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Hiding in Plain Sight: Sharon Chin

09 nov 2023
Public talk
Online via Zoom
Sharon Chin, Creatures on the Move (In the Death of the Night), 2022.

Thursday, 9 November 2023, 11:00–13:00 GMT

Watch the recording of this talk:

Afterall ArtSchool’s programme Hiding in Plain Sight explores alternative approaches to study conceived in the shadows. Drawing from Fred Moten and Stefano Harney’s conceptualisation of the ‘undercommons’, this programme invites arts practitioners, theorists, and students to orient their practice outside the mould of institutional apparatuses.

In the opaque shadow of surveillance systems, screened surfaces, and networked cables that increasingly mediate communication channels and educational spaces broadly defined, we posit darkness as an opening for new modalities of thought and creation. Attentive to the theoretical parallels between the ontological condition of Blackness and planetary dark matter as ‘invisible and unknowable, yet somehow still there’ invoked by Black studies and surveillance studies scholar Simone Browne, this project emphasises darkness and shadows as grounds for speculation, contestation, and possibility.

The shadow can be approached in a variety of tangents, through subterranean networks, markets, and systems; obstructions (or facilitators?) to growth; storytelling and gossip; phantoms; and mimicry, among many others. Hiding in Plain Sight is an invitation to ‘step through the shadows’, in the words of scholar and researcher Matthew Houdek.

For our first event in our programme, we have invited Malaysia-based artist Sharon Chin to speak about her recent projects, with a starting point of her work ‘Creatures on the Move (In the Death of the Night)’ (2022). This work is a series of photographs of shadow puppets, lit solely by the flare of Hengyuan Refinery in Port Dickson, Malaysia. Chin’s home is located 200m from the fence. This work has taken many forms – as linocuts, placards, and wheatpaste posters. Chin asks: without darkness, how can we dream of the day?

Sharon Chin (b. 1980) grew up in the city, before moving to Port Dickson in 2011, a small seaside town 2 hours drive from the capital of Kuala Lumpur. She lives next to an oil refinery, with her partner, two cats, and an overgrown garden. Her work includes printmaking, illustration, installation, and collaborative performance projects, and has been shown in Malaysia and around the world. She participated in the Singapore Biennale (2013, 2019) and the Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (Brisbane, 2015). Recently, she has been concerned with healing our relationships to land and place, focusing on the intersection of art, ecology and community organising in Port Dickson.