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Fiona Tan, Disorient, 2009, two-channel HD video installation, color, sound, 19 minutes 42 seconds. From “Paradise Lost.”

“Paradise Lost”

Nanyang Technological University Centre for Contemporary Art

Fiona Tan, Disorient, 2009, two-channel HD video installation, color, sound, 19 minutes 42 seconds. From “Paradise Lost.”

“I believe it was God’s will that we should come back, so that men might know the things that are in the world,” Marco Polo claims in the preface to The Description of the World, a chronicle of his journey through Persia and the Caucasus to China. Whether or not the Venetian merchant ever uttered these words—or, for that matter, even ever set foot in China—can no longer be known. His tales were first transcribed in prison by Polo’s cell mate, the romance writer Rustichello of Pisa. These original manuscripts would soon disappear, but tales of Polo’s adventures would circulate throughout Europe in rough translations, further removing the reports from their source. In Italian, Polo’s account—while wildly popular—was known as Il Milione, purportedly because it consisted of a million lies. Fact or fiction, stories of his travels would inspire lurid visions of “the

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