Gajah Gallery Singapore announces the major group show Customised Postures, (De)colonising Gestures, curated by art historian Dr Alexander Supartono.
How does colonial photographic imagery materialise in the works of contemporary artists today? Bringing colonial photographs and contemporary artworks in conversation, this show aims to establish an interconnectivity between photograph practices in colonial Southeast Asia, and contemporary art practices from the region.
The region’s shared political, economic, and social conditions of colonial relations arguably produced common visual conventions in photographic portraiture. The historical photographs featured in the show focus particularly on the way the camera customised postures and colonised gestures of subjects in the colony. They examine how subjects’ body language adopted and adapted, alongside the modern technology of representation in indoor and outdoor portraiture.
Spanning painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, to multimedia installation, the contemporary works in this exhibition then reveal how this adoption and adaptation emerges today. Employing her signature lens medium, Suzann Victor liberates (retrospectively) the humanity of photographed subjects in Singapore’s migrant histories—who had otherwise been captured in dehumanising ethnographic portrayals. Through written records and existing photographs in his archive, Robert Zhao employs AI to reimagine and expand the story of how the last crocodile in Katong, Singapore, was captured. Manipulating early 20th century studio portrait photographs, Abednego Trianto highlights the subtle gestures of sitters to expose the unique, ongoing struggles of Javanese women against oppressive patriarchal cultures.
In line with the algorithm of universal Darwinism, these works demonstrate how contemporary artists in the region develop, replicate, and mutate the Southeast Asian tradition of customised postures through variation, selection, and heredity procedures. This iconographical evolution not only transforms the vernacular of the colonial past to the artistic refinement of the present—but also, crucially, decolonises gestures in Southeast Asian photographic representation.
Venue: Gajah Gallery, 39 Keppel Rd, #03-04, Singapore 089065
When: 19 Jan - 18 Feb 2024,
By: Gajah Gallery