RECENTLY, RESEARCHER KIRIN HENG VISITED ARTIST WEI LENG TAY AT HER NINE-MONTH SOLO EXHIBITION CROSSINGS AT NUS MUSEUM, ABOUT THE THEME OF MIGRATION AND DISPLACEMENT. WEI LENG TAY IS A FORMER PHOTO JOURNALIST WORKING WITH PHOTOGRAPHY, AUDIO AND VIDEO THAT ARE MADE INTO INSTALLATIONS AND PRINTS. SHE TAKES AN ORGANIC, CONVERSATIONAL APPROACH IN HER WORK, THE IMAGES AND FORM OF HER WORK INSPIRED BY INTERACTIONS SHE HAS WITH PEOPLE SHE MEETS. THIS IS THE SECOND OF THREE INTERVIEW EXTRACTS.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO ATHIRAH ANNISSA FOR HER HELP WITH TRANSCRIPTIONS.
The following interview excerpt is about the element in her exhibition that uses the medium of Kleenex to print photographs as a comment on statelessness
W: So that work particularly, the tissue paper work? So it’s just printed on Kleenex, so those are family photos of my grand aunt. There are thirteen existing photos, family photos of her (she’s dead now). And so with that work coming back, and all of these works, that are going to be in this exhibition, and like I said, I started working on them since 2014 till now, and I left Hong Kong in the end of 2015, but I decided to I guess, be here late two thousand sixteen, so I guess in the last few years, I was moving out a little bit and I was spending quite a bit of time in Pakistan, that’s why a lot of the works are also in Pakistan.
But moving back, I wanted to think of the idea of mobility, the idea of displacement, and coming back, also thinking about… Mobility is also kind of a norm really, its rare to have someone who just doesn’t go anywhere. So then, I started thinking about that and coming back here, in terms of thinking what it means to come back to a place. Then I started thinking about several years ago I guess, I met this person who had been stateless in Singapore for several decades, who had come before independence, but who, because she was not of the right class or of not the right, you know, whatever, the government didn’t want to give citizenship. So thinking about that in terms of mobility or imposed immobility, in relation to mobility and migration and what we do today. My migrant aunt also came to Singapore, she came to Singapore in 1955, and she was denied citizenship her entire life. Using that as a starting point, I think I wanted to think about, what that means and the kind of values that we place or the kind of system that we live in, the kind of values that we place on people.
So, with that work, she was interviewing her son, my uncle, who was also stateless till the late seventies, like I guess twenty-three years? My aunt was here for fifty years, and she was stateless for the fifty years that she was here and when you’re stateless you can’t really leave. You’re iust stuck, because you don’t have papers or anything. So then, I interviewed him, I interviewed my family in Malaysia. And then it’s trying to piece together, cause everybody’s kind of old, so it’s piecing together these things that are, like my aunts and uncles they don’t remember or they have a different version of the same thing and it’s that kind of putting together what this is and when we think about memory also. So using that tissue, I basically took each photo and re-photographed it with my iPhone fifty times, and kind of reconstituting each photo and then just printing them out, the fifty photos on tissue paper, which pretty much disposable and degrades the photo, it;s translucent, that kind of thing, it’s very tactile, it’s very emotional as a material.
In the work itself there are 650 smaller prints but right now it’s just left bits and clumps, we’ve taken out the rest from the previous show.