Ho Tzu Nyen’s film installation “The Name” premiered at the daadgalerie in Berlin on 13th February 2015. It is a dynamic montage of found footage taken from films created in the Western tradition, featuring the motif of the romantic cult of genius to depict the act of writing as a creative, torturous process. The film then uses a voice-over to come to terms with the kind of author who completely deviates from this ideal.
In creating “The Name”, Ho puts to use his ruminations and years of research into the journalistic writings of the mysterious author Gene Z. Hanrahan. Ho’s interest in the writer was sparked by the book “The Communist Struggle in Malaya”, which was published in the USA in 1954. The book is an astonishingly informative treatise about the communist struggle on the Malay Peninsula during the colonial era; further publications from Hanrahan, however, concerning guerilla tactics in China, or “The Wild Years” about Ernest Hemingway’s work, raise doubts about Hanrahan’s identity as an authorial subject.
By citing the example of a single concrete historical case that left its traces on Malaysian historiography, Ho’s use of cinematic and artistic devices help to demonstrate the instability of the notion of authorship and originality.
Something in the oeuvre of Hanrahan doesn’t quite add up to the unity of a single author, as though beneath the name seethes an unruly horde of personalities. He has been variously described a a naval intelligence officer, a lecturer or a specialist of guerilla warfare. The Malaysian historian Cheah Boon Kheng describes Gene Z. Hanrahan as the ‘pseudonym of a research assistant of a research organisation’. ~ Ho Tzu Nyen
“The Name” forms the counterpart to Ho’s film “The Nameless”, which he originally produced for the Shanghai Biennale in 2014. Teeming with double-meanings and polysemy, this story about a triple agent in Southeast Asia could not be shown in Shanghai as a result of government censorship. It was shown at the Akademie der Künste in Berlin in February 2015 for the first time.
“A while ago I began collecting the books of Gene Z. Hanrahan as well as academic texts that refer to his writings, some of which have been displayed here. The earliest text published by Gene Z. Hanrahan dates from 1943 and the final in 1985, so the small collection covers a publishing career of 42 years.” ~ Ho Tzu Nyen
Ho Tzu Nyen was born in Singapore in 1976. He earned a BA in Creative Arts from Victorian College of the Arts, University of Melbourne (2001), and an MA in Southeast Asian Studies from the National University of Singapore (2007). Ho has had solo exhibitions at Substation Gallery, Singapore (2003); Contemporary Art Centre of South Australia, Adelaide (2010); Artspace, Sydney (2011); and Mori Art Museum, Tokyo (2012). He also represented Singapore at the 54th Venice Biennale (2011). He has participated in numerous international film festivals including the 41st Directors’ Fortnight at the Cannes International Film Festival in France (2009) and Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah (2012). Important group exhibitions include Singapore Biennial (2006); Video Killed the Painting Star, Contemporary Center of Art, Glasgow (2007); Thermocline of Art: New Asian Waves, ZKM Center for Art and Media, Karlsruhe (2007); Asia Pacific Triennial, Queensland Art Gallery, Brisbane (2009); No Soul for Sale, Tate Modern, London (2010); transmediale.11, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2011); Surplus Authors, Witte de With, Rotterdam (2012); Autonomous Zones, Times Museum, Guangzhou, China (2013) and Social Factory, 10th Shanghai Biennale (2014). In January 2015 Ho received the Grand Prize Award at the Asia Pacific Breweries Foundation Signature Art Prize. In 2014/15 Ho Tzu Nyen is a guest of the DAAD’s Artists-in-Berlin Program. He lives and works in Singapore.
February 14 – April 4, 2015, at daadgalerie, Berlin