Universes in Universe - Worlds of Art

49th Venice Biennale
10 June - 4 November 2001

Venice / 2001 / Pavilions / Singapore


Suzann Victor: Statement
»Asian«, »Woman«, »Artist« + zoom: click on images
Even as I invoke these signifiers to describe myself, I hear the attempts these descriptions make to still female and feminised bodies. Nonetheless, they are intrinsic components of my work as they function as offerings which visually embody the Others within the Other.

Bodies, burdened with narratives and inscribed by laws , function as signifiers of the state propaganda and nationalisms that supercede the Individual. The gaps between these terms, »Asian«, »Woman« and »Artist« conjure up »Region«, »Gender«, »Politics«. They become sutured to the weights of each other's Otherness even as they collide into each other.

»Dusted for Rich Manouevre 2001« reappropriates symbols laden with a »European« sensibility. I have chosen to re-present the crystal chandelier, lifting it as it were from its historical, cultural and political context so as to incorporate it as a contemporary response to the post-colonial condition.

As a signifier of »refined« taste, opulence, wealth and power imported by the colonial elite to project social and cultural difference from those they governed, I am seeking to re-make this artifact of colonial power into a symbol of Chinese proletarian labour. By retaining a particularly »hand-made« quality through the use of chipped and pre-loved everyday glass vessels which have been »broken in« in one way or another, one is confronted with the after-image of a poor Asian woman artist reverently copying her masters in a process of ironical misrecognition of quality and taste. In so doing, it inherently critiques an ideology that simultaneously subjugated a host of Asian, Aboriginal and Pacific Islander bodies in order to ordain the standard of 'civilization' as white, European, male and rich.

I see this work as representing the »native's« experience of an object made from political memory, glimpsed briefly from afar only to be conjured from objects close at hand. In so doing, it renders more transparently the circuitry between rituals of the everyday and the rituals of colonisation. As a visual testament to the ongoing impact of colonialism within the psyche of the colonised, the work performs the fetishisation of objects that refer to the »glory« of a colonial past, operating as much as a fetish for the colonised as it is for the colonisers. Like an act of irony reinvesting in its own loss.
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© Text: Suzann Victor
Photos: Gerhard Haupt & Pat Binder