As a symbolic gesture, a small seedless mandarin tree has been taken out of a pot. Soil removed and momentarily replanted in the grey mud on a beach in Melbourne.

Before being taken out again.

And again.
And again.
And again.
(So that I could get this video right)

It is an inappropriate action for me, or anyone, to dig up a mandarin tree.
Extract good fortune from the land.




柑 (mandarin fruit) and 金 (gold) are puns in Cantonese,
both pronounce as ‘gum’.

Mandarin is a symbol for good fortune.
There is always a small potted seedless mandarin tree at my Grandma’s for
Chinese New Year. Its fruits consumed by the family throughout the month.
After dinner and during family gatherings.

The tree usually dies weeks later due to the lack of sunlight.
The sort of thing that occurs in a tiny Hong Kong apartment.

Grandma purchases a new one every year.
It is seedless anyway.

Nature has its own way to adapt.

Adapting is an aggressive and extremely
awkward action that requires repetition.

Repetition of history.

Repetition of clashing with the environment.
Repetition of self-doubts.

Repetition of history.

Repetition of cutting all roots violently.
Repetition of forcing the tree to adapt, call it mandarin,
despite it came from somewhere other than ‘China’.

Repetition of history.

It adapts. It normalises its hybridity.
It grows again, as long as you hide its roots.

Select and discard. One needs to abandon certain values in order to adapt, be that language, ritual, culture. The most difficult decisions you have to make
in order to continue adapting.

In order to be identified.

Affirm my belonging.
Defend my territory?

Relocate my roots.
Redefine my identity to a point of divergence.
Learn. Give up.
Learn again. Give up more. Assimilate.
Cultivate what is added and left behind, old and new, past and present.
Do it again.

Dualities of a
conscious self.
Rootlessly rooted.

Excerpt from Nikki Lam, Uprooting Mandarin, 2015, HD video and text.


Author: Photodust

PHOTODUST is an independent art and photography organisation based in Melbourne, Australia. We are a not-for-profit Asia-Pacific curation project. Our aim is to engage and encourage collaboration between artists, for the production and publication of photographic and lens-based art. PHOTODUST aims to establish a unique perspective toward visual culture. For this purpose, we are constantly searching for artworks that involve the use of photography and related processes. The rules are simple: all photographic and lens-based works will be considered. Our only requirement is that the work should be produced by artists born or based in the Asia-Pacific region. (copyright details available here: