Authors Name: 
Wilfred Lim
Nanyang Technological University
Visual Arts & Design
Award winner

New House

I lived and grew up in a small fishing village at the seaside in Pengerang, Southern Malaysia for 18 years before pursuing my education in Singapore 8 years ago. Unfortunately, Pengerang is undergoing demolition due to the construction of an oil refinery that began in year 2011. Development leads to demolition of cultural heritage. Historical temples, schools, and houses will be demolished due to the immense needs of ground for infrastructure development prior to oil refinery construction. Pollution, on the other hand, is inevitable. The disastrous impact and consequences incurred from the oil development are beyond imagination. I have been working on the issue of demolition for the past 3 years. My photography is a platform for me to respond to all the political and environmental issues in my hometown and contemporary Malaysia. The most recent problem encountered by the villagers, which is the relocation of residential estates, has brought my attention to the issue of living space as one of the basic human needs. The Malaysian government’s act of compensating villagers with a new house does not solve the problem. The destruction of habitat is able to impact one’s life radically, this issue has piqued my curiosity in the way humans define their living space. In terms of execution, I have incorporated perfomative and environmental installation elements in this series. I started off with the idea of enclosure within narrow and restricted spaces. For the first photograph (New House #9), I forced myself to fit into a 4 feet fish tank in front of a forest. I want to metaphorically portray the life of villagers after being relocated to constrained living space. I am also marking territory with domestic object. After photographing the perfomative pieces; I moved on to the next phase and started creating environmental installations. For all the environmental installation pieces, I have incorporated domestic objects collected around my house. In (New House #12), I attempted to recreate childhood memory using Christmas lights. I used to see fireflies at night when I was young. However, as the development and urbanization progresses, the mesmerizing view of fireflies at night is nowhere to be seen anymore. The project then further developed into combination of environmental installation and self-portrait. In (New House #11), I drowned myself in a river, surrounded by fishes trapped in porcelain bowls. For this photograph, I referenced to Hippolyte Bayard’s idea of using staged photography as a way to protest against the authority. Bayard’s photograph “Self-Portrait as a drowned man” in year 1840 is a reaction to the injustice he felt he had been subjected to. In the image, he pretends to have committed suicide, sitting and leaning to the right. In terms of composition, I borrowed the visual from John Everett Millais’s painting “Ophelia” in year ca. 1851. The way Millais portrayed moment before death has strongly influenced this photograph.