Critical Spatial Practice

Washing White (2021)
  • Sean Cham | London + Virtual

  • Sean Cham, Washing White, (2021) – durational performance against a green-screen. Sean Cham, Washing White, (2021) – video collage of performance and photographs. Sean Cham, Washing White, (2021) – artefacts and remnants from the performance. Sean Cham, Washing White, (2021) – interior of Highwood House. Sean Cham, Washing White, (2021) – illustrative intervention to Livingstone Cottage. Sean Cham, Washing White, (2021) – illustrative intervention to Highwood House.
  • Washing White (2021)
  • Sean Cham | London + Virtual
  • “Histories and theories of architecture are embedded in the histories of constructs, oppressions, suppressions, and subjugations.” — Samia Henni, “Colonial Ramifications,” e-flux Architecture, 2018


    Washing White critically looks at colonial legacies in Singapore and the United Kingdom through the lens of conserved buildings. In particular, four houses in London serve as starting points: Highwood House, Livingstone Cottage, 45 Berkeley Square, and MacArtney House. These houses have been given statutory protection status, and have a plaque commemorating the respective colonial figures who once lived there.

    Using the framework of conservation principles that both Singapore and the UK practise — Maintenance, Repair, Restoration, Renewal, and Alteration — Washing White rethinks how we can approach conservation more ethically. Specifically, the work borrows performance theory and actions of performativity (theorised by Homi Bhabha) to begin proposing ways towards ethical conservation. Washing White also explores critical theory and ethics by Elke Krasny, Jianli Huang, Lysa Hong, and Ragini Tharoor Srinivasan.

    This work builds on the ongoing and important work of decolonial, anti-racist, and ethical groups and artists such as Hew Locke, Jimmy Ong, Kara Walker, Race Tuition Centre, Topple The Racists, Who Builds Your Architecture, amongst others.

    Washing White is presented as a pairing of text and performance. The text combines personal anecdotes, technical information, performance theories, postcolonial literature, and actions towards ethical conservation. The text challenges current processes of conservation, and proposes that conservation takes into account immaterial relations and networks. A durational performance of a day accompanies the text to further embody these proposals towards ethical actions. The performance presents an iterative process of cleaning, writing, and reclaiming, as a form of critical spatial practice.


    Biography

    Sean Cham is an artist and researcher based between Singapore and London. He completed his Bachelors degree in Urban Studies at Yale-NUS College, and is a graduate from the MA Situated Practice programme at UCL where he took the Site-Writing module. He is currently a PhD student on a Collaborative Doctoral Partnership between Birkbeck and The National Gallery, London, investigating the colonial legacies of the Gallery.

    Sean works at the intersections of photography, performance, and installation. His practice is concerned with histories and built environments; particularly considering ideas around authorship, contestation, gaps, migration, and memories. Sean’s works have been exhibited in Ethiopia, Germany, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, and Sweden. His works had been commissioned by M1 Singapore Fringe Festival (2019), The Future of Our Pasts Festival (2019), and NUS Centre For the Arts (2019). He is also a published author — Yesteryears (Math Paper Press, 2017).

    http://www.seancham.com


    Practices

    In Sean’s practice, he aims to critique the sites and production of historical knowledges — archives, campaigns, heritage buildings, maps, museums, photographs, paintings, and textbooks. He draws on critical acts of writing, performance, and speculation to build on dominant knowledges, platform gaps and buried layers, and challenge existing pedagogies.


    Keywords
    colonial legacies, decolonisation, empire, ethics, performativity, Singapore

    References

    [Book] Homi K. Bhabha, The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge Classics, 2004).

    [Performance] Nikhil Chopra, Lands, Waters, and Skies (2019), The Met, New York.
    https://bagrifoundation.org/nikhil-chopra-2019-2020-artist-in-residenceat-the-met/

    [Performance] Loo Zihan, Cane (2012), The Substation Theatre, Singapore.
    http://www.loozihan.com/cane2012


    Other projects
  • Washing White (2021)
  • Sonic Acts of Noticing (2021)
  • MGM_OurStarterCulture_5
    Our Starter Culture, (2021)
  • The Wandsworth Food Bus, (2020)
  • Progetto Minore. Alla ricerca della minorità nel progetto archiettonico ed urbanistico (2020)
  • 1-DMZ
    Architecture and Co-Existence: DMZ as Site, (2020)
  • Time on Site (2019)
  • Stori Mwd (A Story of Mud), (2019)
  • not nothing (August 2019)
  • Hungry Mothers, En La Frontera (2019 – present)
  • Exchanging Values at Bank (18 October 2019)
  • Cybiog: locating the digital self, (2019/20, 2 mins 45 secs)
  • Civic Pedagogy, learning as critical spatial practice (2019)
  • An Independent and Flexible and Precarious and Overworked Rehearsal, (January – December 2019)
  • An environmental history of La Guajira (2019)
  • A Weird-Tender in progress (2019)
  • Cecilie Sachs Olsen
    A walk in your words (25.01.2019)
  • Portal Zaryadye: A Portal Not Only to Heaven, But Aslo To Hell (24 July – 12 August 2018)
  • Text-isles: sowing an idea, October (2018)
  • Gilly-image-1
    Silent Conversation, (2018 – ongoing)
  • Objects removed for study (2018)
  • Female Futures Lexicon on Space (2018/2019)
  • 5, Big Bang 2 / Mid Graemetruby
    Bank Job, (2018–2020 and beyond)
  • windwoundweatherwovenwirewoman [performance] (2017)
  • Viscous Myths (2017/2018)
  • The Pass (October 2017 – June 2018)
  • The House Alice Built (2017/2019)
  • Productive Withdrawals: Art Strikes, Art Worlds, and Art as a Practice of Freedom (December 2017)
  • Request for the unrequested voluntary interlinguisticality (2017)
  • Caring for Communities (2017 – 2019)
  • Bodies + Borders (2017 – present)
  • a place called … (Spring 2017)
  • Uppland (2016 – 18)
  • Music for Masterplanning (2016 – 17)
  • P | A | N – Proyecto Amasandería Nacional (2016)
  • Make Me Yours: How Art Seduces (2016)
  • Island Icarus (2016–2019)
  • In My Mothers’ Garden: Memories and practices of Greenham Common Women’s Peace Camp (2016)
  • Having not felt like eating, but eaten, I sat down to eat / tea … (2016)
  • Desiring the Dark: Feminist Scenographies, the City and the Night, (2016–2019)
  • Bamboo dialogues (2016)
  • ASSET ARREST (2016)
  • Alternative Arrangements: Walking the Border in Ireland (2016 – ongoing)
  • Matter of the Manor (2015 – 19)
  • The First World Congress of the Missing Things (2014)
  • Private Choices, Public Spaces (2014)
  • Hanging Matters (2014)
  • Act#5 & Act#6: What does Mai Mai Mean? (March 2014 – December 2016)
  • 03-FLATS (2014)
  • (small memorials), 2013–15
  • Mount Patawerta
    Gardening for Untold Ecologies: A Manual for Making an Arid GARDEN Out There, (2013)
  • A Game of Dominoes (2013)
  • Lina & Gio: the last humanists (February – June 2012)
  • Learning-through-Touring (2012)
  • Empty Words Build Empty Homes (2012)
  • Ridley’s (2011)
  • Hustadt project, 2008 – (2011)
  • Palimpsest Performances (2010 – 2014)
  • Negotiating Conflict: Bordering Practices in a Divided Beirut (2010 – 2014)
  • Expanded Architecture (2010 – 2014)
  • Unfixing Place: A Study of Istanbul through Topographical Practices (2008)
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