Call it a case of cross-fertilisation. It was an artist residency exchange last year between the Australian War Memorial in Canberra and the National Museum of Singapore that saw Sydney-based Angela Tiatia travel to the Southeast Asian island city-state (and which brought Singaporean artist Debbie Ding to Canberra), from which germinated The Fall (2017), the five-minute video which won Tiatia this month’s AU$35,000 Ravenswood Australian Women’s Art Prize.
Tiatia’s winning work imaginatively responds to the oral accounts of the 1942 Fall of Singapore – revelling in both its chaos and quiet – as darkness descended on the island and surreal scenes unfolded. Looting mixed with gorging and prayer, with imprisoned soldiers even swallowing hibiscus flowers for their virility and young girls ageing their hair with flour – all of which Tiatia captures within a hypnotic single take (shot with a cast and crew of 50 at Sydney’s Carriageworks).
Partly inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s The Garden of Earthly Delights (c. 1490), The Fall was praised by Ravenswood’s judges for embodying ‘the richness and theatricality of a nineteenth-century tableau vivant’. But its contemporary resonances are just as clear in these warmongering times. As the artist has said: ‘We live in such a time right now where we can see the fall of our society in our near future.’
Angela Tiatia’s winning work will be screened at Buxton Contemporary as part of ‘TIME’, the video sector curated by Hannah Mathews and Rachel Ciesla, for the Melbourne Art Fair on 31 July 2018.