Elizabeth Gabrielle Lee

Work / The unusual powers of disposing


The unusual powers of disposing


The unusual powers of disposing is an attempt to illustrate the movement of tricalcium phosphate, the prime natural resource harvested on Christmas Island during Britain's rule of the Straits Settlements. Phosphate mining began there in 1899 using indentured labour from Singapore, Malaya and China, and continued through the first half of the 20th century. The resource was, and still is, used in everyday objects – toothpaste, porcelain, baby powder, fertiliser and cooking additives. Archival photographs and documents, paired with domestic objects covered in phosphate powder, crystallises how the colonial trade of yesteryear continues to haunt us. The installation charts the relative invisibility of this slow violence enacted upon the natural environment and upon othered bodies. Unveiling the connection between the grand and the mundane, the work reveals the power matrix in which the everyday continues to persist. What comes forth is a force that is neither spectacular nor instantaneous, but instead, incremental.

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Additional Info

Installation: 8 Glicée prints on Hanhemühle Bamboo paper, tracing paper, phosphate powder, everyday objects.

Deviations Group Show // 59 Hackney Road // Curated by Berny Tan // 19–24 February 2019

'To deviate is to depart from an established course. The word 'deviation' connotes both 'deviance' and 'defiance'—to reject and/or resist a norm. The norm must, logically, exist before the deviation. But that possibility of challenging, or even simply sidestepping, what we might otherwise assume to be an unassailable truth, declares that there are alternatives. There are different ways of looking, doing, thinking. And so, as pathways open, the power of the norm diminishes.

In Deviations, ten artists re-surface histories that defy accepted narratives, re-write the boundaries of artistic mediums, re-look the disregarded moments in our everyday. These are all artists who chose to displace themselves from their geographical norm (Singapore) in order to re-shape themselves and the ideas, images, and objects they put out into the world. Slipping in and out of photography, sculpture, installation, video, and painting, the works in the exhibition relish in the creation of new realities, resisting closure. 

So we arrive here, at the unexpected.'

– Exhibition foreword by Berny Tan

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