by Dilpreet BhullarJan 29, 2023
Singapore-based artists Brandon Tay and Tan Zi Xi participated in F(r)iction at KONA, an exhibition that was a part of the St+Art Lodhi Art Festival 2019, in New Delhi, from February 16 to March 17. For the festival, Brandon Tay created an interactive real-time installation Façade, while Tan Zi Xi’s Floating City installation played with mirrors and perception to reflect a dystopian future.
Here, STIR speaks to the artists about their works, the inspiration behind them and their exhibition in India.
Sukanya Garg (SG): Your work seems to fit into the larger theme of over-indulgence, leading to a loss of association altogether. Could you cite specific instances, which acted as triggers for this choice of subject behind your work?
Brandon Tay (BT): Yes, to a certain extent the work speaks to a maximalist aesthetic. Principally, my process, when it comes to interactive pieces, is to build a piece that explores a dynamic, in this case a playful inversion of perspective and the idea of the mirror, and loading it with elements that have both a symbolic and aesthetic effect. Baroque and neoclassical objects fill one scene, and an abstract representation of the end scene of 2001: A Space Odyssey fill its mirrored counterpoint. I tend to fill my environments in a stream of consciousness, but marry them together under a general theme, in this case the idea of the memento mori.
Tan Zi Xi (TZX): A lot of the inspiration behind my work is informed by the documentaries I watch – regarding the different natural issues that are happening around our globe. One of the instances that struck me hard was the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster, which had been a devastating calamity that happened around the coastal area of Japan; it has now affected the condition of the land and waters due to the nuclear leak. I feel that such disasters are not unique, since the world has already learned about the Chernobyl disaster in 1986, yet mankind has continued to play God in creating such man-made energy despite its risks and the toxic wastes it produces. This is a vicious circle we face in our modern lives due to our consumption habits that are greatly unsustainable, which in turn seeks for our desperate need of energy sources.
SG: What does the process of creating such a work entail, especially since it not only has artistic and technological aspects of construction, but also dimensions of scale, ephemerality and dissent?
BT: Interactive and mediated work always demands a response to the idea of context - where and how a piece is viewed, and what is the frame in which to view it. In this case, I wanted to create a single-screen work, which was quite simple in its presentation, as the content has a lot of detail, which I wanted to explore, and keep the interactive elements immediate and dynamic.
TZX: I think it is important to create dialogues about the issues that are worthy to be communicated through my artworks, where the audiences are able to reflect deeper about these messages.
SG: How has working in the context of India filtered through your work at Lodhi Street Art Festival 2019? How is it different from other public art/street art projects you have been creating till now?
BT: Yes, working with other artists in a space that principally focused on static, but immersive pieces begged the question of what I could contribute to this context. Do I make something that talks about the site, or do I create something that talks about the culture it was situated in? Eventually, I decided the best route was to create something conventionally screen-based, but operates as a portal in an unconventional way.
TZX: Through my observation of the landscape conditions around India, where air and land pollution is very much prevalent, I believe that the audiences were able to resonate with the subject matter communicated through my artworks.
My artwork Floating City consists of two parts - an anamorphic mural on the courtyard and an installation in the room beside it. Courtyard mural is an anamorphic mural that could be viewed in its genuine form only from a singular perspective that depicts the surface of a wasted land, which is highly disintegrated with the damage that men has caused in the next few centuries. The artworks question if this is a close-up of our distant future, where earth has become too detrimental to live in, where our land purges accumulated toxins.
When viewed from another point of view, the artwork becomes highly distorted, alike our perception of how one should care for this earth we currently inhabit. Our individualistic views may never align to meet a solution on how we should collectively make an impact. Hence, the anamorphic artwork is a play on the idea that mankind will never see eye to eye, and most of what we perceive at every other angle is a distorted image parallel to the reality of what the earth is becoming.
The installation room, then, brings the viewer from the anamorphic mural of the dystopia earth into a new universe mankind has created after abandoning the earth that has become inhabitable. The new cities are built in a new universe no longer bound by gravity, connected in linear forms that float diagonally from one to another. The installation hopes to bring the viewer into this fictional universe, where the viewer could reflect on the possible outcomes of mankind’s new living spaces in the following centuries.
SG: Do you ever get into trouble with audiences or authorities because of the socio-politico-cultural aspects of your work?
BT: I am not exactly sure my work constitutes a very large socio-political concern for the authorities. For me art is a biographical process, so any socio-political concerns expressed are mine and incidental.
TZX: Thankfully never!