Alecia Neo - Resting on the Horizon

Artist’s Statement:
A large part of Alecia Neo’s artistic practice is about exploring the relationship between people, their contexts and their living spaces; reflecting on how our identity is embedded in our possessions and homes. Working primarily with photography, video and installation, she produces bodies of portraits involving a variety of individuals, overlooked communities and their spaces.

She seeks to strike a chord with her audience through common human experiences of alienation and loneliness, dislocation and belonging, and the search for self.

Her series of portraits, “Home Visits” received a Honorable Mention in the 2009 Berenice Abbott Prize by juror Tim B. Wride, Curator of the Department of Photography at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. “Home Visits” has also been exhibited at Noorderlicht International Photo Festival (Netherlands), Valentine Willie Fine Art, the 2nd Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) and the International Orange Festival (China) and University of Bangkok. She has received Gold Award for Narrative Photography from Crowbar Awards (Singapore).

Her debut site-specific project, “Villa Alicia” (2011) investigated the fragility of memory, through the transformation of the 4000 sq ft private home of the late Singaporean feminist Dr. Nalla Tan, into a public gallery, which was demolished shortly after the six day exhibition. She has been commissioned to create art installations for the M1 Fringe Festival 2012: Art and Faith, and 2014: Art and The People.

She has completed residencies in Taiwan’s Bamboo Curtain Studio, and at Cittadellarte’s “Università delle Idee”, Italy, which operates with the agenda of art for social transformation. Cittadelarte was established in 1998 by renowned Arte Povera artist Michelangelo Pistoletto.

Introduction of Portfolio:

  • Resting on the Horizon
  • Home Visits
  • Public Conversations
  • Liquid Love

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In 2011, through observing our spaces as a reflection of self, and perceiving materiality as a significant part of personality and desire, I worked on the series, Public Conversations, in which I photographed foreign workers in Singapore who have turned common public spaces such as sidewalks and garden benches into their private spaces, due to the lack of personal space in their rented flats. Home ownership, and the huge influx of foreign workers, have become major concerns in Singapore. Touching on the very fragile relationships between foreigners and locals, it explores how use of our shared spaces, reflect upon everyday negotiations and tensions. These work have led to my latest project

Resting on the Horizon which explores the delicate balance between tolerance and expression in foreign workers in Singapore.

In this work I have requested that a Chinese migrant worker, Ah Zhen, perform an action at a beach in Singapore. He was asked to attempt a rather absurd task: to find sleep on the horizon. His posture reveals a tattoo on his arm, which says 忍 (Tolerance). Ah Zhen had the tattoo made in Singapore. He has only one tattoo, and this will be his last.

He will return to China in one or two years. During this time he has spent away from home, he left instructions for his family back home to build his house. He has designed the entire house from scratch. The exterior and interior snapshots of Ah Zhen’s home were photographed by his wife back in China, mailed to him, and finally, re-photographed by me.

This work explores the precarious status, as well as the aspirations and dreams of migrant workers in Singapore, while challenging our perceptions of “the other” in our society.

In this series, I photograph people in the neighbourhood that I grew up in.

The construction of Queenstown’s first estate, Princess Margaret Estate, began in 1952. Queentown is special because it was Singapore’s first satellite town, which was a self-sufficient community which provided social and residential amenities for its residents. In the 1980s, however, Queentown gradually became a mature estate with a large number of elderly folk, as younger families chose to move into other HDB new towns.

Being one of Singapore’s oldest housing estates, Queenstown is populated with curious characters. My family ran a small hardware business in a shophouse, and the space became my insatiable source of inspiration, where I observed and collected intimate stories about these people. Some have lived in this area all their lives, building a tight knit social group within the estate, while others are foreigners, making this place home temporarily.

I find myself being captivated by the way these individuals move and rest in their spaces. My approach focuses on my sitters’ personalities, relationships and their spaces. Often photographing them in their homes and workspaces, the images offer an insider’s peek into the psyche and lives of Singaporeans, while subtly suggesting how people deal with loneliness. While the nation is often conveniently dismissed as monotonous and operating with clinical dentistry, the kaleidoscopic presence of these tenderly ordinary individuals is enchanting.

In “Public Conversations” (2010), I seek out foreign workers who make public spaces their homes. These foreign workers often rent and share small rooms in flats with fellow foreigners. They often find it difficult to have privacy at home. They spend long hours outside of their homes spaces, making lengthy, and usually long-distance phone calls late into the night. Public spaces, such as sidewalks and garden benches, magically become their private spaces. Phone calls are a late-night ritual due to the cheaper phone rate during non-peak hours in the night.

Touching on the very fragile relationships between foreigners and locals, it explores how use of our shared spaces, reflect upon everyday negotiations and tensions. This on-going project will evolve into a multi-media installation in the future.

“Liquid Love” is a series of photo collages that reflect upon the frailty and ambivalence of relationships in our modern society. In this series, our common anxiety and pre-occupations with work, and pursuing an ideal lifestyle is explored through social clichés and environments. The growing tension between the need for freedom and stability is ever present in our constantly changing reality.

These reflections about the struggles of the “Liquid-modern” are also inspired by sociologist Zygmunt Bauman’s book, “Liquid Love”.

Note: Images © copyright of the artist