Presenting a constellation of artistic perspectives from over sixty artists and art collections from East, Southeast and South Asia; this year marks the fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale, which is themed ‘An Atlas of Mirrors’.
The theme of the Singapore Biennale is woven through nine conceptual zones, which gives each piece of art a particular curated context. The viewer is challenged through the exploration of contemporary portrayals of the notions of place, time, self and community. HausMag explores this year’s Biennale artworks!
Truly befitting the Biennale’s title is the work of Chinese artist Deng Guoyuan, entitled ‘Noah’s Garden II’, which can be found in the zone ‘A Culture of Nature’. This kaleidoscopic glasshouse of mirrors intends to throw the viewers perceptions into disarray and cause them to loose their sense of subjectivity. Featuring both real and artificial stones and plants – in a reference to classical Song Dynasty representations of flora, and LED lighting, this labyrinth of mirrors conjures up the awe-inspiring experience of uncovering the unknown.
Brunei based Faizal Hamdan presents two series of images cast as projections on either side of a fabric screen. Showcasing in the zone ‘A Flow of Identities‘, Hamden’s work tells a story of the Japanese experience during World War II, which saw the forceful expatriation of the artist’s grandfather to Brunei by the imperial Japanese army. On one side of the screen, we see old photograph’s of Faizal’s grandfather, the other side depicts archival images from the Japanese occupation in Brunei, spanning 1941-1945.
Taking a look into the ‘An Everywhere of Mirrorings’ zone, Tokyo based artist Harumi Yukutake presents ‘Paracosmos’. Shaped by Shinto ideas of connectivity, the site-responsive work is situated in the spiralling stairwell of the Singapore Art Museum. Yukutake’s ‘membrane’ of hand-cut mirrors blurs the lines of its surroundings, dissipating the single image into an explosion of reflections.
Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo turns to the idea of psychological mirroring in ‘Behind the Light’. Returning an element of magic and mystery to the mirror, this piece suggests the the mirrors surface, which simultaneously receives and reflects our gaze, holds another dimension beyond the everyday.
Found in ‘A Presence of Pasts’, Korean Artist Do Ho Suh showcases ethereal fabric installations which meditate on ideas of home and belonging. His exhibit ‘Gate‘ is modelled on a nineteenth century scholar’s gate found in the artist’s family home in South Korea. Such buildings in Korea, which survived warfare and turmoil, were torn down when Korea witnessed rapid modernisation – something all too familiar to those living in Asia and Southeast Asia. Not only is ‘Gate‘ a poignant memory of the artist’s home, it is a statement about dislocation and transformation in contemporary Asia, and the ghost of what has been left behind.
‘Soap Blocked‘ by Burmese artist Htein Lin is displaying in ‘A Breath of Wills’. In a testament to the artist’s tumultuous life, the map of Myanmar presented is painstakingly sculpted from one thousand squares of Shwe Wah soap. Lin participated in the failed uprising of 1988 and was arrested in the early nineties. The artist spent seven subsequent years in prison, during this time, he would make pieces of art from scraps, uniforms and bars of soap.
From one particular bar of soap, Lin sculpted a human trapped in the confines of four walls. The piece was smuggled from the prison in 1999 by a Red Cross representative, communicating to the world the deplorable state of Myanmar’s prisons. Exuding autobiographical resonance, Soap Blocked returns to the original moment of this plea, acting as a monument to the collective helplessness the nation experienced under socialist military rule.
Tapping into the audio space, Singaporean artist Zulkifle Mahmod focuses on the myriad of sounds which make up the various Southeast Asian communities in Singapore. Perceiving the different areas in which the communities congregate, Mahmod has created ‘SONICreflection’, a sound sculpture emitting recordings from a number of these ‘sonic territories’. The resulting cacophony forms layers of ambient clamour, ranging from snippets of dialogue to incidental noise. Through this exploration of Singapore’s many micro-universes, Zulkifle’s work brings the special auditory character of each community to the listener’s attention.
In charting our way around the world, humankind has relied on instruments of vision as well as navigation. Atlases map and mirror our journeys of discovery and often make visible more than just physical terrains; driven by our needs and desires, they embolden us to venture into the unknown.
– Curational statement from the Singapore Biennale.
Kind regards to The Singapore Biennale for press materials.
The Singapore Biennale is on display at the Singapore Art Museum until February 26th 2017.