Darren Tanny Tan
Master of Contemporary Art
By a Thousand Cuts is concerned with the undecidable nature of photographic representation in relation to history. It is centred on and reworks the so-called ‘lingchi photographs’, a set of historical photographs depicting a specific form of public execution practised in China until the early 20th century.
Through a varied process of reproducing, layering, erasing, incising and fragmenting, deliberate acts of violating the surface erode the explicit horror in the lingchi photographs and alter them into a kind of anamnesis – a metonymic representation that at once recalls and dissolves the past. In doing so, By a Thousand Cuts holds in tension complexities concerning violence and the mutability of history.