While its main building undergoes renovations, the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) continues to find new spaces and partners to continue exhibiting work till the main site re-opens. At Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2022, one such partner happens to be Tanjong Pagar Distripark, as SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark arrives on the arts scene.
“The opening of SAM’s new space in Tanjong Pagar Distripark marks a key milestone for us as SAM brings the experience of art to unexpected and everyday spaces,” says Dr Eugene Tan, Director of SAM. “This expansive space allows us to showcase large-scale works and installations – from experimental, multidisciplinary art, to multi-sensorial family-friendly exhibitions. The space is purposefully designed to spark collaborations between our partners, artists and audiences, and will be a key site for talks, workshops and programmes. With its unique location in a historic port and near heritage neighbourhoods, we hope that SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark will be a new art destination for people of all ages and backgrounds to discover contemporary art, create new memories and connections, and be inspired by different perspectives about our world today as well as our possible futures.”
Spanning two floors with over 3,000 square metres, several exhibitions and programmes have been planned to commemorate the opening of SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark. SAM’s new space on Level 1 in Tanjong Pagar Distripark features two climate-controlled galleries that will host large-scale exhibitions by Singapore-based band The Observatory, and Thai-born and US-based artist Korakrit Arunanondchai respectively.
In Gallery 1, the larger of the two galleries, The Observatory presents REFUSE, an immersive world inspired by the bifold meaning of “refuse” as waste and detritus, and as defiant gestures and resistance. Comprising an inter-media exhibition about music, mushrooms and decomposition, this presentation brings together the band’s interest in fungi and mycelial networks to explore decomposition and composition from biological and musical perspectives. Working with a close-knit network of collaborators, REFUSE decks the gallery out with towering stacks of recycled wooden pallets that hold glass jars of live mushrooms. The biorhythms from these mushrooms are then converted into sounds.
The Observatory shares, “REFUSE is an effort between us and a network of collaborators – encompassing mycology design (Bewilder), scenography installation (Sai aka Chen Sai Hua Kuan), archival advice (Ujikaji), moving image (Yeo Siew Hua), and guest curation (Tang Fu Kuen). Making work that is complex or difficult has always excited us, and REFUSE is no different. Our collaborators pushed us as much as we pushed them, creating a presentation that far exceeded what we initially thought possible. Delving into themes of rot, regeneration, and de-composition through fungi, REFUSE marks both a bio-turn in our practice by engaging with the nonhuman, and furthering explorations into the multimodal forms of communicating sound.”
Meanwhile, Korakrit Arunanondchai’s A Machine Boosting Energy into the Universe transforms Gallery 2 into a post-apocalyptic environment with used electronics, auto parts, and clothing that have been refashioned into cyborgian figures. A site-specific manifestation of the artist’s 2015-16 video installation, Painting with history in a room filled with people with funny names 3, will unfold in the space. As the inaugural presentation of SAM’s long-term curatorial agenda titled Material Intelligence, this exhibition explores the coming together of craft and industrial modes of production, advanced technologies, and spiritual beliefs, inviting visitors to be in communion not just with each other, but also with machines and ghosts.
“HD helps us come closer to the spiritual beings we long to meet,” Korakrit Arunanondchai observes. Spirits live through our videos and machines: phone cameras that capture sightings of mythical creatures, drones that act as ghostly eyes in the sky. By exploring this room full of chaos, of messy electrical wires, we are forced to question the relationship between spirituality and technology. The exhibition itself brings material intelligence into focus, and wonders – what do artists today know about materially shaping the world around us? As we consider the way the world is shifting towards a digital realm, such as the dawn of Meta, how then can we create experiences that can’t be physically touched or collected. One is left to ponder the role of the artist, and how the role of the artist relies on storytelling in a hybrid fashion, using sculpture and video and narrative to craft works that deal with the future.
SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark also aims to be a key platform for enabling connections between the museum’s visitors through public programmes, as well as active collaboration and co-creation. “Our programming at Tanjong Pagar Distripark reflects our interest in creating an expanded space of representation and understanding, where both our artists and publics are deeply engaged. With these new, flexible spaces, we hope to provide artists with more opportunities to experiment, collaborate and interact with wider and different communities. Visitors can also expect to encounter innovative and interdisciplinary artistic practices that speak to contemporary issues,” says Dr June Yap, Director of Curatorial & Collections at SAM.
On Level 1, the multi-purpose space The Engine Room will host Gan Siong King: My Video Making Practice, featuring the Malaysian artist’s engagements with the medium of video. The exhibition features two of his works, Kecek Amplifier Bersama Nik Shazwan (2019) and My Video Making Practice (2021). The installation also features specially designed benches made in collaboration with researchers at Singapore Institute of Technology, which make use of lowfrequency vibration to accompany high-frequency audio from the video works, resulting in a richer viewing experience for visitors. From March 2022, screenings of My Video Making Practice will take place on selected weekends, alongside dialogue sessions with the artist and a series of different moderators.
Common areas in SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark are also spaces for art encounters for visitors upon arrival. At the Level 1 reception foyer, cross-disciplinary art collective vertical submarine presents an updated version of Flirting Point. An interactive installation, Flirting Point invites visitor reflect on social interactions, which takes on renewed meaning in the current time of social distancing. Two new artwork commissions by Singapore-based artists Hazel Lim-Schlegel and Andreas Schlegel in collaboration with neuewave, as well as Michael Lee will also enliven the common areas outside SAM’s space on Level 1, and the side gate entrance at Tanjong Pagar Distripark.
In the spirit of engaging visitors as active collaborators, SAM’s pilot Residents Chu Hao Pei, Salty Xi Jie Ng, and Johann Yamin, will be presenting their continued explorations into diverse topics of interest such as rice, rituals and gaming in Present Realms at the Level 3 residency spaces. Marking the conclusion of the pilot SAM Residencies programme, Present Realms reflects the shared and interactive working environment that defines SAM Residencies, extending these exchanges to visitors, who are invited to participate in the further development of their research.
Chu investigates seed sovereignty and cultural loss across Southeast Asia as they came to be shaped by infrastructural and social factors. Ng explores the intersections of grief, rituals, ancestor worship and Chinese religions, as well as the complex relationship between museum acquisition processes in relation to social forms of art. Yamin focuses on histories of eSports and its ecosystem(s) from a Southeast Asian vantage point to consider nationalism, capitalist logics and queer games communities.
“There was this great desire to reconnect with some of these traditional practices of the past my grandmother used to perform,” says Salty Xi. “I was interested in reinventing some of these rituals and how they make us Chinese, while using this personal experience to explore such a macro subject. Some of these include involving non-human collaborators, namely, these plants my grandma took care of. Bringing them into the space was an emotional and scary experience, because I wondered how they would survive in the gallery for 7 weeks. But I also felt like I’ve been communicating ad collaborating with the plants, and with my grandma’s personal effects here, and items from the funeral, I thought about how beautiful it could be, if you look at our rituals as a form of helping her ascension.”
“My practice explores our relationship to the digital world, and for this project in particular, how gaming has transformed,” says Johann Yamin on his work. “I was fascinated by eSports and competitive gaming, where nations are pit against each other, having evolved from the arcade cabinet or quiet, personal environment of one’s own room, to these national scales.”
To complete the visitor’s art experience at SAM in Tanjong Pagar Distripark, a 20-seater coffee bookshop operated by Epigram Bookshop and Balestier Market Collective will overlook the port and offer visitors a space to relax, refresh themselves and pick up local book titles. A popup experience is planned for Singapore Art Week, with the coffee bookshop slated to open by mid-2022.
As a key partner for Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2022, SAM will also be presenting a series of live performances, talks and family-friendly activities at Tanjong Pagar Distripark in January, tying in with SAM’s opening programmes. These include a ticketed performance titled Wanderlust@SAM, free family weekend activities on SAMily Fundays, free workshops for children such as 101 Ways to Make Music with Playeum, as well as SAW Dialogues with artists including Korakrit Arunanondchai. In addition, there will be a photobooth at the reception foyer for visitors to capture photos with their friends and family from 1 to 7pm on the weekends during SAW.
More information on SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark and its opening programmes may be found here
Singapore Art Week 2022 runs from 14th to 23rd January 2022. For more information on SAW 2022 programmes, visit their website here.