Fiona Tan

Pekan Baru Indonesia 1966, lives and works in Amsterdam

Over the past few years Fiona Tan (Pekan Baru, Indonesia, 1966) has received a great deal of recognition for her film and video installations. In 2001 her work was shown at the Yokohama Triennial and at the Venice Biennial. In 2002 work of hers was selected for the Documenta in Kassel. She has produced both documentary films and autonomous film/video works. Her work is characterized by an intent manner of recording people in their surroundings. Precise editing gives these sequences a detailed focus. With a number of works, Tan has used existing visual material from film archives and has a special interest for older anthropological documentaries. These fragments have been culturally relocated, as it were, and a new confrontation with the anonymous portrait subjects is the result. With much of this material, one experiences a certain tension between the idea of observation and that of being observed. Such images have been employed by Tan in the works Smoke Screen (1997), Facing Forward (1999) and Tuareg (1999). The silent posing and the intense gazes of the portrait subjects instill these sequences with a timeless concentration that allows us to be mirrored, so to speak, in the image of ‘the other’. Els Hoek writes: “Fiona Tan’s concern relates specifically to one person’s observation of another. What is expressed in the gaze with which the traveller scrutinizes the native inhabitant? And conversely as well: if placed on the other side of the camera, what images would the inhabitant make of the traveller?