On 19th March 2019, we gathered at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts for an evening of performative reading and a conversation between Nobel Peace Prize photographer and artist Sim Chi Yin and curator Annie Jael Kwan from Something Human and Asia-Art-Activism.
The Q&A was chaired by academic, thinker and activist Dr. Anna Marazuela Kim.
performingborders | LIVE is a programme focusing on the exploration of personal, cultural and physical borders with UK-based artists and curators.
For Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, curators Alessandra Cianetti and Xavier de Sousa invited two migrant arts practitioners to discuss how exile, loss, trauma, family memories, colonialism have shaped Sim Chi Yin’s work and her research at the intersection between the archive, photography, and performance.
Sim Chi Yin (1978) is a photographer and artist from Singapore, currently based in London. Her artistic practice integrates multiple mediums including photography, film, sound, text and archival material and performative readings. Combining rigorous research with intimate storytelling, Chi Yin’s works often explore issues relating to history, memory, conflict and the consequences of migration. While her practice is rooted in documentary, the artist experiments with different forms of production and presentation, allowing her intimate photographic stories on social issues to reach and impact a variety of audiences. Chi Yin was the Nobel Peace Prize photographer for 2017, and has shown her work in numerous exhibitions internationally, including the Istanbul Biennale in 2017, the Nobel Peace Center in Oslo, the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles, the Gyeonggi Museum of Modern Art in South Korea and the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore. Her work has also been screened at film festivals, including Les rencontres d’Arles and Visa pour l’Image festivals in France and the Singapore International Film Festival. Her ongoing research project, One Day We’ll Understand (2018), is based on her family story – the story of her paternal grandfather had always been unspoken. One of tens of thousands of leftists deported to China by the British during the anti-colonial insurgency in Malaya – known as the Malayan Emergency (1948-60) – her grandfather was eventually executed by the anti-Communist Kuomintang soldiers in 1949, shortly before their surrender to the Communists in the Chinese Civil War. In One Day We’ll Understand, the artist takes her family history as a point of departure, and explores a largely hidden chapter of the Cold War in Southeast Asia, in the areas known today as Malaysia and Singapore. Through research and collecting oral histories, Sim Chi Yin has for the last six years been working on her grandfather’s story, as well as that of his generation of anti-colonial activists. The artist has created archives for a number of them, now spread out over multiple territories – China, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore. These stories, not yet recorded in any official archive, are counter-narratives to the available histories of this period so far constructed from British archives. While these narratives complicate and provide more nuance to this turbulent period, the artist also confronts further philosophical questions with regards to the fragility and fallibility of archives and collective histories. chiyinsim.com
Annie Jael Kwan is an independent curator, producer and researcher based in London. Since 2005 she has worked on numerous art projects with major arts and cultural institutions in the UK and internationally. She founded the curatorial initiative, Something Human, in 2012, to focus on her interests in the critical ideas surrounding movement across borders. While situating live art in multidisciplinary exhibitions and public events, she also researched the performance art scenes in Southeast Asia. In 2016, her self-initiated residency in Cambodia generated the collection of digital materials that would form a significant part of the pioneering Southeast Asian Performance Collection (SAPC). The SAPC was launched at the Live Art Development Agency in London as part of the 2017 M.A.P. project that showed in Venice and the UK. Most recently, she was also selected for the International Curators Forum’s “Beyond the Frame” programme, and for Outset and Arts Council England’s research trip for emerging curators, which resulted in her curated colloquium, Curating Radical Futures, at Tate Modern. She initiated and co-leads the Asia-Art-Activism research network that is currently in residence at Raven Row for 12 months, with a desire interrogate the paradigm of “Asia” while experimenting with the formalities/informalities of working collectively. anniejaelkwan.com
Dr. Anna Marazuela Kim is a hybrid of Spanish-Korean-U.S origin and migrant to London. A cultural critic, writer and activist, Dr. Kim brings wide-ranging expertise to bear on issues of contemporary concern, including iconoclasm and the image wars; the enchantments of technology; and role of the arts in civic thriving. The winner of many awards and prizes, since 2011 she has been a member of Institutes of Advanced Study and international, cross-disciplinary research groups in the U.S., Europe and the U.K. She writes for audiences as diverse as Frieze and NATO, and is often invited to speak on issues around art and conflict and the role of museums in the wake of crisis, most recently at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art and Blain|Southern. amkim.net
performingborders | LIVE is a programme of events and new commissions focusing on the exploration of artistic practices happening within the UK live art sector around notions of cultural, juridical, racial, gendered, class, physical and everyday borders. Curated by Alessandra Cianetti and Xavier de Sousa.
Presented by performingborders and Foreign Actions Productions in collaboration with Live Art Development Agency (London, UK), Contact Theatre (Manchester, UK), Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (Brighton, UK), Artsadmin (London, UK), Deptford Lounge (London, UK), Beyond the Wall/Más Allá del Mur Festival(Nogales, US/Mexico), and the Centre for The Study of Sexual Dissidence(University of Sussex, UK). Supported by the Arts Council England.
For more information on the programme and the artists involved visit https://performingborders.live/performingborders-live-2019-programme/
Featured image credits: (from left) Sim Chi Yin, Annie Jael Kwan, Dr. Anna Marazuela Kim. Photo by Constance K.