Eugenia Lim: The Ambassador – Touring
28 February 2019 -
16 January 2021
Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art
Hawke Building, City West campus, University of South Australia, 55 North Terrace, Adelaide SA 5000
28 February - 6 April 2019
Nautilus Arts Centre
66 Tasman Terrace, Port Lincoln, Eyre Peninsula, South Australia, 5606
19 April - 1 June 2019
Riddoch Art Gallery
1 Bay Rd, Mount Gambier SA 5290
17 January - 16 February 2020
Bega Valley Regional Gallery
Zingel Pl, Bega NSW 2550
24 April - 21 June 2020
Goulburn Regional Art Gallery
Corner of Bourke and, Church St, Goulburn NSW 2580
3 July - 14 August 2020
Griffith Regional Art Gallery
167 Banna Ave, Griffith NSW 2680
12 September - 8 November 2020
Coffs Harbour Regional Gallery
Cnr Coff &, Duke St, Coffs Harbour NSW 2450
20 November 2020 - 16 January 2021
The Ambassador presents three distinct series by Melbourne-based artist Eugenia Lim that centre upon a gold-suited figure who appears halfway between truth and fantasy. In each series, Lim transforms herself into her eponymous invented persona, the Ambassador, an insatiability curious character who traverses time and space, playfully exploring Australia’s cultural and built landscapes.
This exhibition marks the first exhibition of Eugenia Lim’s work and presents all three bodies of work together for the first time. Together, they represent a compelling and witty examination of contemporary Australia from a female, performative and Asian-Australian perspective. As the Ambassador, Lim ‘shapeshifts’ to unearth multiple dimensions of the Asian-Australian narrative – drilling down into racial politics, the social costs of manufacturing, and the role of architecture in shaping society – exploring how national identities and stereotypes cut, divide and bond our globalised world.
Part 1: Yellow Peril (2015)
Yellow Peril 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, an open air museum that reimagines 1850’s Ballarat, Victoria. Mixing in with a cast of modern-day visitors and historical theme-park actors, Eugenia’s lone Ambassador silently wanders throughout the site from dawn to dusk. She partakes in gold mining, inspects machinery and eventually strikes gold and ‘wins big’. However, throughout the process, Lim’s Ambassador seems twice removed – silent, isolated and ambiguous – appearing as a literal and cultural relic from another time and place.
Exhibited alongside is the sculptural gold nugget featured in the video work and two photographs printed on gold emergency blankets – one picturing the artist’s hopeful parents shortly after their arrival in Australia in front of Ron Robertson-Swann’s public sculpture Vault (1980), or better known in Melbourne as ‘yellow peril’.
These poetic elements draw careful attention to the local and personal experiences for many first-generation Chinese migrants, including Lim’s own parents, and the social costs of seeking fortune in a faraway land.
Part 2: The People’s Currency (2017)
When almost everything is now ‘Made in China’, how are we, as consumers, implicated in the poor labour conditions of the production line? – Eugenia Lim
Borrowing its name from the renminbi (China’s Currency), The People’s Currency turns the gallery into ‘Renminconn’, a closed-loop ‘special economic zone’. Within this zone Lim dressed as the Chairman Mao-like, gold-suited Ambassador, stands over her factory of counterfeit money-printing and ceramic imitation electronic consumer goods. As the Ambassador, Lim invites the public to enter into ‘short-term employment’ as shift workers on her factory floor, completing a menial yet meditative task. Based on her satisfaction with the completed product, she will remunerate the ‘employee’ with her counterfeit notes printed on site – The People’s Currency.
In Lim’s project, this collision of mass-production, menial work and counterfeit currency become strategies to evaluate the two-fold 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.
Part 3: The Australian Ugliness (2018)
Lim’s latest project surveys the role of architecture in marking a society and shaping national identity. The work has been titled after the bestselling book by Robin Boyd, arguably one of Australia’s most prominent architects and Modernists. Boyd’s The Australian Ugliness denounces the conservative, kitsch and decorative tastes of post-war 1950s Australia, warning against parochialism and insularity. Lim will build upon these ideas, transporting them into 21st century Australia.
This multi-channel video work, will see the Ambassador lead a wide-ranging tour of iconic public and private spaces in Australian cities. The work will insert a female and Asian identity on screen and into the built environment of our cities – spaces still dominated by macho-white taste. Throughout her journey, The Ambassador will interrogate the tensions between globalism and localism, natural and the cultural and the importance of understanding Boyd’s featurism today in the Asian century.
Curated by Mikala Tai, Director, 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, The Ambassador is travelling to eight galleries and art centres across Australia between 2019 and 2021 through Museums & Galleries of NSW.
The Ambassador Catalogue:
The Eugenia Lim The Ambassador Catalogue has been released to coincide with The Ambassador touring exhibition. Featuring an essay contribution by exhibition curator and 4A Director Mikala Tai and featured interview between the artist and curator and writer Natalie King, The Ambassador catalogue reflects on the work of Eugenia Lim in The Ambassador, with detailed reflections from the artist on ‘Yellow Peril‘, ‘The People’s Currency‘ and ‘The Australian Ugliness‘. The catalogue is a 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Museums & Galleries of NSW publication and has been made possible with the support of the Gordon Darling Foundation.
Top image: Eugenia Lim, The People’s Currency, 2017, performance, dimensions variable. This project was commissioned by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, supported by the City of Melbourne and part of the inaugural Asia TOPA Triennial of Performing Arts; photo: Zan Wimberley.
A 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and Museums & Galleries of NSW touring exhibition. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government’s Visions of Australia program.