Singapore Biennale 2006
Saturday, March 12, 2005
Metamorphosis by Kim Chong is on at NN Gallery, 35A & 56, Jalan Sulaiman 1, Taman Ampang Hilir, 68000, Selangor, until Mar 31. Details: 03-4270 6588 (Nabil/Sharifah) or fax 3270 3357
Johor Bahru-born Chong, 49, the son of first-generation Hakka settlers from Kwangtung, China, was forced to leave school at 14 and work in construction in Singapore for a living. Chong made the best of his lot and honed his artistic nature through welding, claywork and carpentry. Chong finally managed to save up enough to enrol in Singapore’s Nanyang Academy of Fine Art (NAFA) in 1985. Chong made his way to Paris where he was accepted into the Academy De Port Royale (1990), Atelier Contrepoint or Aterlier 17 (1991) and the prestigious Ecole National Superieure Des Beaux-Art (1993).
Singapore Art Gallery Guide
Published every month (except one issue each for the holiday months of July/August and December/January) the Singapore Art Gallery Guide serves as a scout to exhibition venues, art galleries and museums. It contains seven sections, giving its readers plenty of opportunities to explore the visual art scene:
Exhibitions: In the Exhibitions Calendar, you can find all current exhibitions at a glance, sorted by location. Following, we highlight those galleries who sent us extra information and images, sorted by an artist's origin.
Events: In Events you can find openings, talks, readings, discussions and other visual art happenings listed by date.
Art News: The Art News shall be the place for more personal perspectives. This month's must see show, the newest art book reviews, award winning and upcoming artists, trends, opinions and helpful hints.
Art Venues: Find venues in alphabetical order with location, opening hours and internet address, as well as the venues’ main focus. The coloured dots next to the venues represent a geographical area for you to easily find artists from a certain region.
Artists: If you are looking for particular Artists, in this section we list exhibited artists for you to find out, where their works can be found.
Services: The Services is meant to be the yellow pages for the arts: you shall find everything from artist's material and supplies to the perfect system to hang your pictures, from art classes and workshops to the nearby framer, from exhibition space to art consultants.
Maps: The Maps shall help you to find your way through the art venues in and around Singapore. Each venue has a number for you to find it on the map. In addition we have listed the venues by area for your convenient gallery hopping.
The Singapore Art Gallery Guide shall be available throughout Singapore (exhibition venues, bookstores, libraries, galleries, museums and hotels).
The Singapore Art Gallery Guide targets readers from all age groups and social backgrounds: students who look up the SAGG for education and entertainment; young professionals who start collecting original pieces of art; local and expat professionals who are looking out to add to their already existing collections; their spouses who look for workshops and classes; local and visiting artists who want to know what's happening in the scene; senior citizens who have the time and enjoy the arts; visitors and tourists to the city who want to bring back home an original artwork or add the art galleries to their sightseeing list.
27 Taman Warna
Tel: 6238 8559
email: type rd and followed by @ngano.de
Lifestyle gallery showcasing abstract home decorative art, furniture, and lifestyleobjects.
Art Sentral Asia presents Portal Shifts @ Substation
Art studio and Gallery and Consultancy at 33 Jalan Puteh Jerneh, Singapore
Email: Type art and followed by @visualharmonics.com
Sapere Art Management and Consultancy
Sapere addresses the evolving needs of Asian art collectors and art lovers by providing a comprehensive range of art management services based on expertise, experience and professional networks. They believe in building committed and sustained relationships, ones that extend to long-term opportunities for involvement in the Asian art world.
Sapere's founders and managers are Joanna Lee and Eileen Khoo. Together, they have up to 25 years of experience in curating, collection development, exhibitions management, writing, publishing and legal practice.
Joanna Lee has 12 years' experience as a museum professional. She was the Assistant Director of Collection Development and Senior Curator at the Singapore Art Museum until 2004, and continues to serve on its Art Acquisition Committee. She sits on the Arts Consultative Committee of the Media Development Authority, Singapore.
Eileen Khoo practised as a solicitor in Singapore and U.K. law firms for seven years before becoming an independent writer and editor. She has been widely published in numerous magazines and periodicals in the areas of art, lifestyle, travel and sports and is the author of two educational books. She continues to contribute to various publications.
Sapere is supported by a network of experts and professionals in:
Pearl River Gallery
This gallery features Vietnamese artists: Dao Hai Phong, Dao Quoc Huy, Khanh Toan, Duong Thai Quang, Minh Thu, Nga Linh, Nguyen Van Cuong, Pham An Hai, Pham Ha Hai, Quach Dong Phuong, Thanh Chuong, Nguyen Truong Linh, and Tu Ninh.
291 River Valley Road
e-mail: type info and followed by @pearlrivergallery.com
Sawah Art was established in 2003 and is dedicated to exhibiting and promoting contemporary South East Asian art. We are currently primarily working with Indonesian artists.
Exhibitions are held every few months and we show a wide range of artwork, from very established artists who are well represented and collected internationally, to younger, emerging artists who are relatively undiscovered. All the pieces are handpicked by Sawah Art from the artists themselves and we are constantly on the look-out for new talent.
Sawah Art also offers a full range of art consulting services. In addition to servicing corporations and individuals directly, we work with interior designers to understand their clients' needs, priorities and budgets in the purchasing of works of art. We provide all our clients with advice on sourcing and selecting artwork, which helps to create distinctive and stylish interiors. We select art that reflects a company's image and values to maximize the working environment for customers, employees and business partners.
Sawah Art has excellent relationships and direct contact with the artists, strong aesthetic sensibilities and experience in buying art for individual collectors.
Based in Singapore, Sawah Art is currently focusing on the local, Asian market and has plans to launch in Australia and Europe.
16 Maidstone Road, Medway Park,
(Off Dover Road)
Tel: +65 6775-4883
Mobile: +65 9761-0664
E-mail: type moira and followed by @SawahArt.com
Friday, March 11, 2005
Unleash The Children’s Creativity!
March Holiday Course on March 14 & 17 or March 15 & 18
(Suitable for children from 3 years old onwards)
Exams are OVER! Have fun, de-stress and get creative at Clay Cove!
Visit www.claycove.com for School Holiday’s Basic, Intermediate and Advance courses,
Toddler course, Parent&Child Course and more…
Clay Cove’s located at 277 Orchard Road, #03-45 Specialists’ Shopping Centre Singapore 238858
Call to enquire more about pottery making classes for children, adults, birthday parties and corporate events at your VENUE or at our school.
iPreciation is The New Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year 2004
iPreciation Managing Director, Helina Chan has been conferred the New Toursim Entrepreneur of the Year 2004 by the Singapore Toursim Board.
This award recognises company who has made significant contribution to the toursim in Singapore. Some of the criteria for the selection includes factors of entreneuership, future visions and product innovation.
The award presentation ceremony was held on 1 March 2005 at the concert hall, Esplanade theatre at 6.30pm and the award will be given out by the President of Singapore, S R Nathan.
NEW TOURISM ENTREPRENEUR OF THE YEAR 2004 (CITATION)
Ms Helina Chan set up iPreciation with fellow Director Mr CT Lim in 2000 to provide professional art consultancy services to discerning individual and corporate clients. The company employs modern art management techniques, such as the development of a web-based inventory system, to reach out to international artists and collectors.
Under Helina Chan’s leadership, iPreciation has actively staged 34 local events in a relatively short time span of 4 years -- Its ‘Public Arts program’ saw the opening of Reborn, Rejoice, Rejuvenate, a monumental outdoor sculpture exhibition which ran from 20 September 2002 to 19 January 2003. The company also secured the exclusive rights to represent renowned sculptor Ju Ming in Southeast Asia, establishing Singapore as a magnet for regional art collectors.
The landmark exhibition Ju Ming in Singapore generated global awareness of Singapore’s blossoming visual arts scene. This blockbuster exhibition received extensive international media coverage, which subsequently brought about a dramatic increase in the number of local and foreign visitors to the Singapore Art Museum.
Other notable displays include the Parachutes Sculptures at Changi Airport’s four arrival-immigration halls, as well as the ‘Gentlemen’ statuettes at the Fullerton Hotel. The camera-friendly ‘Gentlemen’ were extremely popular with tourists and were even captured on film by Bollywood moviemakers and the video crew of ‘Singapore Idol’!
The company forms a partnership with international fine arts insurer AXA Art to insure artwork for preferred clients on an all-risks basis. This added service comes at no extra cost and is valid for a period of six months. Such a unique partnership between a local Arts company and an international financial institution is the first-of-its-kind in Asia.
With so many media-worthy events under its belt, iPreciation is increasingly garnering a reputation as the preferred fine arts company in Singapore. For her many ground-breaking contributions to Singapore’s visual arts industry, Miss Helina Chan is awarded the New Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year.
Commissioned by the Vancouver Art Gallery, Massive Change: The Future of Global Design was developed by Bruce Mau and members of his post-graduate program Institute Without Boundaries.
Massive Change is classified into 11 themed multimedia economies: urban, information, transportation, energy, images, markets, materials, manufacturing, military, health, wealth and politics.
A dominant aspect of the show is how design and new technologies can provide sustainability, encourage environmental responsibility, and solve current problems, such as the global shortage of fresh water. A case in point is the New Water of Singapore.
"This product is made from 100 per cent Singapore sewage," Mau explained to CBS, holding up a bottle of water. "It passes through a filament and it comes out as pure water. They're marketing it as a way of showing Singapore that this is how they are going to treat the city's water."
Each installation area is filled with objects, images and displays designed to educate, enlighten or even provoke debate among the audience.
The Singapore Art Museum will become the venue for the first regional conference on art museums. It will host ASEAN art teachers and museum education experts for three days this month and lead the discussion on how art museums can serve as regional sites of learning and creative platforms for cross-cultural understanding and promotion.
Starting March 16, the event is funded by the ASEAN-COCI Sub-committee on Culture and spearheaded by the Singapore Art Museum. The event comprises talks and workshops conducted by international museum education experts with participation from ASEAN delegates and art teachers.
This inaugural symposium will demonstrate how art can be relevant for schools and explore ways of linking museums with school education and provide opportunities for cross-cultural learning and promotion. Delegates will share their experiences on teaching art as well as exchange ideas with museum education experts from the region.
We are a creative arts & events agency blending New Zealand and Singaporean culture into a great partnership. Based in Singapore, we specialize in getting your art or your company publicized within Asia.
Moxie Union generates international demand for the work of New Zealand and Pacific artists. Through our exhibitions we help artists become recognized and collected by individuals and corporations throughout Asia.
We happily work with artists, art buyers and collectors, arts organizations, and corporations. We offer a variety of arts services to match your interests and needs.
As a company what we really want from our events is no different than what we want personally for ourselves when we host a function.
We want people to feel good about us, remember our name, call us again, speak fondly of the last time they saw us and most of importantly, we want people see us as we see ourselves. We want our brand to be clearly visible and understood by all those who attend our events.
These are the results you should be getting from your events, every time. If you aren’t, then its time you gave us a call.
Moxie Union’s research and creative ideas process gives you the best ideas that form the best fit with your company. Then we execute them to the finest detail.
The Inaugural Conference Focused on the Export of Arts
19 – 20 March 2005
The Arts House at the Old Parliament
For the first time, artists and both emerging and established Singapore arts companies will have a rare opportunity to meet directly with artistic directors and managers from key venues and networks in the Asia Pacific region in EXPLORATIONS, the inaugural two-day conference from 19 – 20 March 2005 at The Arts House at the Old Parliament.
Said Colin Goh, General Manager of The Arts House, “EXPLORATIONS is a great opportunity for all artists and arts companies who wish to learn more about the directions and the performing arts climate in this region to come together to explore how they might be able to collaborate with other artists in the various centres. Through this, The Arts House hopes to provide a platform to move local productions to the region with the support of venues and partners who share the same size, vision and goals.”
EXPLORATIONS will focus on the export of the arts, its challenges and opportunities. Singapore arts groups will get a keen insight from four industry experts in Australia, Japan, Hong Kong and Philippines about their climate for the arts and trends and issues which faces arts companies currently, find out about the unique challenges and opportunities of touring companies in these countries, as well as network one-on-one to research more about collaborations with overseas companies. The four distinguished guest speakers are:
· Mr Akira Ishigaki – Chairman/ Founder, NPO Action for the Arts, a non-profit organization which will promote international intercultural exchange between Japan, Asia and the rest of the world. Mr Ishigaki speaks from his 10 years of experience as Founder-General Director, Tokyo Performing Arts Market on the present situation of the Japanese theatre/ dance market, the presentation of arts of the Japanese theatre/ dance market, funding the arts, the presentation of Asian works in Japan.
· Mr Andrew Ross – Executive Director, Brisbane Powerhouse, a midsized venue promoting cutting-edge performances from Australia and Overseas. Before taking up the position of Director of Brisbane Powerhouse in 2003, Andrew Ross was Director of Black Swan Theatre in Perth, Western Australia. Andrew was also Associate Adjunct Professor at the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts and an Indonesian-Australia Merdeka Fellow. He will give a brief career description and move onto introducing the Brisbane Powerhouse and its programming philosophy and elaborate at length on the role of arts centres in the development and production of new work and the development of new audiences.
· Mr Benny Chia – Founder-Director, Hong Kong Fringe Club, a lively and dynamic contemporary arts space, not only in Hong Kong but throughout the region, and is often cited as a successful example of how to make positive re-use of a derelict building, and thus revive a rundown neighbourhood. He will give an introduction to the Fringe Club and talk about the challenges of maintaining small venues in Hong Kong over the past two decades and the role of the arts of rejuvenating heritage precincts.
· Mr James Rabbi Gannaban – Resident Director, Actors Studio, New Voice Company.
EXPLORATIONS is part of ONE: The Arts House's First Anniversary Celebrations and serves to fulfill The Arts House’s intent of building audiences for the arts both in Singapore and overseas and supporting arts companies towards attaining viability.
For more information on EXPLORATIONS, please contact Ms Michele Lim (Conference Administrator: Email: lim_michele and followed by @yahoo.com ).
The Arts House at the Old Parliament
Opened in March 2004, The Arts House is Singapore’s newest arts and heritage venue where all are inspired by the arts and where the arts become a fundamental in life through a connection with artists and their works. Built in 1827, Singapore’s first Court House and former Parliament House, is the only gazetted government building designated as a multidisciplinary arts centre. At The Arts House, audiences connect with artists and arts organizations through a broad spectrum of engaging, contemporary arts and entertainment events. The Arts House is managed by Old Parliament House Limited, a not-for-profit full-service arts management company limited by guarantee. For further information, please visit www.theartshouse.com.sg
For media queries, please contact
Director, Audience Development
The Old Parliament House Limited
1 Old Parliament Lane
Tel: 65 6 332 6901
Email: Mary_Loh and followed by @toph.com.sg
See Ling Ling
Manager, Marketing Communications
The Old Parliament House Limited
1 Old Parliament Lane
Tel: 65 6332 6903
Email: See_lingling and followed by @toph.com.sg
ART THERAPY FORUM
LASALLE-SIA COLLEGE OF THE ARTS
7pm, 29 March 2005
Can Art be used to heal? Can we use art to reach out to the emotionally affected? Art therapy is a fledgling field that straddles the creative and the clinical worlds. It can tap into the unconscious and allow people to better express their inner world.
Join LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts' Art Therapy Forum to find out how art can bring about change and healing in clinical and educational environments.
The Forum will be conducted by Caroline Essame, LASALLE-SIA's curriculum consultant for Art Therapy. Caroline is an art therapist and occupational therapist with over 20 years experience in the field of the arts for health and healing. She has worked in the clinical and arts field in England, Malaysia and Singapore as well as presented workshops and lectures internationally. She is also a practising visual artist in the medium of batik.
LASALLE-SIA will be launching Asia's first Master of Arts Art Therapy programme in July 2005. This postgraduate programme is opened to practicing professionals who are in a relevant discipline (eg. fine art, art, design) or relevant field (medicine, social work, occupational therapy or teaching). This Forum will be an excellent opportunity to find out more about this highly specialised industry.
Title: Art Therapy Forum
Date: Tuesday 29 March 2005
Time: 7pm - 8pm
Venue: LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts, 90 Goodman Road, Singapore 439053
Registeration: Call 6340 9400 or email type geraldine.yap and followed by @lasallesia.edu.sg
Seet Tze Ching
Corporate Communications Manager
Division of Marketing
LASALLE-SIA College of the Arts
90 Goodman Road
Tel: (65) 6340 9185
Tuesday, March 08, 2005
THE 2nd CDL SINGAPORE SCULPTURE AWARD COMPETITION
REQUIREMENTS FOR THE SCULPTURE
The sculpture, based on the theme of “Live, Work and Play”, should infuse elements from the vibrant natural environment around Marina Bay and complement The Sail @ Marina Bay. It must also reflect the modernity and cosmopolitan energy of this new waterfront city.
The sculpture height should be between 6m and 8m tall, on a base not exceeding 2m x 2m or 2m in diameter.
As the sculpture will be placed outdoors, participants must bear in mind issues regarding maintenance, durability, corrosion and vandalism.
Location of the Sculpture
The sculpture will be placed in front of the pavilion at Green Park located along the open landscaped walkway facing Marina Boulevard (see Location Key Plan).
ABOUT THE PROJECT – THE SAIL @ MARINA BAY
The Sail @ Marina Bay soaring at 245 metres above sea level at the highest point will be Singapore’s tallest residential development and amongst the world’s ten tallest. The two towers standing at 70 and 63 storeys with 1,111 units will offer selections of one to four-bedroom units and penthouses for residents to enjoy the ultimate luxury of both city and waterfront living. Design principal, the world-renowned architect Peter Pran has described the architecture as a natural piece of art.
Connectivity to the Arts Hub, City and Waterfront
The Sail @ Marina Bay will seamlessly connect to the heart of the city and set a new benchmark for a truly integrated lifestyle to live, work and play. This exceptional development is strategically located in the new Downtown at Marina Bay, the proposed Business Financial Centre, Raffles Place. It is also near notable landmarks such as The Esplanade - Theatres on the Bay and the yet to be completed Merlion Pier, Singapore Flyer and the Central Promontory. The Sail @ Marina Bay also boasts of a direct underground access to the Raffles Place MRT station. Access to all other recreational, functional amenities and services is only a stone’s throw away.
Profile of Residents
Trendy and urban individuals, with a preference for city living. They enjoy the excitement of waterfront lifestyle and the taste for the finer things in life. If need be, The Sail @ Marina Bay can also be ideally used as a Home Office.
The building form exemplifies and defines natural forces. The overall composition is as if it is formed by water passing through the site. The result includes two prominent sculptural towers in dialogue: one more prominent tower has a dynamic and sculpted ‘leading edge’ which appears as if it is a sail catching the wind; and the other tower is responding in slight ‘lean-back’. A sculpted base leads to the formation of a ‘’canyon’’, which separates the base from the tower mass, becoming an important urban space that exposes a lush green environment to inhabit. Both towers clad in transparent glass are vertically oriented to evoke the sense of wind and waterfall. This result in reflecting the sky - which suggest infinite possibilities, the heavens, the stars and clouds that in fact have ‘’redistributed and transformed’’ water from the sea to the land and back again.
For any further enquiries, please contact the working committee at:
The 2nd CDL Singapore Sculpture Award
9 Raffles Place
#36-00 Republic Plaza
Tel: 6438 0880
Fax: 6438 0800
The Exhibition : Visions & Meditations (Debut Exhibition)
Presenter : DBS Art Collection
Featured Artists : Cheong Soo Pieng, Chieu Shuey Fook, Khoo Sui-Ho, Seah Kim Joo, Swee Khim Ann, Tay Bak Koi. Tay Chee Toh, Tew Nai Tong,Yeo Hoe Koon and Thomas Yeo
Venue : Gallery
Date : 8-27 March 2005
Tickets : Free
Synopsis : DBS is exhibiting its art collection for the first time. Produced in the 1970s, these art pieces, which include batik and metal relief works, were among the first works acquired by the Bank. In contrast to the frenzied urban progress of a nation in post-independence times, these artistic visions created in the decade of the 1970s remind us of the gentler, more meditative facets of the land and its inhabitants. These lyrical depictions of landscapes and figures capture a certain spirituality and idealised state of local & regional people and places.
The Arts House Box Office: 1, Old Parliament Lane, Singapore 179429
The Arts House Hotline: 65 6332 6919
Monday, March 07, 2005
The Other House is looking for Housemates
In need of private space for your artistic manifestation?
Spacious rooms for studio rental usage at 66 Rowell Road. (At Little India)
@$300-$400 per month.
Anyone interested for viewing,
Please contact Aiwei 92388492
Lim Tzay Chuen
Lim Tzay Chuen designs and constructs 'alterations', 'gaps' or 'delays' that affect the status quo of our behaviours and perceptions; he produces interventions that are typically 'discovered' rather than 'exhibited'. Lim's works are the result of an intricate but collaborative venture with specific organisations. In the past Lim sometimes described his work as trying to get institutions to 'entertain the possible'; he now talks about offering 'creative solutions' to 'possible problems'.
Lim Tzay Chuen, at Artspace, manipulated the curatorial process of being invited into a Biennale by offering his space at ArtSpace to anyone who could fulfill a mundane task successfully - collecting the most ripped-out pages from the Biennale's weighty catalogue (specifically, the first page of the curator Carlos's introductory essay). The natural instinct is to express offense at the idea that anyone should have to secure an exhibition in such a confrontational way (the catalogue is expensive and competitors face difficulty persuading anyone who has bought a copy to surrender one of its pages). The candidates had to deliver their pages by a deadline to do what ever they wanted to the space that they had gained access to. The winner, who does not have to be an artist, receives $4000, five-star hotel accommodation and a gallery space at Artspace to exhibit art work as part of the Biennale. The winner, having collected over 120 of the nominated catalogue pages, returned the gesture with a conceptual project - the space remained empty.
Nokia Singapore Art
In and the boy asked... (1999), shown during Nokia Singapore Art 1999, a visual-arts festival organized by the National Arts Council and the National Heritage Board, Lim Tzay Chuen tackles the idea rebellion, makes a case for its necessity, and eradicates the necessity of the thought. The artwork is a six-meter high pink ladder propped against the side of the Singapore Art Museum, a former Catholic boys' school established by French missionaries that is now the official institution for contemporary art. The ladder in Lim's installations resembles a toy that infantiizes the museum and softly reflects the colonial legacy of the institution.
Venice Biennale - press release
The Singapore Pavilion at the 51st Venice Biennale will feature the work of LIM Tzay Chuen. Established in 1895, the Venice Biennale is the most established international contemporary art event and widely regarded as one of the most significant. This will be Singapore’s third participation at this event.
Born in Singapore in 1972, Lim studied briefly at the then-LASALLE Art College and Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts in Singapore, before embarking on a 3 year degree programme at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Australia. Since graduating in 1997, Lim has participated in numerous exhibitions in Singapore and internationally. Amongst his more notable exhibitions and projects in Singapore include those realised at the Substation (2001) and TheatreWorks (2003), while, internationally, Lim’s work has been exhibited at Polypolis at the Kunthaus Hamburg (2001), the Gwangju Biennale (2002) and the Sydney Biennale (2004).
The work of Lim Tzay Chuen questions and redefines aesthetic experience — by compelling viewers to reflect upon their experience of his work, viewers are led, to critically re-evaluate perceptions and assumptions as to what constitutes aesthetic experience. This is achieved through intricate and complex engagements with the social, economic, cultural and political processes that define the particular contexts around which his work is situated. Lim’s interventions acknowledge the transitory and fragmented nature of space and memory, and it is their engagement with the volatility and uncertainty of situations that is significant. His work rejects the construction and definition of prescribed meanings as to what comprises a work of art. Instead, the recognition of an aesthetic event derives from moments of self-discovery, often involving reflexivity and intuition.
As Russell Storer, Curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney has written: “Lim’s work has, amongst other things, involved the altering of conditions within a gallery space, exhibition or catalogue so that those who encounter them are compelled to think, and rethink, this encounter. Something as simple and automatic as turning a page in a catalogue might be frustrated by an order from the artist to the printer to leave two pages uncut, so that the reader has to force them apart with their fingers; or to skip page numbers, which are then referred to in the bibliography or artist statement in the back. Are these errors, or deliberate? You are not entirely sure until you rip the pages apart to find an image of fingers performing this very action, or read the pages more closely to realise that the text flows on, despite the jump in the numbering sequence. These tiny alterations create an ambiguous space where initial confusion may lead to irritation, laughter, indifference or a spark of understanding that nothing, no matter how small, needs to be assumed or taken for granted. It also has the potential effect of slowing down the process of reception, calling for attention to be given, whether cognitively or not.”
All Too Visible by Cyril Wong (with kind permission)
Now that Goh Boon Teck has put on the already lackluster tiara of an intellectually-bankrupt, pan-Asian, theatre style passed down from none other than Ong Keng Sen, the latter has moved on to wading in the murky pool of contemporary visual art, fishing for new relevance for his own craft.
Lim Tzay Chuen is an artist. Lim Tzay Chuen is not an artist. Now put the word 'visual' or 'conceptual' before the word 'artist'. The problematics of naming often ride to the foreground of any discussion regarding the principles of his 'art'. Resisting the urge to dismiss this label by suggesting that 'anybody can be a conceptual artist' is difficult, particularly for anyone not already interested in the discourses loosely stringed together under the rubric of contemporary art.
But this is the person who set a huge, ugly pink ladder upon the Singapore Museum, bearing what Lee Weng Choy, art critic, described as 'a military connotation [suggesting] a storming of the doll-house citadel of artdom in Singapore' (Sculpture, Vol. 19, No. 7, Sep 2000). During the heinously overhyped President's Young Talents exhibition, Lim simply put up seemingly formal FAQs on a blank wall, a two-page exchange between the 'artist' and an unknown audience, involving unwittingly self-reflexive questions targeted at the artist's very raison d'etre for presenting 'artwork' of this nature. More confrontational than merely critical, Lim seems more ready to belittle accepted conventions about art than to implicitly undermine it as part of a broader and more recognisable aesthetic. This is despite being more known for his interest in minute disruptions - such as moving the Dali statue in front of the UOB building by four feet to one side - and their relations to perception and perspective, as well as to larger socio-cultural narratives.
When Ong claims that Lim Tzay Chuen is designed to make the actors address fundamental notions of theatre, it chimes not so softly with Lim's own preferred strategies for encouraging a mode of re-examination and renewed, critical questioning. It does, however, seem condescending and arrogant to assume that these actors need to be educated about why they do the things they do in the first place. The same criticism may also apply to Lim, whose calculated attacks on perceived notions of art and ideology can seem insulting and crass to those already aware that although such notions are limited and faulty, they are also arguably useful and even necessary for any sort of positive, discursive development in the arts.
In Lim Tzay Chuen, one is forced to wonder about whether an actor is more true to his or her self onstage or offstage, when it is more popularly known that actors are artists who imitate life once they step out to appear before the audience. When does the real person disappear and the persona take over? Such questions settle unanswered around the roots of the craft, and of the complex relationships between the audience and the all that happens on the stage. The questions become more urgent when the direction of the piece insists that the actors turn their backs to the audience for most of the performance. This is after Walter Leung has drawn up a desperate series of equations (eg. L = Love and is NOT a problem) like a deranged participant in the American living room game show, Win, Lose or Draw, as well as after Peter Sau and Yeo Yann Yann have finished their subsequent Noh-inspired movements (Peter Sau with a fan, no less, in line with his inescapable instinct for camp that has always surfaced regardless of whatever role he plays), although with less focus and dramatic power than actual practitioners of Noh.
After such a dramatic beginning of putting forward an already familiar tension between ideologically entrenched notions of logic with the chaotic nature of more abstract emotions and artistic gestures, the stage is set, literally, when the actors unfold their chairs to face their individual cameras. Jason Wee, the editor of Vehicle Magazine, who sat beside me during the show, pointed out that the row of cameras and televisions above them brought to mind the panopticon as well as the metaphor of a firing squad. The idea that 'this show is also about you, the audience' is painfully self-conscious and yawningly clichéd. Nowadays, so many artists in Singapore are in love with such postmodern tropes more than twenty years too late, it seems. The entire basis for Lim Tzay Chuen, in fact, is excruciating self-reflexive. One wonders how much has Ong progressed when at the end of the show and somewhere near its beginning, a line of lights above the televisions pour onto the audience as if to shine the torches of our perspectives back onto ourselves; in so many previous productions by Ong has this been done. The Necessary Stage (in Sex.Violence.Blood.Gore, for eg.) and others have also executed this to death. The strategies behind the titling of the performance and the deferring of the subject, whether via suggesting that the show can be given any name as a title, viewing the actors' faces only onscreen, or showing the audience only the backs of the actors' heads, are poststructuralist gestures late in their arrival too in our contemporary arts scene. It might as well be a cliché too when I state that there is nothing new here in terms of concept, although credit must be given for forcing the actors to drive sprawling monologues down the eye of that panoptic camera and spitting it onto the tight frame of a television screen by way of a violent close-up. What is said by the actors transition in the space of a blink between confession and fiction.
The irony is not lost on Yann Yann when she reveals how she once longed to be in television, particularly in colour, when she was a child. The televisions spew forth the performers' faces in harsh black and white, but this merely heightens the rich palette of their expressions, as well as reinvigorates questions about the elusiveness of what we call self or identity. However, this invigoration is successful only because the actors are more than successful in expressing an aching authenticity along with these questions. Self-reflexivity as a trope is also invigorated when Walter Leung frankly - but not without some possible bitterness - talks about how much he hated being a computer programmer before becoming an actor, and how he would rather be a mediocre actor than be a slave in his previous line of work. Probably the weakest actor during TTRP's previous productions (Tartuffe and Tiger Tally), he is ironically much stronger here in Lim Tzay Chuen than he could have possibly imagined during such a rare, naked moment of self-awareness. However, one might argue that it is easier to act from just the chin upwards than to perform with the entire body, which is the stage-actor's modus operandi.
Zelda Ng and Yeo Yann Yann were sudden and jagged gems in the dark: the former pining for a man sitting on the shoulder of a Buddha statue, shifting from being sensuously forthright to crumbling into tears during a revelation about her recent divorce, then sticking post-its all over her flat as part art-installation, part post-traumatic consequence (a few of her friends cried in the audience); the latter elaborating calmly about her search for the essence amidst the codes of human behaviour and about her skill at mimicry of these codes in her performances, culminating in frustration, emotional torment, then in a moment of poignant self-assurance ('Do you understand?' 'I understand.') and a heroic restoration of faith in one's own re-discovered self. Ong Teck Lian, the most experienced actress in the ensemble, and the one with the most gravitas, luxuriously sidesteps the glorious angst-route of her colleagues, and tells it as it is, revealing how much she has tried to understand the other eight actors sitting together with her in the same direction on stage, but the ultimate failure of this personal and common enterprise is told with a clear-eyed honesty and echoed powerfully by how the actors keep not looking at each other.
One is usually most honest when talking to oneself. Turning one's back to one's audience to talk in the direction of an object is perhaps one step closer to such honesty. Even the underlying knowledge that what you say is still heard, or that what you express on your face is still transmitted to the audience, is half-forgotten as the eye of the camera becomes both the eye of indifference, the eye of one or a combination of persons, or the actor's own mirrored ego. When Pern Yiau relates with a feigned calm underlined by anger and disgust, 'I want to remove the you in me,' Jean-Paul Satre's own remark that 'hell is other people' bears renewed meaning in this context. Who we say we are is always and essentially defined by who we are not, as much as who we would like to be (Themis Lin: 'I am Andy Lau…I am Snow White'). Deconstructionists have carried on about this countless of times. The Derridean notion of the undecidable 'trace' is the contamination of the Other within the construction of our identities, rendering the latter as unstable, and the self is the surface of water a pebble thrown may disrupt at anytime, despite the illusion of calm when the coast is clear and the wind is dormant. The more we believe we are different from other people, the more these other people determine who we are. Tzay Chuen's propensity towards undermining other people's certainties may seem to be targeted directly at the makings of the self here. This persistent attack upon the presumed complacency of such certainties, however, is a tired one, regardless of how direct, how crudely insulting, and how straight-in-your-face a manner by which this is achieved.
Anything in the performance that strayed from the Confessional mode failed to be memorable, although it is to the credit to the actor when certain parables or an abstract series of statements work well in conveying specific themes or moral messages. Andy Ng's conversational style of narration, contrasted with his initial, neurasthenic vibration of the head every time before he speaks, serves as a dramatic antidote to the trembling intensity of the other performers. His story about two computers meeting in a room then falling into silence at the point when a word loses its fixed meanings is one of the better examples of technology as a trope for ideological and logocentric finalities, due to the restrained storytelling style and its repressed undercurrents of despair and gathering courage. The worst lines in the show about how we are all 'machines' made up of 'codes' with references to zeros and ones remind one of the worst moments in the Matrix trilogy. Talk about there being nothing new here. It is a sad moment in our local theatre scene when there is a sheer lack of knowledge about the popular metaphors proliferating within mass culture.
It is so easy, it seems, to criticise society for not setting aside enough room for doubt. Who has not heard all of this before by now? However, I am only referring to the concepts behind Lim Tzay Chuen. The stories of individual people are always idiosyncratic and new because they are rich in the particular and grounded in the authenticity of genuine experience.
Finally, it was interesting to note how many people in the audience actually acknowledged the one person whose invisibility stood out over both the overt-invisibility of Tzay Chuen and the over-visibility of Ong Keng Sen. I am, of course, referring to the profound absence of Kuo Pao Kun (Can the man Zelda be referring to upon Buddha's shoulder not be Pao Kun? How about the martial arts instructor Themis refers to? And the teacher that smiles with such love at Yann Yann's petulant question about whether she was asked to join TTRP due to a lack of students?) If one could claim that love is a stable concept, then I would like to express love for Pao Kun (even though I have not met him) and his humanist values, his famous and convincing reasoning that life must come first, not art. The nine actors now on another cusp of their careers were electric with their own stories, and for a moment the current of their personalities thrummed through our bodies and renewed our own belief in the justifications of ourselves.