Customised Postures, (De)colonising Gestures


    The region’s shared political, economic, and social conditions of colonial relations arguably produced common visual conventions in photographic portraiture. The historical photographs featured in the show focus particularly on the way the camera customised postures and colonised gestures of subjects in the colony. They examine how subjects’ body language adopted and adapted, alongside the modern technology of representation in indoor and outdoor portraiture.

    Spanning painting, sculpture, drawing, photography, to multimedia installation, the contemporary works in this exhibition then reveal how this adoption and adaptation emerges today. Employing her signature lens medium, Suzann Victor liberates (retrospectively) the humanity of photographed subjects in Singapore’s migrant histories—who had otherwise been captured in dehumanising ethnographic portrayals. Through written records and existing photographs in his archive, Robert Zhao employs AI to reimagine and expand the story of how the last crocodile in Katong, Singapore, was captured. Manipulating early 20th century studio portrait photographs, Abednego Trianto highlights the subtle gestures of sitters to expose the unique, ongoing struggles of Javanese women against oppressive patriarchal cultures.

    In line with the algorithm of universal Darwinism, these works demonstrate how contemporary artists in the region develop, replicate, and mutate the Southeast Asian tradition of customised postures through variation, selection, and heredity procedures. This iconographical evolution not only transforms the vernacular of the colonial past to the artistic refinement of the present—but also, crucially, decolonises gestures in Southeast Asian photographic representation.Join us for the Opening Night on 19 January 2024, 6pm, and a Curator’s Talk by Dr Alexander Supartono on 21 January 2024, 11am—both at Gajah Gallery Singapore. To RSVP, email art@gajahgallery.com.

    Auntie Painting


    Oil and Acrylic on Jute with Artist Made Frame, 170 x 185 x 15 cm

    Chinese Bride


    Mixed Media on Board 80 x 38 cm (Framed: 87 x 49 x 3 cm)

    Portal 2 : Machine


    Single-Channel Audio and Video, 00:06:36 Min (Loop), Edition 1 of 5 and 1 Artist Proof

    Portal 1 : Lover


    Single-Channel Video, 00:02:40 Min (Loop), Edition 1 of 5 and 1 Artist Proof

    Mango Vendor


    Charcoal On Handmade Paper, 99 x 58.5 cm (Framed 120 x 82 x 2 cm)

    By The River


    Charcoal On Handmade Paper, 88.5 x 59 cm (Framed 112 x 83 x 2 cm)

    Auntie Painting


    Oil and Acrylic On Jute With Artist Made Frame, 170 x 185 x 15 cm

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