It has been 10 years since Fiona Tan’s Disorient was shown at the Venice Biennale – now it fills the former Royal Exchange hall in the Glasgow Museum of Modern Art.
The two-channel video installation Disorient was produced in 2009 for the Dutch Pavilion of the 53rd Venice Biennale, where it was also partially staged and shot. It reflects the history of Venice as a strategic center for the trade of goods from newly charted Asian territories in the 13th to 16th centuries. Tan’s film evokes the dream of a great Orient, especially as described by Marco Polo in his famous Book of the Marvels of the World (c1298). Widely translated and commented upon for more than seven centuries, Polo’s collection of stories has informed Europe’s imagination of an 'Orient of marvels' despite its contested truthfulness—a paradox that Tan emphasizes in her work.
Fiona Tan was born in 1966 in Pekanbaru, a city in the center of Sumatra, Indonesia, to a Chinese father and an Australian mother. Based in the Netherlands since 1988, Tan calls herself a 'professional foreigner', a migrant by birth whose background heavily informs many of her works. Her insightful productions combine film, video, and photography to examine postcolonial identities amid the globalization of culture, particularly in relation to the fabrication of myths and legends of the colonial East.
Disorient was presented to Glasgow Museums in 2010 by Art Fund under Art Fund International.