Last chance to catch self-taught multidisciplinary artist LS James at his solo exhibition titled The Apocalyptic Ark – Christ of God and other Eschatological Motifs. James boasts an engaging and still evolving style that spans impressionism to pop art and covers themes close to the artist’s heart, such as music and religion. The exhibition is happening now until this Thursday, 21st December at the Visual Arts Centre at Dhoby Ghaut. Operating hours are from 11am to 8pm daily.
Cinerama: Art and the Moving Image in Southeast Asia at SAM at 8Q probably ranks among of the ‘smallest’ shows in the museum’s history. Ten artists, presenting only a total of eleven works, is included in this show. The bold move is actually one of its greatest strengths, as the powerful and concise selection captures and does not weary the visitor. Each work is allowed to linger vividly in the mind’s eye long after leaving the exhibition.
The word ‘cinerama’ is a portmanteau of ‘cinema’ and ‘panorama’, and is the name of a trademarked curved projection method from 1950s America. Cinerama™ looks like an ancestor of our modern day curved screen televisions, except that technology then did not really achieve the seamless all-round effect that the creators imagined it to be. As expected from expensive and bulky technology from that period, that Cinerama™ was never really successful or widespread, unseen outside of America. Cinerama™ does not make an appearance in this exhibition, which explicitly looks at Southeast Asia. Rather, it appears in a de-materialised form, suggesting that some Southeast Asian artists are imagining a filmic and immersive experience in ways that resonate with the dreams of Cinerama technology.
Artists have been challenging the two-dimensional nature of the image even before phenakistiscopes (a kind of image windmill on paper that is used to produce GIFs controlled by hand) were around. Trompe l’oiel, for instance, is historically a marker of artistic distinction. Once the technology for moving images was invented, the battle toward three or more dimensions became more pronounced. The moving image emancipates visual illusion, allowing them to escape the frame. Through careful planning and imagination, it is possible to create illusions that escape the frame, like with IMAX 3D films.
At its simplest, the moving image is produced by flashing similar images in quick succession in front of the viewer, each with slightly displaced elements. The rate of change creates an illusion of movement. That is the basis for stop-motion film, a technique Victor Balanon employs in The Man Who. For part of the video component, scenes are painstakingly pieced together by hundreds of photographs that are carefully composed to suggest that objects can move on their own, cubes can melt into the floor and fantastical shapes can emerge from the walls. In another scene, concentric lines articulate the vision of a corridor as a figure runs down it, a clear nod to films like Thaïs (1917), which was made by Italian Futurist Antonio Giulio Bregaglia. In bombarding his viewer with feats of real impossibility and manipulating the visual field, Balanon’s installation is sometimes literally vertiginous. The undulations within the video seem to reach outward into the real world, integrating with the ostensibly static painted mural on the connecting wall and reflecting on the ground in front of it. Visual knowledge, historical research and painstaking labour come together in this work that might leave viewers with their sea legs.
The audience of cinema has always had to give it the benefit of the doubt, consciously suspending real life in order to join the world of make believe. A completely darkened space, oversized projections and a quality sound system are some of the ways that a film theatre has traditionally upgraded the audience experience.
But of course, the audience does most of the work. They must consciously decide to engage with the screen. These criterion become strange when stepping into Hayati Mokhtar’s Falim House: Observations. The set up of this ten-channel video installation is reminiscent of a real-life role playing game. Falim House, like any affluent mansion from the early twentieth-century, is full of nooks and crannies. Hayati recreates the maze in the gallery, burying projections in caverns, placing partition walls where they are not expected to be and misaligning the walls just enough to deny any line of sight across the whole installation. It is a mnemonic space that cannot be seen at once. However, there is a sense that Falim House can see its intruder. The superficial stillness in the video is shattered slightly with the passing breeze. The sound of a man whistling comes from a speaker that cannot be found. A shadow seen in one channel seems is fleetingly detected in a neighbouring one. The distance governed by the length of the camera’s shot cannot be traversed. But in moving, searching and listening, Hayati gives her audience a sense that it could be traversed, that we could have a physical relationship with what we see. This becomes an instrument of horror. In the search for Falim House’s centre, the low-hanging projectors, the source of the visitor’s voyeuristic gaze into the House, begin to look like instruments of surveillance, ready to enact a cold, mechanical turn that focuses their lens upon the criminal trespasser.
In coinciding the cinematic with the real, the work lingers in the mind’s eye, a fantastical dream. Korakrit Arunanondchai and Alex Gvojic’s installation, There’s a word I’m trying to remember, for a feeling I’m about to have (a distracted path towards extinction) extends the world depicted in their video into the gallery space. As the video progresses, different aspects of the installation is highlighted. The fur-clad walls when chewbacca-looking protagonist collapses in a barren land. The tar-coloured, trash-sprinkled flooring when the diver explores the sea floor. The bleached denim cushions when boy child treks through the dark urban landscape and dances. Simultaneity, already acknowledged in the title’s claim to ‘distraction’, stutters. The video becomes the key that unlocks the installation’s potential, which the visitor is free to explore. Perhaps more interestingly in this installation, the gallery space has been cleaved into two. A section of the gallery remains pristine, untouched by the installation. Three benches are placed in this space, allowing visitors to watch other visitors on the cushions watch the video. When, at one point, ‘Chewbacca’ talks about the emptiness that lies behind, cushion-visitors might feel tempted to look back at the physical void behind them and ponder about the cinema that the video had awakened them from and the cinerama they had been awakened to. Cinema, the fantastical and the dream are but mere categories that dissolve when the real begins to be regarded as an imitation of the cinematic.
Cinerama™ is a culmination of a certain set of ideals and desires that is also discernible in groups and communities outside of America. While some Americans had decided that Cinerama™ is an appropriate proposal, the specific place, space and perspective have allowed for a various and different proposals elsewhere. According to Cinerama, some Southeast Asians have seen the fourth dimension integral. The successful execution and intimate details of each work might also suggest that in our geography, the cinematic could be aligned with everyday life. They are infinitely absorbing and challenging, inviting deeper immersion and thoughtful contemplation of the everyday experience.
Cinerama: Art and the Moving Image in Southeast Asia
17 November 2017 – 18 March 2018
The Japan Creative Centre (JCC), off Orchard Road, is just a stone’s throw away from the hustle and bustle of the city. Its space, enclosed by gardens and well-placed trees, is surprisingly calm. Large windows look out to the gardens, which is currently playing host to artwork by Tetsuro Kano and Adeline Kueh. The artists are holding a two-person exhibition at JCC indoor and outdoor space titled A bird in the garden, a cat in the room.
The curatorial starting point is mitate (見立て), an untranslatable Japanese phrase that roughly describes the employment of metaphors in a variety of forms. In the case of this exhibition, objects are taken out of their known contexts and made into what Louis Ho, in his contributing essay, calls ‘things’. Having been emancipated, these things are re-contextualised and inflect upon the original objects. For Kano, branches, lines, candleholders, clothes hangers and other banal objects are his material, translated into works that express his passion for nature, especially birds. Kueh displaces objects ever so slightly, which she proves is sufficient transformation into thinginess.
The duo is linked and distinguished by their common manipulation of objects. Kano’s sculptures are reminiscent of natural structures that are inhabited by the animal world. In Bonsai Techniques (2017), Kano integrates timber into the landscape of the garden. While his intervention is visually distinct from the garden to the human eye, it is somewhat less distinct to the birds, who perch easily on his ‘bonsai’. Kueh’s work step parallel to several threads of everyday life. In Daily Conversations (2017), Kueh takes a white Japanese tea set out of the living room into the garden. The cups are replenished with fresh matcha tea every morning, subtly alluding to the more common spiritual ritual of food offering practiced in Singapore, and transforming the experience of the tea set from ceremony to renewal.
Human design is just that: For humans. It is socially conditioned and inexplicable to the animal world. Wildlife do not differentiate between the object and the thing. These are human divisions for stuff in the environment. In their higher wisdom, non-humans prioritise the harmony and discordance that our human interventions cause to their space over designed intent. For Kano and Kueh, the objects may have been made into things, but only so in the human eye. Animals instead view that these not-objects have not been made into not-things. While there is a possibility for shifts and displacements, they are irrelevant in this context, a double entendre that fits fleetingly and harmoniously. The underlying potential to read them as transformation while experiencing them as untransformed creates a poetic tension that maybe, possibly, is what mitate is all about.
A bird in the garden, a cat in the room
Tetsuro Kano, Adeline Kueh
28 October – 18 November
Japan Creative Centre
4 Nassim Road
+65 6737 0434
Tuesdays to Saturdays, 10am – 6pm
It’s Singapore Design Film Festival 2017, the first film festival in Asia dedicated solely on design. While the all films chosen are worth catching for its various merits, art lovers should get particularly excited by Blurred Lines: Inside the Art World. This film, directed by Barry Avrich that demystifies the structures of the Euro-american art market through revealing the perspectives of gallerists like Stephen Friedman of Stephen Friedman Gallery (London), artists like Damien Hirst (London) and Julian Schnabel (New York), art fairs like Art Basel (Switzerland) and auctioneers at Christies. See the trailer below:
It would be wrong to apply what Avrich shows to the Singapore and Southeast Asian scene but we all love a bit of gossip and scandal, and this is an exposé that lies close to the reality of a workings of the art market.
This 86-min film will be showing at Capitol Theatre, the venue partner for the festival, on 29 October, 1.30pm. You can purchase tickets for this film as well as the other films in the festival here.
Since its inauguration in March 2017 at Gillman Barracks, Chan + Hori Contemporary, led by Angie Chan and Khairuddin Hori, has been consistently promoting their exhibitions as double solo exhibitions. With the exception of Not a Summer Hang, the curatorial programming, on paper, has taken the gallery space as a divisible into two distinct exhibition spaces. Over time, however, the artworks have begun to intrude into each other’s spaces, working with each other to create interesting conversations. The current shows feature Danielle Tay and Shahrul Jamili Miskon, whose visually distinct practices belie their shared concerns.
Danielle Tay’s dreamscapes express her realistic utopia. Beginning from a sketch in Chinese ink, Tay dreams about dissonant lived spaces that delight, rather than disturb. Unconventional Choices is a real space in Singapore. On a potted plant, which is placed at a thoroughfare in a residential space, a bird makes its nest. This plant is only about as tall as a human being and is constantly being disturbed by throngs of people who activate the space every day. Yet the bird continues to make its nest here, in the middle of a hive of human activity, disregarding the very real human threat of destruction. And in unspoken agreement, the residents have been leaving the bird to be, leaving her to bring up her family in peace each season. The contradiction between what we expect to happen and what is really happening as well as the coincidence of the bird’s choice to find her nest in an unconventional space amuses, delights and inspires. It is an irrationality that does not have a scientific explanation, a thematic that can be traced through her other works in this show.
Shahrul’s works in this show, unilaterally from his Metalanguage series, are challenge our spatial imagination. Shahrul describes them as partial forms that can multiply infinitely off his canvas. In Metalanguage XVIII, a circle of regular diameter is layered and tiled over each other to the edge of the aluminium, pointing at never-ending repetition. A line is etched between the centres of the layered circles, which reveal its length as the radius. This absolute length is found between every two centres, a satisfying regularity. Somewhere in the middle of his canvas, Shahrul has also etched out a square, which is evenly divided into three rectangles lengthwise and further subdivided into right-angled triangles. On the first rectangle, equilateral triangles are added on each side. Before this becomes a laundry list of mathematical terms that lead to nowhere, the laser cut pieces from the aluminium should be seen as the key to this geometric study. Alternatively removed and raised up in an origami-like fashion, the square reveals itself to be the square surface of a twisted prism that is faced by parts of the circular forms. The way shapes are coincidentally, or naturally, found within each other plays on the incidence of mathematical precision and reality.
While both artists are known to venture into other media, a consistent material thematic is established in these shows. Tay has produced work in wood and Shahrul has work in ceramic, for instance. Neither makes an appearance here. While that might reflect where each artist is in their practice at the moment, it is more productive to think about the curatorial choices made by Khairuddin and to question how it is that the works speak to each other. And indeed, as initially raised, there is a concerted effect to bring the works together and create a singular experience. It is difficult to only look at Shahrul or Tay while in the space. That is not to erase their difference, of which there are many. Instead, there is just about enough space to think about the incidences at which they meet.
Just to name a couple: In the papercut technique, precision is paramount. Every hesitation marks the edge permanently, corrupting the later montage. In the same way, the way acid bites aluminium is permanent and irrecoverable. Clarity, dexterity and pre-planning are factors that underpin both Tay’s painted collages and Shahrul’s geometric collages. For the works in these shows, both artists are also working in a scale that is governed by the human body. Whether it was or was not a conscious decision, a single person can easily handle the works by both artists. For Tay, it has to do with the size of commercially available paper as well as her haptic movements around the table where she does her collage. For Shahrul, he is restricted by the standard available size of aluminium, which is 4 feet (almost 122cm) across. These underlying similarities, which layer meaningfully on the curatorial programme’s look on the spiritual becoming and unseen forces of the world, do not detract from the artists’ language but rather tie them together in a tantalising way.
UNCERTAIN DISCOVERIES & METALANGUAGE
Danielle Tay and Shahrul Jamili Miskon
12 October – 5 November
Chan + Hori Contemporary
6 Lock Road #02-09
+65 6338 1962
Tuesdays to Sundays, 11am – 7pm
Closed on Mondays and public holidays