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Fiona Tan/ displaced

She asks the people she is taking her video portraits of,
to hold still.
Not for a second but for long minutes.
The picture is moving, but not the people.

This reminds me of the beginnings of photography,
when people were fixed to be able
not to move for a longer time for the exposures were long.
Exposure times are shorter now,
times and intentions are changing.


I have experienced Fiona Tans work as something new,
never seen before,
and this newness results from a small step aside,
a little but big movement.
A beautiful catalog of her is titled „mirror maker“.

Fiona Tan doesn’t reproduce the world.
Fiona Tan is mirroring the world.
The world appears reversed.

Moving photographs, and a frozen movie.
Between these poles you can locate Fiona Tans project.

The composition of a moving photograph
doesn’t has to be on the point,
though some of Fiona Tans compositions are wonderful.
A frozen movie doesn’t have to have any action,
though there is still some of it.
So Fiona Tan is in a quiet nice position,
one could say. But that is not the point.

One could call „Countenance“ a homage to
August Sander and his „People of the 20th century“.
Fiona Tan is succeeding to continue his work with contemporary means.
Her closeness to August Sander without copying him,
without reproducing yesterdays work,
her ability to find an own solution impressed me on a fundamental level.
I felt like quitting photography.

In the „dark-room“ accompanying „Countenance“,
I hear Fiona Tans voice saying:

„I gather together impressions and snapshots like an amateur biologist
in the nineteenth century would collect butterflies. Type, archetype, stereotype.
An irrational desire for order,; or at least fort he illusion thereof.
However I am constantly reminded that all my attempts at systematical order
must be arbitrary, idiosyncratic and- quiet simply- doomed to fail.“


Vox Populi is an accumulation of ordered lists.
Instead of words, Fiona Tan is grouping photographs.
Christmas, marriages, babies, old people, people in front of their cars,
people sleeping, people before landscapes. Some of these photographs are charming indeed.



To make the list of the exhibits complete:

  • “study for a portrait, 2006”
  • Videoportrait of a /two girl(s).
  • “n.t (leidsestr.), 1997”
  • Fast motion video: The principal performer keeps motionless:
    Passers-by speed along without touching the performer.
  • “downside up, 2002”
  • This video reminds me off the DADA movies
    I have seen 2005 at the Centre Pompidou.
    No visual proof fort hat, just my memory.


Here Fiona Tan frames (phrases) her artistic principle,
she shows the common ground of her projects:
she is dislocating the familiar into the unfamiliar.
The photograph doesn’t hold still (Countenance),
the individual multiplies (Vox Populi),
the individual duplicates (study for a portrait),
time is running and stays still (n.t (leidsestr.))

A step apart, the outlook turns strange.