Wako Works of Art
Closes in 23 days

To most of us an archive is a collection of historical documents. Housed in government or academic institutions, ordered and numbered, they hold — even in this critical postmodern world — an air of authority. Some even argue that they are our most important physical links to the past.

Fiona Tan, though, disagrees. Her explorations of the perception of time and memory, history and fiction, show that the limitations of archives are immense. Not only do their political and ethnographic biases stand in the way, so too do those of the researchers who use them. As she put it to an audience at Tate Modern last year, “Archives are like Aladdin’s Lamp — rub them the right way and the fantastic Genie will grant your wish.”

To prove her point, Tan is showing a short film titled “News from the Near Future” at Wako Works of Art (www.wako-art.jp). Though the title does not allude to the past, the film does so in a very strange manner. She takes silent archival footage from the early 20th century then edits it into a tight rhythmic narrative that hints, by nature of the title, at our possible future. Water in all its forms — playful, fierce or unforgiving — is shown in relation to human life. In our post-Katrina climate-conscious times, these nostalgic black-and-white images can’t help but take on new meaning.

Some might think this is timely work by a media-savvy artist, but given the film’s 2003 production date, one has to question if Aladdin’s Genie has been rubbed again. Four years ago, it would have already been a strange message from the past; in 2007 it seems even weirder.

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