Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee’s (b.1994, Singapore) works are centred on the topic of dislocation, memory and belonging. The series of works is titled Vessels (2018-19) and comprise of still-life objects in the form of familial heirlooms and traditional food produce. The items not only function as traces of loss but also as emblems, in hope of re-embodying one’s culture – exploring belonging through belongings. The disconnect, for the artist, has resulted from globalisation, migration and cultural imperialism. The works are holograms of the ‘original’ memory and function in the artist’s own words as “wormholes that allow me to connect to the past… the capsule of history my ancestors existed in”. The complexity of recall and the notion behind the creation of selfhood are explored throughout the artist’s practice.
These Hands Shall Carry You Home (2018) is a vinyl wallpaper installation. Intimate images of interlaced and embraced hands were extracted from an archive of family photographs and manipulated into abstraction. The resultant imagery is an indeterminate galaxy of innate, collective and transcendental memories. A short publication of the archival images used is produced exclusively for PhotoLondon 2019. A rosewood console table designed in conjunction with artist Birgit Toke Tauka Frietman accompanies the booth installation.
Herman Rahman’s (b.1993, Singapore) series of works titled Han한 investigates the image network, power structure and nature of photography itself in the notoriously closed regime of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea through archival imagery, found text and original shots.
The word Han is a term introduced to the artist by a North Korean defector referring to an intermingling of sorrow, acceptance and hope - a cultural ache which is historic, collective and personal; the product of wars and hardship. The series of original works, Théâtre de la Cruauté (Theatre of Cruelty), were shot on a research trip to the Korean Demilitarised Zone, the strip of land between North and South Korea, where there is a viewing platform with binoculars for visitors. The artist was struck by the almost fetishist gaze as it could not be returned from the North Korean side. The act of seeing became violent and reflective of the secretive state of the regime.
In seeking to re-contextualise the lost history of DPRK, Han traces the chronology and collective trauma of hardship to the current day Cold War (and the subsequent ‘peace’ meetings involving South Korea and the United States of America). The archival images and found text are documented in chapters within the form of a photobook and presented as framed sequences of portrait images. The series culminates with a chapter of photographic evidence and constructed narratives based on defectors’ testimonies and finally, a portrait sequence of hand-shakes by the current politico titled At the Starting Point of History.
With reference to the pervasive ‘Cult of Kim’ and devotional-like images of previous ruling leaders hung at an elevated position in both private and public spaces, the artist presents his version (titled Clarity More Solid Than Granite) simply as a pair of bespectacled eyes with red drawing pins - an eye each from the grandfather and father of Kim Jong-un – both omnipresent and beguiling at once.