Event
The Undesirables, Hester Yang, 2023, 17 min, video still, courtesy of the artist

An Inverted Journey of Counter Archiving

from
on
02
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07
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24
until
on
27
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07
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24
When
from
2
July
2024
until
27
July
2024
10:00–17:00 daily, Tuesday–Saturday
Book Tickets

Throughout July 2024, esea contemporary's Gallery will feature 'An Inverted Journey of Counter Archiving' as part of our Summer Programme 'From (Counter-) Archives to Activation.' This dynamic programme showcases a selection of 13 moving-image works by artists alongside related archival and visual materials. These selected works offer a critical examination – through an artistic lens and research – which seeks to destabilise entrenched power dynamics and foster a thought-provoking understanding and representation of memory and history.

'An Inverted Journey of Counter Archiving' invites viewers to delve into narratives that diverge from traditional approaches to archiving, offering parallel, decolonising perspectives on historiography.

Programme schedule:

2-6 July, ‘The Undesirables’ by Hester Yang

9-13 July, ‘Appendix A: ocean gazing’ by Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai; ‘VMHS Legacy Project’ by Will Pham

16-20 July, ‘This is China of a particular sort, I do not know’ and ‘Another beautiful dream’ by Clare Chun-yu Liu

23-27 July, ‘Tomorrow’s History’, curated by Sine Screen, featuring works by Nguyễn Trinh Thi, Huang Pang-Chuan, Chung Hong Iu, Prapat Jiwarangsan, Simon Liu, Guangli Liu, Jittarin Wuthiphan, Shireen Seno, and Darren Lin

The Undesirables, Hester Yang, 2023, 17 min, video still, courtesy of the artist
The Undesirables, Hester Yang, 2023, 17 min, video still, courtesy of the artist
The Undesirables, Hester Yang, 2023, 17 min, video still, courtesy of the artist
‘OceanGazing’, Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, 2021, video still, 15:46 min, courtesy of the artist
‘OceanGazing’, Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, 2021, video still, 15:46 min, courtesy of the artist
‘OceanGazing’, Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai, 2021, video still, 15:46 min, courtesy of the artist
‘VMHS Legacy Project’ by Will Pham, 2023, 16 mins 34 sec with English subtitles, video still, courtesy of the artist
‘VMHS Legacy Project’ by Will Pham, 2023, 16 mins 34 sec with English subtitles, video still, courtesy of the artist
‘This is China of a particular sort, I do not know’, Clare Chun-yu Liu, 2020, 34:01 min, video still
‘This is China of a particular sort, I do not know’, Clare Chun-yu Liu, 2020, 34:01 min, video still
‘Another beautiful dream’, Clare Chun-yu Liu, 2022, 14 min, video still
‘Another beautiful dream’, Clare Chun-yu Liu, 2022, 14 min, video still
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Caption

‘The Undesirables’ by Hester Yang
2023, 17 min, colour digital video, sound

The term 'undesirable' refers to the Home Office file HO 213/926, titled 'Forced Repatriation of Undesirable Chinese Seamen.' It was used to describe a community of Chinese migrant labourers working on British merchant ships during World War II. When the war ended, their presence was perceived as a problem amidst post-war racial anxieties towards migrants and colonial subjects.

In the mid to late 1940s, groups of Chinese seamen would disappear from the streets of Liverpool never to be heard from again. Hundreds of men were separated from their families who lived in the belief that they had been abandoned. The truth remained under protection of the Secrets Act for over half a century. Three generations later, the details and violence of this history can only be pieced together through stories, families’ oral histories, and fragmented archival documents.

Working closely with five families affected by forced repatriations, this project is rooted in their lived experience as well as the ruptures in the wider community. Together, their disjointed first-person accounts form a collective telling of an erased history, serving as testimony not only to the injustice but also to intergenerational trauma and identity loss.

'Appendix A: ocean gazing’ by Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai
2021,  15:46 min, colour digital video, sound

In 'Appendix A: ocean gazing', Prima takes as a point of departure a photograph of their great grand-uncle, Pridi Banomyong, leaning over the edge of the boat that would take him into exile, never to return to Thailand again. Pridi was one of the leaders of the Siamese Revolution of 1932 that transitioned Thailand from an absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy. Framed by pro-monarchist forces for the murder of the king and accused of being a communist, he fled to Communist China and then to Paris, where he died.

Reflecting on Pridi’s thoughts as his native country slowly receded into the distance, the artist filmed their own journey through the Arizona and California deserts towards the Pacific Ocean at San Pedro Harbour. In San Pedro, they visited sites that allude to or commemorate Asian diasporic communities that have been erased. The Japanese Fishing Village is a chilling example of the systematic racism against Japanese Americans, who were detained in concentration camps in Arizona during World War II. With Pridi’s exile on one hand and the history of Asian diaspora on the West Coast on the other, Prima questions their own desire to build a life in the U.S. when, historically and in the present, the government has implemented systematic exclusions of immigrant communities. The retelling of these narratives reveals the multi-layered forces that govern human migratory patterns: conservative ideologies, repressive governments, war, and violence. Additionally, revolutionary ideals and the yearning for a different life both contribute to the fragmentation of existing communities and the formation of new ones.

The video is an appendix to Prima’s archival project ‘Chloropsis Aurifrons Pridii.’ The archive is built from fictional accounts of the revolution in Yukio Mishima’s novels, Pridi’s out-of-print memoir, fragments of his writing that have been translated into English, and family hearsay.

‘VMHS Legacy Project’ by Will Pham

2023, 16 mins 34 sec with English subtitles, HD video, stereo sound

Commissioned by the Vietnamese Mental Health Services (VMHS) to coincide with the closure of the organisation, this film explores the history and legacy of the VMHS, a mental health charity set up in 1989 in the UK for Vietnamese communities. The film weaves together interviews with service users and the director, Jack Shieh OBE, and reflects upon the organisation's previous projects, such as "Recipes of Life" and "Light Conversations," as alternative forms of mental health approaches. The film is part of a wider series of projects to archive and reimagine the VMHS for a new audience inside and outside of the community.

‘This is China of a particular sort, I do not know’ and ‘Another beautiful dream’ by Clare Chun-yu Liu
2020, 34:01 min, colour digital video, sound
2022, 14 min, colour digital video, sound

'This is China of a particular sort, I do not know' is a postcolonial response to chinoiserie, a decorative style imitating Chinese motifs that was popular in eighteenth-century Europe. The work was filmed at the Royal Pavilion Brighton, a pleasure palace built by George IV based on the idea of illusion –  its interior is therefore entirely chinoiserie.

Across five dialogues and one monologue, the artist herself and relevant historical individuals question, miss, argue, and disagree with each other over the representation of 'Chineseness' in the Pavilion’s chinoiserie. Those individuals include King George IV; the Chinese Emperor Chien-lung, who received the Macartney Embassy in 1793; George Macartney, who led the first British diplomatic mission to China; William Alexander, the embassy draughtsman; and Ang, a Ching Dynasty royal family member who also happened to be the artist’s childhood neighbour in Taiwan.

Similarly, the work 'Another beautiful dream' responds to chinoiserie from a postcolonial perspective, questioning its representation of perceived 'Chineseness.' Filmed in situ, this work revisits the historic Chinese wallpaper at Harewood House, a manor house in West Yorkshire. As part of the culture of taste, the artefact plays the role of an exotic other for the English self of the landed gentry in the eighteenth century.

As the wallpaper was Chinese-made for foreign use, self-representation is at stake. The strategy of juxtaposing chinoiserie with the artist’s familial photos from Taiwan, China, and the U.S. questions how one represents oneself in the present and how that negotiates self-representation from the past.

'Tomorrow's History' curated by Sine Screen

'Tomorrow's History' is a two-part shorts programme presented as part of 'Vulnerable Histories', an ongoing series that explores the representation of historical trauma in East and Southeast Asia. This programme brings together experimental works from Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, and Hong Kong, delving into a range of personal and collective narratives.

Working with alternative mediums such as animation, digital reenactments, and the reconstruction of archives, the artists actively question the validity and limitations of the indexical documentary image in representing historical events and their impacts. These visually inventive shorts not only portray historical narratives but also seek to document 'history in the making' by highlighting contemporary moments of social change.

From the colonial history in the Philippines, aftermath of the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia, the social movement in Hong Kong, to the White Terror period in Taiwan, the programme seeks to examine how history is documented, narrated, remembered, and erased by juxtaposing the historical with the present-day.

Biographies
Hester Yang
Prima Jalichandra-Sakuntabhai
Clare Chun-yu Liu
Sine Screen
Will Pham
About this series
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From (Counter-)Archives to Activation
Project
From (Counter-)Archives to Activation
from
4
May
2024
until
31
August
2024
2024-05-04
Through our collaboration with artists, curators, thinkers, scholars, and communities, we seek to foreground pluralistic narratives and empower individuals to shape their own histories.