Renowned Malaysian filmmaker, Tan Chui Mui is set to exhibit her debut photography “Just Because You Pressed the Shutter?” at the 54th edition of the Rencontres d’Arles in France. The Rencontres d’Arles, touted as the “Oscars” of the international photography field, is an annual photography festival that is considered to be one of the most important photography events in the world. The festival is scheduled to run from July 3 to September 24 this year.
In November 2022, Tan Chui Mui’s project “Just Because You Pressed the Shutter?” won the 2022 Jimei x Arles Discovery Award in the 8th Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival, after being nominated by curator Wang Yiquan. As a result, Tan Chui Mui received a cash prize of RMB 100,000 and was invited to hold an exhibition at this year’s Rencontres d’Arles.
The Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival was launched in Xiamen in 2015 by Three Shadows Photography Art Centre and Rencontres d’Arles. The Jimei x Arles Discovery Award invites five curators to nominate ten talented Chinese artists to hold solo exhibitions in Xiamen, while the award winner represents a new force in the Chinese photography circle to exhibit their works on the international stage of Rencontres d’Arles.
Tan Chui Mui’s exhibition explores the profound but undefined issues of land, inheritance, ownership, and photography through her own Chinese descent and family stories. Her exhibition showcases the confusion, pursuit, and questioning of identity among the Chinese diaspora in Southeast Asia. It connects land ownership to photography copyright and expresses herself with openness and tenderness. For her, the search for roots is like opening a black box filled with unknown secrets. Tan Chui Mui provides a 360° perspective on the boundary of rights and possessions, revealing the hidden links between artworks and reality.
In the introduction to her exhibition, Tan Chui Mui wrote, “A photo captures a certain landscape. But the landscape is always there. You did not make the camera. So why is the photo yours? Is it because of your composition? Just because you pressed the shutter?”
Wang Yiquan, the exhibition’s curator, said, “In ‘Just Because You Pressed the Shutter?’, a map is an image, a film is an image, and the sun, the air, the rain, the soil, potatoes, and sorghum surrounded by a fence are all images. Hometown is also an image. However, Tan Chui Mui never pressed the shutter to obtain these images.”
Asma Manssouri, cultural coordinator at the Alliance Française of Kuala Lumpur, said, “We were thrilled to learn that Tan Chui Mui had been selected as the recipient of the 2022 Jimei x Arles Discovery Award! She will be one of the first Malaysian artists to be exhibited during the Rencontres d’Arles. We hope that Tan Chui Mui’s upcoming exhibition in Arles will raise more interest towards the Rencontres d’Arles from our Malaysian counterparts and shed light on the Malaysian artistic scene for the French and international curators and artists.”
Tan Chui Mui is the first Malaysian selected for Cannes Cinefondation Residency in 2007 and also the first Malaysian to win the Grand Prix in Clermont-Ferrand in 2009. She expressed her excitement about exhibiting in France again, saying, “I am so happy to go to France again, and I will start to practice my French now.”
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Cover Image by Guo Xiaodong.
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