“Between Two Battles”: Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué at Kunsthalle Mainz

Rabih Mroué explores the “white noise” of civil war paranoia in “Between Two Battles” at Kunsthalle Mainz.

Art Radar takes a look at the works in the current solo exhibition of Lebanese artist Rabih Mroué, open until 27 February 2017 at Kunsthalle Mainz in Germany.

Installation view room 2: Rabih Mroué: The Fall of a Hair, 2012 Rabih Mroué: The Fall of a Hair: The Pixelated Revolution, 2012; Rabih Mroué: The Fall of a Hair: Blow up, 2012; Rabih Mroué: The Fall of a Hair: Eye vs. Eye, 2012. Photo: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view of room 2 of “Between Two Battles” at Kunsthalle Mainz, 2016. Rabih Mroué, ‘The Fall of a Hair’, 2012 (video of performance). Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

“Between Two Battles” is the second large solo exhibition of Rabih Mroué’s work to be shown in Germany in 2016, following Hamburg’s Sfeir-Semler gallery’s “I was fortunate not to have seen what the others had witnessed”, which showed recent works by Mroué engaging with the Syrian conflict alongside older works.

Kunsthalle Mainz offers Rabih Mroué‘s repertoire a larger exhibition space (over three exhibition halls have been dedicated to the artist) with a smaller selection of works that focus rather on the artist’s engagement and research of his Lebanon context. This is perhaps reflected by the curator’s decision to name the exhibition after Mroué’s 2013 work, which explores how the continuous strain of the unresolved and heavily mediatised conflict influences and forms people’s relationship to technology and media.

Installation view room 3: Rabih Mroué: Grandfather, Father and Son, 2010; Between Two Battles, 2013; The Crocodile Who Ate The Sun, 1982, 2015. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view room 3: Rabih Mroué: Grandfather, Father and Son, 2010; Between Two Battles, 2013; The Crocodile Who Ate The Sun, 1982, 2015. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

“Between Two Battles”

The titular work Between Two Battles is a work that blends personal or familial experiences with a political mapping of the mediatised civil war. It departs from an anecdotal description of the artist’s aunt who used to record white noise and play it back in an attempt to decipher possible messages (so-called “TV snow” would appear after the end of transmission of TV programming). Rabih Mroué takes up this technical phenomenon and the paranormal or conspiratorial myths associated with it to weave a story of psychological pressure, weather phenomena and the political situation.

In Between Two Battles the artist explains:

For a long time my aunt on my mother‘s side have recorded TV snow, because she thought they contained subliminal messages from the enemies of Lebanon. She tried very hard to decode these messages but she has always failed. With time, she has become addicted to TV snow and she forgot that they were messages from the enemy. She silently record and archive TV snow. Maybe because she loves snow and in Beirut it never snows. Or maybe because she wanted to become a dancer and she found in synthesis reports her own choreographic scores.

Rabih Mroué, 'Black Box XIV', 2006-2016. Collage on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

Rabih Mroué, ‘Black Box XIV’, 2006-2016. Collage on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

Rabih Mroué, 'Black Box XIV', 2006-2016. Collage on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

Rabih Mroué, ‘Black Box XIV’, 2006-2016. Collage on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

Rabih Mroué: exploring psychological, political and archival trauma of war

The phrase “Between Two Battles” then hints at a supposed break between conflicts and yet it also brings to mind a stream of continuous violent encounters, characteristic of civil war where the defining principle is strike and counter strike. Rabih Mroué is all too familiar with conflict and ceasefire. Born in Lebanon in 1967, he lived through – and was highly aware of – the country’s unresolved civil war. He experienced his own family members being threatened and even injured. These existential experiences have shaped his thinking and art up to the present day, with his works exploring political developments in Lebanon and the Middle East. Images of war and terror, personal experiences and their effect on the individual all remain recurrent themes.

Installation view tower level II: Rabih Mroué: 'Mediterranean Sea', 2011. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view tower level II: Rabih Mroué: ‘Mediterranean Sea’, 2011. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

The resulting works are anything but documentary-like in style. He takes the facts he has gathered and develops complex tales, interweaving fictitious elements with real-life events and personal experiences. Shocking news reports, violent acts, grim pictures are paired with people’s descriptions, which in some cases are the stuff of legend, although related in a sober tone. In this manner, he contrasts the solemnity of factual reports and images from the press, radio, television or internet with his own stories and interpretations of events, spoken in his own language. Inordinately distrustful of the way incidents are represented in the media, he questions the true content of such accounts, tracing how a country’s history is rewritten through scattered images and reports. At the same time, he actively weaves together personal stories and the present day.

Installation view reading room: Rabih Mroué: Face A / Face B, 2002. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view reading room: Rabih Mroué: Face A / Face B, 2002. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

His memorial reconstructions are exhausting exorcisms of emotionally laden personal histories made political. The work Grandfather, Father and Son (2010) brings together materials from the library of Mroué’s grandfather, a religious scholar turned Communist author, who was assassinated in 1987. The artist painstakingly reconstructed the library using detailed index cards, arranged in the same manner of the books in the original library. These were presented alongside artefacts, such as a premonition-rich short story by the artist, newspapers clippings and an unpublished mathematical treatise. Grandfather, Father and Son, as well as acting as a personal archive, seeks strategies for contextualising intellectual development in the context of post-communist societies in a West Asian context.

Installation view of Rabih Mroué, 'Leap year's Diary', 2006-2016. Newspaper cutouts on paper. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view of Rabih Mroué, ‘Leap year’s Diary’, 2006-2016. Newspaper cutouts on paper. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view of Rabih Mroué, 'Leap year's Diary', 2006-2016. Newspaper cutouts on paper. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz

Installation view of Rabih Mroué, ‘Leap year’s Diary’, 2006-2016. Newspaper cutouts on paper. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Rabih Mroué, 'Leap year's Diary', 2006-2016. Newspaper cutouts on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

Rabih Mroué, ‘Leap year’s Diary’, 2006-2016. Newspaper cutouts on paper. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Hamburg/Beirut.

The Crocodile who Ate the Sun (1982/2015) departs from the artist’s memory of the summer of 1982, when a 15-year-old Mroué witnessed Israel drop hundreds of thousands of threatening leaflets over Beirut. Thirty years later, Mroué created facsimiles of the leaflets, gave them to his friends to hold and examine, and then photographed the papers after they had been handled. Torn, taped, crumpled or even folded into a paper airplane, the photographed papers become mementos of trauma and physical manifestations of memories. In a statement describing the process behind the work, Mroué stated:

I was 15 years old when the first Israeli leaflet fell from the sky and reached my hand. In July 1982, the Israeli Air Forces dropped hundred thousands of leaflets into the besieged Beirut. It was the first time did I got a written threat, but I was too young to realize that. After 30 years, I did replicas of the same leaflet. And for a while, I started to show them to some of my friends. It was magical how thesis replicas evoked Their memories from did period;how each one of them started to tell me about that summer in Beirut 1982nd. While they talked, most of them held the leaflets between their hands and unconsciously played with the papers treating them carelessly. They most often ended up by damaging the leaflet. When they’ve finished telling their stories, They would realize what they have done to the leaflets. They would apologize with a little smile and leave, keeping the leaflets at the table with their new condition.

Detail of video still of Rabih Mroué, 'On Three Posters' 2004. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut.

Detail of video still of Rabih Mroué, ‘On Three Posters’ 2004. Image courtesy the artist and Sfeir-Semler Gallery, Beirut.

On Three Posters, memory and archiving

The exhibition shows recent works such as The Crocodile Who Ate The Sun (1982/2015) as well as earlier works, namely the 2008 video responsible for Mroué’s rise to prominence on the international scene, entitled On Three Posters. Made in 2004, the work originated from a multimedia performance called Three Posters, conceived and staged by Mroué and the Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury, and first performed in Beirut in 2000. The performance centred on an unedited tape made by Jamal al-Sati, a fighter for Lebanon’s National Resistance Front. This shows three ‘takes’ of his martyr testimony rather than the approved version that was aired on Lebanese television. The three ‘takes’ allowed Mroué and Khoury to question the status of suicide videos and martyr posters, and to examine the ideological circumstances surrounding their production and place within the visual culture and political history of Lebanon.

Installation view old tower: Rabih Mroué: On Three Posters, 2008. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

Installation view old tower: Rabih Mroué: On Three Posters, 2008. Photo credit: Norbert Miguletz. Image courtesy Kunsthalle Mainz.

This project considers how the video On Three Posters advances the intellectual and creative production of the earlier performance. It explores the significance of the work in relation to the image politics of the Lebanese Left during the nation’s protracted conflicts and the ways in which contemporary artists in Lebanon have addressed the individual and collective traumas of the past and their reverberations in the present. The same could be said of the exhibition “Between Two Battles”. As Omar Kholeif states in a 2011 review of another solo exhibition of the artist’s work at London’s INIVA,

Mroué oscillates between different modes of address, but at the heart of everything he aims to find a means to forget.

Rebecca Close

1497

Related Topics: Lebanese artists, installation, video, photography, sculpture, museum shows

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“Becoming Oneself”: exploring the notion of Self at 1 x 3 Gallery, Beijing

The group show, running until 18 February 2017, explores the notion of Self.

1 x 3 Gallery in Beijing features the work of three Chinese artists, Meng Huang, Li Xin and Li Linlin, born respectively in 1966, 1973 and 1992. The three artists explore the meaning of “oneself” and the process or journey to become it.

Meng Huang, ‘Distance, No. 1’, 2011, oil on canvas, 180 x 280 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Meng Huang, ‘Distance, No. 1’, 2011, oil on canvas, 180 x 280 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

The curator and founder of 1 x 3 Gallery in Beijing, Du Xiyun, set himself the goal to assemble a group show entitled “Becoming Oneself” that would reflect on the questions of “What does ‘oneself’ mean? How do we become ‘oneself’?” He then continues to state:

The answer will unfold slowly as we move ahead, make choices, make mistakes, correct them and continue on the journey. This is a path paved by the individual will, as one experiences gains and losses, the meaning of becoming oneself will slowly be revealed.

Li Linlin, 'Decameron', 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm x 30. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’, 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm x 30. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Du Xiyun suggests that for artists, art is the way to find “oneself” each according to their own unique lives, their chosen medium and through exertion of will. The works of the three exhibiting artists is quite different from each other, reflecting not only their individuality but also the generation gap that separates them. But they also have a common ground since they all grew up in China, sharing the same culture and language.

Meng Huang, ‘2009, No. 6’, 2009, oil on canvas, 46 x 38.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Meng Huang, ‘2009, No. 6’, 2009, oil on canvas, 46 x 38.5 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Berlin-based Meng Huang’s (b. 1966) paintings are characterised by uninhabited landscapes that contain traces of human activity. The places he chooses to portray all have a connection to important events or situations. In an interview with Du, the artist states that he uses 20 different shades of black in his work. Over an extended period of time starting in 2003 he started to paint in the outdoors and in order to complete his large canvases he would live outdoors until the work was completed. This he feels gave him a unique experience that one cannot get in a studio setting. While relying on traditional materials in his work, Meng feels that he is in fact tackling contemporary issues.

Meng Huang, ‘Distance, No. 21’, 2013, oil on canvas, 180 x 280 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Meng Huang, ‘Distance, No. 21’, 2013, oil on canvas, 180 x 280 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

In a dialogue between the curator and the artist entitled “Sound and Shadow in the Deserted Landscape” (23 November 2016) we read the following:

Du Xiyun: Strong emotions accumulate in your pictures, which seems to be exactly “contrary” to the “nothingness” you just mentioned?

Meng Huang: On the premise of universe being the background, I agree that limited life is “nothingness”. The meaning of life, in some sense, is acquired during the process of searching for meaning. On the premise of eternity and nothingness, man can only show the value of his life through his own behavior. A limited living body faces eternal nothingness. This is not fair. But those who possess strong vitality never give up their doubt and questioning and gaining freedom through their will. … As a painter, I can only pick up the brush and paint without any hesitation.

Li Xin, ‘2015.1.21 CHEN’ (partial view) 2015, Chinese ink painting, rice paper, aluminium plate, 1250 x 70 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Xin, ‘2015.1.21 CHEN’ (partial view) 2015, Chinese ink painting, rice paper, aluminium plate, 1250 x 70 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Xin (b. 1973) divides his time between Beijing and Paris. His abstract ink images resemble clouds, mist and waves. His principle medium, the artist explains in a conversation with the curator, is water to which he says he adds “a little ink […] to better express the colourless and formless water”. From the existing range of ink colours, Li Xin limits himself to only using grey in his work. He explains in conversation with Du entitled “No Effort, No Info: Li Xin on ‘Water Painting'” (20 November 2016):

Li Xin: The myriads of changes of water cannot be completely portrayed. … Therefore, I’ve basically given up the expression of the appearance of water. Each work is a self-portrait of the author, but it is not a face portrait. Maybe it is a “genetic portrait”…

Du Xiyun: Are they the psychological portraits of yourself?

Li Xin: They are my cultural and spiritual DNA. I’m no a scientist. Here I’m just speaking metaphorically. The so-called “DNA” is non-physical DNA; it is the fundamental component of a cultural or spiritual living body.

Li Xin, ‘2016.10.2 H’, 2016, oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm x 3. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Xin, ‘2016.10.2 H’, 2016, oil on canvas, 150 x 150 cm x 3. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

In his oil painting series entitled “2016.10.2 H” Li Xin replaces water with oil. On first glance these paintings seem almost monochromatic but upon closer inspection they reveal a yellow background and border under the predominant shades of blue. In the introduction to the exhibition Du Xiyun explains:

Careless viewers accustomed to fast-paced signs and symbols can easily overlook these paintings that contain “no-data” and seem “effortless”, but a mindful observer might find in his work an invitation to slow down, to stop and gaze, and let the possibility of something new to grow again.

Creating ink and oil paintings with a mindset that produces abstracted images “without effort”, however, does not mean without preparation. To the contrary the artist carefully prepares all the materials and his own state of mind before embarking on a new work.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’ detail, 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’ (detail), 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Linlin (b. 1992), the youngest artist in the show, presents in her installation Decameron a total of 30 school desks (15 are on view), which when seen from the front give the appearance of an orderly classroom but when viewed from the back each desk reveals a unique vision of individualistic and at times disturbing, adolescent dreams and anxieties.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’ (detail), 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’ (detail), 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

A dialogue between the curator and Li Linlin entitled “Juxtaposing Goodliness with Cruelty” (22 November 2016) exposes the artist’s thinking:

Du Xiyun: You look rather quiet, yet your works are filled with strong emotion and cruel aesthetic taste. Do you constrain yourself in daily life?

Li Linlin: I think there are always two sides to one’s personality. The outward appearance is often not the real self. I never consider myself having the inclination of self-constraint. Many of my works are much influenced by movies and plays. The aesthetic core of my art is pursuing the beauty of dramatic conflict. In the current Chinese society, more lacerated realities than those in my works are on show every day. To express the current time is the indispensable responsibility of the artists of our generation. I am indeed a very quiet person, but it doesn’t mean there is no struggle in my heart.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’ (detail), 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Linlin, ‘Decameron’ (detail), 2016, installation, synthetic material, 100 x 50 x 80 cm. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Du Xiyun: Do you think avoiding the current lacerated reality is the choice of many artists who are of similar age to you?

Li Linlin: I think the younger generation of Chinese artists, as a whole, have a tendency of avoiding reality. Of course, each person has a different attitude towards reality. My art does not reflect politics or other sensitive contents. I’d rather adopt the forms of myth and fable to express the reality of another level.

Li Linlin, ‘Rebirth’, 2016, installation, synthetic material, 27.3 x 17 cm diameter. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li Linlin, ‘Rebirth’, 2016, installation, synthetic material, 27.3 x 17 cm diameter. Image courtesy the artist and 1 x 3 Gallery.

Li’s second body of work entitled “Rebirth” tackles the theme of life and death. The work is made out of real animal skeletons, bodies of dogs and cats acquired from pet hospitals combined with mushrooms made out of synthetic materials. In a conversation with the curator, Li Linlin explains about the work:

Du Xiyun: Touching upon the issue of death and real animal skeletons, do you feel scared or empty?

Li Linlin: I’m not scared of animal skeletons, but I’m scared of nothingness. The meaning of the series “Rebirth” is to bring life back to dead animals, which can be counted as a way of triumphing over death.

Nooshfar Afnan

1523

Related Topics: Chinese artists, installation, painting, oil, landscape, identity art, interviewsgallery shows, events in Beijing

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“Genesis”: Japanese artist Naoko Tosa at Ikkan Art International, Singapore

Naoko Tosa transforms the gallery space into a screening environment.

Her third exhibition at Ikkan Art International, Singapore runs from 10 January to 18 February 2017, and features a new series of video projections exploring the nature of materials and temporality.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Yellow', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Yellow’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, the artist who bridges ancient Japanese aesthetic traditions and contemporary technology, is no stranger to Singapore. Since 2011, her group and solo exhibitions have been a regular feature on the island – not to mention her presence on the art fair circuit, thanks to the efforts of Ikkan Art International. From 2013 to 2014, large scale projection mapping performances of her work have appeared on both the exterior of Ikkan’s gallery space (a warehouse district) and the Artscience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, giving her a public reach which suits an artist recently appointed an official cultural envoy of Japan.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Blue', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Blue’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

For a trio of floor-to-ceiling projections, large enough to envelop the viewer, to be described as relatively modest suggests the scale of her public projection mapping performances. Next to those, in particular, “Genesis” suggests more of a closed bubble of introspection and perception. As the exhibition’s title suggests, Tosa takes as her subject here the moment of creation – the inception of an aesthetic event, which marks something of a shift from her previous interest in creative destruction.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Red', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Red’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

The extent of such a shift could be argued in terms of the extent to which creation is destructive, and destruction creative, but a line of continuity which remains in no doubt is that of Tosa’s interest in Rinpa, a school of painting which traces its origins to 17th century Kyoto. Rinpa, which emphasises natural subjects, refinement and the use of gold leaf, was also a key influence on her last two solo exhibitions in Singapore, “Tosa Rimpa: The Places You will Never Visit” (2015), and “Space Flower” (2014). In keeping with the notion of creative destruction, both of these earlier exhibitions at Ikkan are marked by images of flowers being destroyed.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Waterfall', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Waterfall’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Another common thread in her imagery is a consistent sense of disbelief – an assumption that these looping videos could only have been generated by sophisticated software. It is a notion that the artist puts paid to, explaining:

…this work cannot be created using computer graphics, because the interaction among viscous fluid, Japanese color inks, and dry ice is too complex to be expressed by a numerical formula of fluid dynamics.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Pink', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Pink’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Green', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Green’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

In other words, Tosa’s works subvert the all-too-common bias that complex imagery is the preserve of the digital. It is not unlike advocates of practical effects in cinema, suggesting that the material world still has a few tricks up its sleeve that the digital has yet to surmount.

As Tosa’s earlier remark indicates, the works in “Genesis” are produced through little more than the interaction of various fluids, inks and dry ice – the secret sauce, if you will, are video cameras which record at 2,000 frames per second. Such a high frame rate allows us to perceive details which would have escaped us – the acuity of the human eye, by comparison, has been estimated to be equivalent to anywhere from 40 to 300 frames per second, while movies play back at a sluggardly 24 frames per second. This vast expansion of time yields physical and visual arrangement that seems contrary to our common-sense intuition of physical laws, much as English photographer Eadweard Muybridge’s 19th century photographic studies of horses in motion upended centuries of painterly convention.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Black', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Black’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, 'Genesis - Purple', 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

Naoko Tosa, ‘Genesis – Purple’, 2016, 4K Video, 5 min, edition of 6 + 2AP. Image courtesy the artist and Ikkan Art International.

It is not simply through a single, different scale of time with which Tosa subverts our expectations – multiple speeds seem present in each of the videos, not to mention some amount of play in orientation: if you observe gas bubbling downwards, there may be a moment in which the easy identification of substance and process is thwarted, allowing for a sort of perceptual dislocation. There is, in other words, that you are seeing more than just suspended pigments interacting with bubbles of gas. And while the main display seems large enough to fall into, a synchronous display on smaller screens is also present in the space, doubling the work at a more intimate scale.

Bruce Quek

1527

Related Topics: Japanese artists, gallery shows, video, installation, events in Singapore

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The Magic Grey Area of Street Art: Singaporean artist Samantha Lo – in conversation

Singaporean artist Samantha Lo talks about her past street art adventures and her current practice.

Art Radar drops by Singapore Art Week and converses with street artist Samantha Lo on the occasion of her latest solo exhibition “Greetings from Singapore” at One East Asia.

Samantha Lo, ‘Our Grandfather Road’, 2016, photography, 160 x 90 cm. This is a documentation of her 170m long piece at Singapore’s Circular Road in 2016, commissioned by Hyphenarts. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Samantha Lo, ‘Our Grandfather Road’, 2016, photography, 160 x 90 cm. This is a documentation of her 170m long piece at Singapore’s Circular Road in 2016, commissioned by Hyphenarts. Image courtesy One East Asia.

“Sticker Lady” and “Singaporean Banksy” are just some of the nicknames that the public has given her. A visual artist whose work began in the streets, Samantha Lo, a.k.a SKL0, made headlines in 2012 when she was arrested for disrupting her country’s infamously clean surroundings with jocular stickers and painted messages. After a heated debate among Singaporeans, which included an online petition that pushed for leniency, and a sentence of 240 hours of community service, Lo’s art practice turned over a new leaf. She entered the gallery scene and engaged in various art forms and media, such as installation, sculpture, watercolour, wheatpaste and spray paint, causing people to think that she is completely done with street art.

Lo, who herself considered her first solo exhibit, the “LIMPEH Show: Between Being Loved and Being Feared”, as a farewell to her past practice, decided to revisit and go very personal about her controversial moment with the law in her second solo. On view at One East Asia during Singapore Art Week, an event that is designed to promote Singapore as an arts destination, “Greetings from Singapore” consists mainly of photographs that document Lo’s past and present creative interruptions.

Samantha Lo, ‘Stomp Works Better’, 2016, photography, 39.6 x 29.7 cm. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Samantha Lo, ‘Stomp Works Better’, 2016, photography, 39.6 x 29.7 cm. Image courtesy One East Asia.

However, more than showing off the artist’s conquests in the streets, “Greetings from Singapore” reveals Lo’s continued questioning of her surroundings, which includes the system that governs it. As UK Senior Consultant to One East Asia, Viv Lawes writes in the essay entitled Greetings from Singapore and Other Stories,

This show is about the realities of Singaporean life. Or rather it is about one artist’s questioning of why those realities exist. SKL0/ Sam Lo is an artist obsessed with the way the city’s inhabitants interact with the urban landscape, and how their lives are directed by social expectations and norms, government directive and collective habit. She questions what it means to be a citizen, to live in an ostensibly free state in which behaviours are observed by security cameras and in which crossing the road at the ‘correct’ time is a matter of obligation. She observes these everyday happenings and then, to paraphrase Paul Klee, she takes them for a walk.

For her second solo exhibition, which takes place during the 2017 Singapore Art Stage, Samantha Lo a.k.a Sticker Lady confronts her past – back when she was arrested for spreading her stickers all around Singapore’s clean surroundings. Image courtesy One East Asia.

For her second solo exhibition, which takes place during the 2017 Singapore Art Stage, Samantha Lo a.k.a Sticker Lady confronts her past – back when she was arrested for spreading her stickers all around Singapore’s clean surroundings. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Born in 1986, Lo had a late start in her career as a professional artist. Formerly a laboratory technician, she established an online art magazine called RCGNTN in 2009, which caused her to learn about design and eventually enter the street art scene in 2011. While known to many as “Sticker Lady”, Lo has expanded her art practice to installation, sculpture, collage paintings and most recently, photography. Her work has been featured in a number of group shows and art events within her country and other parts of Asia, namely Urbanscapes 2012 (Malaysia), The Solidarity Movement urban exchange – Singapore x Manila showcase in 2013, Affordable Art Fair 2013 (Singapore), Georgetown Festival (GTF) Singapore House showcase (Malaysia) in 2014, and Seoul Art Toy Culture Convention (Korea) in 2014.

In this conversation, Lo talks about her venture to photography, confronting the past with a more objective standpoint, and finding her voice and a way to work around the strict system.

“Greetings from Singapore” is complemented by a photography book of the same title, making Lo’s once temporary pieces more lasting. Image courtesy One East Asia.

“Greetings from Singapore” is complemented by a photography book of the same title, making Lo’s once temporary pieces more lasting. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Congratulations on your second solo exhibition, Samantha! We are curious to know how your collaboration with One East Asia and participation in the Singapore Art Week came about.

Thank you! I guess One East Asia sees me as a rebel “with” a cause and feels strongly that my art bridges the generation gap in Singapore. The good thing is they believe that even in a country like Singapore that strictly controls street art, graffiti has a lifeline. Our Grandfather Road is a good example.

Let’s talk about your art form of choice for “Greetings from Singapore”: photography. Could you describe your relationship with your own camera? Are you the type who clicks away, capturing daily personal experiences? Or is your camera strictly for documenting your transient art pieces and creating new art?

The habit of bringing my camera around with me never really stuck for the first couple of years I had it. Initially, I bought it strictly to document my work in the gallery or commissions and maybe some visual references; but as time went by, I realised [that] I never had proper photos of my work in the streets, and those last a lot shorter than commissioned pieces!

Since then, I started documenting my work on the streets; and in the process learning more about developing a better eye for composition. I’m still not that good at it, I’m not a photographer by training; but with every photo, I felt it more meaningful for the work I do.

Samantha Lo, “Greetings From Singapore”, 10 - 31 January 2016, One East Asia, Singapore. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Samantha Lo, “Greetings From Singapore”, 10 – 31 January 2016, One East Asia, Singapore. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Revisiting the past is a brave and painful act for many artists. What was going through your head as you were preparing for this show? Art Radar seeks to know what you think of your previous works, which is dominated by street art.

Many things. After the last solo show “The LIMPEH Show”, which was supposed to be closure for me, I felt like something was missing and a lot of things were not ‘accounted for’. It was then that I realised that I never really approached that story with much grace, and tried to quickly move on from there like a bad memory.

And as I was preparing for this exhibition, I remembered a moment I had shortly after I left the lock-up and saw the media reports come in, where I had an idea for a show based on documenting this whole experience from start to finish through different perspectives. Come to think of it, I did seem pretty angry back then, and I’m really glad I’m approaching this story now with new additions and a calmer head. My indicator that I succeeded in dealing with the past, came through in the new work I came up with on the streets last year, and the joy I experienced getting back into it. I felt like I’m alive again, it’s been too long.

Speaking of street art, do you miss interrupting Singapore’s notoriously clean surroundings without permit? Is it true that part of street art’s charm is “mounting your work” without permission?

Yes I do, very much so. But I believe there’s a magic grey area that I can be happy in. And yes, the charm of street art is in its illegality. For it to feel like magic, it has to be a surprise. Hopefully it’s always pleasant.

Samantha Lo, ‘Everyday is a Photo Opportunity’, 2016, photography, 39.6 x 29.7 cm. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Samantha Lo, ‘Everyday is a Photo Opportunity’, 2016, photography, 39.6 x 29.7 cm. Image courtesy One East Asia.

How has your work evolved since your first solo exhibition? Would you be able to say that you have already found your voice as an artist? Or do you still consider it as an ongoing process?

It’s gone through a bunch of different phases mostly utilising the skill sets and ideas I’ve learnt ever since my jump into professional art-making in 2012. I think, in the past, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself trying to live up to everyone’s expectations that I forgot to have fun with it, and since the last solo exhibit I started being kinder on myself and learnt to be more aware of the conditions we are in.

You can say I learnt to make peace with myself that way, and every day is a constant reminder that I’ve come a good way from being lost. One of the biggest lessons I learnt was that as long as I trust myself and am genuine in everything I do, my heart can be seen in every piece I produce; and I guess you can say that’s guiding my artist journey. And, it’ll always be an ongoing process.

In Facebook, you mentioned that “I bare all in this show.” Could you expound on what you would like viewers to take away from “Greetings from Singapore”, considering that many still associate you with your controversial arrest for ‘vandalism’ in 2012?

If viewers remember the story from back then, it’ll be a lot easier to digest in this show; so I hope to reconnect with them through “Greetings from Singapore”, which I’ve made a little more personal as compared to the previous solo. I hope I’m able to show different viewpoints through news reports, personal documents and old photos of the actual work I installed on the streets back then, stuff that hit close to home accompanied by personal commentaries and my process. A lot of the things I plan to show have never been shown publicly, and I hope that when they see it, they will be able to add on more pieces to the story that they thought they knew.

 Partial view of Lo’s “Greetings from Singapore” exhibit, featuring photographs that document her conquests as a street artist. Image courtesy One East Asia.


Partial view of Lo’s “Greetings from Singapore” exhibit, featuring photographs that document her conquests as a street artist. Image courtesy One East Asia.

With the increasing number of art institutions and collectors around the world embracing graffiti/street art as fine art, can you see a future for street artists in Singapore? If yes, what kind of future will that be, considering that Singapore strictly condemns vandalism?

To be honest, I’m not too sure about that. The interest in street art fluctuates here in Singapore, so I can’t really say, though I recognise that there is more acceptance [for] public art now as compared to back then. But I can say the number of artists, street or not, will only continue to grow as long as the artists who are around now keep doing what they do [while] kicking ass while at it. That will ensure that we will have a healthier take on a more art-filled future in Singapore.

You have revealed in previous interviews that you worked as a laboratory technician before becoming an artist. You also mentioned that you never had formal training as an artist. Could you share with us the very first piece of art you worked on? What prompted you to keep on creating?

When I was a child maybe? I’ve always loved drawing from the cartoons I watched after school but I never could colour within the lines. But I think the best thing I made back then – not an artwork per se – [was] a doorbell fashioned out of an old cassette cover and the sound module out of a Christmas card.

Fast forward to the first ‘proper’ art piece I worked on professionally, it was probably the LIMPEH painting using acrylic on canvas. Creating things that were functional were more appealing to me, but as time went by, I’ve learnt to enjoy art-making equally.

The exhibit gives an insight to what confronts the artist at home – a pile of stickers. Image courtesy One East Asia.

The exhibit gives an insight to what confronts the artist at home – a pile of stickers. Image courtesy One East Asia.

Your art is complemented by other initiatives, such as the Barter Market, wherein creatives acquire products/services from other creatives without putting out money. If ‘feeding your family’ were not an issue in your art making, what kind of artwork would you put out there?

I would invest in our creatives. One of my biggest dreams is to create a self-sustaining environment where creatives – artists, musicians and designers alike – could come together to create without worry, coming up with crazy interdisciplinary work that would serve a meaningful purpose in our society, while blowing minds at the same time.

We have some amazing people here, a lot of them haven’t met each other yet and they’re already great! Can you imagine if we got them all together, united like we were sharing a heartbeat?

Your process is summarised as “observation turned obsession”. We would like to know your current obsessions or the small things in Singapore that you would like to translate into future works of art…

I’ve been studying tiles and patterns from different religions as of late, as well as the tiles we find on our local streets. While learning more about the history of these patterns, I’ve been drawing parallels [between] the way we live and our human beliefs, so it has been really fascinating so far. Can’t tell you more!

Javelyn Ramos

1525

Related Topics: Singaporean artists, photography, street art, interviews, gallery shows, events in Singapore

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“In the Heart of the Cosmos”: Asad Faulwell at Lawrie Shabibi, Dubai – in pictures

Iranian-American artist Asad Faulwell develops new work for his ongoing series Les Femmes d’Alger.

Art Radar takes a look at some of the key influences that inspired the series.

Asad Faulwell, "Les Femmes D'Alger #68", 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #68’, 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

From 9 January to 4 February 2017 Dubai-based gallery Lawrie Shabibi presents “In the Heart of the Cosmos” by Iranian-American artist Asad Faulwell (b. 1982). The exhibition features new works from the series Les Femmes d’Alger, which explores the forgotten history of Algerian women freedom fighters from the 1954 – 1966 Algerian war for independence from French occupation.

Asad Faulwell, 'In the Heart of the Cosmos', installation view "Les Femmes D'Alger #68", 9 January to 4 February at Lawrie Shabibi. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, ‘In the Heart of the Cosmos’, installation view of ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #68’, 9 January – 4 February 2017 at Lawrie Shabibi. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

The series draws on several influences. The title “Les Femmes d’Alger” alludes to the work of both Delacroix’s 1834 painting of the same name and Picasso’s 1954 version. Where these earlier versions depict Algerian women in sexualised positions, objectifying their experiences, Faulwell brings the stories and experiences of the female fighters to the centre of the work. He highlights the suffering they endured as soldiers in the civil war as well as questioning the very role of violence. He revisits the history of Orientalist depictions of women from another perspective.

Asad Faulwell, 'In the Heart of the Cosmos', installation view "Les Femmes D'Alger #68", 9 January to 4 February at Lawrie Shabibi. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, “In the Heart of the Cosmos”, installation view of ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #68’, 9 January – 4 February 2017 at Lawrie Shabibi. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

This is a clear reversal from some key thinkers who had depicted the conflict from a Westernised or male perspective. In an interview with Reorient: Middle Eastern Arts and Culture Magazine, Faulwell gives the example of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, in which he argues that the reader does not hear directly from Algerian speakers, that they are just props for the French characters. Faulwell observes that like Camus he is telling a story from mostly one perspective, but that it is the perspective of Algerian women fighters.

Asad Faulwell, 'In the Heart of the Cosmos', installation view of 'Les Femmes D'Alger #71'. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, “In the Heart of the Cosmos”, installation view of ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #71’. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Faulwell’s series is strongly inspired by Gillo Pontecorvos’s 1966 film The Battle of Algiers, which is based on events during the Algerian War (1954–62) and portrays guerrilla fighters as well as French paratroopers. Faulwell saw the film in 2007, which led him to research the lives of the women over two years before making the first works.

Asad Faulwell, 'Les Femmes D'Alger #72', 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #72’, 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Faulwell explains to Reorient that

The series is intended to shed light on these women in order to both examine their lives, and to address larger issues such as the lingering effects of colonial rule, gender inequality, and the morality (or immorality) of violent resistance.

Asad Faulwell, 'In the Heart of the Cosmos', installation view from left to right - 'Les Femmes D'Alger #72 and #68', 2016, Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, “In the Heart of the Cosmos”, installation view from left to right ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #72’ and ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #68’, 2016. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi and the artist.

The works show a complex picture of the period, the women involved and the role of violence. As the press release describes,

[Faulwell] illustrates the women as both saints and villains, aggressors and victims, captured and brutally tormented by their French adversaries and alienated by their Algerian male counterparts who recruited the women with no intention of recognising their contribution or empowering them after the war ended.

Asad Faulwell, 'Les Femmes D'Alger #68', 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #68’, 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

The works in “In the Heart of the Cosmos” places the women in almost shrine-like contexts with halos, crowns or shrouds and surrounded by bright colours and flowers. The geometric patterns are reminiscent of Matisse’s decorative patterning and allude to Faulwell’s own Iranian/Islamic tradition of geometric design and ornamentation.

In the newer paintings Faulwell has developed complex collage compositions onto which he has incorporated black and white photographs from news clippings. The clippings have mainly been taken from women on trial in French courts.

Asad Faulwell, 'Les Femmes D'Alger #72', 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

Asad Faulwell, ‘Les Femmes D’Alger #72’, 2016, acrylic. Image courtesy Lawrie Shabibi gallery and the artist.

In the interview with Reorient Faulwell explains:

While I do see my work as a celebration of resistance, I do not see it as a justification or celebration of violent resistance. I [rather] make an attempt to show the torment and psychological anguish that these women must have lived with. If anything, I think my work points to the moral ambiguity of using violence to overthrow an oppressive entity.

While Faulwell is bringing to light these untold stories of women revolutionaries, he is not evaluating their actions, leaving the viewer to ponder the complexities behind the colourful works.

Claire Wilson

1522

Related topics: Iranian artists, painting, memory, feminist art, gallery shows, picture feast, colonialism, violence

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Taiwanese artist Wu Tien-chang at festival of new media art MADATAC 08, Madrid

Wu Tien-chang has been challenging the status quo with his painting, digital photography, video and sculpture since the 1980s.

Art Radar takes a look at some of they key themes in Wu Tien-chang’s work, on show at Spain’s contemporary festival of new media arts MADATAC 08.

Wu Tien-chang in his studio. Image courtesy MADATAC and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang in his studio. Image courtesy MADATAC and the artist.

From 12 January to 5 February 2017 the Cultural Centre Conde Duque in Madrid presents MADATAC 08, the contemporary Festival of New Media Arts and Advanced Audio Visual Technologies. The festival brings together over 100 audio-visual, experimental and new media artists from 40 countries. The emphasis of the festival is on work that is experimental and that pushes boundaries. It brings together artists, audiences, critics, curators, collectors and the academic community in order to explore new technology and innovative ideas. The festival includes exhibitions, projections, conferences, talks, interactive performances, video installations, workshops and audio-visual concerts.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Pilot', 2016, from "Farewell Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions". Image courtesy MADATAC and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Pilot’, 2016, from “Farewell Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions”. Image courtesy MADATAC and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Two Would Treat Each Other', 2001. Image courtesy MADATAC and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Two Would Treat Each Other’, 2001, type-C print. Image courtesy MADATAC and the artist.

The theme for the 2017 edition is “Humantrope” and it looks at the limits and nature of being human, as well as incorporating aspects of technological progress and the use of machines. The festival includes a screening of 50 shortlisted video artists for the MADATAC prize and a special programme of screenings on the biggest LED screen in Europe. There are also interactive installations from Canadian Hugues Clément, Spaniard Juan Carlos Sánchez Duque, Italian Giuliana Cunéaz, Polish artist Przemyslaw Sanecki and Russian collective Tonoptik.

Wu Tien-chang, installation at the space of TKG+. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, installation at the space of TKG+ at the exhibition “Wu Tien-chang: Never Say Goodbye, 2001-2015” from 18 June to 9 November 2016. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

A creative practice of social commentary

One of the highlights of the festival is the exhibition “Liquid Glare” by Taiwanese artist Wu Tien-chang. He is known for work that critiques social policies and inequalities through painting, digital photography, video and sculpture. He uses a vibrant baroque aesthetic that is reminiscent of Taiwan’s post-war period in which the country began a process of Westernisation.

Wu Tien-chang, installation at the space of TKG+ at the exhibition "Wu Tien-chang: Never Say Goodbye, 2001-2015" from 18 June to 9 November 2016. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, installation at the space of TKG+ at the exhibition “Wu Tien-chang: Never Say Goodbye, 2001-2015” from 18 June to 9 November 2016. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, born in 1956 in Taiwan, first came to widespread attention in the 1980s when he portrayed taboo subjects in his works, using symbols and narratives to interpret history through his alternative perspectives. He began working in paintings, and moved to photography in the 1990s. In his photography he used diverse textures, such as velvet cloths, sequins and Christmas lights to create pieces that incorporated a Taiwanese aesthetic style.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Beloved', 2013, single channel video, 3'11. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Beloved’, 2013, single channel video, 3’11. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

In the 2000s he began to employ digital retouching and image-collaged techniques in his staged photography, however the way he composes his scenes through distinct settings, textures and lighting is still a key feature and strength of his work. Since 2010 he has been integrating video, moving images and the creation of interactive installations into his work. Through his work Wu Tien-chang uses recreated scenes and irony to create a mysterious atmosphere rich in character.

Wu Tien-chang’s work has been exhibited internationally and he represented Taiwan at the 56th Venice Biennale in 2015 with a solo exhibition.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions', 2015, video installation, 4’10’’. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions’, 2015, video installation, 4’10’’. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Investigating Taiwanese history and culture

In an interview with Art Review about his Venice Biennale exhibition, Wu Tien-chang explained the creative motivation behind his work:

Maternal culture and the belief in life of Taiwanese people are the main inspirations of my creativity. I hope to create a powerful visual impact with Taiwan’s highly recognisable unique visual aesthetics and universal humane spirit to break the barriers between ethnicities and countries.

Wu Tien-chang, 'The Blind Fumble Around in an Alley', 2008. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘The Blind Fumble Around in an Alley’, 2008, light box installation, 240 x 478 cm. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

His multi-layered works that show different facets of Taiwanese history – including its colonial past – create a diverse portrait. Wu Tien-chang added that throughout his work he has always striven to present Taiwan’s unique culture. He commented that

As an artist who commenced on the foundation of historical and cultural criticism, I firmly believe that the awareness of cultural subjectivity is necessary and real; also, I believe that the nature of globalisation is not in conflict with the nature of localisation. On one hand, my works very much appeal to the purely visual and intuitive perceptions, but on the other, I communicate with the world through a precise artistic language; what links the two are themes related to universal values, which are embraced by the world.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Luan', 2010, single channel video. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Luan’, 2010, single channel video. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Luan', 2010, single channel video. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Luan’, 2010, single channel video. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

An evolving practice

Wu Tien-chang’s work continues to evolve. In an interview with Director of Taipei Fine Arts Museum Ping Lin, he explains that he keeps challenging himself every ten years:

I think, as an artist, there is an important mission to respond to the times and the spirit of an era which resonates with the changing environment. So almost every ten years I make a change to reflect the era we live in and to solve problems related to the bottleneck in my artistic practice.

Wu Tien-Chang, 'Unforgettable Lover', 2013, video, 4'30". Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-Chang, ‘Unforgettable Lover’, 2013, video, 4’30”. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

However, a common thread that carries throughout his work is the concern with the hidden symbolism of farewell, and the interplay between death and love. His work, which can sometimes display a dark soul, places side by side the elegant and the obscene, the moralising and the decadent. Seemingly contrary positions interplay to create a complex picture that tackles the conflicts inherent in human nature.

Wu Tien-chang, 'Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions', 2015, video installation, 4’10’’. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

Wu Tien-chang, ‘Farewell, Spring and Autumn Pavilions’, 2015, video installation, 4’10’’. Image courtesy TKG+ and the artist.

This theme of farewell also references the continual change of regimes or change of leadership witnessed in Taiwan. In his interview with Ping Lin, Wu Tien-chang observes that he hopes Taiwan can become an independent country or new type of country that will not be dependent on external leaders.

Claire Wilson

1524

Related topics: Taiwanese artists, new media art, photography, events in Spain

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Singaporean and Indonesian artists explore “Fantasy Islands” at Objectifs, Singapore

Art Radar takes a look at “Fantasy Islands”, running at Objectifs until 26 January 2017.

“Fantasy Islands” presents the work of seven Singaporean and Indonesian contemporary artists that deal with the notion of ‘island’ and the fantasies and ideas attached to it.

"Fantasy Islands", 11-26 January 2017, Objectifs, Singapore. Image courtesy Objectifs.

“Fantasy Islands”, 11-26 January 2017, Objectifs, Singapore. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Imagine an island. Are there palm trees, sandy beaches, perhaps a leafy green interior and a whispered hint of a drink with an umbrella in it? Why not forbidding, ice-bound cliffs? As one of “Fantasy Islands” curators, Kin Chui, puts it, “The idea of an island evokes a certain sort of tropical paradise – you don’t usually think about something Scandinavian,” which is one of several island-related ideas scrutinised in this exhibition at Objectifs in Singapore.

As the exhibition title makes plain, there isn’t one island in particular being explored, but islands as a category (and the fantasies we project upon them), as well as the relationship between two neighbouring, yet very different islands: Singapore and Batam. It is that combination of proximity and stark difference that formed the seed of the project, according to curator Mitha Budhyarto: “We were talking about Batam and Singapore, and how to talk about them in relation to each other, with them being so close but yet so different – that gave the project focus.”

Ardi Makki Gunawan, 'Proposal for gaze subverting loosely', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Ardi Makki Gunawan, ‘Proposal for Gaze Subverting, Loosely’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

The relationship between the two islands is one of some complexity, but some headway towards understanding it might be had with the observations that Singapore is, compared to Batam, rather wealthier and more developed. Hence, the island plays host to such phenomena as the unofficial acceptance of Singaporean currency, the development of both family-friendly resorts and a brisk vice trade, and a special economic zone for Singapore and other nations to offshore operations and manufacturing.

Fyerool Darma, 'Shroud', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Fyerool Darma, ‘Shroud’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Interestingly, the objections of officialdom also made a curious contribution to the exhibition: Fyerool Darma’s Shroud, which would originally have been draped around the façade of the building, is instead neatly folded and weighted under a slab in front of the gallery. As the colonial-era church is gazetted as a historic site, the government agency involved limited its original display to a maximum of one hour per day, a constraint which was adapted to by performing these hour-long displays only at the beginning and end of the exhibition. Ironically enough, the artwork addresses the pre-colonial oral history of the region.

Fyerool Darma, 'Shroud', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Fyerool Darma, ‘Shroud’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Ila, 'Air dicincang tidak akan putus', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Ila, ‘Air Dicincang Tidak Akan Putus’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Within the gallery proper, one is immediately confronted by Ila’s Air dicincang tidak akan putus, an imposing, double-walled vitrine. Its innermost chamber displays sand and miscellaneous flotsam the artist collected from Batam, while a layer of somewhat cloudy seawater is interposed between the viewer and these collected objects. This curious display is the result of the artist’s work with a traditional fishing community in Tanjung Uma, with the flotsam forming a literal, visible artefact of the impact of increased industrialisation and trade for communities like Tanjung Uma, jeopardising fishing as a way of life. As a prism of sorts at the very front of the exhibition, curator Kin Chui quips: “Having Ila’s work placed here allows us to look at the entire exhibition through the effects, or the symptoms, of modernisation.”

Evelyn Pritt, "Land Marks", installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Evelyn Pritt, “Land Marks”, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

This drive towards modernisation, and its attendant costs, also finds expression in Evelyn Pritt’s “Land Marks”, a series of photographs cataloguing abandoned buildings and speculative development on the island. It is not unlike the Chinese phenomenon of ‘ghost cities’, though the buildings photographed here range from individual homes to larger-scale commercial and industrial spaces – vanished and abandoned hopes and futures of every variety. One unique aspect to the artwork is the welded metal frame onto which the photographs are mounted – rather than quirkily thematic method of hanging, it is an integral part of the work, with its form referring specifically to the façade of a failed attempt to build a national park.

Stephanie J Burt, 'A Friendly Slide', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Stephanie J Burt, ‘A Friendly Slide’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Speculative development and urban decay are also explored in Stephanie Jane Burt’s A Friendly Slide, which takes the form of a dangerously, improbably steep slide in shades of pastel pink and blue, atop which are perched the fragile material traceries typical of her work, suggesting a sense of absurdity and precariousness. Much as Pritt’s “Land Marks” responds to speculative development in general, Burt’s installation takes as its point of departure a specific abandoned theme park, Costarina, and the dissolution of the intended ludic functions of its structures.

Ardi Makki Gunawan, 'Proposal for gaze subverting loosely', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Ardi Makki Gunawan, ‘Proposal for Gaze Subverting, Loosely’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Meanwhile, Ardi Makki Gunawan’s Proposal for gaze-subverting, loosely, tackles the subject of the sex industry in Batam through a combination of online and offline fieldwork—the former yields excerpts of posts on Sammyboy, a forum featuring reviews of commercial sex in the region, while the latter supplies the Hello Kitty printed fabric used in the artwork, apparently common to Batam brothels. The former, in the forum’s terse, peculiar vernacular, are embroidered on the latter, to generally surreal effect.

Eldwin Pradipta, 'Keppres No 41 Tahun 1973', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Eldwin Pradipta, ‘Keppres No. 41 Tahun 1973’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Eldwin Pradipta’s Keppres No. 41 Tahun 1973 takes yet another tack on the two island’s relationship – specifically, through a 1973 decree by Indonesia’s president at the time, Suharto, pushing for Batam’s industrial development whilst dubbing it the Singapore of Indonesia. The artist reads this as a sort of subsumption or overshadowing of Batam, which he renders by displaying projected footage of Batam with chintzy souvenirs of Singapore casting shadows onto the projected images. As an added touch, the shadow of Singapore’s Merlion lines up with an overlay of text, as if spouting from the statue.

Eldwin Pradipta, 'Keppres No 41 Tahun 1973', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Eldwin Pradipta, ‘Keppres No. 41 Tahun 1973’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Wu Jun Han, 'Collection of Sounds on Islands', installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

Wu Jun Han, ‘Collection of Sounds on Islands’, installation view at Objectifs, Singapore, 2017. Image courtesy Objectifs.

In addition to these relatively sober artworks, which concern themselves with specific social themes and issues, Wu Jun Han’s Collection of Sounds on Islands presents a collection of field recordings of everyday, humdrum soundscapes. One haunting or nostalgic element to this piece is the overheard jingle for the Paddle Pop brand of ice cream, common to both islands. Though the sounds recorded might be unremarkable, everyday sounds that we might otherwise consign to the background, playback is achieved through an incredibly fragile set of tape loops – delicate enough that Wu admits: “Oh man, if I weren’t the gallery sitter, it’d be hard to pull this work off. It looks fragile – that’s the impression, that all it takes is a bump and it’s all over? That is true.”

Bruce Quek

1515

Related Topics: Singaporean artists, Indonesian artists, gallery shows, installation, events in Singapore

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