Heman Chong, İz Öztat, and Doretta Lau explore some not-so-hidden things they cannot shake. Illustrations by Kaitlin Chan.
3SUMS is an illustrated interview series that explores our affective x material x libidinal attachments, with each piece featuring three people responding to a single prompt. For this iteration of 3SUMS, we asked:
"What's something you can't shake? Perhaps an idea or a memory or a person or an object or maybe even a feeling. Something or someone that has stuck with you—something that stalks you, that lurks in your mind, with or without your awareness—and finds a way into your work, somehow."
Heman Chong is an artist whose work is located at the intersection between image, performance, situations, and writing. His practice can be read as an imagining, interrogation, and sometimes intervention into infrastructure as an everyday medium of politics. His work has been the subject of solo exhibitions at STPI, Het Nieuwe Instituut, Weserburg Museum, Jameel Arts Center, Swiss Institute New York, Art in General, Artsonje Center, Rockbund Art Museum, South London Gallery, NUS Museum, amongst many others. Chong is the co-director and founder (with Renée Staal) of The Library of Unread Books, a library made up of donated books previously unread by their owners.
İz Öztat, in her collective and individual artistic practice spanning diverse media defined by her reseach, explores the persistence of violent histories through forms, materials, space, and language. She responds to absences in official historiography through spectral, intergenerational, and speculative fictions. İz Öztat fabricates the (auto)biography of Zişan (1894–1970), who appears to her as a historical figure, a ghost, and an alter ego. She takes on Zişan’s archives and interprets them through her practice to construct a complex temporality of action that enables the suppressed past to intervene in the increasingly authoritarian present. The values and methodologies driving her practice have been articulated in relation to struggles against the taming of running waters for profit and progress, queer desire, and consensual negotiation of power. İz Öztat lives and works in Istanbul and Berlin.
Doretta Lau started watching horror movies at age nine and sketch comedy at eleven, which was probably why she ended up completing an MFA in Writing at Columbia University. In her fiction, her characters receive text messages from their future selves, go on dates with ghosts, recover from childhood stardom, and yearn to be competitive eating superstars. The Atlantic named her short story collection, How Does a Single Blade of Grass Thank the Sun?, as a best book of 2014. The title story, about a group of kids determined to pull off a heist, was shortlisted for the 2013 Writers’ Trust McClelland & Stewart Journey Prize. For the sake of the craft, she once lived in a haunted house for two months to write her novel We Are Underlings, about a dysfunctional workplace struggling to open a theme park that celebrates death. Visit dorettalau.com.
Kaitlin Chan is a cartoonist and cultural worker in Hong Kong.