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