TOURING: Eugenia Lim: The Ambassador

COFFS HARBOUR, NSW

COFFS HARBOUR REGIONAL GALLERY CULTURE HUB

20 NOV 2020 – 16 JAN 2021

Eugenia Lim is an Australian artist of Chinese–Singaporean descent who works across video, performance and installation. In her work, Lim transforms herself into invented fictional personas who traverse through time and cultures to explore how national identities and stereotypes cut, divide and bond our globalised world.

This 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Museums & Galleries of NSW (M&G NSW) initiated touring project presents Lim’s most recent body of work, The Ambassador seriesIn this three-part project, Lim takes on a Mao-like persona who sits halfway between truth and fantasy –  dressed in a gold lamé suit and matching bowl haircut. Throughout each of her works, the Ambassador takes on new roles in uncovering the Australian-Asian narrative – drilling down into racial politics, the social costs of manufacturing and the role of architecture in shaping society.

Visitors have commented:

“Wonderful revelation”

“Absurd and profound”

“What an incredible exhibition”

Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, SA

Part 1: Yellow Peril (2015)

Yellow Peril contemplates the fraught stories from the first wave of Chinese migrants seeking to make their fortunes in the Australian gold rush. The 17-minute featurette transports Lim’s Ambassador to the Sovereign Hill theme park, an open air museum that reimagines 1850’s Ballarat, Victoria. Mixing in with a cast of modern-day visitors and historical theme-park actors, Eugenia’s lone Ambassador silently wanders throughout the site from dawn to dusk. She partakes in gold mining, inspects machinery and eventually strikes gold and ‘wins big’. However, throughout the process, Lim’s Ambassador seems twice removed – silent, isolated and ambiguous – appearing as a literal and cultural relic from another time and place.

Exhibited alongside is the sculptural gold nugget featured in the video work and two photographs printed on gold emergency blankets – one picturing the artist’s hopeful parents shortly after their arrival in Australia in front of Ron Robertson-Swann’s public sculpture Vault (1980)or better known in Melbourne as ‘yellow peril’.

These poetic elements draw careful attention to the local and personal experiences for many first-generation Chinese migrants, including Lim’s own parents, and the social costs of seeking fortune in a faraway land.

Part 2: The People’s Currency (2017)

When almost everything is now ‘Made in China’, how are we, as consumers, implicated in the poor labour conditions of the production line? – Eugenia Lim

Borrowing its name from the renminbi (China’s Currency), The People’s Currency turns the gallery into ‘Renminconn’, a closed-loop ‘special economic zone’. Within this zone Lim dressed as the Chairman Mao-like, gold-suited Ambassador, stands over her factory of counterfeit money-printing and ceramic imitation electronic consumer goods. As the Ambassador, Lim invites the public to enter into ‘short-term employment’ as shift workers on her factory floor, completing a menial yet meditative task. Based on her satisfaction with the completed product, she will remunerate the ‘employee’ with her counterfeit notes printed on site – The People’s Currency.

In Lim’s project, this collision of mass-production, menial work and counterfeit currency become strategies to evaluate the two-fold impacts of global capitalism – on those who seek their fortunes in the factories of China or ‘the workshop of the world’, and the global consumers of these ubiquitous and aspirational products.

Part 3: The Australian Ugliness (2018)

Lim’s latest project surveys the role of architecture in marking a society and shaping national identity. The work has been titled after the bestselling book by Robin Boyd, arguably one of Australia’s most prominent architects and Modernists. Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness denounces the conservative, kitsch and decorative tastes of post-war 1950s Australia, warning against parochialism and insularity. Lim will build upon these ideas, transporting them into 21st century Australia.

This multi-channel video work, will see the Ambassador lead a wide-ranging tour of iconic public and private spaces in Australian cities. The work will insert a female and Asian identity on screen and into the built environment of our cities – spaces still dominated by macho-white taste. Throughout her journey, The Ambassador will interrogate the tensions between globalism and localism, natural and the cultural and the importance of understanding Boyd’s featurism today in the Asian century.

Curated by Mikala Tai, Director, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, The Ambassador is travelling to eight galleries and art centres across Australia between 2019 and 2021 through Museums & Galleries of NSW.

A 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Museums & Galleries of NSW touring exhibition. This project is assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program

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For us sinners

For us sinners will be presented in 2021, more details to follow. 


Exhibition artist: Marikit Santiago

The garden of Eden, as told by the Book of Genesis in the Bible, is home to the Tree of Knowledge of good and evil that is guarded by a serpent. The craftiest of God’s creations, the serpent persuades Eve to disobey her creator and eat the forbidden fruit, sharing a piece with Adam. This rebellion is discovered by God, who banishes the pair from paradise, sending humankind into the realm of worldly experience, including death, suffering, the inclination to sin, the loss of sanctifying grace and guilty conscious. From herein, the children of Adam and Eve are punished with this hereditary condition, known as ‘original sin’.

Historically understood within Catholicism as a story of temptation and sin brought on by the weakness of woman and the suppleness of the snake, Sydney based painter, Marikit Santiago reframes and complicates this history in a series of commissioned paintings. Combining the narrative power of Catholicism and the western art canon with her lived Australian-Filipino experience, For us sinners explores ‘original sin’ by freeing the story from its gendered taint of weakness and guilt. In a series of emotionally charged works that question the themes of utopia and dystopia, control and transgression, duty and autonomy, sex and sexual difference, paradise and exile, Santiago’s first institutional solo exhibition offers nuanced parables fit for the current moment.

Artist Biography:

Marikit Santiago (b. 1985, Melbourne. Lives and works in Western Sydney, Australia).  Marikit Santiago’s sculptural and painting practice co-opt references, imagery and symbolism from her Australian-Fillipino ancestry, Catholicism and the Western Art Cannon to interrogate the contradictory sensations, values and ideas that exist at her plural identities. In September 2020, Santiago was announced as the winner of the Sir John Sulman Prize for her work, The divine, which is currently on view in the Archibald, Sulman and Wynne Prizes exhibition at the Art Gallery of NSW until 10 January 2021. Santiago’s notable exhibitions include Bayanihan Philippine Art Project (2017) at Art Gallery New South Wales, Blacktown Arts Centre, Campbelltown Arts Centre, Mosman Art Gallery and Peacock Gallery; New Sacred (2018) at Mosman Art Gallery; I LOVE YOU MELISSA (2018), The Lock Up; Mahal (2018), Firstdraft and Everyday Madonna (2019), Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre. Santiago has been selected as a finalist for the Art Gallery of NSW’s Archibald Prize in 2016, received the Sam Whiteley Commendation Award in the 2018 Churchie Emerging Art Prize, Institute of Modern Art and is a 2019 finalist of the Sulman Prize, Art Gallery of New South Wales. In 2018, she was shortlisted for Create NSW’s Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship. Santiago also holds a Bachelor of Medical Science (2007), a Bachelor of Fine Art (Honours Class I) in 2011 and a Master of Fine Art in 2017 from the University of New South Wales. During this time, she was awarded a Dean’s Award for her undergraduate degree and the Australian Postgraduate Award for her Masters degree. Her work features in private and public collections in Australia.