Friday, March 22, 2013

President's Young Talents 2013

A day ago, I visited the Singapore Art Museum with the main intent of visiting The Collectors Show: Weight of History. Incidentally, since I was at the Singapore Art Museum anyway, I wandered into the spaces exhibiting the new commissions of Singapore's most promising local artists and I was pleasantly captivated by the many interesting elements of surprise that I have encountered.

If you have guessed it, I had found my way into the President's Young Talents exhibition featuring works by Boo Junfeng, Liao Jiekai, Zaki Razak, Grace Tan, Ryf Zaini and Robert Zhao Renhui.

Let us seek
Ryf Zaini's work, Unveil the curtain to the window with no ledge, immediately captured my attention after I have managed to discover its exact location. The artist's idea of using lamps and switches as metaphors for enlightenment, information dissemination and circuits of power had made quite a positive impression on me. I have found it fun to close my eyes and practically listen to the work! It was an unexpectedly delightful and different experience listening to this work. 

This work brings an especially rewarding experience to visitors who are curious enough to find its location. I wonder if the artist was attempting to make his viewers experience the quest for enlightenment? Seek out this interactive work by Ryf Zaini.

Ryf Zaini's Unveil the curtain to the window with no ledge.

Observing Nature
Nearby, even if this work may be placed in a very dark space, it is a must for nature lovers to experience Robert Zhao Renhui's The Quieting and the Alarming. Does it remind you of one of those nocturnal excursions to the wild parts of Singapore?

Robert Zhao Renhui's The Quieting and the Alarming.

There's beauty in monotony
Grace Tan's refuge made from polypropylene loop pins somehow gave me optimistic vibes. She "transformed commonplace industrial items into a work of organic beauty". Beautiful it is indeed, yet it reminded me that out of the museum's spaces, we could pay more attention to the beautiful creations of Nature as well.

Grace Tan's refuge.

A site-specific work by Liao Jiekai
If I could knock down a wall to gain a direct access to Liao Jiekai's 16mm film installation, Brothers' Quarters, I wonder how it would have been. Anyway, I learnt that the space that was formerly known as the Brothers' Quarters of the old St Joseph's Institution school building was deemed to be historically and culturally 'insignificant'. The Brothers' Quarters was literally knocked down while the rest of the school building was preserved and designated a national monument. This piece of previously unknown information surprised me. How do we define what is deemed worthy of preservation? I suppose this was one of the issues that Liao Jiekai attempts to explore. 

The fragility of the 16mm film also reminded me of the fragility of our memories. If we choose not to remember, then our memories will eventually erode with time.

This is not Liao Jiekai's work but is simply a floor plan of the former St Joseph's Institution.

Viewing history
Boo Junfeng's Mirror was inspired by the artist's visit to Bukit Brown Cemetery, "where exhumation of over 3000 graves are taking place for the construction of a new highway, cleaving the old burial ground into two". This work is essentially presented as a two-channel high definition video. The video presents two narratives. I learnt that the converging and the diverging of the two narratives explores the impact of building a road across the cemetery on our collective history. This film is also said to be intended to reiterate the point that our present and future are inextricably tied to our past.

Admittedly, I have found this work more challenging to comprehend. What is the artist trying to communicate? Maybe it is because I have not been sufficiently exposed to the art of film-making? Nevertheless, the images of the beautiful foliage of the Bukit Brown Cemetery simply urged me to watch this video at least for three consecutive sittings.

The beauty of Bukit Brown Cemetery.
A snapshot of Boo Junfeng's Mirror.

The days of Ten Year Series
While I was at the exhibition, I realized I had not seen the works of Zaki Razak! It turned out that his work is located at the Front Lawn of the museum, inside a tent. It turned out that Zaki Razak's Revising Art: The Ten Year Series is a series of ten lecture-performances. In this tent, Zaki Razak and his collaborators will facilitate a series of sessions related to learning and art education.

If you were to ask me, I cannot remember going through any Ten Year Series when I was taking art-classes during my Secondary School years. Yet, I remember having to go through pages and pages of Ten Year Series for the subjects such as Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics and more. How amusing it would be to have a Ten Year Series to revise art.

During my recent visit, I only had the time to watch a video-recording of a lecture on public speaking. I find the idea behind this participatory and inter-disciplinary work to be interesting. I hope to revisit this once again.

Look out for this tent at the front lawn of the museum. 

Please also view the video interviews of the six artists. These interviews lend a glimpse of the processes behind the artists' works. When I was viewing a video interview of Zaki Razak, his opinion that "the root of one's idea belongs to the Divine" somehow resonated in me.

This is the exhibition to go for to get a glimpse into the minds of a few of Singapore's most promising artists.

25 Jan - 15 Sep 2013
Singapore Art Museum
71 Bras Basah Road
Singapore 189555

Please click here for visitors' information:
Nearby MRT stations: Bras Basah, City Hall, Dhoby Ghaut.

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