Washing White (2020)
HD three channel video (80 minutes), artist book, performance artefacts
Exhibited at FIFTEEN, London (online, 2021)
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 Bhaba) to begin proposing ways towards ethical conservation. Washing White also explores critical theory and ethics of care 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 and caring practice.