About the Project
In June 2019, I found a bag of slides in my mother’s kitchen of photographs taken in the late 60s and early 70s. She was moving and did not want these photographs anymore. Unlike our other family photographs that had been shot on negatives, made into prints and arranged in photo albums, these were made with reversal film and made into photographic slides that could be projected. They were photographed primarily on Agfa AP-41, Kodak Kodachrome and Ektachrome film.
Strips of 35mm film are cut into single or half frames and encased in plastic or cardboard holders. The photographs have colour casts produced from degradation due to the specific chemistries of their making and the environments in which they were stored. Kodachrome - blue, Ektachrome - purple, Agfa AP-41 - a reddish, orangey brown. There is mould on the surface of the slides, dirt, organic pellet-looking material, even microscopic insects and parts. Time has created cracks on the acetate slides. It has transformed the acetate plastic, causing it to crystallise, creating new forms and patterns on the images.
Family photographs usually speak to a larger circulation of images that document, trace, and project the world we live in. They record lives lived and loved, and through the gaze of the photographer, aspirations to worldly possessions and places. Looking at these photographs of the slides, what of the image is important? Is it important that one can still see the imprint of figures in the image, or that they are already lost? Is it loss that is seen? Or steps in a journey? Do the mould, dirt, and plastic crystals speak to a degraded environment, or one simply of change? What does it mean when nature and time transform the very memory that had been captured?
These questions and this bag of slides found in my mother’s kitchen in June 2019 have led to a constellation of projects. Surface Tensions is a part of this constellation. It has been realised with the support of Leong Kwai Yoong, Marc Gloede, Ramalingam Sivakumar, the National Arts Council Singapore, and the Nanyang Technological University School of Art, Design and Media. This web platform is designed by Ivan Loh and Gerald Chen.
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