Tuesday, October 9

Vox Populi

09/21/2007 - 01/06/2008
Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich

and Siemens Arts Program
Inka Graeve Ingelmann (Sammlung Fotografie und Neue Medien, Pinakothek der Moderne) and Angelika Nollert (Siemens Arts Program)
Fiona Tan

The exhibition is accompanied by an artist's book published by Book Works, entitled "Fiona Tan: Vox Populi, Tokyo".

The exhibition "Fiona Tan | 80 Days" casts a fascinating light on the portrait - a characteristic theme in Tan's artistic production - while also providing the opportunity for a concentrated look at the artist's latest photo, film, and video works. Focal to the exhibition are two central complexes of works: the film installation "Countenance" (2002) and the tableau-like piece "Vox Populi" (2004-2007), which will be shown in Munich for the first time in its entirety. Fiona Tan intentionally draws on the forms and techniques of photography, film, and video to arrive at an exceptional portrait of our times. While the motifs in her works appear to vary strongly, she nevertheless demonstrates a constant preoccupation with the question of personal and cultural identity in the face of shifting perspectives and social change. By availing herself of the methods of the ethnographer, the anthropologist, the documentary photographer, and the film maker, Tan manages to combine documentary archive material, photographs by others, and her own film footage to create vivid sequences that blur the distinctions not only between documentation and fiction, but also between how one sees oneself and is seen by others.

"Fiona Tan | 80 Days" investigates the significance of historical and contemporary photography as a possibility for archiving the world. In her black and white film installation "Countenance" she presents over 200 full-length portraits of people living in Berlin, all arranged according to occupational categories. Since the film shows the people standing still, the film breathes the same aesthetic as a row of photographs. This black and white film is a deliberate reference to August Sander's folio work "Man of the 20th Century". Fiona Tan transmutes this encyclopaedic approach into a sociocultural study that directly involves the observer - instead of letting them remain looking in on the world objectively from outside. Here the psychological fascination and allure that human portraits have exerted since time immemorial are heightened. Our cinematic counterpart seems to be responding to us through the way he or she blinks, prompting a reaction from us and drawing us in to a communication. "Countenance" presents moreover a sociological study of the dwellers in a city that is marked by the way East and West have grown together.

Fiona Tan has developed her work "Vox Populi" in three countries located in three different continents. In Norway, Australia, and Japan she collected amateur photographs from unidentified people, which she then standardized by employing the same frame and format so as to link them into a rhythmic structure on the wall. From this documentary material, which bears the personal memories of individual people, Tan has developed a kind of collective photo album that tells of the history and culture of a country.

The work of this world citizen and her deep reflections on the authenticity of cultural identity are informed by her travels and her personal involvement in various cultural contexts. So it is fitting that the title of the exhibition, "80 Days", conjures up the expedition in Jules Verne's novel "Around the World in 80 Days".

Tan was born in 1966 in Indonesia and grew up in Australia. She visited the art academy in the Netherlands, where she continues to live and work. Her last exhibition, "Mirror Maker", which was shown in a number of European countries in 2006 and 2007, was nominated for the Deutsche Börse Photography Prize 2007. In addition she has had solo exhibitions at the De Pont Museum of Contemporary Art in Tilburg, at Villa Arson in Nice, and at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin. Tan was also recently represented at the Sujeto in the Museum of Contemporary Art in Castilla y León in 2005, at the International Biennial Istanbul 2003, at the ICP Triennial in New York, at the Documenta XI in Kassel, at the 49th Biennial in Venice, and at the Berlin Biennial 2001.

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