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Simryn Gill / MATRIX 210

Standing Still

February 8, 2004 - April 4, 2004


Download the exhibition brochure (PDF).

Simryn Gill often begins her photographic projects by posing a question. For Standing Still, an ongoing series of more than 110 photographs that premieres in the MATRIX Program, Gill queried whether a group of photographs could “hold within them, and between them, that unsettling quality of a sort of hesitation in time, stilled time. Time standing still.“ Gill, who is based in Sydney, Australia, was born and raised in Malaysia. The images were taken on return trips between 2000 and 2003 while working on other series, including Dalam, an impressive collection of 258 photographs capturing the interiors of individual Malaysian homes in what becomes a survey of social, economic, and religious diversity. Standing Still combines the peculiarities of location and Gill's intention to record a passing moment, creating what she calls “a place in time.”

“I was struck by the growing number of rather ambitious development projects which were simply being abandoned before completion, and were slowly starting to crumble back into the damp and humid landscape. These remains were often just shells of what would have become large shopping centers or apartment blocks or private mansions or even mini towns. The economic crash changed these fantasies of ultra-modernity, as it were, into lonely ruins. From the future to the past without a present.

“I started looking at these strange decaying giants in relation to the older abandoned buildings that seem to punctuate the towns and the countryside in Malaysia. It's hard to know why they have been left to rot. Sometimes it's because they have a bad history, like being used during the war by the Japanese for the kinds of activities that can make places inconsolably haunted; sometimes it's because of family disputes about inheritance and the like, but often they are left and allowed to fall apart simply because they are old.

“It occurred to me, then, standing between abandoned old structures that had once supported life and rotting new ones that had not even been completed, that I was looking at a very particular moment. A place in time, where, one might say, the past lies in ruins, unkempt and untended, and the future also somehow has been abandoned and has started to crumble. No way forward, no way back.“

In her photographs, Gill often presents spaces devoid of people; if figures are included, their identities are usually cloaked, as in the series A small town at the turn of the century, in which the artist asked the townspeople to mask their heads with exotic fruits. The strength of Standing Still resides in the universal implications of what Gill found in the abandoned buildings: the amorphous quality of time tinged with the emotionally resonant concept of memory. But her photographic series also contain invisible “protagonists,” such as trust, in Dalam, and humor, in A small town at the turn of the century. In Standing Still, we find hope. A strong countercurrent to the melancholy located in the abandoned is the optimism that pervaded the original dreams and intentions.

Simryn Gill/MATRIX 210 Standing Still is Gill's first solo museum exhibition in the United States. Her work has been shown in solo exhibitions at Kiasma, the Museum of Contemporary Art in Helsinki, Finland; the Art Gallery of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia; and ArtPace in San Antonio, Texas; and in international group shows including the Sydney Biennial (2002), the Asia Pacific Triennial (1999), the 5th Istanbul Biennial (1997), and the Venice Biennale (1995).

Heidi Zuckerman Jacobson
Phyllis Wattis MATRIX Curator

The MATRIX Program at the UC Berkeley Art Museum is made possible by the generous endowment gift of Phyllis C. Wattis.

Additional donors to the MATRIX Program include the UAM Council MATRIX Endowment, Ann M. Hatch, Art Berliner, Christopher Vroom and Illya Szilak, Eric McDougall, and Glenn and April Bucksbaum.

Simryn Gill/MATRIX 210 Standing Still has been assisted by the Commonwealth Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.

Special support for Simryn Gill/MATRIX 210 Standing Still is also provided by Sonja Hoe