Fiona Tan: Disorient / Gallery 1

Photo credit: Fiona Tan: Disorient (2009), installation shot in the Gallery of Modern Art 2012, courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, photo Ruth Clark 2012
Photo credit: Fiona Tan: Disorient (2009), installation shot in the Gallery of Modern Art 2012, courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, photo Ruth Clark 2012

Fiona Tan: Disorient
Gallery 1
Preview 13 June (5.30 -7.30 pm) exhibition continues until 26 January 2020

It is 10 years since The Mondriaan Fund commissioned Disorient from the artist Fiona Tan for  the Dutch pavilion at the 53rd Venice Biennale and was conceived with one of Venice’s most famous merchants, Marco Polo (lived 1254 – 1324) and the city’s significant trade history in mind. Presented to Glasgow Museums in 2010 by Art Fund under Art Fund International, it was  a significant acquisitions project for Glasgow Museums delivered in partnership with The Common Guild (2007 – 2012).

Disorient is an impressive 2 screen video installation that fills the former Royal Exchange hall in GoMA. It combines a fictional scene, documentary footage and spoken word to explore complex historical identities, cultural perceptions and truths about the world we live in. On one screen the slow moving footage – in opulent warm colours – guides us through a space that looks like a warehouse. Tan’s camera glides past overflowing shelves of objects associated with the “Orient”, ranging from mass-produced incense, spices and lanterns to exotic animals. Shown on the opposite screen are modern-day documentary scenes from Asia and filmed footage of the construction of the fictional warehouse in the Dutch pavilion in Venice, exposing the artificial nature of the lavish film opposite.

In the background above the ambient noise, a male voice reads an edited script from The Travels of Marco Polo. Marco Polo left Venice in 1271, journeying throughout the Middle East and Asia for 24 years. His account of these travels has been translated and circulated for hundreds of years, though there has long been debate about how much of it is accurate and from his first-hand experience.

In the 10 years since Disorient was made digital communication has increased our ability to connect world-wide. However global politics have shifted to the right leading to a greater intolerance of the ‘other’. Within this heightened access to information it becomes more important to separate facts from fiction in the news about past and current politics, cultural identities, migration and climate change. In re-presenting the work in 2019 the layers of discourse that Tan has distilled into this work remind us that we live in a rich, complex world and historical memories, stories and perceptions have an impact on how we live together.

Fiona Tan is best known for skilfully produced and visually rich photography, film and video. Characteristically, her artworks explore issues related to human representation – such as concepts of identity and nationality – often through portraits of people or places. She lives and works in Amsterdam.

Books related to this exhibition will be available in the library downstairs

Photo credit: Fiona Tan: Disorient (2009), installation shot in the Gallery of Modern Art 2012, courtesy the artist and Frith Street Gallery, photo Ruth Clark 2012


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