Pencil and cut-outs on silk paper, candle, dimensions variable.
What sits between the silencing and expressing of doubt?
Other Things is an ongoing installation of paper cutouts. In it, personal reflections are written on silk paper and then cut out.
The series looks to embed the doubt and anxieties present behind any act of proclamation or disclosure, however bold they may sound, in material form. In the work, marks are made – and furthermore cut out – not onto printing paper but onto silk paper, typically used only to clean metal printing plates or protect finished prints, instead of being printed upon.
On silk paper – a humble material typically used to clean and protect finished prints – I wrote personal reflections, and thereafter cut the words out. This series of gesture, both additive and reductive, came from a desire to augment the seemingly-assertive act of printing and speaking, instead making manifest the gaps present in any kind of expression. In part, the work alludes to Martin Luther’s pasting of his printed “Ninety-five Theses” on the door of the Castle Church, an act of theological challenge against the Roman Catholic Church. Canonically remembered as an act of bold revolution that sparked the Protestant Reformation, it was in truth done amidst great societal and personal turmoil: from the Black plague tearing across Europe, to Martin Luther’s own enduring fears of divine judgment.
In response, the series looks to embed the doubt and anxieties present behind any act of proclamation or disclosure, however bold they may sound.
The aim, then, is to dial the act of bringing words into the world into a gentler, more perishable form – as an expression of still speaking, but more vulnerably, tentatively, and carefully, with room for necessary doubt.
Material Memory, Spinnerei, Germany
The Faraway Nearby, Art Agenda S.E.A., Singapore
Across a Small Distance(2021)
2 performers, cloth, 4 pulleys, 4 ropes, 4 20kg weights, 1 motion-sensing camera, video projection, postcards, code, 3 FM radio, dimensions variable
Across a Small Distance is a performance about resisting technology’s need for huge impact and far reach, instead focusing on the small, short, and simple. We sent messages to each other. We played badminton in a room.
But while riding the undulations of the pandemic in personal and professional settings, even tiny things and connections with those close to us are difficult. And still, our energies to close those gaps are in short supply.
Even across a small distance, what is distorted across the arc of physical and digital space traversed? What counterweights must we apply to return them to form?
Chew Shaw En
Light Gets In(2020)
Participatory Exercise and Installation;
Participants, HD Video with 2-channel sound, 3 split-flap displays (laser-cut acrylic, servo motor, die-cut PVC flaps, arduino and code), images printed on transparencies, dimensions variable.
Can something so large and so near be invisible?
First developed in 2020 for an exhibition at the foot of Mount Fuji, “Light Gets In” thinks through the looming mountain as a metaphor for largeness and distance. Created amidst travel restrictions, the work is scored as a relay of 3 prompts across 2 countries:
1) for residents in Japan – to write or dialogue with the artist on their acquaintanceship with Mount Fuji, alongside a photo of the mountain (visible or otherwise) from where they are,
2) for myself and local friend-participants – to go on field trips to try seeing Mount Fuji from Singapore, and
3) make a composite image of the Singapore landscape alongside the images received from Japan, while facing Mount Fuji 5000 kilometres away.
Gathered alongsides are pictures, sentiments and moments that surfaced during the field trips, traces of this exercise of attempting to face, look, and traverse untraversable distance: of bringing the mountain from Japan to Singapore.
Fujinoyama Biennale 2020, Japan
ON/OFF/SCREEN, Deck, Singapore
Participants, 3 performers, 4-channel sound, 2-channel video, paper instructions, candle, mask, incense, putty, circular carpet, large wooden rectangular boxes, dimensions variable.
Tomorrow’s Islands is an performance-installation about movement, connection, and attention. Using land reclamation as a subject, the work treats the migration and compaction of sand as a metaphor for the displacement and reconstitution of community, reflecting on the potential and challenges of communality amidst congregation.
How, if at all, does physical proximity translate into emotional connection? How does a place become a home? When belonging and togetherness is tough, what possibilities for solitude remain?
Kei Franklin, Jungsuh Sue Lim
Supported by:Incheon Foundation Art and Culture (IFAC) Young Artist Grant
Incheon Art Platform, South Korea
What Comes After(2019)
Participants, 4-channel sound, HD video, raffia strings, water, beer crates, corrugated metal, tungsten lamp, paper instructions, metal door, snacks, dimensions variable.
What Comes After is a participatory-performance created for Understanding Risk Field Lab 2019, an arts and technology un-conference on disaster risk management in Chiang Mai. Invited by co-organiser NTU Earth Observatory Lab, I created a work building off scientific and ethnographic material gathered by other researchers. Made with two other artists, the final work unfolded in two parts: 1) a communal, guided walk with an audio track, done blindfolded, followed by 2) a short workshop on rebuilding a community post-crisis.
Every flood is different, and urban disasters are both natural and social phenomena. Experiences of disasters differ along racial, gender, socioeconomic, geographic lines. When floods happen, informal housing by narrow tributaries are first to be submerged. To walk against surging waters, some used raffia string to tie themselves together, hugging fences and walls to maintain footing. A school of fish washed up into a lady’s house during a flood; she decided to care for them. Elsewhere, researchers visited a temple to learn of Thorani, a female water goddess. When demons approached Bodhisattva to disrupt his meditation, Thorani twisted her long hair to create floods to wash the demons away – so the story goes.
Above are but some accounts, myths, and ethno-fictions incorporated into the final work. But the performance also contains a future-facing turn: participants were tasked with creating a blueprint for rebuilding the community. After tragedy, how should people regroup? What actions and values should they prioritise? Post-rupture, what new possibilities arise?
I worked with research material from different disciplines, each with their own principles of knowledge accumulation, generation, and communication. I learnt that what makes sense, value, and meaning differ across disciplines – and I bear that in mind too when working across artistic mediums. Making the work was also an exercise in trusting the performance as a therapeutic vessel: to contain our collective efforts and contradictions, and provide a headspace for participants to contemplate and make meaning in their own ways. After the work was done, I had the opportunity to speak to several participants, many of whom were researchers whose data we used. In those conversations, I was reminded that the momentum of live works spills beyond the performance, extending into the active engagements and discussions we can actively choose to have thereafter.
Kei Franklin, Jungsuh Sue Lim
Image and footage credits:
Chiang Mai Urban Flooding Field Lab, an arts and technology un-conference exploring design practices in disaster risk management.