Akeroyd Collection


Quỳnh Lâm, I Am Not A Spy (video performance), 2020

I Am Not A Spy, (2020) is derived from the CCTV night vision footage Quỳnh Lâm shot on four surveillance cameras at the time of a performance work staged at Gallery 1010, Knoxville, Tennessee in 2019. The single channel edit of the raw video, into side-by-side frames, is edited into just over 5 minutes and remains a visual document of an event that itself exorcized a previously lived trauma. On a trip to Boston, Quỳnh Lâm stayed at the residence of a mutual acquaintance. In a perplexing turn of events, her seemingly paranoid host accused her of espionage. On the morning of the third day, she awoke to find herself inexplicably confined to her room. Locked in for over 12 hours, Lam resorted to penning 44 handwritten pages in a discovered notebook. Her writing served as a self-defence against baseless allegations and, more significantly, as a detailed record of her existence within that Boston house during a specific period of time. Eventually, escaping the room with the help of her host's flatmate, Quỳnh Lâm left the house relatively safely, able to tell the story. In the performance, at the Tennessee gallery, Quỳnhrestages the part of her ordeal that she had most agency over, the writing. As a stylised version of the events that she experienced, Quynh Lam writes repeatedly over every surface in time, ‘I am not a spy’. The unequivocal feminist impulse of the work highlights the plight of not only women but also that of so many women artists. We see a female performer, confined, and forced to justify herself, leading to exhaustion and a collapse. It is unclear if this collapse is a defeat, or a pause to gather more strength, but the video aftermath is a document of lived experience that reclaims some of the power that was asserted over the artist and a testament to the resistive power of women in a dominant patriarchal system, that the art world is not impervious to either.

MediumCCTV Camera (no audio)
Duration5 minutes 27 seconds
Edition2 of 5