artist / participant
The work of Fiona Tan, with its characteristic visual richness and singular temporalities, examines complex issues such as the relationship between personal and collective history, the presence of the past in the present, the intertwinement of memory and forgetfulness, and the porous nature of identity. As epitomised by Vox Populi, a series of works each consisting of several hundreds of photographs borrowed from the family albums of inhabitants of a given city or country, these concerns revolve essentially around the question of the gaze – the way in which we look at images and, through them, at the world that surrounds us, but also the way in which images, like mirrors, sometimes seem to look back at us.
The exhibition Geography of Time, which brings together ten works made between 2000 and 2013, highlights the importance in the artist’s practice of the intimate links that connect individuals to the space and time they inhabit. The works in this survey, evoking diverse influences such as historic Dutch painting or the modern photographer August Sander, encourage viewers to reconsider the very idea of portraiture as a fixed entity, and focus instead on its permeable, evasive and evanescent dimension. Whether imaginary or real, the protagonists around which Fiona Tan constructs her video installations are often at the centre of the image, as in the six filmed portraits of inhabitants of Amsterdam that form Provenance, or in Nellie, a portrait of Cornelia van Rijn, Rembrandt’s illegitimate daughter, who emigrated to Indonesia at the age of sixteen. In other works, their presence becomes manifest through their absence, as in Inventory, which combines sequences shot inside Sir John Soane’s Museum in London.
Fiona Tan describes time as ‘both a tool with which to shape and chisel, and a material to fold, distort and configure’. Each of the works in this exhibition offers one possible manifestation of this approach to time. As the essence of the videographic or photographic medium, time is considered in its subjective nature – through its lapses, omissions, reoccurrences, slow motions, repetitions, discrepancies, simultaneities, and coincidences. This ‘geography of time’ is inscribed in the very form of Fiona Tan’s works, the editing of her video installations, their spatial and architectural dimensions, the ambiguous relationships they establish between the still and the moving image (which the artist refers to as ‘photographic moments’), and the gaps they open up between image and sound.
Fiona Tan was born in 1966 in Pekan Baru, Indonesia. She lives and works in Amsterdam.