- Place where the work was made
- Media categories
- Time-based art , Installation
- Materials used
- four channel video work, bicycles, carpet, Arduino, computer, steel frame, monitors, speakers
- duration: 00:14:00 min, display dimensions variable
- Purchased with funds provided by the Contemporary Collection Benefactors 2021
- Not on display
- Accession number
- © Eugenia Lim
- Artist information
Works in the collection
Eugenia Lim’s work often draws on her cultural heritage. As a second-generation Australian, her parents migrated here from Singapore during the White Australia Policy. Lim grew up between two cultures and the associated feeling of in-betweenness fuels her work. In her series Yellow Peril, from which New Australians (welcome stranger 1969/2015) derives, Lim examines her own parents’ migration to Australia through the lens of the first wave of Chinese migrants seeking to make their fortunes in the Australian gold fields during the gold rush of 1851–93. For this body of work, Lim appears in character as ‘the Ambassador’, a fictive persona, dressed in a gold lamé Mao suit. The Ambassador playfully navigates the Sovereign Hill theme park, an open air museum that reimagines Ballarat in the 1850s and in exploring the park uncovers the Australian-Asian narrative of the gold rush, drilling down into racial politics. Lim has transformed herself into the Ambassador across three separate bodies of work. Each time, the character traverses time and culture to explore national identities and stereotypes in our globalised world.
ON DEMAND is a pedal powered video installation that interrogates the gig economy. Viewers are invited to take a seat on a bicycle and work up a sweat in order to participate in and activate the work. The video presents a poetic consideration of the performance of labour. A persistent thread in Lim’s practice is the analysis of work, labour, ethics, technology, and the tension between art and economics in neoliberal capitalism. In creating ON DEMAND, Lim placed a call out for workers from the gig economy to collaborate with her as worker-performers. The five who responded are ‘independent contractors’ who work in the gig economy as drivers, riders and service industry workers for companies including Uber, Airtasker and Foodora.
The worker–performers appearing in ON DEMAND were each interviewed by the artist to reflect on their experiences while working and their responses form a spoken word voice over that recounts the reality of their world with abrupt detail. These personal accounts of broken limbs and other perils are layered over footage of the workers performing choreographed movement alongside the artist intercut with other scenes. Lim paid each worker/performer the Australian Miscellaneous Award 2010 rate plus a provision for superannuation for their time – a gesture towards fair work conditions not generally guaranteed for gig workers or independent artists. This video work is the result of their collective negotiation; of their stories, and movement.
When we consider this work in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, its message only echoes louder. During lockdown, workers in the gig economy were providing essential services such as food delivery for people in quarantine or isolation with no job security or adequate support. The conditions of the pandemic highlighted the fact that many essential services and frontline workers operate in unstable conditions. Often underpaid, they are were disproportionately women, migrants, people of colour and people from lower socio-economic communities. Though considered ‘essential’, their work was not valued economically or structurally. ON DEMAND restages the precarity of twenty-first century capitalism and exposes its ethical potholes in a moving and elegaic response to the contemporary moment.
Where the work was made
Shown in 1 exhibition
Conflict in my outlook_Don't be evil, University of Queensland Art Museum, Brisbane, 30 Jul 2021–22 Jan 2022