THE SCARS THAT WRITE US. 2018.
President’s Young Talents Exhibition 2018 People’s Choice Award, Singapore Art Museum.
Keloid scars form as a result of an overgrowth of tissue at the site of a healed skin injury. Unlike regular scars that might lighten or minimise over time and are not genetic in nature, keloids may continue to darken and grow and are a genetic feature, suggesting an ever present reminder of scars that bind a family together. The scars that write us adopts the keloid scar as its reference and attempts to provide a narrative from the point of scar carriers.
Entering into a dark, quietened space–one that muffles the footsteps as you traverse its expanse–a visitor’s first encounter with The scars that write us by Yanyun Chen is perceived rather than seen; feeling almost deferential, one might experience a sense of anticipation, curiosity, and uncertainty for what lies ahead, obscured.
The work’s presentation can be described as unfolding in three sections: near, far, and wide. It is meant to address the spatial proximity and imagined familiarity audiences have with as intimate a space as physical markings upon the flesh of its host. It also endeavours to provide a space to consider the unregistered contemplations of scar bearers.
Slim metal plates that hug the wall greet you as you round the first corner of the gallery. Sidling alongside them, you are confronted by globular, bead, band or worm-like impressions, lightly burnished to appear grafted upon their metal surfaces. Beneath these plates, with their welded keloid designs, lie writings– hand-written reflections in first person–that allude to the experiences of these scar owners—family members, who like the artist have lived experiences of strangers’ unwelcomed acquaintencing of themselves with the scars worn by her family.
Rounding the next corner leads you to a set of partitioned ‘stalls’. Within each stall is housed a life-sized sheet that carries ghostly shadows marking out parts of the artist’s body. These are the areas where the keloids reside on the body of the artist and her relations. The visitor, who is prevented from approaching the delicate charcoal drawings, is made instead to strain their eyes in order to identify the outline and contours of the figure. In conversation with these figures are gold leaf reliefs of scars and keloids reapplied to the artist’s body, as she carries the stories and feelings of her family’s scars into the final section of the installation.
The final section of the gallery is dedicated to wounds, scars, markings and traumas of all kinds. Unfolding as a series of writings by the artist in collaboration with writer Jeremy Fernando, this space calls for our reflecting on the body, trauma, remnants, and the human condition.
The scars that write us is an installation that concerns marks and scars; illness and injury; mind and body; you and everyone.
Assistant Curator of Singapore Art Museum 2018
With photographs by Joseph Nair