Art Detail | Ilham Gallery
A Small Town at the Turn of the Century #26
A Small Town at the Turn of the Century #26

This work is part of a larger series of 40 square-format c-type photographs that were taken in Simryn Gill’s hometown of Port Dickson, Malaysia. As the title suggests, these photos playfully document staged moments at the turn of the century, in familiar and welcoming places like a shophouse or golf course, inside one’s living room or by the seaside. As a series, these images humorously complicate questions of cultural identity, history, memory and their interrelations to nature. Faces covered by tropical fruit like rambutan, durian, bananas or mangosteen make for rather absurd portraits. These various types of fruit ironically obscure the individuals from closer scrutiny and categorization.

C-print photograph
91.4 x 91.4 cm
Credit Line:
Collection of ILHAM Foundation
© Simryn Gill
About Simryn Gill

Gill lives and works in Sydney and Port Dickson, Malaysia. Her practice, which includes conceptual photographs, sculptures, writings and drawings, explores memory, history, migration, cultures, places, landscapes, and urban development. Some of her projects involve installations made from casually collected objects, forms made from casting found materials, or cutouts of certain phrases from various books. Gill has exhibited widely, including at the the Venice Biennale (2013); documenta 12 (2007), Liverpool Biennale (2006), Singapore Biennale (2006), Bienal Internacional de Arte Contempor neo de Sevilla (2006), Bienal de São Paulo (2004), Biennale of Sydney (2002), Flight Patterns, MOCA Los Angeles (2000), 3rd Asia Pacific Triennial (1999); 5th Istanbul Biennial (1997); Cities on the Move (travelling show, 1997–1999), and Transculture, Venice Biennale (1995). She has held solo exhibitions at the Tate Modern, London, the Smithsonian’s Arthur M Sackler Gallery, and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney.

Further Readings

Learning Section
  • The people in the photographs are friends of Simryn Gill. She asked them to wear these fruit masks. Do you recognize any of these fruits? 

  • Although these ‘local’ fruits are all easily found in Malaysia, they originated in different parts of the world. For example, watermelons came from Africa, and papayas emerged first in Central America. Think about this relationship between our local fruits and their original locations. Do you think this applies to people in Malaysia? What does it mean to be indigenous to Malaysia?  


  • Is there an issue (social, political, environmental) that you find important? Think about environmental issues (climate change), human rights, race, or gender equality. 

  • Do some research on your chosen issue, and create an artwork to help raise awareness. Think of what visual imagery you can use to symbolize the problem. What colours and subject matter do you think would be applicable? Think about the composition of the piece. How do you make the audience more interested in solving the issue? 

  • Once you’re done with the art piece, reflect on the activity. What did you learn through your research? How would you go about trying to solve the issue?