The one thousand other things
25 Nov 1978 -
Family histories, dual identities and inventively resurrected 19th century photographic processes are brought together this silver salt photograph on the fragile surface of a duck egg - one of the earliest in a continuing series that will eventually span one thousand.
Aaron Seeto’s methodical project uses as primary material pre-existing images drawn from his family’s albums. These mementoes of a long line of ancestors who migrated from China to Australia at the beginning of the 20th century are photocopied and then registered onto the traditionally cooked egg and chemically sensitized shell. The resulting ghostly portrait is displayed like family relics or icons. A multitude of allusions is created as a result of this complex process of production – from the altered identities of migrant families to the unstable, constantly changing nature of memories.
The object is also a perceptive commentary on the photographic medium itself. The organic, chemical basis means that, like traditional photographs in general, it will continue to subtly change through oxidation, just as personal and collective histories do with the passage of time.
Thus irony becomes one of the pertinent layers of this archival endeavour. How should memories be preserved and transferred if mutation and change are what engender them in the first place? Seeto explores the various shades of this question by shifting the combination of materials and photographic processes using, for example, albumen printing technique on glass in ‘Missing’ 2004-2005 (also in the collection at the Art Gallery of NSW). Each of these playful and delicate recipes creates a new set of interpretations around the artist’s central themes. The symbolism of the fragile egg, however, is not only about the predicaments of remembering and forgetting. Teetering between destruction and rebirth it also signifies ‘how these stories have the potential to renew the ways in which we imagine and recollect the past and equally how these stories provide us with political imperative to understand the present.’
Aaron Seeto, artist’s statement, ‘For silvered tongues’, Essa Jaske Gallery, Sydney, exhibition sheet, 2005, np
unique gold-toned, silver salt photograph on salt-preserved duck egg
7.2 cm height; 5.1 cm diameter
Signature & date
Not signed. Not dated.
Gift of Amanda Love 2011. Donated through the Australian Government's Cultural Gifts Program.
Not on display
Shown in 1 exhibition
Loveart: the Love collection, Casula Powerhouse Arts Centre & Liverpool Regional Museum, Casula, 03 Dec 2010–20 Feb 2011