History Repeats Itself, 2016
Gold-plated nutmeg, copper-plated wood, nickel-plated wood, burnt wood, sampan, wood, aluminium, copper, soil, light and nutmeg perfume
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2016 commission
History Repeats Itself is a meditation on the history of power, seeking to make visible the legacies of colonial conquest in Southeast Asia. The burnt-out ships in this installation recall the ominous appearance of European armadas on the horizon during the early centuries of European colonialism. At the same time they make reference to the burning of ships in Indonesia by the Vereenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie (Dutch East India Company or VOC) in an attempt to seize control of the lucrative spice trade. Standing atop the charred ships are shadowy, cloaked figures. Their robes are made of gold-plated nutmeg, a spice once worth its weight in gold, over which countless wars were fought. Their rich sheen suggests grandiosity and pomp, and their hollowness conjures the illusoriness of riches and power: at its heart, empty. They are spectres from the past, a dark mirror to our present.