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Erika Tan
Part IV: Becoming…

becoming (2006) is a six-channel video and sound installation that extends Tan's concerns with the linguistic-national-military nexus of her earlier work Vent & Mimesis (2003). Tan's attention is squarely placed on the 'naturalisation' of persons who have migrated through necessity or choice as a result of globalization. Using a handmade dummy which is an uncanny double of the artist herself, becoming and Vent & Mimesis critically interrogate the mimicry that is necessary for a personal 'pledging' of 'allegiance' - 'uttering' a promise of political, ideological, and cultural commitment - to an 'other' nation, while disassembling our understanding of this very 'obligation' and 'loyalty.'

Originally commissioned for BELIEF, the Singapore Biennale in 2006, becoming re-situates the earlier Vent & Mimesis within a disused courtroom of Singapore's City Hall, itself a place of affirming, upholding and pledging allegiance to rule and law. In this context, Tan appropriated various clips from YouTube such as the naturalisation rituals performed by 'foreign' adults or the faltering memorisation and recitings of children learning their pledges (in this case, primarily Anglo-American nations). Other rituals such as those seen within the context of international sport such as the nationalistic chanting found within football grounds as well as clips of military marches, military bases and airstrips, and sites of political power in Washington or Beijing's Tiananmen Square, for instance. Inserted into these appropriated moments, the artist places the 'dummy' which mimics and mocks, aggressively and comically interrupts, disrupts and disturbs the proceedings, the images, and the ideologies represented in the construction of national identities in both the 'natives' and the 'others'. Following on from this initial context, Tan continues this work through the re-insertion of this material back to the YouTube 'archive' as an attempt to further repatriate the dislocated and now re-insert the 'public' back into the 'private' in the relative borderless space of the internet.

We are all in need of a reflection upon the 'dummy' within. This is the force of becoming, its ability to interrogate the notion of 'home,' 'citizenship,' and 'permanent resident' to such an extent that we recognize that we are all inevitably in a state of perpetually becoming.

Joanna Morra
Still from Becoming by Erika Tan, 2006
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