Based on academic research, the series embodies the artist’s effort to convert and transform the outcome of his research into multisensorial and empirical art forms. “The term Southeast Asia emerged out of World War II as the way the American military referred to the region. So one starting point for this project was a question—what constitutes the unity of Southeast Asia, a region that has never been unified by language, religion or political structures? I began compiling a series of concepts, anecdotes, motifs, and biographies that seem relevant to this question, and many of the works that I’ve produced in the last few years such as Ten Thousand Tigers from 2014, 2 or 3 Tigers from 2015, and One or Several Tigers in 2017 all came out of this collection. Tigers dispersed across Southeast Asia more than a million years ago, before the emergence of homo sapiens, and myths of the tiger as an ancestral kin and beliefs in weretigers, were found throughout the region. These myths, along with tigers, were wiped out in the era of Colonialism. But we see tigers returning as metaphors for humans who live at edge of civilization—in the form of Communist guerillas, bandits, and even the Japanese army during WWII. The algorithmic editing system enabled me to present the collection as a whole, the infinite combinations generating unexpected linkages amongst the fragments, while producing an endless series of possible Southeast Asias”, Ho Tzu Nyen told Vdrome in an interview.
The Dictionary proposes 26 terms – one for each letter of the English alphabet. Each term is a concept, a motif, or a biography, and together they are threads weaving together a torn and tattered tapestry of Southeast Asia.
The Dictionary has, since its inception in 2012, generated a number of filmic, theatrical and installation works by Ho Tzu Nyen. From T (for Tiger) and W (for Weretiger), emerged Ten Thousand Tigers (2014), 2 or 3 Tigers (2015), Timelines (2017) and One or Several Tigers (2017). The Nameless and The Name (both 2015) came out of L (for Lai Teck) and G (for Gene Z. Hanrahan) respectively.
Since 2016, Ho Tzu Nyen has been working with a group of collaborators to ‘manifest’ the Dictionary as a whole. With Berlin-based programmers, Jan Gerber and Sebastian Lütgert (0x2620), a platform for absorbing and annotating online materials was created to “feed” an Editing System that endlessly composes new combinations of audio-visual materials according to the 26 terms of the Dictionary.
According to tandfonline.com and seafocus.sg