Frith Street Gallery presents an exhibition of two major installations by Fiona Tan. The exhibition will take place at the gallery’s spaces on Golden Square (Inventory) and Soho Square (Ghost Dwellings). The work ‘Inventory’ is on view in London for the first time, this multi-projection installation invites viewers to consider museum collections as well as the human compulsion to capture the transience of time and lived experience.
Filmed at Sir John Soane’s Museum in London, Inventory presents intimate details of the celebrated architect’s personal collection housed in one of the most unique public museums in the world. This multi-channel video installation is structured as a large-scale montage of six projections simultaneously displayed on one wall in an uneven grid. Each individual projection shows details of the crammed interiors of the museum containing a multiplicity of ancient architectural fragments and sculptures.
A contemplative visual essay, Inventory explores Tan’s preoccupation with time, memory, and place, and is as much a meditation on the human impulse to collect as a reflection on Tan’s artistic practice to date. In recording the idiosyncratic collection of Sir John Soane using a variety of mediums (Super 8, 16, and 35 millimeter film, and analog, digital, and high-definition video), the artist challenges the viewer to reconsider ideas such as representation, perception, and history while contemplating the resilience of a medium associated with a contemporary artistic production. With its synchronized presentation, the installation engenders a sense of disorientation and déjà vu – a playful mimesis of the experience a visitor might have wandering the crowded rooms of Soane’s Museum itself. Simultaneously Tan’s sustained reflection on the carrier of the image alludes to the fleetingness inherent in these filmed registrations.
Image: Fiona Tan: Inventory, image courtesy of Frith Street Gallery
With ‘Ghost Dwellings’ the artist has transformed the gallery at Soho Square into something resembling a lived-in space. It might be the home of a rather eccentric recluse, or even a squat. The absent inhabitant seems to be a hoarder who is both obsessive and neat, messy and chaotic. This highly personal place would appear to be both shelter and laboratory. The presence of its unknown protagonist surrounds the viewer, creating a slippage from filmic to material space.
Within this environment Tan has placed three new film pieces, originally commissioned by the Kunstzone of the Rabobank Nederlands for her exhibition Options and Futures and shot in locations in the USA, The Republic of Ireland, and Japan. At a time which historians have described as an age of ‘rolling catastrophe,’ each film examines our epoch from a certain standpoint. In these places decay and devastation are painfully visible; Detroit, a flourishing city that slowly slid into bankruptcy, Cork, where, as a result of the financial crash of 2008, vast complexes of ‘luxury’ housing were abandoned sometimes even before completion, and Fukushima, where the fast and merciless devastation by both earthquake and tsunami, was compounded by radioactive fall-out. Whilst the visitor is invited to choose a path and narrative within these particular rooms, Tan’s camera searches among the piles of rubble for the building blocks of something new, for some kind of aftermath.
Fiona Tan: Ghost Dwellings – Frith Street Gallery, Soho Square – 1 May to 26 June 2015
Fiona Tan: Inventory – Frith Street Gallery, Golden Square – 1 May to 26 June 2015