26 Oct 2016 – 26 Feb 2017
Singapore Art Museum
SAM at 8Q
National Museum of Singapore
Asian Civilisations Museum
de Suantio Gallery – Singapore Management University
Singapore Biennale 2016 – a four-month contemporary visual art exhibition in Singapore – opens to the public from now until 26 February next year. It features works by 60 individual artists and 3 art collectives from 19 countries and territories across Southeast, East and South Asia, including two artists from Vietnam.
Entitled “An Atlas of Mirrors”, the biennale is conceptualized around ‘atlas’ and ‘mirror’, the two tools that have been guiding humankind’s exploration of the world and ourselves.
Artworks of various media are curated around 9 sub-themes: space, time, memory, nature, boundaries, agency, identity, displacement, absence. They are presented at 8 locations, with the Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q – an annex of the museum – as anchor venues.
The biennale was opened on the night of October 26 by Mr Tharman Shanmugaratnam, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic and Social Policies, and Dr. Susie Lingham, creative director of the biennale.
Photos of the biennale’s opening ceremony on October 26 (click to enlarge photos):
Dr. Susie Lingham said at the opening ceremony: “Each mindfully presented artwork offers a unique encounter: we are invited to share the imaginative and critical perspectives of artists from Southeast, South and East Asia, who are grappling with everyday contemporary realities, double-edged legacies, as well as the recurrent ‘big ideas’ and poetic metaphors that reflect the human condition.”
“Dislocate” by Bui Cong Khanh is a sculpture that represents a traditional Vietnamese home, made entirely of jackfruit wood. The sculpture contains details such as a Vietnamese military jacket, a military helmet, a gun, a grenade, as well as a traditional Vietnamese women shirt. On the four sides of the sculpture are four pagodas with canons, supported by four plinths.
The artwork is displayed on level 4 of SAM at 8Q. With “Dislocate”, artist Bui Cong Khanh was selected by the biennale’s jury panel as 1 of 5 candidates for the Benesse Prize 2017.
Details of “Dislocate” by Bui Cong Khanh:
Photos © 2016 Hanoi Grapevine
Nguyen Phuong Linh’s work, “Memories of the Blind Elephant”, is realized in 3 parts: a video projection, a nine-piece installation, and a suit of soil drawings on paper. It centers on rubber cultivation in the central Gia Lai Province and the history of the Cham Pa community, who live in central Vietnam where many plantations are located.
The artwork is located on level 2 of the Singapore Art Museum.
Other artists participating in the biennale came from the following countries: Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan and Thailand.
Coming up in November are a creative director tour with Dr. Susie Lingham, a silk painting workshop with Singaporean artist Melissa Tan, as well as the curator tours and tours for educators.
A symposium, titled “Why Biennale At All?”, will take place on 21-22 Jan 2017 at the National Museum of Singapore. It will address core issues relating to the making, scope and experience of biennales with special focus on the region’s expositions.
Check out some of the artworks exhibited in the biennale (the descriptions were adapted from the curators’ descriptions of the artworks):
1. “History Repeats Itself” by Titarubi from Indonesia is a meditation on the history of power, seeking to make visible the legacies of colonial conquest in Southeast Asia. Standing atop the charred, burnt-out ships are shadowy, cloaked figures whose robes are made of gold-plated nutmeg, a spice once worth its weight in gold, over which countless wars were fought.
2. “SONICreflection” by Zulkifle Mahmod from Singapore is a sound sculpture made with multiple tweeters and wok lids. The artist went around Singapore to record the sounds of various Southeast Asian communities that have taken root here in recent years. Each ‘sonic territory’, as Zulkifle dubs them, boasts a unique soundscape all its own.
Listen to the sounds coming from the artwork in the video below and see if you can recognize what Southeast Asian community they belong to.
Video © 2016 Hanoi Grapevine
3. “Putar Alam Café” by Azizan Paiman from Malaysia is a public cafe where the artist serves as both a ‘bartender’ and a ‘mediator’. He serves food and drinks to the audience-customers and also manages and mediates the conversations and debates among them, drawing them to respond to the information they hear over the radio, news stories on the television, or images of his artworks. The work is a social experiment to show how the media, possibly the greatest charlatan of them all, profoundly affects our perception and understanding of things around us.
Inside the Putar Alam Café:
Photos © 2016 Hanoi Grapevine
4. “Behind the Light” by Melati Suryodarmo from Indonesia is a performance art piece. It returns to the mirror an element of its magic, mystery and agency, by suggesting that behind its surface – which both receives and reflects our gaze – is another dimension beyond the everyday. It turns on the idea of ‘psychological mirroring’, where individuals form ideas about themselves by observing and learning from others, while simultaneously influencing others by projecting their selves and personalities.
See the artist’s performance here (no special effects were added to the video):
Video © 2016 Hanoi Grapevine
5. “There are those who stay / There are those who go” by Perception3 from Singapore explores the idea of ‘staying’ and ‘going’ as what the artist-duo calls “two perspectives of a single decisive moment”. Two mirror-finished walls face each other. One bears the phrase, “There are those who stay”; the other, “There are those who go”. As if in a stand-off, the walls suggest layered readings into the nature of choice, attachment, separation and loss.
For more information about the biennale, please visit:
Website of the biennale: singaporebiennale.org
Facebook page of the biennale: facebook.com/SingaporeBiennale
or the Singapore Art Museum’s Instagram account @singaporeartmuseum
Reported by Hoa Dinh from Singapore.