“The Archive”: 10 highlights from the 5th Singapore International Photography Festival 2016

Art Radar profiles 10 not to be missed SIPF Open Call Showcase artists and their work.

The Open Call Showcase at the Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) 2016, themed “The Archive”, celebrates the work of 40 emerging and established artists from 18 countries, and takes place at a variety of venues across the city, including six MRT Railway Stations on the Downtown Line, the Alliance Française de Singapour and the National Library Building.

© Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation

© Daido Moriyama Photo Foundation

Singapore International Photography Festival (SIPF) 2016 embraces the theme of “The Archive” across its festival programme and brings photography out of the gallery and into public spaces. This year the Open Call Showcase, officially launching on 6 October, utilises a variety of venues across Singapore, making this vibrant and exciting event accessible and inclusive, and continuing the Festival’s objective to stimulate public interest in photography.

The festival encompasses a busy programme of exhibitions, talks, professional workshops and portfolio review sessions. The work of 58 artists from 19 countries is showcased across the festival continuing SIPF’s mission to celebrate creativity and ideas, to champion the appreciation of contemporary photography and to inspire, while advocating that photography can be enjoyed by all.

Roger Ballen, 'Threat', 2010. © Courtesy of Roger Ballen and Wei-Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

Roger Ballen, ‘Threat’, 2010. © Courtesy of Roger Ballen and Wei-Ling Gallery, Kuala Lumpur.

The many photographic faces of the archive

The theme of “The Archive” provides the umbrella concept for the festival under which different exhibitions and participating artists’ work examine and explore the nature of photographs as documentation of events, occasions, people and personal memories. Artistic Director and Co-Founder of SIPF, Gwen Lee says:

The Archive explores the nature, and roles of photography in society. The acute shift in the boundary of photography, alongside with technology advancement, and the surging social platform produced new frontiers and discovery, and as well as indistinctive status of photography in both institution and personal lives.

© Li Zhensheng, 'A scene of the Red Guards ransacking Jile Temple',1966. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Li Zhensheng, ‘A scene of the Red Guards ransacking Jile Temple’,1966. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Since the festival began in 2008, SIPF has gone from strength to strength, securing its position as an important international art festival in the Southeast Asia region. A highlight of this year’s festival is the Southeast Asian debut of the work of three renowned photographers. Showing in separate exhibitions at SIPF 2016 are Daido Moriyama, the prolific “father of street photography”; Li Zhensheng, a photojournalist renowned for his photographic records of the Cultural Revolution; and Roger Ballen, whose award-winning works tread the line between fantasy and reality in ‘documentary fiction’.

Also showing is the winning entry in the inaugural Curatorial Project Showcase: “A Room with a view” explores the aesthetics of disappearance through the work of six female, Hong Kong-based artists. The show is curated by Carol Chow Pui Ha, Lecturer at the School of Journalism and Communications, the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

Joe Yiu Miu Lai, 'Gift (II): Mobile wind', 2010. © and image courtesy the artist.

Joe Yiu Miu Lai, ‘Gift (II): Mobile wind’, 2010. Image courtesy the artist.

Angki Purbandono, 'Two Folders from Fukuoka'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Angki Purbandono, ‘Two Folders from Fukuoka’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

“The Archive as Conversation”, taking place at the Open Plaza, National Library Building, brings together old photo studio images, installations, photo prints, videos and conceptual narratives revisiting the notion of the archive by nine artists, including Angki Purbandono (Indonesia), Kevin WY Lee (Singapore), Miti Ruangkritya (Thailand), Robert Zhao Renhui (Singapore), Lei Lei (China) and Zakaria Zainal (Singapore) among others.

© Maki Hayashida, 'The Pacific Tourist'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Maki Hayashida, ‘The Pacific Tourist’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

The Archive: Open Call Showcase

One of the most exciting exhibitions, and a staple of the SIPF programme, is the Open Call Showcase section. The Open Call Showcase is a wonderful opportunity for Southeast Asian photographers to be shown alongside their international peers; it can function as a springboard onto the international stage for lesser known artists. This year the Open Call Showcase presents the work of 40 emerging and established photographers from 18 countries in this important international context.

© Ung Rueyloon, 'Singapore Road Photography'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Ung Rueyloon, ‘Singapore Road Photography’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

The selection panel for the Open Call Showcase this year includes Kazuko Sekiji (Curator, Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography), Seok Jae-Hyun (Independent Curator and Editor, Photo Dot Magazine) and Ingo Taubhorn (Curator, House of Photography, Deichtorhallen, Hamburg). These well known curators narrowed the field to just 40 artists from the 584 submissions received from photographers around the world. The panel considered techniques, originality and the artists’ unique ability to depict storytelling through the medium when choosing these 40 artists’ work.

© Juria Toramae, 'Points of Departure'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Juria Toramae, ‘Points of Departure’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

The 394 works in the Open Call Showcase are exhibited across six MRT Railway Stations on the Downtown Line, the Alliance Française de Singapour and the National Library Building. In 2016 SIPF brings photography outside the gallery walls into public spaces, making the festival accessible to all and forming a vibrant event in the city from the 19 August to 13 November 2016.

© Eiji Ohashi, 'Roadside Lights'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Eiji Ohashi, ‘Roadside Lights’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

The use of six MRT Railway Stations along the Downtown Line sees the festival traverse across the arts, heritage and design districts of the city. It allows commuters and passers-by, as well as photography enthusiasts, to experience the festival and ponder the stories and ideas behind the photographs created by these Open Call Showcase artists, all the while reiterating SIPF’s sentiment that photography can be enjoyed by all.

Art Radar profiles ten not to be missed artists and their artworks from the Open Call Showcase.

© Gao Rongguo, 'Identical Twins'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Gao Rongguo, ‘Identical Twins’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

1. Gao Rongguo Identical Twins

Gao Rongguo is an artist born in 1984 in Binzhou, Shandong province, China. Rongguo completed studies at the prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts, Beijing in 2012 where he majored in photography.

For SIPF 2016 Rongguo presents Identical Twins, a series of photographs of identical twins over the age of 50. The twins stand face-to-face, similar to the way one looks into a mirror, the changes their lives have had upon their bodies and faces becoming evident. At one point in their childhood, at least, they were identical. Inspired by the popularity of horoscopes in China, St Augustine and Confucius, Rongguo explores fate and the experience of identical twins.

© Gao Rongguo, 'Identical Twins'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Gao Rongguo, ‘Identical Twins’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Park Chanho, 'Return',“歸”. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Park Chanho, ‘Return’,“歸”. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

2. Park Chanho — Return

Park Chanho is an artist who lives and works in Seoul, South Korea. Born in 1971, Park presents Return for SIPF 2016. This series of black and white photographs is displayed at the National Library Building. Park, when speaking about this series of photographs has said:

We, Koreans, express “died” as “returned.” Where did we come from and where would we return?

Park’s photographs explore ideas around death, return, ghosts and the afterlife. Creating this series has allowed Park to explore memory as well, going back to his childhood and confronting these moments again.

© Park Chanho, 'Return',“歸”. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Park Chanho, ‘Return, (歸)’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Donna Chiu, 'Somewhere Only I Know'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Donna Chiu, ‘Somewhere Only I Know’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

3. Donna Chiu — Somewhere Only I Know

Donna Chiu is a Hong Kong-born, Singapore-based artist. Born in 1969, she took up photography only four years ago. Her series of photographs showing at SIPF 2016 explores a secret place in Chiu’s internal world. Chiu expresses this personal space, and intimate moments, through surreal, yet realistic manifestations. Speaking about her work, Chiu says:

There is a place only I know in my mental world, with feelings and emotions inexpressible, at least through words.

Through the medium of photography Chiu is able to explore her internal world in a beautiful and intriguing way.

© Donna Chiu, 'Somewhere Only I Know'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Donna Chiu, ‘Somewhere Only I Know’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Marvin Tang, 'Stateland'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Marvin Tang, ‘Stateland’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

4. Marvin Tang — Stateland

Marvin Tang is an artist who lives and works in Singapore. Born in 1989, Tang uses photography as a tool of investigation. Exploring the parallels between space and human interactions in his work, Tang crafts images that create new narratives in everyday spaces.

For SIPF 2016 Tang presents the series Stateland, which documents and explores small private garden and plantation plots that have sprung up around Singapore. These gardens have been secretly created on the state-owned forested grounds of the city. Camouflaged by thick foliage, their existence is alluded to only by heresay of individuals emerging from deep within, carrying pots and plants. Tang’s series documents and explores this phenomenon while questioning the existence of these secret gardens and the purpose they serve.

© Marvin Tang, 'Stateland'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Marvin Tang, ‘Stateland’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Kirstin Schmitt, 'Waiting for the Candymen'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Kirstin Schmitt, ‘Waiting for the Candymen’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

5. Kirstin Schmitt — Waiting for the Candymen

Kirstin Schmitt was born in Germany in 1979. She is a documentary filmmaker, cinematographer and photographer who currently lives between Havana, Cuba and Berlin, Germany.

For SIPF 2016 Schmitt presents Waiting for the Candymen, a series of evocative colour photographs forming a study in Cuban idiosyncrasy and an allegory of waiting: waiting for the right moment, waiting for tomorrow, or possibly waiting for someone or something that brings redemption.

© Kirstin Schmitt, 'Waiting for the Candymen'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Kirstin Schmitt, ‘Waiting for the Candymen’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Uma Kinoshita, 'In Silence and In Sorrow'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Uma Kinoshita, ‘In Silence and In Sorrow’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

6. Uma Kinoshita — In Silence and In Sorrow

Uma Kinoshita was born in 1964, and lives and works in Tokyo, Japan. Taking up photography in 2004, her early work focused on the female body. After the disaster at Fukushima occurred on 11 March 2011, her focus shifted from more introspective ideas to bigger social issues.

In Silence and In Sorrow is the third series in her Fukushima project and consists of photographs taken in the evacuation zones in 2013 and 2014. These images, captured more than two years after the disaster, show areas in steady decay. Places and things once beloved to people are now abandoned and deteriorating. For this series, Kinoshita has printed her photographs on traditional hand-screened paper called Kamikawasakiwashi from Nihonmatsu, Fukushima Prefecture.

© Uma Kinoshita, 'In Silence and In Sorrow'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Uma Kinoshita, ‘In Silence and In Sorrow’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Seo Junyoung, 'Theme Park Society'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Seo Junyoung, ‘Theme Park Society’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

7. Seo Junyoung Theme Park Society

Sen Junyoung was born in 1974 in South Korea. His series of photographs for SIPF 2016 takes the stereotyped behaviours of animals in zoos as a metaphor for the situation people may find themselves in today in our contemporary world.

Junyoung considers that through repeating the stereotype behaviours of other humans we can become just a tool for production in our society.

© Seo Junyoung, 'Theme Park Society'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Seo Junyoung, ‘Theme Park Society’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Phisut Nuthong, 'REFINE'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Phisut Nuthong, ‘Refine’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

8. Phisut Nuthong — Refine

Phisut Nuthong was born in 1993 in Phuket and is currently based in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Nuthong’s work examines how common cosmetic surgery has become in Thailand, as people are increasingly searching for their appearance to be acceptable to the standards of society today.

His series Refine for SIPF 2016 explores how in recent years plastic surgery has become increasing popular among university students and young people as they hope the surgery can bring them greater success, social status and a higher salary. This can be a lonely experience for these young students as they endure the post-surgery pain alone in their dorm rooms.

© Phisut Nuthong, 'REFINE'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Phisut Nuthong, ‘Refine’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Mandy Barker, 'Soup'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Mandy Barker, ‘Soup’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

9. Mandy Barker — Soup

Mandy Barker was born in 1964 in the United Kingdom. Her work Soup examines the plastic debris that is suspended in the ocean, particularly referencing the mass accumulation of rubbish that exists in the area of the North Pacific Ocean known as the Garbage Patch.

Barker aims to engage the viewer and create an emotional response by combining the contradiction between the initial aesthetic attraction to the photographs with the disturbing statistics of plastics in our oceans, and their harmful effect on marine life and the biodiversity of the planet.

© Mandy Barker, 'Soup'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Mandy Barker, ‘Soup’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

© Scott A. Woodward, 'All the World's a Stage'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Scott A. Woodward, ‘All the World’s a Stage’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

10. Scott A. Woodward — All the World’s a Stage

Scott A. Woodward was born in 1974, and lives and works in Canada and Singapore. Woodward’s series for SIPF 2016 draws on his fascination with North Korea. For many years he had longed to travel there and experience the hermit kingdom first-hand.

In 2015 this finally became a reality and Woodward was able to see the 70th anniversary celebrations of the Worker’s Party of Korea. All the World’s a Stage explores his experiences marvelling at the rehearsed mass spectacle that is North Korea, and as a foreigner endeavouring to peek behind the curtain to glimpse an unscripted moment.

© Scott A. Woodward, 'All the World's a Stage'. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Scott A. Woodward, ‘All the World’s a Stage’. SIPF 2016. Image courtesy the artist and SIPF.

Kathleen Linn

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Related Topics: European artists, Singaporean artists, Chinese artists, Thai artists, American artists, festivals, photography, profiles, events in Singapore

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