Join the artists (susan) pui san lok, Dinu Li and Ho Rui An for an afternoon of screenings, sound works and artist talks that explore the politics and poetics of voice.
What does it mean to ‘have’ a voice? How might the use of ‘indirect’ speech, oral narratives, music and poetic language sound out unheard and underrepresented histories of migration, labour and community? These questions are especially resonant when considering the stereotype of East and Southeast Asian-identifying people in the UK and elsewhere as a ‘silent’, ‘invisible’, ‘model minority’ – rarely seen and heard in public and political life, but no less subject to racial discrimination and violence, as evidenced most recently by the rise in hate crimes following the outbreak of the Covid-19 global pandemic.
Such senseless acts of violence call for affected communities to speak ‘out’, ‘against’ or ‘about’ these issues from a position of authority and agency. Yet, as the Vietnamese American filmmaker and theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha remarked, ‘truth never yields itself in anything said or shown.’ To this end, she proposed ‘speaking nearby’ as an alternative means of voicing marginalised histories and experience. In her words, ‘speaking nearby’ infers a ‘speaking that does not objectify, does not point to an object as if it is distant from the speaking subject of absent from the speaking place. A speaking that reflects on itself and can come very close to the subject without, however, seizing or claiming it.’
The event features work by three ESEA artists that explore the critical potential of ‘speaking nearby’: (susan) pui san lok’s two-channel sound installation ‘Centenary’ (2022), Ho Rui An’s video work ‘24 Cinematic Points of View of a Factory Gate in China’ (2023), as well as several of the pieces in Dinu Li’s new solo exhibition ‘A Phantom’s Vibe’. These works will be played throughout the event, and the artists will be present to engage in dialogue with the audience.
This event is organised by Dr Wenny Teo (Senior Lecturer in Modern and Contemporary Art, The Courtauld Institute of Art), Xiaowen Zhu (Director, esea contemporary) and Dot Zhihan Jia (Associate Curator, esea contemporary), in collaboration with The Courtauld Institute of Art.
Originally commissioned by Create London for the Becontree Centenary, susan pui san lok’s Centenary evokes entangled narratives of Chinese migration within wider colonial histories, touching on the artist’s own experience growing up in a post-war council house on the Essex/London border. Becontree, located in Dagenham (was Essex, now London) and once the largest public housing estate in Europe, is often held to represent the fulfilment of the 1919 post-war government’s pledge to re-build 'homes fit for heroes'. Centenary cuts across this celebratory ‘moment’, to complicate the dominant white working-class narrative with tangled tales of migration from China, spanning three centuries and several continents. From Limehouse to Liverpool, UK is home to the oldest Chinese population in Western Europe, yet these lives – at turns educated, impoverished, exploited, idealised, exoticised and demonised – remain little known. Centenary alludes to suppressed histories and latent hostilities, and ambivalent 'returns' to Hong Kong, before and after the handover. Centenary is the second in a cycle of three works: Altar Notes (2012), Centenary (2022) and Ghosts (in progress). Future iterations of Centenary as a moving image and multichannel work are currently in development.
Acknowledgements: Written, directed and produced by susan pui san lok. Read by David KS Tse and Crystal LK Yu. Recorded, edited and mixed by Cam Griffiths. Commissioned by Create London, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund.
Between 2013 and 2014, surveillance cameras were secretly installed in front of the factory gates of several Chinese companies which had been recently listed on the New York Stock Exchange. The so-called due diligence-based investment company responsible for the operation sought to use the footage to expose fraud by showing how the amount of activity at their factory gates fell short of reflecting the revenue figures reported by these companies. In 24 Cinematic Points of View of a Factory Gate in China, these images are resituated within a genealogy that extends back to the Lumieres’ film showing workers walking out of a factory gate. As narrated by a fictional filmmaker who has been approached by an unnamed American investor to review the surveillance footage through a 'cinematic point of view', the film spans over a century of European, American and Chinese cinematic history to examine how the Revolution that brought the workers back into the factory as its rightful owners would culminate in a contemporary scenography of late capitalism where there appears to be not enough workers leaving the factory.
Ho Rui An is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory. Across the mediums of lecture, essay and film, his research examines systems of governance in a global age. He has presented projects at the Bangkok Art Biennale; Asian Art Biennial; Gwangju Biennale; Jakarta Biennale; Sharjah Biennial; Kochi-Muziris Biennale; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Kunsthalle Wien; Singapore Art Museum; Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven; and Yamaguchi Center for Arts and Media, Japan. In 2019, he was awarded the International Film Critics’ (FIPRESCI) Prize at the International Short Film Festival Oberhausen, Germany. In 2018, he was a fellow of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program.
susan pui san lok < 駱 佩 珊 > (susan), lok pui san is an artist, writer and academic based in London, exhibiting and publishing nationally and internationally since the 1990s. Her practice ranges across installation, moving image, sound and text. Recent and current exhibitions include REWIND/REPLAY (2022-23), commissioned for Netwerk Aalst (Belgium), Van Abbemuseum (Eindhoven, NL) and Villa Arson (Nice, FR, until 28 August 2023); and Found Cities, Lost Objects, an Arts Council Collection exhibition curated by Lubaina Himid, touring to Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, Southampton City Art Gallery, Bristol Royal West of England Academy (until 3 September 2023) and Leeds City Art Gallery (forthcoming). She is Professor in Contemporary Art and Director of the UAL Decolonising Arts Institute, leading the current AHRC project, Transforming Collections and the UK-wide 20/20 programme. She was Co-Investigator on the AHRC project, Black Artists and Modernism (2015-18) led by Sonia Boyce and UAL in partnership with Middlesex University.
Dinu Li was born in Hong Kong and currently lives and works in Cornwall, UK. Li is an interdisciplinary artist working with the moving image, photography, sculptural assemblage and performance. In his practice, Li examines the manifestation of culture in the everyday, finding new meaning to the familiar, making visible the seemingly invisible. Archives play an active role in Li’s work, and they are often used as points of departure for his projects. His methodology is research based, with an emphasis on appropriation and reconfiguration. Li’s work is often characterised by problematising the document as part of the modus operandi.
Li has exhibited both nationally and internationally, including the 53rd Venice Biennale; the 3rd Bucharest Biennale; Tashkent Biennale 2007, Uzbekistan; Tatton Park Biennial 2012; EVA 2005; Contact FotoFest 05, Toronto; PHotoEspana 13, Madrid; Bildmuseet, Umea, Sweden; Oldenburger Kunstverein, Germany; the Irish Museum of Contemporary Art, Dublin; White Space 798, Beijing; the V&A, London; OCT Loft, Shenzhen; Konsthall C, Farsta, Sweden; Chalk Horse, Sydney; San Antonio Art Gallery, Texas; Alternative Space Loop, Seoul, and the He Xiangning Art Museum, Shenzhen.
Li’s works are held in private collections in Berlin, London, St Gallen and Zurich. He has undertaken international artist residencies through ArtSway in Sichuan; OCAT in Shenzhen; an Artists Exchange Residency in Central Asia through the British Council, Space and Cornerhouse. Li’s work features in many publications as well as his own monographs and is featured in Phaidon’s 2013 survey book ‘The Chinese Art Book’ showcasing artworks by two hundred significant Chinese artists since the Shang Dynasty. He has presented papers in several conferences including Urban Encounters at Tate Britain in 2017. In 2019, Li's film Nation Family was selected by Sacha Craddock and Mark Titchner for the Exeter Contemporary Open Art Award as the Overall Winner. In 2022, Li was a nominated recipient of the Henry Moore Foundation Artist Award.
Wenny Teo is a writer, curator, and Senior Lecturer at the Courtauld Institute of Art specialising in modern and contemporary art with an emphasis on China and Chinese diasporas. She was previously a curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Shanghai, and assistant curator at Tate Modern. Teo co-curated ‘A Beautiful Disorder’ at Cass Sculpture Foundation, Chichester (2016), and was Associate Curator of the eighth Shenzhen Sculpture Biennial (2014). Her writing has appeared in academic journals, exhibition catalogues, and art magazines, and she serves on several editorial boards, including Oxford Art Journal, for which she is also Book Reviews Editor (post-1800s).
‘Communities in the Making’ is an ongoing series of events that unites community-led and process-driven approaches to fostering co-existence amongst diverse underrepresented cultures and communities in Manchester. Through artist-led workshops, collaborative screenings, cross-disciplinary exchanges, and roundtable discussions, we actively ponder ways of nurturing agency to lay the groundwork for community building.
Throughout the course of the programme, members of the public are invited to gather, collaborate, and contemplate with us. We believe in the inherent creativity of every individual and strive to establish meaningful connections that are reflective of our current moment, and meet the needs and aspirations of the community. ‘Communities in the Making’ activates listening, interdependency, and the cultivation of new experiences to celebrate diasporic knowledge, and ground our work in encounters and experimentations.