A leading figure in Singapore’s creative documentary community, for more than a decade Tan Pin Pin has been building an eclectic, essential, multidisciplinary body of work. She makes investigative documentaries, essays and installation projects, a level of versatility matched only by the consistency of her preoccupations. Whether she’s observing the impossible memories of places, highlighting the strangeness of seemingly banal social rituals, capturing the richness of urban soundscapes, recording dissidents’ captivating testimonials or seeking out people with a passion for forgotten history, Tan Pin Pin’s polymorphic body of work is grounded in a singular and necessary reflection on her country’s nature and history.
The many possible ways of representing Singapore form the foundation of a series of works that questions the roots of identity in a country that uses its obsession with the present into a way to avoid hard questions about the past. Rather than taking an openly activist approach, Tan tends instead to present subtly oblique visions of reality – not without humour. The films in this retrospective reveal a sharp eye capable of ferretting out invisible absurdities and the always political nature of the codes governing everyday routines. They also reveal the profound curiosity of a person who is acutely sensitive to the diverse cultural origins of modern Singapore.
Far from being limited to local concerns, Tan’s films encourage us to think about the relationships between collective and individual memory, visual archives and oral testimony: considerations that are clearly relevant to any documentary practice. This is documentary cinema conceived not as a simple record, but as a tool for refocusing our concept of reality. Such is the inspiring project of a demanding filmmaker who is showing us new ways to envision political art.
Singapore GaGa | Singapore | 55 min | English/Mandarin/Malay, English subtitles
The Impossibility of Knowing | Singapore | 2010 | 11 min | English
Invisible City | Singapore | 2007 | 60 min | Mandarin/Japanese/English s.-t. English subtitles
Thesaurus | Singapore | 2012 | 6 min | English
To Singapore, with Love | Singapore | 2013 | 70 min | Mandarin/English/Thai s.-t. English subtitles
Snow City | Singapore | 2011 | 16 min | English
IN TIME TO COME | Singapore | 2017 | 62 min | English
Presented in collaboration with GLOBAL EMERGENT MEDIA (GEM) Lab - Concordia