Fiona Tan: Disorient (3 stars)

Fiona Tan: Disorient

Twin-screened video installation a relaxing environment, but little else

The Gallery of Modern Art presents Disorient, a twin-screened video installation by Fiona Tan. Originally shown as part of the Venice Biennale, Disorient uses a reading from The Travels of Marco Polo to examine discordant perceptions, identity and geography. One video displays contemporary footage of some of the locations described by Marco Polo in his oriental travels, while the opposite screen shows a fictional storage depot filled with exotic goods, spices and animals associated with the places described. The room is pitch dark with viewers invited to sit or lie on the floor between screens and allow the image and sound wash over them. The characteristic hyperbolic brevity in Marco Polo’s narration of countries and cities, combined with the double screen display is, indeed, disorientating, leaving the audience unable to pick up on much beyond the immediate fictions and jarring incongruities of historic accounts and, often war ravaged, current documentary. In fact it is at times so bewildering that it makes you wonder what the point is.

Disorient captures the colonial urge to explore, subjugate, and bring back exotic goods, which Polo certainly did much to inspire, but falls somewhat short of actually questioning this ideology. The installation itself, as is proudly proclaimed in the blurb, has been brought back from its more apposite context in Venice, and the world’s premier art fair. A slightly self-contradictory exhibition, then, but also a relaxing place to spend some time in the busy centre of Glasgow.

Gallery of Modern Art, Glasgow, until Sun 24 Feb

Fiona Tan: Disorient

Spectacular two-screen film installation by the Amsterdam-based artist Fiona Tan, which explores historic and contemporary perceptions of the 'oriental' through ideas about colonialism, myth, identity and war.


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