This week, Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2022 makes a triumphant return with its milestone tenth edition, as Art Takes Over Singapore once again. Beyond activating arts spaces, from museums to galleries, this year’s edition is all about making even retail, industrial spaces and hawker centres come alive with art. Look forward to mukbang at Singapore’s iconic Lau Pa Sat, or an industrial ‘artventure’ at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, with both festival favourites and fresh offerings in the over 130 programme lineup across both physical and digital platforms, with something for everyone to discover.
Taking our Singapore Art Week into our hands, we started off our journey at photography exhibition space DECK. Known for its unique space, the DECK as we knew it is now completely gone, stripped of its iconic containers and left almost bare. What it’s been replaced with however, is a traditional ‘wayang’ stage used for Chinese street operas of the past, and a familiar locale in our childhood memories. These days, with the loss of such traditional performers, it’s a rare sight, and sets the stage for Time Present Time Past, an exhibition where 5 artists have united to explore the significance of traditional performing arts.
Time Present Time Past comprises multiple parts, by artists Ken Cheong, Mary Bernadette Lee, Wu Yanrong , Lai Yu Tong and Yenting Hsu, each one examining a different facet of Chinese street opera, from an examination of hand gestures used in street operas, to sound art of Chinese street opera performances in Singapore and Taiwan. “In the early stages of this project, we just wanted to rescue Chinese culture. The cities are changing across Singapore, Taiwan and Hong Kong, and we no longer have as many temples or shrines,” says artist Ken Cheong. “And I wanted to document that, these disappearing places.”
Ken’s contribution to the project is a photography exhibit documenting photographic culture of the 90s, and the disappearing way of life. “Back then, it was hard to take photos of people, because they weren’t comfortable being photographed, or tended to be quite moody sometimes,” says Ken. “In my photos, I chose black and white, because I was so fascinated by light and shadow, and used German lenses that could give the images a tonal range. And I remember vividly capturing those images of how some of these troupes performed, some going for 200 days at one go. But now all that is gone, and there are so few remaining troupes left in Singapore.”
Thereafter, we were whisked away to Tanjong Pagar Distripark, to catch several new exhibitions. Because of the unique structure and space of the warehouse spaces, the multi-genre-bending exhibitions here aim to offer unorthodox experiences, in the form of SAW Open Call projects, from ANTINODES to Happy House by MAMA MAGNET and The Council.
Going through the space, one finds 9 different artists presenting their works, including works in progress. Many of these pieces were crafted during the pandemic, with some of these groups and collectives even born during this trying time, and the possibilities art offers. From 2D to 3D prints, AR and VR artwork (headsets are sufficiently cleaned and disinfected of course), to live shows, all making use of the unique space for an unusual, non-traditional art experience.
ANTINODES, for example unites artists Kiat, KRINGE, and Didier ‘Jaba’ Mathieu as Metamo Industries, each with their own specialisations such as DJ-ing or street art. These have allowed them to rethink their own artmaking and bounce ideas off of each other, spanning disciplines in this exhibition where street culture, music, architecture, technology, fashion and spirituality collide.
MAMA MAGNET and The Council’s Happy House asks visitors to question the happiness of pursuing happiness today, a site-specific installation that includes an audio-visual participative installation by Reza Hasni and Kin Leonn. Happy House also includes a virtual element online at happyhouse.sg, curated by Tulika Ahuja and Cats On Crack, and sees the group beginning its studies into the state of happiness, inspired by our island’s complicated relationship with it.
Elsewhere, Berny Tan and Daniel Chong’s Bad Imitation considers how a fake reveals more about the original than expected, with tiny versions of furniture, from marble tables at void decks to wooden benches. The threshold between true and copy creates a generative space of difference, and one is compelled to more closely examine the copy to see its flaws – oddly, the flawed copy may then become more intriguing than the original altogether.
Finally, we headed over to the Civic District, reaching the iconic Lau Pa Sat with Hawker! Hawker!, a love letter by local and New York-based artists to our cherished hawker culture, by Yen Phang and Oh Yam Chew. With a total of 14 collaborators, this project explores our hawker culture through participatory installations, sculpture, photography, performance, digital art and writing. Perhaps the next time you happen to be in the CBD, go grab a bite at Lau Pa Sat, and you may just be greeted with an unexpected installation to go with your lunch.
As always, Singapore Art Week is a plethora of events that fills every corner of the city with art, and beyond these three locations, there’s plenty more to unveil as we continue to journey. Look out for more from us, as we bring you highlights of SAW 2022.
Singapore Art Week 2022 runs from 14th to 23rd January 2022. For more information on SAW 2022 programmes, visit their website here.