Spencer Lai’s work produces associative meaning out of a range of accumulated materials that are worked into assemblages, installations, clothing, and exhibitions. These materials often include found objects or images from pop culture—lifted from thrift stores, online, or the mall. We should consider the usage of “material” widely in looking at Lai’s work, and include their social relations (with other artists, spaces, and so on) as part of what they pull into what they produce, and how they produce it. Lai’s use of various commodities points to how identities are constructed within a consumerist culture, giving away to the observation that subcultural identities can be assembled on Instagram or at the mall. The works are rarely singular or stand-alone objects. Rather, their identities are intentionally constructed from multiple references, works, as well as contributions from other artists. Beyond being autonomous, they are predicated on the wider dialogues that constitute the material for Lai’s work.
Spencer Lai, “Moral inventory”, 2020. Acrylic on foam core; pint glasses; bottle; Windex, water and beer; vintage ‘Mommy made’, Barbie and Polly Pocket dolls’ clothes and accessories; cardboard; fish tank provided by Rex Veal; oranges; courtesy of the artist and Rex Veal. Spatial and conceptual attribution by Rex Veal and Nicholas Tammens. Images courtesy of Aaron Christopher Rees.
Spencer Lai (b. 1991, Malaysia) is a Naarm/Melbourne based artist, curator and writer. They graduated with a BFA (with Honours) from The Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne in 2014.
Spencer Lai’s practice navigates the visual lexicon of design, fashion, and window display, with specific interest in subcultural identities and aesthetic cultures. Their process involves the collation and editing of found/personal materials, objects and clothing to reflect and disseminate narratives surrounding consumer cultural consciousness