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Photographic prints on vinyl and duct tape
Dimensions variable, installed at Block 9, Gillman Barracks, Singapore. Singapore Biennale 2019 commission
The Hmong have often been pushed to the perimeters of celebrations of nation-hood—absorbed, forgotten and relegated to the margins as ‘colourful ethnic others’—most often associated with vibrant patterned textiles. Their history is often ‘covered over’ or ‘weaved out’ from official historical accounts and from public knowledge. Present–past–patterns engage with these concerns and continue my explorations of the events that preceded my birth: The Secret War in Laos (approximately 1964–1975) and its aftermath. Public and private film and photographic records of these events, including family photographs taken during internment in Thailand, have been translated into new patterns that reclaim history and transform the site into a place for remembering.
An important conceptual thrust in this work is to draw attention to these events which have left enduring consequences for Hmong in this region and elsewhere, and the significant presence of the Hmong in the Asia-Pacific. It is installed in highly visible areas, even though it is still ‘relegated to the margins’ and on the outside—as the ‘cuffs’ and ‘socks’ of the columns, the edges of the roofs, wraps along walls, and as the ‘kickboards’ of the steps. Reiterated as ‘negative’ patterns and ‘wallpaper’, these images and this history lives again, circulating into public consciousness, vying not to be overlooked or forgotten. And as these images are transferred from one generation to the next, from those who have managed to survive and bear witness, to those who seek to keep these relevant to the present, cultural revival and renewal ignites and bursts through.
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