Words: Sebastian Henry-Jones
Tiyan Baker works across various subject matter to make associations between recurrent trends and the way they exist as manifestations of a deep crisis in Western culture. She explores this through medium as much as she does through the content of her work, which is to say that she’s deeply interested in the ways by which ideas and information are filtered and made accessible to publics and individuals through media. For example, her photographic series nyatu’ maanǔn mungut bigabu, 2021 visually embeds the artist’s native Bidayǔh language in images of her ancestral lands in Sarawak, Malaysia. The particular images are autostereograms, more commonly known as magic eye images, a technology made popular throughout the 1990s. For this innovative body of work Baker won the 2022 National Photography Prize at MAMA, Albury.
Recently, Baker’s practice has more explicitly explored her Bidayǔh heritage, piecing together language, landscape and story to celebrate Bidayǔh knowledge and its radical potential to upend Western ideologies.
Her work Personal Computer : ramin ntaangan, 2022, commissioned by The Lock Up, Newcastle, is a custom built PC computer rendered in the form and materiality of a Bidayǔh longhouse, which visually illustrates the importance of digital technologies and infrastructures to maintain a connection to culture for those living far from their homelands. For My Mother’s Tongue, a 2022 solo exhibition at Melbourne’s Bus Projects, the artist presented an artificial swamp, held inside the sculpted form of her mother’s mouth. Onto the surface of the pond were projected words in the Bidayǔh language.
Baker’s works are the outcomes of a focussed and embodied research practice that continues to deepen.
Featured image: Installation view of Tiyan Baker’s My mother’s tongue at Bus Projects, Melbourne, 2022. Courtesy: the artist and Bus Projects, Melbourne.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 103, January-March 2023.