Wanjie Li

2018 - Ongoing

Singapore; China

Some things we inherit and cannot give away. I have two of such things.

The first began with my father in 80s China: my family's history as seen by the camera. I access this history through the photo albums meticulously stored by my family, which function as a repository that remembers and (re)creates a visual past. They are stories you can hold in your hand, as tactile as they are visual.

In my adolescence, I would go on to inherit the camera from my father, together with something larger from the world: a queer history. This archive has no physical form in the dusty wardrobes of my home. But it is continuous and also tactile -- it looks like the polaroids stowed between pages of my books, negatives beloved and carefully washed, acts of memory only just realised.

Queer memory is an inheritance I conjure for myself and also a collective construction; the object of queer memory is as personal as it is universal, as private as it is political. In Singapore, where homosexual acts are still criminalised, the queer archive becomes a way of resistance. Against the silence of the state, I wish to make queer imagery that is tender and true. To tell your queer history from the margins, in a state that enacts violence against queerness, and to tell it in a way that is intimate and honest, is a way of saying: I am here, I have always been here and I will continue to be here.

This project is an exercise in personal and queer archival. I want to reveal the violence of the state's censors, which work to erase marks of queerness from popular imagination, and make visible this act of erasure via reenactment on personal archival imagery. What happens to memory when it is unmoored, unspecific? Do we lose touch, or do we fight harder to hold onto them? Do they become less personal but at the same time more universal? These archives interrogate each other throughout the project to ask these questions.

Some things we inherit and we must fight to hold onto them. Personal memory and queer memory are fraught with the same anxiety of slipping away. This project is my fight to keep my stories, however ephemeral, alive. My two inheritances are inseparably connected and together, they tell the story of my existence.

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  • Inheritance, manipulated archival image

  • Venus as a Boy, peel-apart film, 2018

  • Explosions, SX70 film, 2018

  • N running through the winter rain, 35mm film, 2018

  • Friends, manipulated archival image

  • Crane, SX70 film, 2018

  • Overstory, manipulated archival image

  • A and E, digital photograph, 2019

  • N in a towel, 35mm film, 2018

  • Art in their bedroom, digital photograph, 2019

  • Tiananmen Square, manipulated archival image

  • Room/Moor, digital photograph, 2019