Familiar Stranger

A telephone is lit up in a dark gallery, with two photoframes also lit up on the wall


07 April 2017 -
21 May 2017


4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art

181-187 Hay St, Haymarket

Exhibition opening:

6–8pm Thursday 6 April 2017

Exhibition opened by Brendan O’Flynn, Human Rights Watch. Opening performance from Chun Yin Rainbow Chan from 7–7:30pm

The reconciliation between memory and reality plagues the act of returning. There is no resolution between the two. Memories are etched into the psyche hinged on topographical monuments, whispered words and subconscious everyday patterns while reality erases such symbology through the passing of time. Familiar Stranger examines this third, non-existent space that plagues the returnee as they seek to retrace their memories in places that have been rebuilt or reinscribed. With familiarity reduced to invisible archaeological sites the returnee searches for recognition and legitimacy in a now unacquainted geography.

The exhibiting artists examine the negation and erasure of familiarity by presenting place as a space defined by uncertainty. There is a continue shift between points of view that begets the collapse of spatial certainty and becomes defined by its own instability. For the migrant the idea of returning becomes an implicit part of their identity; the constant oscillation between the possibility and impossibility of return a daily taunt. In Familiar Stranger the moment of return is the focal point where, for some, it is a wistful hope and for others a violent decimation of expectancy. Resisting melodrama, the artists turn to the familial archive and the personal memorial to bring form to the constant internal struggle between what is and what was.

Download the Room Sheet here.


A gallery with eight etched copper artworks on the left wall, and two video screens showing a house and blurry legs next to each other
Black curtains drape down from the centre of the gallery, and copper-etched artworks displayed on the wall at the back
black curtains drape down from the centre of a brightly-lit gallery, inside is a black plinth with a telephone placed on top and two small picture frames on either side of the curtain
Two copper sculptures in the shape of a hexagonal cylinder and a pentagon are hung on different levels on the left side of the gallery wall, a patch of red earth rest on the ground to the right of the gallery, with three display screens sitting low on the wall
A fabric scroll is suspended on a wooden board with cotton strings. There are repeated Chinese letters written in ink on the scroll.
Two small copper sculptures in the shape of a double-edged cone and a cube with convex faces rest on a shelf at the entrance of the gallery


Top image: Shumon Ahmed, What I have forgotten could fill an ocean, what is not real never lived, 2013, polaroid photos, analogue telephone set, original soundtrack originally composed by Yusuf Khan and recited by Nader Salam. Courtesy the artist and Samdani Art Foundation & Project88, Mumbai, India.