Sabah born Malaysian Chris Chong Chan Fui’s dynamic artistic practice cuts across various platforms, from moving image, painting, photography and installations. Chris queries society’s uncanny yet seemingly normalised relationships between natural and man-made constructs of and in the everyday. They suggest a deep-seated appetite for control, inevitably determining what survives ‘human preference’ above ‘natural selection’.
BOTANIC is a series of large-scale prints that presents the viewer with the subtle and jarring discovery that they are in fact, professionally rendered botanical illustrations of common, mass-produced household plastic flowers. Methodically dissected, clinical and devoid of colours, these drawings call to mind anthropological and natural history drawings from colonial past. Our initial romanticisism of nature conjured from the detail of the illustration turns ugly, as we are deceived and embarrassed by its plasticity.
Borneo (part of which is Malaysia) sustains over 15,000 species of plants, which makes it the most diverse region on Earth. 5,000 of those species are also endemic to Borneo, which means they are found exclusively on the island itself at a very specific location. Compare this to the fact that there are over 4,000 artificial plant manufacturers in China alone with a product line ranging from 100-200 different models from silk lilies to silicon lawns. Therefore, China could potentially produce up to 800,000 varieties of artificial plants while actual organic species on Earth exist only as a fraction of their manufactured counterparts.
Selected based on their popularity as decorative, artificial plants in domestic Malaysia, the species depicted in BOTANIC indirectly mirror the taste and botanical appetite of its society.
ENDEMIC is an installation of mechanized and manufactured copies of rare endemics of Mount Kinabalu, Malaysian Borneo. Using two points of references, (1) field research photographs and (2) botanical illustrations by a colonial British botanist, these fabricated clones are equipped with mechanized moving petals. ENDEMIC reflect various definitions of the native; the origin; an endemic "unmovable" species that can only migrate through an artificial reproduction within a manufacturing process.
The term "endemic" refers to the existence of a specific species to a specific area. As one of the most delicate ecosystems on the island of Borneo, Mount Kinabalu is a venerated symbol of the after-life to the indigenous peoples as well as housing 726 species of orchids. Of these 726 orchid species, 91 of these are endemic (Wood, Beaman, Lamb, Chan & Beaman, 2011, p.28). Whether it is climate, temperature, or even airflow, any form of displacement of these 91 endemic orchids of Mount Kinabalu would be cause for their demise.