The Asian Film Archive’s annual State of Motion multidisciplinary art exhibition is back for its sixth edition, this time centering on the theme of [Alternate / Opt] Realities. As its title suggests, the exhibition aims to conjures pathways into multiple worlds by exploring the science-fiction genre through the potency of audio-visual technologies.
The title takes its cue from the “Alt / Option” key from the computer keyboard, allowing users to modify existing mechanical systems and command codes. By entangling the “opt” between the phrase, “alternate realities”, the optional, optimal, and optical permutations imagine possibilities beyond present realities.
Over the years, the science-fiction genre as a world-building exercise received critical attention in Future Studies. The COVID-19 pandemic, for instance, recalls familiar themes that recur in the genre. The outbreak demonstrates how science fiction can actualise into science; a feedback loop that regurgitates itself. As more imagined technologies engineer into reality, some of these machines, in turn, become finer fleets of imagination, invoking speculative projections into truth.
Playing as part of Singapore Art Week, 11 art installations and 16 Southeast Asian sci-fi films from the last 30 years will be presented. Most of the artworks are
on display in Singapore for the first time, including nine new commissions by Singapore and regional artists such as Shawn Chua, Debbie Ding, Divaagar, Bani Haykal and collective PURE EVER.
Take for example momok elektrik, by Singaporean artist-musician Bani Haykal, that presents an audio installation of voice samples that speculates how machines of the future will codify speech. The installation imagines a momok (ghost, phantom or spectre) being conjured through the machine’s continued
interaction with human speech, much like British philosopher Gilbert Ryle’s idea of the ‘ghost in the machine’. From surveillance listening to data accumulation,
our relationship with machines revolves around the interdependency between us. As our voice samples become part of the machine’s vocabulary, they conjure new dimensions and are rendered musical.
Shawn Chua’s Safe Exit is a multi-site interactive installation where participants receive a wearable device to activate the installation, exploring their relationship with data and medical surveillance. Upon registration, participants will be provided with a wearable device with which they may activate the
installation. Through the experience, participants are invited to reflect on their data doubles—the discrete parts of themselves that have been collected and stored in databases and used to make determinations about their wellbeing—as
they navigate a speculative disease registry. Can we safely exit the paradigm of surveillance by reimagining and enacting other technologies of care for one another?
Divaagar’s Shelter Skelter – held in an “ancient” bunker built for the 2000s epidemics, projects audiences 200 years into the future to look back at Singapore in the year 2022 through corrupted digital materials and traces of life, such as the Eternal Indomie Stockpile. Restored virtual materials are also assembled and
displayed through ‘ancient technologies’ like ‘televisions’ and ‘computers’ by the System Integrated Technetronic Interpreter [SITI] programmme.
An audio-led tour, designed by Divaagar as part of his artwork Shelter Skelter, will be available from 29th January 2021, to guide visitors through the exhibition. Visitors can access the audio tour, named System Integrated Technetronic Interpreter [SITI], via QR codes in the exhibition.
Meanwhile, the film programme consists of 16 Southeast Asian sci-fi cinematic imaginations of the future which respond to real life conditions within the region, envisioning metropolises or dystopias in familiar settings, with highlights including For My Alien Friend (Philippines, 2019, Jet Leyco), Geomancer (United Kingdom, 2017, Lawrence Lek) and AIDOL (United Kingdom, 2019, Lawrence Lek). Screenings will be held at both Marina One auditorium and the Oldham Theatre, National Archives of Singapore Building.
Exhibiting artists will also be invited to discuss their artwork at online panels moderated by co-curators Thong Kay Wee and Syaheedah Iskandar, available online and at the exhibition site. There will also be a staged performance titled Siapa Nama Kamu: 2095 (What is Your Name: 2095) by Norah Lea, about a futuristic state named Singhasana, and a panel with online publication and gallery so-far about digital platforms that shape our futures.
For the first time, the Asian Film Archive has collaborated with the National Library to curate a selection of 23 Southeast Asian sci-fi books in English and the mother tongue languages. Titles include Lion City by Ng Yi-Sheng, Altered Straits by Kevin Martens Wong and The Sea is Ours: Tales from Steampunk Southeast Asia by Jaymee Goh and Joyce Chng.
State of Motion 2021 runs till 21st February 2021 at Marina One, 7 Straits View. More information available on their website here. The full film programme is available here, and talks and other programmes available here