In her photographic and film-based projects, Sim Chi Yin investigates the intersections between the history of colonial Malaya and her family history. Also central to her practice are the contemporary narratives of migration, economic disparity, rapid societal changes, and environmental issues.Read More
Although Sim Chi Yin has been photographing since the age of 15, beginning her career as an intern photographer for Singapore's The Straits Times at 18, her transition to full-time photography came after more than a decade of working as a journalist. The Straits Times granted her a scholarship to study at London School of Economics and Political Science, where she received a BA in History (2000) and an MSc in History of International Relations (2001). Upon her return to Singapore, the newspaper reassigned Sim to work as a writer. By 2007, Sim had become their foreign correspondent in China.
In 2010, Sim quit her post at the newspaper to become a professional photographer. The Rat Tribe (2010–2015), her first major project, saw the artist document the lives of 'rat tribes' or shuzu—a nickname for the low-income workers who live in the cheap underground homes of Beijing. Sim also investigated a then-underreported issue in China in Dying to Breathe (2011–2015), which follows the stories of former goldminers dying from occupational lung disease.
Travelling as the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize photographer, Sim Chi Yin photographed nuclear test sites in North Korea from China's side of the border, as well as in the United States. In the resulting photographs that belong to Fallout, which include the inside of an anti-ballistic missile defence radar facility, their location is unclear, raising the question of 'who gets to call whom a rogue state', as the artist asks in a video produced by The New Yorker.
Since 2011, Sim Chi Yin has explored the early decades of Singapore's founding history and a lesser-known part of her own family history in the project One day we'll understand. The project revolves around her grandfather, Shen Huansheng, who was a left-wing journalist involved in the anti-colonial resistance movement in British Malaya.
In 1949, Shen was deported to China for his activities and executed. Over time, he has been recognised as a Communist martyr, while others remember him as a terrorist; his family, on their part, had chosen not to discuss him until Sim returned to her family's ancestral village and began photographing old artefacts and archival materials from museums. Through her careful documentation, in both film and photography, Sim considers the processes of remembrance and forgetting as well as the fragility of the notion of truth.
Shifting Sands, another ongoing project since 2017, examines the global depletion of sand due to urbanisation and land reclamation, with a focus on the shores of Singapore, China, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. The aerial photographs often contrast the white-brown sand with the ocean, and remnants of nature with the urban structures surrounding them.
Sim Chi Yin's solo exhibitions include One Day We'll Understand, Zilberman Gallery, Berlin (2021); "One Day We'll Understand"「總有一天我們會明白」, Hanart TZ Gallery, Hong Kong (2019); Most People Were Silent, Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2018); and Fallout, Nobel Peace Center, Oslo (2017).
Selected group exhibitions include The Lie of the Land, FOST Gallery, Singapore (2021); 15th Istanbul Biennial (2017); Dying to Breathe, Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art, North Carolina (2016); and Burmese Spring, Annenberg Space for Photography, Los Angeles (2015).
Since 2018, Sim Chi Yin has been a nominee member of Magnum Photos and a PhD candidate at King's College London.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2021
Gallery Weekend Berlin launches its second event of the year with galleries presenting artists whose work is lesser known to the broader public.
At FOST Gallery, six Singaporean artists contend with resource use, the built environment, and territorial sovereignty.
Singaporean artist Sim Chi Yin has brought her exhibition about Chinese communists to Hong Kong just when anti-Chinese Communist sentiment is running high in the semi-autonomous city. _One Day We'll U