Elsewhere (Works)

colour, stereo, dimensions variable
loop duration: 16 min. 10 sec.

Elsewhere begins with a new dawn enveloped in mist. Over lingering panoramic shots of a cityscape, a nuanced ambient soundscape paints an abstract rather than physical reality. As the sun rises and colour gradually seeps in, a traveller gives an account of a place remote in time and space where she has recently arrived. The sense of dislocation is emphasised by the floating screen of this installation, as the viewer hovers god-like above the metropolis. Initially voice and image blend seamlessly; full of admiration the narrator sketches the outlines of a utopian society. But increasingly audio and image pull apart and a rift between the spoken virtues of this (non)place and the polluted urban environment surveyed by the camera becomes apparent.

The shimmering city is Los Angeles, filmed from Fiona Tan’s residency studio at the Getty Institute in 2016-17. Clouds float gently past, distant jetplanes glide across the screen, coming in to land, cars on the highway catch the sun like ripples. As day turns to night on screen, our guide reflects on the static world in which she finds herself, where nothing changes and history has ground to a halt. It is strangely bloodless and alienating in its saccharine wholesomeness. Tan focuses her camera on the evidence of human systems that order society, skyscrapers, flight paths and highways, beautiful only from a distance.

Elsewhere is a meditation on time and memory, human needs and desires. Its language deftly fuses the idioms of canonical texts by Thomas More, Tommaso Campanella and William Morris with the parlance of contemporary marketing. The juxtaposition of sound and image offers a contradiction which is pertinent and perhaps prescient. We may be haunted by the failure of utopian schemes of designed perfection but dreams for a better future still retain their lure.


Filmed on location in Los Angeles

Script, Camera, Editing Fiona Tan
Sound Design Hugo Dijkstal
Voice-over spoken by Laurel Lefkow