BALTIC: Fiona Tan’s show opens this week

Published 9 July 2015

This summer, BALTIC presents a survey exhibition and a major new commission by the Dutch artist Fiona Tan.

Born in Pekan Baru, Indonesia, Tan is fascinated by representation. Her work deals with how we represent ourselves, how we perceive others and where we see our place in the world. Tan’s upcoming exhibition, Depot, focuses on natural history.

For Tan, the term ‘natural history’ is a curious oxymoron. She points out that ironically, to collect specimens, one must first kill and destroy what one wishes to preserve.

Depot is the large new installation which lends its name to the exhibition. It reinterprets Jonah the Giant Whale, a preserved whale exhibited inside a lorry which toured across Europe from the 1950s to the mid-1970s. Playing on the definition of natural history, Tan has brought the whale back to the sea, but also to a historical whaling port.

She has been rebuilding the 73-foot-long vehicle and has placed a cabinet of curiosities inside the lorry to encourage visitors to climb aboard. Through the installation, Tan reflects on her relationship with the sea, the creatures that inhabit it and the mythologies that surround them.

Depot will be complimented by Leviathan, a new monumental projection which is timed to coincide with the turn of the tide of the River Tyne. A bass clarinet solo composed especially for this occasion by Calliope Tsoupaki will set a reflective atmosphere.

Other exhibition highlights include the film Disorient, which was first shown at the Venice Biennale in 2009 and conjures an east that is both magical and destitute.

According to The Guardian, Tan’s works ‘leave you with sea legs, wobbly and uncertain of the ground beneath your feet’. With this exhibition, this couldn’t be more true.

Depot’s production was supported by the Sfumato Foundation in association with the Art Fund.

Depot is at BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art​ from 10 July til 1 November.

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