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Art What!: NTU Singapore and the European Union launch art residency SEA AiR

Screenshot 2021-03-26 at 6.24.19 PM

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) and the European Union Delegation to Singapore have launched the Studio Residencies in the EU for Southeast Asian Artists (SEA AiR), a new programme that aims to create a peer-to-peer cultural and artistic exchange between Southeast Asia and Europe, with Singapore as its hub.

Over the next three years, from 2021-2023, SEA AiR aims to bring six emerging Singaporean or Southeast Asian artists to Europe, where they will be given access to a furnished studio, accommodation, per diems, regional research field trip and logistical and day-to-day assistance in a community of creative practitioners.

“With how hard the pandemic has hit, it is the arts scene that sees itself crucially in need, and this project, we feel, comes at the right time.”

The artists will be given opportunities for building networks as well as personal and professional development. Formal convenings of artists-in-residence with their peers drawn from a local or international cohort can take the form of sharing sessions, studio critique sessions, and organised study trips. Artists will also have regular studio visits or other sessions with assigned mentors, and less formal studio visits with visiting curators and artists. These sessions will centre around discussions on their research and studio projects as well as their practice as a whole.

During their time in the EU, artists will also attend public programmes, exhibitions, and other events at the host institution. They will also have the opportunity to present their work publicly, in the form of a lecture, performance, screening, installation, or open studio event. Artists-in-Residence will also participate in group excursions and sessions alongside other residency artists.

Beyond receiving a deeper understanding of the various cultural strands and values shaping the continent, participating artists will also have an exhibition in Singapore which will enable them to present and showcase their artwork to a wider audience. The initiative also aims to promote a creative exchange enhancing the EU-Singapore–ASEAN dialogue through contemporary art and provide a meaningful opportunity for artists who have previously not lived or studied in the EU. Likewise, host institutions will benefit from expanding their networks in Southeast Asia, a region that has been historically under-represented in most artist-in-residence programmes in Europe. 

Professor Joseph Liow, Dean of College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University said: “NTU, through the Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore is proud to be partnering with the EU Delegation in Singapore on this initiative that will be of great impact to the development of contemporary art and artists in Singapore and Southeast Asia. This partnership is a demonstration of the recognition of the Centre’s track record and further strengthens ties between the university and the EU. The SEA AiR programme is a significant opportunity for emerging Singaporean and ASEAN artists and we are pleased to support them in this way.”

A total of 26 residencies will be offered, with residency candidates nominated by a pool of curators and arts professionals in Singapore and the region, as selected by NTU CCA Singapore from arts, educational, and cultural institutions throughout Southeast Asia. Each year, this list of nominators and juries will be changed, be they curators, writers, or other professionals, to ensure greater diversity and cast an eye on new talent. The selected artists will subsequently submit a proposal for review to the Selection Committee, consisting of a panel of experts including the EU Delegation.

“Our selection process is rigorous, because we want to make sure the standards remain high, while also having a focus on more young, up and coming artists,” says Professor Liow. “We do hope that the word gets out more in the coming weeks and months, so the programme gets more exposure.”

The first host institution will be the WIELS Contemporary Art Centre in Brussels, Belgium. As a space dedicated to the exhibition and support of emerging artists since 2007, WIELS occupies a central stage in the art scene. A highly renowned institution dedicated to contemporary art, its residency is supporting emerging artists towards professional practices, presenting original artistic visions and facilitating  critical exchange, and establishing connections between local and international artists and curators.

This initiative involves emerging artists in Singapore and Southeast Asia to further develop their practice, careers, networks and exposure where opportunities may not likely have existed. It also offers a means for European cultural institutions and communities to establish international cooperation and exchange with Singapore and the diverse Southeast Asian region.

“It’s so important for us to work together to keep up the interest in the arts scene in Singapore. something that helps us contribute to the development of Singaporean identity and culture,” says Professor Liow. “More importantly, with our partners, it’s about pushing it forward to a more regional and international level as well.”

NTU CCA Singapore will serve as a connector and positive catalyst between all stakeholders and will provide mentorship and guidance to the selected artists in developing and realising their work and projects. At the end of their residency, NTU CCA Singapore and the EU host institution will continue to provide the artists with feedback and support. NTU CCA Singapore’s curatorial team will also work closely with them on an exhibition or presentation in Singapore to showcase the body of work pursued whilst in Europe. Furthermore, they will share their process of artistic enquiry with the public via a range of public programmes.

Since its inception in October 2013, NTU CCA Singapore has successfully conceptualised and administered an extensive residencies programme, supporting artists, curators, and scholars alike by offering them time and space to pursue their research without the pressure of deadlines and production commitments. The Centre’s residencies programme is dedicated to working with established and emerging artists and is recognised as a platform for critical exchange in Southeast Asia. Its studio-based programme values the open-ended nature of artistic research and embraces multiform expressions of creative enquiry. This approach is of particular importance, allowing for free expression and giving artists latitude to question society in its plurality. NTU CCA Singapore’s expertise in the selection of artists, its network of international host organisations, and experience in the administering of artists’ residencies makes it the ideal organising institution to launch SEA AiR.

“In essence, the programme will benefit Singapore as a whole, connecting emerging Southeast Asian artists to the European Union. It is about elevating artists as cultural ambassadors with art as a form of soft diplomacy, to support these artists, and provide this entry point for greater networking and connections,” says Ute Meta Bauer, founding director of NTU CCA. “Especially for emerging artists at the beginning of their careers, this is an excellent opportunity to gain deeper understanding of the cultural strands, contribute to their practice and careers, and a greater connection with the region.”

“In establishing this connection between our artists and the EU, we believe this will be a good entry point and exchange,” she adds. “We’ve had over 112 international artists and residencies in Singapore, and this just marks the start of establishing even more meaningful connections. Art has the ability to address various uncomfortable issues in the world, making artists a necessary voice in such matters, and for an organisation as big as the EU to endorse such exchanges is proof that the arts are essential to society.”

“We have in the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore an excellent partner to present this project that will foster rich artistic exchanges inspired by travel and cultural exposure to Europe.” – Barbara Plinkert, European Union Ambassador to Singapore

Barbara Plinkert, European Union Ambassador to Singapore said: “We have in the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore an excellent partner to present this project that will foster rich artistic exchanges inspired by travel and cultural exposure to Europe. SEA AiR offers a deeper, more extensive engagement and immersion in the vibrant European cultural landscape and arts scene to experience first-hand the various cultural strands and values shaping our world today.”

“With how hard the pandemic has hit, it is the arts scene that sees itself crucially in need, and this project, we feel, comes at the right time,” says Plinkert. “We hope that it facilitates more exchanges among artists between regions, and give local artists the opportunity to be exposed to the European art scene on such a scale. With the returning artists coming back to present their work to the Singaporean audience, I can’t wait to see the results of the project and exchange, and how this initiative has developed since its inception.”

For more information, visit the NTU CCA website here

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