Fiona Tan, film still ‘Ruins’, Courtesy of the artist and Peter Freeman, Inc.
From January 9 to February 15, 2020, Dutch artist Fiona Tan will present Archive / Ruins, her first solo exhibition in New York City in the past ten years, at Peter Freeman Inc. The exhibition marks the U.S. premiere of her new film Archive (2019), and the world-premiere of Ruins (2020). Related works, the audio track Hydriotaphia (2016), and the series of photogravures, Shadow Archive (2019), will also be on view.
To create Archive, Tan conducted extensive research on the Belgian visionary and peace activist Paul Otlet (1868–1944). Otlet’s Mundaneum, also known as the “paper Google,” encompassed an ambitious plan to catalog all human knowledge in the hope of achieving world peace. In Archive, we wander within the interior of the fictional architecture Tan designed to house Otlet’s utopian archive. But like his deteriorating papers and documents, Tan’s futuristic, circular structure is already desolate and falling to ruin. Filmed inside a virtual 3-D full-scale model, Archive is meticulously constructed entirely from computer-generated imagery and is the artist’s first foray into this technology.
Ruins, a two-screen projection created using both 16 mm analog film and high definition digital video features imagery filmed on location in an abandoned mining complex at the Grand-Hornu in Belgium, a World Heritage site and ruin in itself. “Inside a ruin,” says Tan, “I feel as though I can glimpse time in motion. I am witness to a drawn-out collapse that is taking place before my very eyes in agonizingly slow motion. A ruin simultaneously shows me a building’s past, present, and future. I see time moving forwards and backward as if on film.” In her translation of these two opposing languages, Ruins traces parallels between her architectural subject-matter and the media at-hand, questioning the future of both analog and digital moving image.
The artist book, Fiona Tan: A Walk Among Ruins, published on the occasion of the exhibition, includes an essay Tan wrote while working on her latest installation Ruins. The two-volume monograph Fiona Tan: L’Archive des ombres / Shadow Archive (2019) is also available.
Fiona Tan, who is based in Amsterdam, has attracted international recognition for her film and video projects since the end of the 1990s. Oscillating between documentation and fiction, biography and imagination, Tan’s work is informed by her acknowledgment of the camera as an agent provocateur, rather than an instrument for recording reality. Deeply embedded in all of Tan’s work is her fascination with the deceptive nature of representation and the play of memory across time and space.