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The Contraction of
the Presence





Single channel video


'Homegrown; a critical past' group show

Art Space on the Concourse curated by Cassandra Hard-Lawrie

Key Questions

How are our lives different to those of our ancestors? Why?

To what historical actions and decisions do we owe our contemporary privileges and affordances?

How will our own actions influence those who come after us?

Who controls laws that govern migration? Are they aware of the impact of their actions on individuals and families?

At what point does the past become unrelated to the future?


Video filmed and edit by Mitch Clarke

Description of the work

In Contraction of the Presence, Dr Tym Yee explores the complex relationship between ancestors, self, and the future from his point of view as a second generation Australian born Chinese person.


Dressed in his academic regalia to represent present day privileges, Yee positions himself between the past and future. On the left, passages from his grandfather's memoir scroll forward recounting harrowing stories of migration by boat to flee conflict and rural farming life. On the right, maligned AI-generated predictions of his bloodlines' future scroll in reverse. Through this contrast Yee brings to light the incredible speed at which social change can occur between generations of migrants and the sense of alienation that can ensue. 


The work is inspired by Hartmut Rosa’s idea of the ‘contraction of the present’, a notion that under modernity, the past is no longer a reliable indication of the future, resulting in a precarious and unpredictable present.


Applied through the lens of global migration, Yee reflects on the juxtaposition between his own comfortable life in Australia, an unbelievable past past and a near inconceivable future.

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