dress and undress from a global to a personal perspective epitomise her artistic practice of skimming the surface of human desire and power, feeling, with utmost sensitivity, the outlines of things closest to us.
Text by Jean Wong
Weixin Chong, ‘Demi-cup’, from “Under dress 0.2” series, 2016, graphite on black tissue paper. Image courtesy of the artist.
Interview: New Currents by Piers MastersonRead More
Cinerama: Art and the Moving Image in Southeast AsiaRead More
UNSEEN 2017 | Viewed & Reviewed
Booth reportage by Paul Carey-Kent:
"At A.I., Singaporean WeiXin Chong cleverly linked the vanitas tradition of the floral still life with the beauty industry’s contrary pretensions to counter the ageing process. The Beige Dreams series – referencing the ideal skin colour recalled from her girlhood memory of the crayon considered ‘people-coloured’ – applies make-up (in this case YSL Touche Eclat Shade 2.5) to flowers to yield a look similar to decay."
Link to article here
WeiXin CHONG. Beige Dreams -Flesh Skin Surface.4, 2017. Courtesy of artist & A.I. Gallery
A.I. is pleased to return to UNSEEN Amsterdam 2017 (22-24 Sep 2017) presenting a new body of works by artist WeiXin CHONG. On this occasion, an artist interview has been published in UNSEEN Magazine 2017. Except below:
Weixin Chong (b. 1988, Singapore) uses subtle and refined imagery to delicately commentate on the human practice of archiving and recording history. Her newest series examines our obsession with concealing the aging process, especially in women.
Q. Tell us about how you incorporate theories of archiving into your work.
A. I think we’re never fully aware of our predispositions and assumptions, and how this embedded subjectivity influences how we consider what is worth being archived. While making my plant series, Exponential Taxonomies, a lot of my research dealt with the motivations behind the construction of colonial natural history records—the drive to discover, collect, and attribute names to tropical plants and animals was a way of usurping the “exotic” as one’s own, often competitively among European colonisers.
Q. What specific materials and theories did you use to create Beige Dreams?
A. I wanted to create a clear image and record of my floral subjects, so I printed the photographs on aluminum to embody their texture, bringing out the slick fluidity and moist flesh of the plants. I like how portraiture is monumental in a specific way, like the French painter Fantin-Latour’s floral still-lifes. I also wanted to reference high-end cosmetic advertisements, which were a big influence for this series.
Q. Your final pieces are the result of a creative process that includes research and extensive personal interaction with your subjects before you photograph them. How did this process manifest itself in the creation of Beige Dreams?
A. Creating Beige Dreams was my first time working with flowers, and the work draws on the personal history of my perception of flora as symbols and visual motifs. Flowers have long been symbols associated with girls and young women, and images of or containing flowers usually represent some sort of feminine youth. Additionally, in Chinese culture, prostitutes are euphemistically referred to as “flowers,” and in the Chinese period dramas I remember watching with my grandmother, the characters who were prostitutes often had names associated with flora. Leading up to the creation of Beige Dreams, I became acutely aware of the rate and process of decay that each plant went through, and how different kinds of cosmetics masked or affected this aging. The flesh of the flowers represents our own skin in a way, since the youth of both ourselves and flowers are fetishized. With my past work, I often resisted or found ways around creating formal photographic images, instead using technology like scanners and mobile phones. This new work afforded me the opportunity to receive mentorship from photographer Julio Galeote, who helped me with making the final photographic images. This instruction and encouragement marked a turning point in my embracing the photographic medium, inspiring me to engage further with its capabilities.
Q. The title Beige Dreams is evocative and synaesthetic. Tell us about its different components and what they represent for you.
A. Using the colour beige was a reference to perceptions of skin tone and shades in the cosmetic and advertising industries that we are constantly surrounded by. Beige has always been an unsettling colour for me: I have memories from early childhood where the beige Crayon was a prized component of a colouring collection for being “people-coloured,” even in an ethnographically diverse school in Singapore. In terms of fashion, beige or “nude” colours gingerly tread between their perception as tacky or sophisticated. There’s this unspoken acceptance of beige as a symbol of the most neutral representation of a given entity. Dreams allude to desire’s aspirational components, but also to its darker undertones. Makeup and decoration both relate to a type of dream or desire that we are trying to reach.
Q. How does your work address vanitas, duplicity, and decay, and what you call “blatant superficiality”?
A. I love the chameleon potential of makeup and fashion, and how we encode ourselves through our appearance. Blatant superficiality often signals an awareness of this process, and I see it as our exercising agency and visible engagement with these cultural codes. My work captures some of that awareness, and also captures our own inevitable deterioration.
New work in Gallery VII
WeiXin CHONG's drawing titled Sleepwalk (2016, pen & ink, 20 x 25cm) is on exhibition at the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition 2017 in Gallery VII. The unique work links back to her video work produced in 2010, similarly titled. To view, follow link here.
Description of the RA's Gallery VII's hang below:
In the second of the print galleries, Rebecca Salter RA surrounds us with people, animals and the places they occupy. As we investigate the works, we become tourists and voyeurs. We are drawn into the privacy of individual rooms and we surreptitiously look out through doorways or windows. In some of these works, we see tumbledown buildings and slow decay; in others we find industry, energy and new possibility – building sites, gas rigs and commuters hurrying to work. But the world we occupy is natural as well as urban. In this room, we encounter forces of nature, as well as the importance of our relationships with animals.
Link to the work online at the RA Summer Exhibition 2017 here
Feature: SARAH CHOO JING | Art of Rehearsal (13 May - 26 Nov 2017)
A.I. is pleased to announce Sarah Choo Jing (b. 1990, Singapore) will be presenting a new work titled Art of the Rehearsal in a group exhibition: Personal Structures hosted by the European Cultural Centre (organized by GAA Foundation) in the context of the 57th Venice Biennale.
Art of the Rehearsal was commissioned for the opening of the new media gallery at the National Museum of Singapore, the theme of which was traditional dance.
The work comprises a panoramic video collage and individual video portraits depicting cultural dancers from three different local troupes. A short essay by Louis Ho (curator at Singapore Art Museum) will be published to mark this exhibition supporting this new video work.
Interview plus upcoming shows in Venice & BarcelonaRead More
Singapore artists chart new waters at Venice BiennaleRead More
Singaporeans making their mark at the 2017 Venice BiennaleRead More
Channel 4 - Man Made Planet: Earth from Space
Using images of Earth taken from space across the last 45 years and stunning time-lapse sequences, astronauts reveal how humanity is transforming the world - for better and worse. In 1972, the crew of Apollo 17 captured the iconic ‘Blue Marble’ - the only photograph ever taken by an astronaut of the entire Earth. Since then, NASA has taken much more.
Alongside fellow astronauts, Nicole Stott, highlights that population growth has changed the view of cities, creating mega-cities from virtually nothing: "To see these glowing cities kind of popping out at you at night is really pretty incredible. For me it opened up this whole new view of looking at places like China. "You can imagine all of these people bustling around that area, but it’s like the mute button is on. It’s a very surreal thing. It gets you thinking about what are all those people doing down there?"
For U.K. viewers, refer to the broadcast here: http://www.channel4.com/programmes/man-made-planet-earth-from-space/on-demand/64826-001
View of a man-made salt pond in Australia (Photo credit: NASA/Channel 4)