Persistent Visions
by Erika Tan

old film still of man holding paper parasol with Union Jack


  • 13 minute 30 second extract from Persistent Visions


  • 1Video still from Persistent Visions
  • 2Video still from Persistent Visions
  • 3Video still from Persistent Visions
  • 4Persistent Visions installed at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK
  • 5Persistent Visions installed at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK
  • 6Persistent Visions installed at the Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester, UK

Video still from Persistent Visions


Persistent Visions is a three-screen installation that questions the nature, status and classification of archive collections within the Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.

Focusing on forty years worth of amateur movie-making material from all over the world, Erika Tan illuminates hidden meanings, unearthing personal histories occluded by the grander structures of empire. The tensions between foreground and background narratives are highlighted through editing and image manipulation.

The piece uses super 8 film shot by individuals and families, who were once stationed in the former British Colonies, and held by the archive. The filmic explorations cover vast regions, from Malaysia to Kenya and The Suez Canal to Hong Kong. Cine cameras were used to record a personal response to family and working life in a particular place and time. By interrogating the vaults of stored material culture Tan explores the latent meanings and messages, unearthing personal and subjective histories hidden by the grander structures of empire and questioning the 'inherent' content of the medium of archival film.

Much of the original material was donated to the archives by family collections and the following families gave permission for their material to be used for this project. The collections used are: Boles, Dalyell, Duke, Fisher, Fromings, Gaskell, Hartgill, Harley, Hawley, Hayburn, Knowles, Lorimer, Morrison, Selkirk, Silk, Vernede, Wicksteed and Wilson.



Year 2005
Duration 24 minutes
Medium 3 screen synchronised video projection
Original format Film and DV
Screening format MPEG-2 DVD
Aspect ratio 4:3
Audio No
Colour / B&W Colour
Screens 3

External links:


Commissioned by Picture This with support from The British Empire and Commonwealth Museum as part of Ghosting, a series of research-based commissions on the themes of archive, memory and ethnography funded by Arts Council England.

Screening history:

03 June - 25 June 2006
A Bond, Bristol, UK

18 February – 01 April 2006
Angel Row Gallery, Nottingham, UK

26 November 2005 – 08 January 2006
Chapter, Cardiff, UK

25 February - 17 April 2005
Chinese Art Centre, Manchester, UK

Related Items:

Erika Tan

Erika Tan was commissioned by Picture This to respond to the archives at the British Empire and Commonwealth Museum in Bristol.

2003 - 2006

Ghosting developed in response to the growth of contemporary artists’ interest in archives.