Asia Art Archive in America presented a performance lecture, Methods Of Memory – Time Travels in the Archives, by artist Sim Chi Yin.
The search started with a single photograph — of a man the family had not spoken about for 60 years. Over the past decade, artist Sim Chi Yin has been excavating the hidden histories of the anti-colonial war in the former British colony of Malaya. Starting from a place of personal history, her multi-disciplinary research and artistic project, “One Day We’ll Understand”, works to complicate the historiography of the so-called “Malayan Emergency” (1948 to 1960) through multiple modes of archiving / counter-archiving, and art-making. In this performance lecture on the decolonization history that has echoes in much of the Global South, she used the form of letter-writing to explore memory, erasure, gaps in the archive and spectres of colonialism. She also looked at trans-generational inheritances — conjuring an imaginary landscape to time-travel both her grandfather and her toddler son — and speculates on the possibilities of repair.
The performance was followed by a conversation with writer and artist Tao Leigh Goffe.
Sim Chi Yin is an artist from Singapore whose research-based practice includes photography, moving image, archival interventions, book-making and text-based performance, and focuses on history, conflict, memory and extraction. She has exhibited in solo shows in Europe and Asia, and her work has been shown in biennales and triennials. Sim did her first two degrees in Cold War history and was active in the migrant worker rights movement in Singapore — using photography and media for advocacy — before becoming an award-winning journalist and foreign correspondent based in China for over a decade. Currently, she is in New York as a fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program and is completing a PhD at King’s College London. She is working on a multi-chapter project around her family history and the decolonization war in Malaya, “One Day We’ll Understand” — most recently shown at the Istanbul Biennale 2022. Sim was commissioned as the Nobel Peace Prize photographer in 2017. Her work is in the collections of Harvard Art Museums, The J. Paul Getty Museum, M+ Hong Kong, Singapore Art Museum, and the National Museum Singapore. Sim is represented by Zilberman Gallery in Berlin and Hanart TZ Gallery in Hong Kong.
Tao Leigh Goffe is a Black British writer, theorist, and interdisciplinary artist who grew up between the UK and New York. Specializing in colonial histories of race, climate, and sound technology, Dr. Goffe is writing a book called AFTER EDEN on how the climate crisis is a racial crisis. Her work explores Black and Asian diasporic intellectual histories, political, and ecological life. Much of her art and sound design practice examines the bedrock of colonial histories. She is a member of NEW INC, an incubator for art and technology led by the New Museum in New York City. Tao is also the Executive Director of the Afro-Asia Group, an organization that centers the intersections of African and Asian diasporas, futurity, and coalitions.
Sim Chi Yin: Methods Of Memory – Time Travels in the Archives was made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.
This program was supported, in part, by public funds from the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs, in partnership with the City Council.