In this three-part project, Lim takes on a Mao-like persona who sits halfway between truth and fantasy – dressed in a gold lamé suit and matching bowl haircut. Throughout each of her works, the Ambassador takes on new roles in uncovering the Australian-Asian narrative – drilling down into racial politics, the social costs of manufacturing and the role of architecture in shaping society.
The Ambassador brings together Lim’s most recent trilogy of works. In part one Yellow Peril (2015), Lim contemplates the fraught stories from the first wave of Chinese migrants seeking to make their fortunes in the Australian gold rush. The 17-minute featurette transports Lim’s Ambassador to the Sovereign Hill theme park.
Mixing in with a cast of modern-day visitors and historical theme-park actors, Lim’s lone Ambassador silently wanders through the site from dawn to dusk seeming twice removed – appearing as a literal and cultural relic from another time and place. The video draws careful attention to the experiences of migrants and the social costs of seeking fortune in a faraway land.
Borrowing its name from the renminbi (China’s currency) in part two The People’s Currency (2017), transforms the gallery into a ‘special economic zone’. Within this zone the Ambassador stands over her factory manufacturing counterfeit money and ceramic imitation electronic consumer goods. Lim invites the public to enter into ‘short-term employment’ as shift workers creating these goods on her factory floor.
The collision of mass-production, menial work and counterfeit currency become strategies to evaluate the impacts of global capitalism – on those who seek their fortunes in the factories of China or ‘the workshop of the world’, and the global consumers of these ubiquitous and aspirational products.
The Australian Ugliness (2018), part three of the series surveys the role of architecture in marking a society and shaping national identity. The work pays homage to modernist architect Robin Boyd and his book of the same name. Boyd denounced the conservative, kitsch and decorative tastes of post-war 1950s Australia, warning against parochialism and insularity.
Building upon these ideas, Lim’s multi-channel video work sees the Ambassador lead a wide-ranging tour of iconic public and private spaces in Australian cities, inserting an Asian, female identity on screen and into the built environment of our cities – spaces still dominated and designed by white, male taste.
Throughout her journey, the Ambassador interrogates the tensions between globalism and localism, natural and the cultural and the importance of understanding Boyd’s featurism today in the Asian century.
“Ultimately I hope that in some way, my work will help my audience encounter other people – no matter how ‘foreign’ in terms of gender, sexuality, race, religion or politics – as fellow human beings and citizens of the world,” said Lim.
Eugenia Lim is an important Asian-Australian voice in the visual arts landscape. Her artworks are thought provoking, stimulating and accessible. The Ambassador and associated programs provide an opportunity to facilitate cross cultural awareness and dialogue, and conversations around our collective community identity.
“This is an exciting opportunity for the BVRG to present an incredible contemporary Australian exhibition while in such unique circumstances,” said BVRG Director Iain Dawson. “BVRG found itself in a place where we were able to pivot toward presenting our exhibition and education program online quite rapidly, we’ve been making our programs accessible to distance challenged audiences for a while now though our web presence and social media accounts.”
“Since the gallery closed it’s physical space we have tripled traffic on our website and have presented a range of engaging and innovative online offerings. The Ambassador will begin it’s Bega stint as only an online space and you’ll be able to take a self-guided 3D tour of the show via our site.”
“We are thrilled to be working with 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Museums & Galleries of NSW and Eugenia, and think we can offer more complete exhibition experiences for everyone in our shire, using available technologies, into the future,” said Mr Dawson.
Eugenia Lim: The Ambassador continues online until 19 June 2020. For more information, visit: www.gallery.begavalley.nsw.gov.au for details.
Image: Eugenia Lim, The People’s Currency, 2017, performance, dimensions variable – photo by Zan Wimberley. Courtesy of the artist