Hoo Fan Chon

Hoo Fan Chon

I have never seen a swimming salmon in my life, 2022

How to turn your siakap into salmon, 2022

Finnish landscape series, 2022


Despite Hoo Fan Chon’s hope that the residency at Helsinki International Artist Programme would provide some respite from his obsession with fish-based iconography and symbolism, upon arriving in Helsinki the artist found himself immediately drawn to the salmon pink colour that commonly adorns buildings in Finland. This chromatic cue ignited his interest in issues of taste, class aesthetics, and fish culture triggering an erratic investigation about the cosmetic processing of farmed salmon, the environmental plight of this fish, and the social status of its consumption as a signifier of class and wealth.

How to turn your siakap into salmon, 2022
single-channel video, Full HD, colour, sound, 15 min 36 sec
Talent: Zufar Zeid
Production Assistant: Sven Tang
Courtesy the artist

Afternoon tea with salmon experience in Singapore, 2022
takeaway foldout map, 500 copies
29.7 cm x 42 cm (open), 7 x 14,8 cm (closed)
Graphic Design: hrftype
Research: Hoo Fan Chon, Chong Hui Shien, Celine Yeo
Courtesy the artist

Inspired by amateur tutorials commonly found on YouTube, the video How to turn your siakap into salmon illustrates DIY techniques to colour fish. While the pink pigmentation of wild salmons is due to a natural diet made of krill and shrimp, the flesh of farmed salmon is off-white. In order to achieve the vibrant hue that makes salmon appealing to consumers, farmed salmons are regularly fed synthetic carotenoids the health implications of which are still under scrutiny. In Southeast Asia, salmon is a luxury good and its consumption bespeaks the Western lifestyle aspirations of a rising global middle class. This instructional video shows how to simulate a salmon-eating experience by dying affordable local fish and is presented alongside takeaway maps of upscale Singaporean restaurants where salmon is served at high tea.

I have never seen a swimming salmon in my life, 2022
3D animation, projection, fish tank, plastic plants, bubble pumps, sound, 2 min 58 sec
Animation: Darrel Chia Chee Sum
Voiceover: Sir David Attenborough (extracted from “Year of the Salmon”, produced by Pace Productions, 2019)
Courtesy the artist

The ironic speculation on how to ‘domesticate’ a foreign species continues in I have never seen a swimming salmon in my life. Accompanied by a voiceover by Sir David Attenborough borrowed from an advocacy campaign to protect salmon, the installation features 3D animations of salmon cuts—fillet, loin, and streak—swimming inside a fish tank, a staple fixture in Chinese seafood restaurants.

Finnish landscape painting series, 2022
interventions on 13 found paintings, framed
dimensions variable
Courtesy the artist

The artist’s familiar-yet-distant relation to salmon culminates with Finnish landscape painting series, an installation featuring 13 paintings hung on a salmon pink wall. In this series, the artist introduced the motif of the proverbial “carp leaping over the dragon’s gate” and auspicious Chinese blessings into existing Finnish landscape paintings purchased in thrift shops around Helsinki. Both salmons and carps are known for their strength and jumping ability; in Chinese culture, the iconography of the leaping carp symbolises courage and perseverance leading to wealth and prestige. By conflating Chinese symbolism and Nordic waterscapes where wild salmons once thrived, the work enacts a process of cultural contamination while also hinting at the hardships of migratory journeys and environmental change.

Artist Bio

Hoo Fan Chon (b. 1982, Malaysia) is a visual artist whose practice explores taste and foodscapes as cultural and social constructs. His research-driven projects examine how value systems fluctuate as people move from one culture to another. Reframing mundane aspects of everyday life with irony and wry humour, his multimedia works address notions of cultural authenticity setting in motion overlaps and frictions produced by the migration of symbols amongst different sociocultural contexts. Hoo recently received a solo exhibition at The Back Room, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2021) and he has participated in a number of group shows including the last Makassar Biennale, Indonesia (2022). Also active as a curator and a grassroot cultural producer, he was the co-founder of the art collective Run Amok Gallery (2012-2017) in George Town.