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Art What!: For The House; Against The House by OH! Open House

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Are judgemental labels useful in defining us? Is passion made impossible in Singapore? As part of Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2021, OH! Open House presents For the House; Against the House, a guided tour cum debate where art makes arguments.

For The House; Against the House offers two physical experiences that turn private art collections into topical issues for debate. By drawing inspiration from the art collections of Jo and the DUO Collection, curators John Tung and Syed Muhammad Hafiz set propositions for artists to respond through their practices. Audiences are then challenged to take a stance and participate in the debate, using the artworks as the starting point.

“Everyone has something to say; it’s important to have a space to say it. Rather than cultivating passive viewers, the debate format of For the House; Against the House challenges audiences to adopt an active stance in defending their perspectives,” said Tung. “Within the programme, the artists and artworks play a mediatory rather than instructive role in establishing the contemporary milieu, placing the onus on programme-goers to define the times for themselves.”

Apart from the physical experiences, the programme will also offer a digital experience in the form of two short interactive text-based games, based on the two proposed motions. Visitors will have to make a series of choices, which will ultimately determine the ending that they arrive at. This digital experience will launch on 22nd January 2021.

In Judging Labels: Are they useful?, Syed Muhd Hafiz curates this exhibition about understanding our own local art history, and question if it is scholarship and provenance that takes precedence. However, patterns of patronage by collectors, institutions and even journalists play an equally significant role in writing that history. Understanding this ecosystem, how can we paint a holistic picture of Singapore art history without assigning judgemental labels?

This experience will first guide visitors through select artworks from the DUO Collection’s private collection and new commissions. Thereafter, visitors will be assigned a role (e.g. an art historian, museum director, art collector), and make arguments from that perspective. 

Selected artworks that will be shown from the DUO Collection include works from Goh Beng Kwan and Teo Eng Seng. Newly commissioned artists part of this experience include Aisha Rosli, Faris Heizer, Masuri Mazlan and Shen Jiaqi.

“As an art historian, I wanted to understand why the DUO Collection started with ‘modern’ artists of Singapore and subsequently shifted to contemporary artists,” said Hafiz. “In the process of talking to the collectors, I also realised how our understanding of local artists has a lot to do with not just scholarship but also patronage.”

Meanwhile, in Passion Made Impossible: Should we have our own ambitions in Singapore?, John Tung curates an exhibition exploring the ambitions of the everyday individual, as it constantly realigns with changing state objectives. In an environment led largely by top-down policies, shifts in a state’s long-term goals and short-run strategies play a key determining factor in the realisation of personal ambitions.

In this experience, guests will be given a predetermined stance (‘For’ or ‘Against’) for the proposition. After a tour of Jo’s collection and new commissions, opposing teams will be tasked to make their most compelling arguments. The winning house will be rewarded.

Selected artworks from Jo’s private collection include works from Tang Da Wu and Nadiah Bamadhaj. Newly commissioned artists that are part of this experience include Felicia Low, Nino Sarabutra and Wong Lip Chin.

For The House; Against The House takes place physically on 23rd, 24th, 30th, and 31st January 2021 at a secret location, while the digital version launches on 22nd January 2021. For tickets and more information, visit their website here

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