Words by Miriam Kelly - John Fries 2019 Curator
Jenna LEE
Larrakia, Karajarri and Wardaman people
born 1992, Canberra
lives and works between Brisbane and London

Their words 2019
pulped copies of a second hand children’s book (c.1955); linen thread
dimensions variable

Jenna Lee is identifies as “a Queer, Mixed-Race, Asian, Aboriginal Woman” whose practice explores the very acts of “identity/identification, label/labelling and the relationships formed between language, label and object.” Lee draws on childhood memory and maternal teachings of subject and process, along with her formal education in the visual arts, graphic design and museum studies, to inform her approaches to making work across the mediums of painting, print and sculpture.
Their words sees Lee engage with ideas of self-determination and translation to address, and diffuse, the capacity for the printed word to perpetuate harmful narratives. The basis of the work is the collection, and removal from circulation, of as many copies as she could find in second hand stores across London of a particularly problematic publication. “The name of the book will not be included in the final work as an act of personal dominance over the original text, “ Lee explains, “naming the book would continue to give it power.”
"During the process of reading this book (and others written at this time), I was angry and disgusted by the casual use of completely racist/outdated words, the condescending tone, the presentation of our people as the violent other, the villain – ultimately the writing about us, without us. 
I soon realised that anger was only extending the trauma that these words have brought. By repeating them I would be perpetuating them if I used them in their current form... Instead, I read them, learnt them, forgave them. Then I ripped them, calmly and purposefully, I chose to use these words as a base for something new, something proud and beautiful.
Through the act of destruction and reconstruction, [I am] seeking to translate these words into a new tangible language. The forms share a ‘visual base’ creating a visually coherent ‘statement’ or ‘sentence’, in the same way that letterforms share base shapes within a font… The single coil of paper string at the end translates as a full stop."

You may also like

Back to Top