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Eye Filmmuseum Amsterdam presents Fiona Tan: Mountains and Molehills

October 2, 2022–January 8, 2023

In her video and film installations, Fiona Tan is known for examining memory, history, and the function of pictures. The passing of time and the function of the environment as a mental place are reoccurring themes in this exhibition, which takes viewers on a trip through a selection of contemporary works from her body of work.

The centerpieces of the exhibition are Gray Glass (2020), Inventory (2012), and Fiona Tan’s most recent piece, Footsteps (2022), which she created at Eye’s request. These video installations examine the connections between the natural world, the environment, and humanity as well as the interactions between the picture, the creator, and the audience. Time serves as both a transport and a medium for Tan. She investigates, manipulates, and creates artwork using this material frequently in conjunction with still and moving imagery. The artist also examines perception and representational methods with a critical yet poetic perspective.

New work: Footsteps

Fiona Tan connects our own tales to the environment around us in her most recent book, Footsteps. She uses material from the Eye collection, which includes lost silent cinema era documentary footage showing scenes from the Netherlands more than a century ago. The footage primarily depicts individuals working physically demanding jobs in the countryside and factories, along with children playing and Dutch windmills. She juxtaposes these photos with passages from letters she had from her father in the late 1980s, shortly after she relocated to the Netherlands, in an intriguing way. Tan’s father had studied in Indonesia and had learned a lot about the Netherlands without ever having been there.

He fluidly transitions between personal news and global events in the letters, such as the fall of the Berlin Wall and the protests in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

Footsteps is a 97-minute film that is shown in the exhibition every day at specific times.

A journey through time and space

The work of Fiona Tan demonstrates a preoccupation with depots, archives, museums, collections, and the architecture that surrounds them. Why do people feel the need to protect things? Tan focuses her cameras on Sir John Soane’s quirky museum home in the 2012 installation Inventory. Soane was an architect and collector who lived in the eighteenth century. In the expansive spatial piece Gray Glass (2020), we accompany a lone traveler as he treks across the Alps while carrying a mirror on his back. The term alludes to an optical tool that was common among landscape artists in the eighteenth century. We find ourselves in a barren region where time seems to have stopped in Island (2008).


Fiona Tan, who was born in Pekan Baru, Indonesia, in 1966, was raised in Australia before moving to Amsterdam in the late 1980s to attend the Rijksakademie voor beeldende kunsten and the Gerrit Rietveld Academie. Her past collaborations with Eye included the exhibitions Expanded Cinema (2012) and Waiting for the time to pass (2021). In the works News from the Near Future (2003) and Facing Forward, she also made use of materials from the Eye collection (1999).

The work of Fiona Tan is frequently exhibited at and collected by international museums around the world. Recent solo exhibitions took place at the Museum der Moderne, Salzburg; Museum Ludwig, Cologne; Musée des arts contemporains Grand Hornu; The Baltic, Gateshead; National Museum of Art Osaka and MAXXI, Rome. In 2009 Tan represented the Netherlands at the Venice Biennale. Her work is included in the collections of the Centre Pompidou, Paris; Stedelijk Museum Amsterdam; Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago; Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin; New Museum for Contemporary Art, New York; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, New York; and Tate Modern, London.


A publication that features an article by Hanneke Grootenboer, an interview with Dana Linssen, and writings by the artist herself is available in distinct Dutch and English editions to go along with the exhibition. The catalogue is beautifully decorated with images from the installations, movie stills, and behind-the-scenes shots. Published by: Rotterdam’s Eye Filmmuseum in association with naioıo publishing. Price: 24.95 EUR.

Public programme
A programme of events has been put together in collaboration with the artist, including film screenings, discussions and presentations in Eye’s cinemas. The Akademie van Kunsten – KNAW is also organising a symposium on the work of Fiona Tan on December 2.

Eye Filmmuseum
IJpromenade 1
1031 KT Amsterdam
The Netherlands