This installation by art collective Vertical Submarine (founded Singapore, 2003) explores conflicting notions of Chinese identity in literature, and intellectual and cultural theory.
The installation takes the form of an enormous Chinese handscroll spread across the floor of the gallery. Printed on the scroll is an extract from The Spectre of Comparisons: Nationalism, Southeast Asia and The World (1998) by political scientist Benedict Anderson. In the text, Anderson describes various notions of Chinese identity held by ethnic Chinese students at Yale University in the United States, whom he met while teaching there in 1996. These include an American-born Chinese student who believes himself to be ‘absolutely’ Chinese, to a student from Singapore, who asserts that he is not Chinese but ‘Singaporean’. The students’ perspectives highlight tensions between concepts of Chinese identity that have resulted from geopolitical conflict, migration and diasporic communities. Vertical Submarine will use the scroll and Anderson’s text as starting points to engage participants and visitors in discussions on concepts of ‘Chineseness’.