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 FIRST OF THREE INTERVIEW EXTRACTS.
A SPECIAL THANKS TO ATHIRAH ANNISSA FOR HER HELP WITH TRANSCRIPTIONS.
The following interview extract is about how Wei Leng has been playing with the form of photography in her newer works
K: What made you depart from your earlier works? I understand that they were about, they were more centered around people’s personal stories and photographing people rather than objects.
W: In that sense it’s still the same, but I guess the articulation is different. In terms of that form, lot of the earlier works are like that because all my work is documentary-based. But then I think for many years I became very frustrated with working with photography. Then it’s a question of… I still think that my work is photographic, even though let’s say for example, the work downstairs, the one downstairs [at NUS Museum], the image is almost entirely taken away but then it’s still photographic for me in a sense that you’re hearing the objects and it’s a kind of thinking about the photographic, of listening when you are hearing the objects and the kind of image that it conjures when you hear what it is, yes.
But also in terms of what I have been doing for all these years I guess, the interview, and the image and one of the things is also trying reconcile, or make meaning between what is said and also what you see in the image. So, in that sense maybe I’ve gone more in that direction than just having it primarily visual.
The last one was using most of it was thirty-five-millimeter image and about breaking up the image and creating ways of looking but also creating ways of how audiences can intervene within the image. And then in that way, thinking about how we actually see?
I guess because a lot of my works is based on you know, talking to people, who, at least might not very superficially be the same as me. Every time you are dealing with people, you are dealing with someone who’s somewhat the Other, isn’t it. So, it is just about how do you question, how do you think about that perception or how do you think about that kind of interaction that you’re having with that person, how do you think about how you are seeing that person. Or group or whatever, I try not to do groups because I don’t like groups.
While there are multiple pieces, the several pieces that you see here, including that one, is one picture. So this projection has three projections and the main projection falls on several pieces.
So, then in the case of this, when you walk through the space, you are encountering the image in different parts, and from every position you’re in, you see the image in a different way. And from a different side or through a different layer.
So that’s what I was trying to do. About thinking of how you break apart or pull apart an image and how we can think about an image and ways of seeing.
K: So you took the theme of fragmentation on many different levels
W: Perhaps yes. That work was based on four people’s recollections, and so then, and also this the works are now perhaps more driven by the voice than the image. Because previously I worked with image and the voice for a long time and perhaps it was driven by the visual and the image. And now it’s driven more by the voice and that content.
K: What made you choose to display everything in this certain way, because you’re in the middle of an archelogy gallery where they have all these unconventional ways of display, for unbroken ceramics, but you chose to display broken bits of ceramics and line them along the wall…
W: All my work is still photography-based, but I guess in terms of how that fragmentation works with the space, I think in terms of with just that space, it works on several levels in terms of talking about trade, talking about movement, talking about migration in that sense, but also talking about fragmenting of you know, what you have. And so that’s fragmenting while in the object it occurs on a physical level? I guess on the works it’s kind of fragmented, in terms of the voice, it’s fragmented in terms of the image and its, even with the exhibition format, it’s fragmented in that way, or unstable, let’s say. Creating a kind of instability in terms of an exhibition changes, that you can’t see if you’ve missed it. It’s kind of fleeting also if you missed it, thinking of how this kind of migration or this kind of movement that we have is kind of based on the kind of changing relationships, with family, you know kind of with yourself, with your life.
So in that sense the exhibition, works with the existing exhibition in the space.