“Cinerama” presents the work of 10 Southeast Asian artists working with moving image.
Extended until the end of the week at SAM at 8Q, the exhibition explores the history of the genre of moving image, its current expressions in art, and its future potentials.
“Cinerama: Art and the Moving Image in Southeast Asia” features ten artists and collectives from the Southeast Asian region who work with moving image, and includes artist loans, specially-commissioned artworks and a selection from the Singapore Art Museum collection.
The exhibition explores the history of the medium, its current uses in contemporary art practice and its potentials for the future. From hand-drawn animations to video installations, the works on show pay homage to the golden age of moving image making as well as create a space to dissect the filmic image to uncover the way it is constructed and re-constructed.
As Dr June Yap, Director of Curatorial, Programmes and Publications at the Singapore Art Museum, explains,
Despite the proliferation of visual production and consumption that characterises our present time, artists continue to find new ways to relate to the moving image, challenging both its representations and forms. […] Presenting the recent works by artists from the region, the exhibition highlights the shifting boundaries between the moving image, film and art; reflecting, too, the dynamic and deft ways in which artists can transform the media, even as the media itself continues to evolve.
Themes in the show range from explorations of the history of the moving image and filmic constructions, to the evolution of responses to mass media and popular culture, and contemplations of personal and collective histories.
Animation 2.0: from low to hyper tech
Several artworks in “Cinerama” explore the different media and methods used in the production of animated video works, and include stop motion, digital animation and in-camera animation techniques among others.
From the Singapore Art Museum collection comes Zsa Zsa Zsu (2007), a stop-motion animation produced as a music video for Bandung-based music band Rock N’ Roll Ma a (RNRM) by Indonesian art collective Tromarama. The title of the video and the song is a phrase used to describe the electric connection and chemistry experienced in the encounter with a new love interest, and the resulting anticipation and longing during the infatuation. Consistent with Tromorama’s style, the video uses low-tech effects, depicting the music band’s members in backgrounds created with cololurful buttons and beads and resulting in nostalgic images, seemingly blurred and pixelated as if produced in the 1960s or 1970s. The use of these tailoring materials pays tribute to the artists’ hometown of Bandung, known as a centre for garment manufacturing.
Taking pixels to a more technologically advanced method, Jakarta-born Narpati Awangga, a.k.a. oomleo, presents Maze Out (2017), a single-channel GIF animation with sticker installation reminiscent of arcade games of the 1980s. The work depicts familiar scenes from everyday contemporary Indonesian social life.
Within the exhibition, Filipino artist Victor Balanon is the one that combines the greatest variety of animation techniques to create The Man Who (2017), a work that incorporates stop-motion, time-lapse and hyperlapse, live and staged footages, text frames and intertitles.
The video is projected on a wall decorated with a site-specific painting, referencing Balanon’s own experience working for a Japanese film company where he was an anonymous ‘man who’ created the drawings for animations. The work is part of an ongoing, larger and ambitious project that explores the inter-relationships and cross-referenciality of film and cinema, alongside art movements like Expressionism, Surrealism, Futurism and Cubism. Through this work, Balanon pays homage to the silent movie era and the iconic works of early cinematic innovators, such as George Méliès and Fritz Lang, as well as later experimental figures like Hans Richter and David Lynch.
Deconstructing and re-constructing the filmic image
Singaporean artist Jeremy Sharma‘s A White, White Day (2017) explores notions of representation and form by deconstructing the filmic image and extrapolating its components of light, shadow and sound to create an installation of lightboxes that appear like a cinematic screen, transforming the gallery into a film theatre of sorts. The spectator, rather than seeing a film, experiences a projection of an abstract play of flickering, scintillating illumination of LED nodes that follows a programme based on video data taken from an old Cathay Keris production, Korban Fitnah (1959). The film, according to the artist, “forms our nation’s historical and biographical literature”.
Moving away from abstraction to create a more narrative structure is Singaporean Sarah Choo Jing‘s two-channel video Wear You All Night (2017), which juxtaposes footage of something like a commercial for luxury merchandise with sounds from war zones, creating an incongruent cacophony of images and sounds referencing the artifice of the language of contemporary mass media.
Creating a more coherent, classically styled moving image work, Singapore artist Ming Wong reinterprets Roman Polanski’s 1974 Chinatown in his own 2012 production, entitled Making Chinatown, which was first presented at REDCAT Gallery in Los Angeles. Wong himself plays all the iconic characters from the original film, and re-enacts key scenes against backdrops printed with stills from the film. The artist is out to reveal the artifice of moving image making and the process of production. The videos are projected onto the wooden screens they were filmed against, transforming the gallery into a film studio. Wong disassembles various aspects of film making, incuding constructions of identity, gender and location.
Vietnam-based collective The Propeller Group presents the installation AK-47 vs. M16 (2015) and AK-47 vs. M16, The Film (2016), exploring notions of violence in popular culture, as well as time, space and conflict in contemporary times. Deconstructing and reconstructing the relationship between two weapons, the Soviet-made AK-47 and the American M16, the works also reflect on the reality and fiction of narratives of conflict in popular culture, the media, films and the internet. The installation comprises bullets from both weapons frozen in collision within a ballistics gel block, with a video depicting the process. The feature-length film, with the two weapons as the protagonists, is made up of scenes from Hollywood films, documentaries and found footage from the internet.
Personal and collective history seen through moving image
Moving image is often used to contemplate personal or collective history, using a variety of effects or methods. While Malaysian artist Hayati Mokhtar’s immersive ten-channel video installation Falim House: Observations (2013-2015) explores collective history, depicting an abandoned mansion in Ipoh built in the early 20th century by one of the wealthiest tin tycoons in Malaya, Cambodian-American artist Amy Lee Sanford created Scanning (2013) as an investigation into notions of memory and personal history. The video captures herself scanning 250 letters written and exchanged between her adopted mother in the United States and her biological father in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, during the civil war of 1970 – 1975, followed by the Khmer Rouge occupation in 1975.
Thai artist Korakrit Arunanondchai collaborated with American director of photography Alex Gvojic for There’s a word I’m trying to remember, for a feeling I’m about to have (a distracted path towards extinction) (2016-2017), a work intertwining personal memories with an imaginary vision of a post-apocalyptic future of the planet. The work comprises videos of Korakrit’s brother’s wedding, futuristic landscapes, clips of what seem like music videos and more. Memories meld with imagined futures in cyberspace, alluding to “the eventual collapse of humanity’s constructed systems”.
C. A. Xuan Mai Ardia
“Cinerama: Art and the Moving Image in Southeast Asia” is on view from 17 November 2017 to 25 March 2018 at SAM at 8Q, 8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535.
- Curiosity and the role of the artist: Vietnamese artist and filmmaker Nguyen Trinh Thi – interview – December 2017 – Nguyen Trinh Thi’s career weaves stories about her home country Vietnam within the broader historical, cultural, and political realities of Southeast Asia
- “Jaonua: The Nothingness & Sanook Dee Museum”: Thailand’s Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook at Tyler Rollins Fine Art – artist profile and interview – June 2017 – Thai artist explores awareness, attachment and the relations between film and buddhism
- Animation in ink: Chinese artist Liu Yi’s “Flowing Feast” at ShanghART Singapore – June 2017 – merging traditional ink practices with animation techniques, Liu Yi’s style is delicate and at times surreal
- “No References”: 9 Hong Kong video and new media artists – July 2016 – Art Radar profiles 9 artists from Hong Kong’s first retrospective of video and new media art at Videotage
- Indian artist Shambhavi Kaul’s cartographies of displacement and mutability – interview – November 2014 – Art Radar spoke to Indian experimental filmmaker Shambhavi Kaul
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