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May You Live in Interesting Times, 1997
19th February 2017 | 5:30 pm - 8:00 pm
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FIONA TAN is an internationally renowned artist and filmmaker. She is known for compelling video and film installations that explore memory, time, image and history. She was born in 1966 in Pekan Baru, Indonesia, the daughter of a Chinese father and an Australian mother with Scottish roots. Growing up in Melbourne, as an adult she relocated to Amsterdam to study, and she continues to live and work there.
May You Live In Interesting Times is a 60 min documentary that Fiona Tan produced for Dutch television in 1997. The film follows Tan as she undertakes a search for her own cultural background and identity. She seeks out her wider Chinese family, particularly those who lived through the anti-Chinese pogroms of the 1960s in Indonesia as well as those who left and settled elsewhere. She visits her parents, who left Indonesia for Australia. She briefly films her two siblings, who reveal their own different senses of identity. Her journey takes her back to Indonesia, and to other places such as Berlin, the Netherlands, Hong Kong and the ancestral seat of all Tans in China. In a voice-over toward the end of the film, Tan explains that she ‘started this journey in search of mirrors’ – images or individuals that might reflect something of her identity back to her. More broadly, the film draws our attention to the way families live in the world in a constant negotiation of place, kinship and cultural roots, and how these shape our sense of who we are.