Minouk Lim, Strange Fruit, 2016, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Installation view (2016) at Carriageworks for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. Courtesy the artist. Created for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. Photograph: Document Photography

20th Sydney Biennale Q&A: Minouk Lim on ‘Strange Fruit’

Could you describe the work that you will be presenting at the 20th Biennale of Sydney 2016 and the motivation and inspiration behind its creation?

Before I saw the space, I had a vague performance idea of shooting the shipping container and showing old film industry presence on the stage. But due to security and the time limit I had to abandon that idea and decide to realize it differently. And when I visited Carriageworks, for the first time, my eyes caught the crane and high ceiling, and the trace of the old railroad. After the visit, one concrete image came into my mind and owned me: invisible film studio.

So I hung up the bullet-ridden shipping container on the crane and called it ‘strange fruit.’ This is pierced by 16 M length oars. From above there is media equipment which is composed of animal bones, feathers and cow leather or eucalyptus branches, etc., with a dummy as the camera operator. I guess I wanted to create this because I was filled with disaster. I was burdened with a helpless feeling from the daily news and being a witness to a sinking ferry or images of refugees. The container became a coffin with these thoughts layered upon it.

How does the work you are presenting at the 20th Biennale of Sydney connect with your ongoing practice and the interests and preoccupations that form the basis of your work?

I'm continuing the idea of how to see un-channeled sounds because I’m sad from what I didn’t live and experience myself. Why is this holding me down?It is one of my starting question point. Searching for invisible and lost beings and places. Since I did video works based performance, I wanted to challenge and reactivate disappeared places as a stage where ritual is divested. It became like a reenactment necessity of mourning to welcome the future rather than an absence. So I started to make it as a form of a news set that was a totemic, performative objects series like my Portable Keepers. And this ghost broadcasting set is continued in Sydney, too.

The 20th Biennale of Sydney 2016 is presented at seven main venues conceived as “embassies of thought.” In what ways does the work you are presenting reflect and connect with the theme and context of the particular embassy in which it is situated?

The one thing I know about myself is that I possess disappearance. This is the view of my point for artwork. I belong to these minus places and beings that we cannot see. I grew up within the place and became this minus community.

What I propose in Embassy of Disappearance was the question of sustainable creation through this relationship. To lead imagination of those places, I suspended a container with an oar. The shipping container is the in between object as well as film staff behind of scene. Containers and images are everywhere with us but as unseen. Perceiving body and places as a passage and rotation can be a transmigration idea. Strange Fruit in The Embassy of disappearance appears like that and changes the dimension. It is minus process but without end. It means it will disappear but is not nothing. As William Gibson said, the future is not just evenly distributed.

One of the key ideas that this Biennale explores is how the common distinction between the virtual and the physical has become ever more elusive. How does your work engage with this idea?

What I focus on is the question of what happens ’In between’ from virtual and physical distinction. When we are seeking for representation, it becomes elusive. But there is something we should chase differently from similarity. The act of becoming. It's not about alienation. I am aware of primitive culture's traces. I navigate among disappeared things but it's not to represent them. It's also can be the ancients way of seeing rather than replacing. Listening heart, spirit, soul and emotion in front of rolling stones, water, wind and trees. It’s the same for me in front of what we call 'useless, abandoned, absent, etc.,’ Empowering - that is what art does. That's why I don’t want to see things in opposition like AI vs human beings, future or whatever division.

The important thing is not the distinction but searching for correspondence, the alteration way. What would save the dignity of the universe? Maybe death? I guess the ancients would have followed some kind of commonality for doing rituals. For me, corresponding - calling - is action matter 'in between' virtual and physical whether following judgement for old and new or fake and real, etc. Therefore, my essential engagement would go to what renders us still human, despite of humans.

Minouk Lim, Strange Fruit, 2016, mixed-media installation, dimensions variable. Installation view (2016) at Carriageworks for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. Courtesy the artist. Created for the 20th Biennale of Sydney. Photograph: Minouk Lim

What do you want to convey and/or express with the work you are presenting at the 20th Biennale of Sydney 2016?

Since I discovered the “Cargo cult” story in The God Delusion, I felt some proximity and similarity paradoxically, about the ritual way for longing. It was close to my mutation idea of a newsroom set. In my sculptural objects, I don’t know what and how many, or from where, this shipping container has traveled. I don’t know where those skulls and bones have lived, who wore sneakers, hat and jacket, or where the shipping light with spotlight were all illuminated, etc. Thus, Strange Fruit has come out of joint. What is left in it? It’s not detritus, nor fake. This presence of disappearance belongs to the meaning of work while exhausting information production. So my wishes are going to documenting the future, the visitors’ imaginations and thoughts. Becoming the absent community’s owned media, the anchor of this un-channeled news is Sydney Biennale’s visitors. I want everybody as narrators, storytellers, mediators... so performers.