Love Lane Stories: an artist residency in Penang, Malaysia

Background:  Of Serani (Eurasian) and Anglo-Australian heritage, with roots in the Straits of Malacca (Penang) and Australia, I am currently developing an artist residency project to undertake in Penang, Malaysia in 2016 called Love Lane Stories, a curated series of works inspired by my own cultural heritage and the Eurasian history and heritage of Love Lane.  The series will incorporate photography, video, oral histories and archival material, and potentially include a walking tour or place-making activities.  I anticipate it will be a mixture of existing materials re-interpreted in the context of the project, along with co-creative work generated with community.

Thematic content:  Thematically, the work will focus on Love Lane as an urban palimpsest – a unique geographic location formed through a rich and dynamic hybridity, cosmopolitanism, contested history and changing identity.  Focusing on the Eurasian connection to the area, the series will explore the intimate spaces and small stories connected to these themes, through the prism of lived history. The Eurasian/Serani cultural identity is dynamic and in some ways ‘fugitive’.  By incorporating historical and contemporary elements of visual culture and materials, the project will explore cultural maintenance and hybridity across colonial and post-colonial histories, through still and moving images, and other personal ephemera and personal objects of significance.

Aesthetics and media: Love Lane Stories will bring together my cultural practice in collaborative, community-engaged and process-driven co-creative media; my interest in vernacular creativity and the aesthetics of the ‘everyday’; and previous curatorial work that focused on valuing everyday modes of cultural production. It will also explore new methods to incorporate low-tech, co-creative and everyday aesthetics into my work.  As well as recording oral histories and taking photographs and video, this project will also incorporate elements of existing historical and archival materials (photographs, maps, documents, documentary footage) held in Penang collections.  I will seek out archival photographs and family portraits taken of Eurasian communities from the Love Lane area – as well as any held in Penang-based archives, and organisations like the Penang Heritage Trust and the Penang Eurasian Association - and use visual ethnography to co- create photographic portraits, oral histories and digital stories. Some of material on display would be drawn from existing heritage and archival materials held in Penang collections (eg. photographs, maps, documents, documentary footage), but will also include material made specifically for the project such as digital stories, photographic portraits and written text.

About Love Lane: Love Lane is located in a tiny pocket of Georgetown in the historic centre of Penang.  Now the home to many architecturally unique boutique hotels, this lane was once known by the local Chinese as Serani Hung - or Eurasian Lane - due to the large Eurasian community that lived in the area.  Love Lane Stories will document and record the changing landscape of this Lane, including its architectural, cultural, and aesthetic heritage; collect stories and memories of remaining Eurasian families with connections to the area; and creatively engage with its cosmopolitan and hybrid character. 

If you have a connection to Love Lane, or have stories, objects or photographs you would like to contribute to the project, please contact me via my contact page.

* Image credit: studio portrait of author's maternal grandparents, taken in Penang, Malaysia, circa 1950s