New Geographies of Feminist Art: China, Asia, and the World

Simryn Gill, geographer

Kajri Jain

Simryn Gill, Paper boats, 2009, Encyclopedia Britannica, 1968 edition, dimensions variable. Installation: BREENSPACE, from REENSPACE’s website.

Simryn Gill’s selection as the sole Australian representative at the Venice Biennale in 2013 speaks to Australia’s uneasy embrace of its Asianness, but it also speaks to Gill’s ability to create a space – indeed a place – for her work that both deeply engages and obdurately refutes nation and state. Gill’s work asks what it is to inhabit a place, how to be in a place: Malaysia, where her great-grandfather settled; India, where he came from; the UK, where she was educated; Australia, where she now (partly) lives; but also the places of woman, citizen and subject that are compounded and fractured in and by these layered territories, their inclusions and exclusions. So the work becomes a practice of material geography: literally a writing of the land, but one that traces material processes rather than political borders, and whose attunement to a cosmic temporality obviates romantic distinctions between acts of humans and of “nature” (so if there is a cosmopolitanism here this must be understood, following Latour, in its non-anthropocentric, ecological sense). This geography is also a practice of worlding, where the process of making art occupies the same plane as its exhibition and circulation, but further, where art making is inseparable from everyday life: walking, reading, conversation, and the difficult work/play of friendship, as ways to become “otherwise”.