likes to think of the cross-cultural makeup of her native Malaysia as “a fruit salad
,” a metaphor that serves as
the jumping off point for a gutsy, elegant exhibition at Singapore’s Silverlens
gallery. Like many post-colonial countries, Malaysia is home to a rich
spread of nationalities, traditions, and rituals that interact but don’t
necessarily intermix. Yee’s photo-media works tease out the historical genesis
and contemporary resonance of exuberantly distinct cultures (oranges, bananas,
etc., in Yee’s analogy) and the areas that encourage their interaction (the
bowl and its residual mixed fruit juice).
In our increasingly
globalized world, Yee’s metaphor and the impact of her work extend beyond the
borders of post-colonial bailiwicks. With the facility a historian applies to
connecting faraway, polarized dots, Yee’s prowess lies in her ability to fuse
past and present and local and universal referents. Here, Yee presents three
idiosyncratic series that poke at the boundaries of the photographic medium and
In the exhibition’s
namesake body of work, “Tabled
” (2013), Yee superimposes candid images of
contemporary city dwellers onto plates that resemble traditional blue and white
china, a craft that originated in East Asia in the 14th century and quickly
spread across the globe. In their fragile, alabaster surroundings, Yee’s
floating subjects become decorative motifs representing a country’s collective
memory, rather than individuals going about their daily lives.
The more overtly
political “Picturing Power,” 2013 folds found images of Malaysians and Brits
from the early 1900s into stark, surrealistic panoramas that surface past
inequalities, continued tensions, and a less than optimistic hope for an
Small but mighty
photomontages from the “YB Series,” (2010) are a mischievous postscript.
Masquerading as a topological study of exotic boutonnieres and florid batik
shirts, the images double as plucky political commentary. The mesmerizing
tropical flowers are worn by nepotistic figureheads at official governmental
events to indicate their elevated status and power.