Still Life lures the audience into a space infused with the drama of the ordinary, confronting viewers with the incongruent sight of eggplants that appear to grow out of the slate walls of a hitherto corporate environment that was 5th Passage’s first art space. 

Artist Statement

Still Life lures the audience into a space infused with the drama of the ordinary, confronting viewers with the incongruent sight of eggplants that appear to grow out of the slate walls of a hitherto corporate environment that was 5th Passage’s first art space. 

In this auto-choreography of the phallic into the abject, the eggplants’ trajectory of falling and failing arcs that mark the intervening passage of time can only be witnessed in lapses. As their gestural arcs droop in nuanced degrees, unregistered by the eye till visibly evident states of decay gradually show up, Still Life is also credited as Victor’s take on the phallic abject through imperceptible movement - a prelude to her kinetic series and reconfigurable artworks. 

In this early exploration of site-specificity and installation work in Singapore art in 1992, Still Life would also mark Victor as a feminist artist. Such an examination of patriarchy in the structuring of social spaces would not receive significant and concerted attention by geographers in academia until the publishing of Linda Peake’s essay ‘Race’ and Sexuality: Challenging the Patriarchal Structuring of Urban Social Spaces later in August 1993. 

Each eggplant is anchored with a metal pin into the gaps between slate tiles. They spread laterally across the walls’ vertical plane even as they protrude outwards to invade the viewer’s personal space. As an array of curvatures, sheathed in glossy purple hues reminiscent of impasto oils, they “come at” viewers like projectiles, simultaneously rejecting approach (and scrutiny), yet reaching out in a mutual dissolution of the boundaries between the prescribed acts of seeing and presenting, distance, approach and proximity. 

Poised for maximum projection into the viewers’ space, each eggplant gradually succumbed to the forces of gravity as a result of the natural processes of disintegration, each degree of slouching a secretive durational performance. In this slow fail to maintain their turgid bows, the fruit’s previously firm form and texture shrink and shrivel. Its contents remain in the browning skin-pockets until such time that the insides secrete to the outside, whereupon the installation’s gestural, spatial and compositional values alter as much as its conceptual meaning. As the eggplants decompose, their fresh replacements re-compose, at times in different locations, and at each implemented change, reconfigures a work that is still on display to offer viewers the chance to re-encounter the artwork anew. 

Still Life foregrounds numerous motifs that would come to characterise Victor’s later creations. Most notably here, the artist’s interest in natural phenomenon manifest through the durational and transformative aspect of the work, and secondly through the audience’s ocular participation, albeit subtle, by utilising arcs (from the curvature of the eggplants) that the eye traces - a precedent to the oscillating swaying arcs of her chandelier-pendulums (Rich Manoeuvre series 2001-2016), indoor rainbows arcs (Rainbow Circle 2013), the cascading folds of her glass and lens quilts (Havana Biennale 1997, 5 Stars 2015) and seamlessly-joined garments (His Mother is a Theatre 1994, Promise 1998). Moreover, these two aspects cumulatively suggest an element of, not-quite-performativity, but animation and movement in what presents itself essentially as a site-specific installation, all except for a rare occurrence when during a visit to 5th Passage, Singapore performance artist Tang Da Wu spontaneously “spoke” to the work, not with words but with a trance-like dance, knees bent with hand gestures articulating the voids between eggplants. 

Although seemingly humorous upon first encounter, initial impressions quickly give way to a threatening aura. The eggplants, with their characteristic phallic form establishes the place of presentation – and prompting the recognition of other social spaces for that matter – as patriarchal space: hostile. In recognising the gendering of spaces as such, the eventual putrefaction of the eggplants seemingly alludes to their eventual decay and non-generative state.

DETAILS

YEAR
1992
EXHIBITION
BODY FIELDS (12-hour event)
DIMENSIONS
Variable
MATERIALS
eggplants, metal clips
VENUE
5th Passage (Parkway Parade)
GENRE
Ephemeral Installation

THEMES & MATERIALS

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