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Charmaine Poh
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April 29, 2022
Art
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Creating queer spaces through Charmaine Poh’s art

Through performances, photography, and short films, Charmaine Poh creates and explores queer spaces with love and sensibility. Each of her projects takes part in a bigger one, a normalization of queer love and its celebration.

31-years-old Charmaine Poh works between Berlin and Singapore. Named one of Forbes Asia’s 30 under 30 in The Arts in 2019, she is a prolific artist that is not afraid to tackle polarizing subjects. Graduated with an MA in Visual and Media Anthropology from the Freie Universität Berlin, her work has been featured in The New York Times, Artsy, and i-D, to name a few.

When asked to summarize her work in five words, Charmaine Poh answered “Listen, observe, and make worlds.”. A simple definition of the core of her work, and principles that we can find within each of her projects.

In 2018, Charmaine Poh worked on a project exploring queer femininity in Singapore. “How They Love” is a unique peek into the intimacy of several couples, portrayed with heavy symbolism and a certain sense of melancholia.

Exploring the notions of desire and identity, the project aimed to portray the contemporary queer experience. The couples were invited to Charmaine Poh’s own space, where she conducted informal interviews to get to know them and properly portray their love. They brought wedding props and costumes, such as clothes, wine glasses, bouquets, and flower petals, reappropriating heteronormative symbolism.

Those staged wedding celebrations resonate with the political situation in Singapore, where homosexual relations remain illegal due to a colonial-era penal code. If queer people's existences are tolerated as long as they remain quiet, their celebration is forbidden. The act of performing these mock weddings is then an act of resistance.

In the background are projected wedding portraits of the couples’ own parents, Charmaine Poh wanting to portray the familial burden but also a form of validation for those queer couples. The project eventually turned into a thesis project as part of her M.A. in Visual and Media Anthropology.

In April 2021, Charmaine Poh released a new project, a short film, titled “Kin”. Inventing an imaginary safe space for queer people in Singapore, the short tackles notion of home, queerness, and belonging, as well as the comfort of chosen family. You can watch Kin and scroll down below to discover the photographs of the “How they love” series.

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