Curated by Darren Tesar
When artists engage in presenting aspects and/or critiques of tourism, they inevitably begin to engender afterimages of tourism’s own dialectic—unmediated locality and its assumed authenticity. It is here, along the contours of a site’s resistance to be represented, where we start to doubt art’s ability to capture such fine resolutions. Representation within art has always been primarily artistic representation, be it the virtuous self-excommunication of modernism or the decidedly reactionary horizontality of post-modernism. Both of these generalized historical contexts did one thing exceedingly well, they produced countless images and generated equal amounts of content. However, this very production must be considered part of the problem of tourism, for both—intentionally or unintentionally—stabilized presence into presentation, which clumsily handles the nuance of any time or place.
This hastily rendered sketch directs us to this following exhibition. Inspired by the hauntological practices of recording artist The Caretaker, ISLAND, Wen-Li Chen and Marco Scerri both address the above complexity without generating any new photographs, without inserting any new perspectives, indeed, without taking up any new positions on their respective islands. Instead, and like the un-authored hisses and cracklings that coincide with the found recordings making up The Caretakers “recordings”, Scerri’s and Chen’s artistic gestures exist within the tonalities of touched photographs and the practical formalities of photographic preservation. They did not work on the islands of Malta or Taiwan, but from abroad via the islands that are photographic archives (both in Malta and Taiwan). In short, Scerri and Chen explore the daunting task of taking care in and, therefore, of deteriorating images depicting a time and a place we no longer have the confidence to say is or is not lost, that is to stay, urgently, even or ever was.
Wen-Li Chen’s photographic contributions originate more autobiographically. Her selected photographs chronicle something simple, yet urgent in the discussion of identity, namely the cover of commercial photo-lab photo books. The photographs, while simple, are startling in what they are able to convey, since underneath the foreign images that make up the cover is the history of her and her family. So to these odd images—an image of 10 unknown babies, an image of a small boy and what appears to be his dog and a series of uncredited paintings—somehow become a sort of adopted family photographs.
- 12 series of framed digital prints on photo paper