My work draws from my own cultural heritage – it comes from a specific place to explore wider questions and tensions that all humans face when they brush up against other humans. As a second-generation Australian, my parents migrated here from Singapore during the White Australia Policy (thanks to the Columbo Plan, a Commonwealth scholarship program). I grew up between two cultures; this feeling of in-betweenness has become something that fuels my work – in pluralism, uncertainty and in confounding expectations there is the possibility for cultural shifts and empathy.
Because of my appearance, I will be forever-bound to China – a ‘motherland’ I only visited for the first time last year. Being judged on what is skin-deep or surface used to irritate me, but through performance, I’ve come to thrive on using my skin as a screen or mask – a surface that both thwarts easy definition and reveals the complexity of history, culture and identity. Nationalism and stereotypes offer me a powerful existing language to break apart and hopefully to explode.
Ultimately, my aim is to insert and claim space and territory for marginal identities within the mainstream, using my own experience and perspective as a feminist Asian-Australian. I hope in some way, that my work will ask my audience to 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.
Eugenia Lim works across video, performance and installation. Interested in how nationalism and stereotypes are formed, Lim invents personas to explore the tensions of an individual within society – the alienation and belonging in a globalised world.
Conflations between authenticity, mimicry, natural, man-made, historical and anachronistic are important to the work. To this end, Lim finds inspiration in sites and objects that are both ‘contemporary’ and ‘out of time’, embodied and virtual. Model homes, suburban sprawl, CCTV, online chat rooms, fake food, historical parks and the Australian landscape have all featured in the work. Counterpoint to these sites, Lim has performed the identities of Japanese hikikomori; a Bowie-eyed rock star; the cannibal Issei Sagawa; a suburban beautician; Miranda from Picnic at Hanging Rock and currently, a gold Mao-suited ‘Ambassador’. This dialogue between place and performance reflects the push-pull between Australian and Asian, the mono and the multicultural.
Lim’s work has been exhibited, performed and screened locally and internationally at venues, festivals and fairs that include: Tate Modern, GOMA, ACMI, HUN Gallery NY, Next Wave, FACT Liverpool, 24HR Art (Darwin), Substation (Singapore), Schoolhouse Studios, Experimenta, Sydney Contemporary, Melbourne Festival, ACAF (Shanghai), TINA, Dark MOFO, Bus Projects, West Space and MPavilion.
She has received a number of Australia Council for the Arts grants and residencies, including a residency at the Experimental Television Centre NY and exchange at the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD). In 2016, Lim undertook a residency at Bundanon Trust; at the studio of Shen Shaomin as a 4A Beijing Studio resident; and was artist-in-residence with the Robin Boyd Foundation.
Current projects include The Australian Ugliness, a video work exploring contemporary Australian identity and culture through its architecture and built environment; and The People’s Currency, a performance-cum-factory that explores the human impact of globalisation in the era of Foxconn. Her work is held in a number of private and public collections. Collaboration, artistic community and the intersection between art and society informs her practice: in addition to her solo work, she co-directed the inaugural Channels: the Australian Video Art Festival, is a board member at Next Wave, the founding editor of Assemble Papers and co-founded Tape Projects.