Lap-See Lam: Tales of the Altersea | Frieze

May 16 2023

By Danielle Wu

Must-Visit Exhibitions in New York During Frieze Week 2023

Swedish artist Lap-See Lam plunges into the haunting world of the Chinese diaspora’s failed aspirations in ‘Tales of the Altersea’, her first solo show in the United States. An eponymous ten-channel video projection blankets the walls of the Swiss Institute’s basement, submerging viewers in a shadow play – a form of Chinese theatre in which puppeteers manipulate leather or paper figures to music – loosely inspired by the life of Swedish entrepreneur Johan Wang. In the 1990s, Wang commissioned a ship named Sea Palace that sailed from Shanghai to Europe. The vessel, which housed a restaurant for 230 guests, fell into financial ruin, echoing Lam’s continued investigations of shuttered Chinese restaurants, including that of her own parents. As if anthropomorphizing Lam’s research process, the projection follows the silhouettes of twin sisters who breaststroke across murky amniotic waters before being driven apart by a storm. The trauma of the event causes one of the sisters to reappear with the head of a dragon – a hybrid sea beast that must learn to swim with its new anatomy. An original score by Linus Hillborg and Marlena Salonen completes the sensorium of an eerie voyage gone awry.