Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee | You Must See These works at UNSEEN

Kees Keijer, Het Parool , September 19, 2019

At Unseen, Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee shows work from two projects she has worked on in recent years. "The first is a personal project that I started two years ago. For this I took texts from colonial literature about Malaya, the British colony in present-day Malaysia and Singapore, as a starting point. "


Lee, who comes from Singapore, used texts from British and French explorers travelers who have written ethnographic reports on the country and the people in earlier centuries. She combines these with photos she has taken. "But there is a twist. I shot all the footage in the UK. Certain landscapes were described as lyrical or even erotic, for example, and I wanted to take that look back to British soil. "


The photos are now shown together with the texts. Lee had to search for suitable locations for some images. "I found specific tropical plants in the Kew Botanical Gardens. The landscapes of the jungle were not easy to find. "

Lee wants to continue looking for things that used to be described as exotic in Malaya but can now also be found in Britain. "It is an ongoing project and I hope this will result in a monograph."


The other photos she shows are part of XING, a partnership that Lee entered into with other photographers three years ago. "The platform's subject is the portrayal of Asian women in the West, especially the way in which they are transformed into an exotic or erotic object. I worked with ten other photographers and writers, and everyone responded to the theme in their own way. Some submitted existing work, others made new work. "


Lee has a background in journalism. She moved to London five years ago, where she studied creative direction at the University of the Arts. "Slowly my attention shifted to photography, initially to commercial fashion photography. After that my work was very much driven by research. Now I want to write more again, but I don't give up photography. I want to combine the two, so use text and photography for things that are important to me. "


One of the topics she wants to explore in her work is the role of language in the contemporary world. "London is very multicultural and you can hear all kinds of languages ​​on the street. But still mainly English. I look at translation and oral traditions. Many things are not recorded. My mother speaks a kind of variant of Bahasa Melayu (Malay, ed.) And many things she translates from her father to me are lost, because I don't speak that dialect. "


Lee not only wants to come to Amsterdam for Unseen, but also settle here. "I think it is very interesting what is happening in Amsterdam. I hope the quality of life is better than in London and it is interesting to see what happens to my work. Singapore and London are both huge and I've never worked in a smaller city. "