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Art What!: Singapore Biennale 2019 – Every Step In The Right Direction

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Singapore Biennale 2019 (SB2019) returns for its sixth edition, with 77 artists and art
collectives from 36 countries and territories. Titled “Every Step in the Right Direction”, the international contemporary art exhibition invites the public to engage with the act of artistic exploration, drawing on the importance of making choices and taking steps to consider the conditions of contemporary life and the human endeavour for change.

Commissioned by the National Arts Council and organised by SAM, the Singapore Biennale will run from 22nd November 2019 to 22nd March 2020 across 11 venues in the city. With a strong focus on Southeast Asia, the sixth edition welcomes over 150 works across a breadth of diverse mediums including film, installation, sound art and performance, as well as new commissions and works that have never been presented in contemporary art biennales and exhibitions internationally.

Busui Ajaw_Ayaw Jaw Bah (sculptures); image courtesy of the Artist

Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction refers to the ethical imperative for both artists and audiences to make choices and take steps to reflect on the conditions of contemporary life. The Singapore Biennale 2019 puts its faith squarely in the transformative potential of the artist to rework the world, and invites the audience to be open to such a work and to a world that is made different through it.

Le Quang Ha_TAKING SHIT from Gilded Age; photo Nguyen Nam Hai; image courtesy of the Artist

With the artistic and curatorial direction anchored in regional history, SB2019 aims to reflect on pressing concerns relevant to the global cultural community through artworks presented. This is done through ‘festival-seminars’, where action and reflection are interwoven through the presentation of convivial, participatory, and community-responsive projects and reflective, archival, and research-oriented works.

Koki Tanaka, Abstracted Family (video still); image courtesy of the Artist and Vitamin Creative Space, Guangzhou; Aoyama Meguro, Tokyo

Led by Artistic Director Patrick Flores, the team of six Singapore Biennale curators have both independent and institutional backgrounds in the region, bringing together a wide spectrum of interests and experiences that afford opportunities for invigorating conversations and deliberations.

Kray Chen 5 Rehearsals of a Wedding (video still); images courtesy of the Artist

“On behalf of the Singapore Biennale 2019 curatorial team and the organising team from the Singapore Art Museum, we are proud to present a wide-ranging city-wide exhibition that brings together artists and collectives from across geographies, disciplines, cultures and personal histories to consider the transformative potential of art and artists to reflect on our contemporary condition and take steps towards thoughtful change. I hope that this Biennale will inspire creativity and creation, and renew a necessary sense of curiosity and attentiveness to the everyday,” comments SB2019 Artistic Director Patrick Flores.

Ali Akbar Sadeghi 2_Ali Akbar Sadeghi Animation Films (animation stills); images courtesy of the Ali Akbar Sadeghi Foundation

“The Singapore Biennale offers rich opportunities for Singaporeans to experience and be curious about contemporary art of Southeast Asia, while expanding its visibility and scholarship in the region. With the exhibition sited at historical, cultural, and public sites across Singapore, we hope that through art, Singaporeans deepen their connection with the city and the region, and overseas visitors will discover more about Singapore and Southeast Asia. The Biennale affirms Singapore’s position as a vibrant destination for art, with diverse and accessible programme line-up for everyone to enjoy,” adds Rosa Daniel, CEO of the National Arts Council, Singapore.

Hafiz Rancajale, Social Organism (details); image courtesy of the Artist

SB2019 will take place in 11 venues across the city, spanning Singapore’s landmark cultural institutions, historical and vital public spaces. The works in the Biennale converse with the sites in which they are located, where each location becomes a central part of their conception and experience. Each site thus becomes a node of creative inquiry where artists and artworks are brought together in dialogue to provoke critical reflection and mindful action.

Zakkubalan, in collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto async – volume (installation detail); photo Neo Sora; image courtesy of the Artists

At the National Gallery Singapore, 36 artists and collectives engage viewers with unexpected ways of experiencing everyday life and the ecology around us. Renewing our awareness and attentiveness to traditions, customs and craft which have shaped the past and steer a possible future, the works include a co-commissioned work with QAGOMA and APT9 by Boedi Widjaja that reflects on the complexities of migration, diaspora, and hybridity; Zakkubalan collaborates with Ryuichi Sakamoto to present a behind-the-scenes portrait of the Japanese composer and his creative process through an ever shifting ambient soundscape; a commissioned project by Celine Condorelli that engages the archives of five artists in a staged scenario of leisure and contemplation.

Korakrit Arunanondchai: Together with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3-5 (video stills); images courtesy of the Artist and BANGKOK CITYCITY GALLERY, Bangkok; C L E A R I N G, New York/Brussels; Carlos/Ishikawa, London

The Biennale works in Gillman Barracks, 22 artists and collectives invite the audience to sensitively examine the rapid changes in today’s environment, revisiting both the history of nature and the nature of history as a complex, vulnerable and enduring ecology. A whimsical play of chance and improvisation, Nabilah Nordin’s An Obstacle in Every Direction, she invites the visitor to enter an obstacle course made up of assemblages of found objects; through assemblages of commonplace objects, Khairullah Rahim looks at a range of public and private spaces and explores their adaptability, dual natures and symbolic connotations; Korakrit Arunanondchai’s SB2019 commission reflects on the contemporary age of rapid technological advancement and simultaneous technological
obsolescence.

Khairullah Rahim Intimate Apparitions (sightings) (detail); image courtesy of the Artist and Taufiq Rahman

At LASALLE College of the Arts, the public is encouraged to intervene, participate and engage with works by 13 artists and collectives across a range of modes; including the archive, textbook, art history, and lectures, among others. The Mamitua Saber Project celebrates the artistic custodianship of the late scholar, cultural worker and educator, who worked to preserve and cultivate the culture of the Moro people in Mindanao; three artistic projects by Bakudapan Food Study Group, •• PROPAGANDA DEPARTMENT and Mark Sanchez are commissioned to draw on, deepen and experiment with Saber’s
ideas and practice.

Lawrence Lek 2065 (Singapore Centennial Edition) (video still); image courtesy of the Artist

The works featured at the Asian Civilisations Museum confront and reconsider the ideas and values that have come to embody “Asian” identity and the aspiration that is “civilisation” in an increasingly porous and nuanced world. Lawrence Lek’s SB2019 commission functions as a model for post-human behavioural patterns, combining the familiarity of a place some call home with an unknown future in a virtual para-fiction. In an installation combining live performances, videos, set design, and painting, Jen Liu considers the value and nature of gold’s seduction as a vector to discuss the intersections of labour activism and genetic engineering, commodification. Okui Lala unpacks the
complexity of inter-generational and multilingual conditions through the history and development of language policy planning in Malaysia in a compressed snapshot of its socio-cultural reality.

Pooja Nansi Coping Mechanisms (artist impressions); images courtesy of Michael Ee

Other sites include Amanda Heng’s revisit of her ‘Let’s Walk’ series, through performances, workshops, and presentations that generate reflection at the hoarding of Singapore Art Museum and Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay; Pooja Nansi’s celebration of the small joys and triumphs in everyday conversation at SAM at 8Q hoarding; Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang’s VR journey through a labyrinth of collective memories at the SMU de Suantio Gallery; Lani Maestro’s works that encourage mindful and sensitive encounters on the front lawn of the National Museum of Singapore; Paphonsak La-or’s installation of painted vine-flowers at National Library plaza; as well as additional performances by Jason Wee and Phare, the Battambang Circus at W!ld Rice @ Funan and Far East Plaza.

Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction runs from 22nd November 2019 to 22nd March 2020 across 11 venues in Singapore. Visit singaporebiennale.org for more information.

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