As Far Away As Heaven From Earth
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan
1–25 Mar 2023
As Far Away As Heaven From Earth is an installation comprising silk paintings, backstrap loom weaving and sound. Chan transcribes 哭嫁 or ‘bridal laments’, which are marital mourning songs of the 圍頭 (Waitau/Weitou) people, the first settlers of Hong Kong. Becoming a bride symbolised a kind of death as ties to one’s home were severed after marriage. Since 2017, Chan has been relearning these laments from Waitau elders in Hong Kong. Exploring loss, rebirth and matrilineal knowledge, Chan illuminates the diasporic psyche of connection/disconnection, and keeps the disappearing lamentation ritual significant to a contemporary world.
哭嫁 or ‘bridal laments’ refer to a marital mourning ritual of the 圍頭 (Waitau/Weitou) people, the first settlers of Hong Kong. To Waitau women, arranged marriages signified a kind of death. Upon marriage, a bride’s ties to home were severed and she would remain an outsider to the groom’s family. She would perform a lament cycle which involved singing and weeping in front of loved ones for three days. Chan has Waitau ancestry through her mother who never learnt the laments as the ritual faded in the 1960s. With the help of her mother as translator, Chan has relearned these songs from elderly Waitau women in Hong Kong’s New Territories since 2017.
In As Far Away As Heaven From Earth, Chan reimagines a selection of laments through a diasporic lens. The new installation comprises silk paintings, indigenous weaving and multi-channel sound. Chan transcribes the songs onto silk through brushwork and embroidery. Sonically, she reworks the laments into electronic compositions using vocal manipulation, field-recordings and conversation fragments with her elders. Exploring themes of loss, rebirth and matrilineal knowledge, Chan illuminates the diasporic psyche of connection/disconnection, and keeps the dying oral tradition of bridal laments significant to a contemporary world.
This program takes place on the land of the Wurundjeri people of the Kulin Nation. We recognise that sovereignty was never ceded - this land is stolen land. We pay respects to Wurundjeri Elders, past, present and emerging, to the Elders from other communities and to any other Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders who might encounter or participate in the program.
Chun Yin Rainbow Chan 陳雋然 is a Hong Kong-Australian interdisciplinary artist and pop musician. Her practice explores (mis)translation, diaspora, love and grief. In 2022, she was recognised in the 40 Under 40: Most Influential Asian-Australians Award, and she won Artist of the Year in the FBi SMAC Awards. Chan has exhibited at Firstdraft, Sydney; Liquid Architecture, Melbourne; 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Sydney; Gallery Lane Cove, Sydney; and I-Project Space, Beijing. She was a finalist in the 2022 NSW Visual Arts Emerging Fellowship (Artspace, Create NSW, NAS). Her documentary for Radio National, Songs From a Walled Village, was a finalist in the 2021 ABU Awards. Her latest record Stanley was released on Eastern Margins (UK, 2021).