Art What! Arts Singapore Visual Art

Art What!: Singapore Art Museum launches multi-site exhibition Lonely Vectors

From 19 February to 11 September 2022, Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is launching a new multi-site exhibition titled Lonely Vectors, which will unfold in three stages. It will first open at the local libraries and public hoardings, then focus on the site of SAM’s space at Tanjong Pagar Distripark – a logistics warehouse near a busy shipping port.

Lonely Vectors presents a series of artworks and new commissions that draw attention to the flow of bodies and labour, exclusive zonings, fault lines, choke points, and infrastructural politics that characterise the global economy. These include lines and networks around the world such as agricultural and irrigation channels, trade and shipping routes, economic zonings and migratory patterns, which not only reflect the movement of goods, but also highlight the uneven distribution of the global economy.

Mi You, guest curator for Lonely Vectors, says, “This multi-sited art experience aims to get visitors thinking about what it is like to live in a global economy that is constantly in motion. We want to convey these ideas through three interconnected presentations across everyday spaces, so that audiences can draw different perspectives on themes such as the movement of goods, information and labour across the world, and how these choreographies have an impact on us and the people involved. Some of the works, such as the seed distribution network in Chu Hao Pei’s Seeding Sovereignty, point to the personification of networks and their desire to connect differently, allowing audiences to actively participate in the unravelling of these networks.”

Dr Eugene Tan, Director of SAM, says, “As part of SAM’s aim to be a ‘disappearing’ museum, Lonely Vectors is a way to diffuse the experience of art across multiple spaces in the city. When thinking about the site of the port where SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark is located, we recognise that the choreographies of the global economy do not simply pass through the port but also extend outwards to those living in Singapore and beyond. In the same way, we hope to reflect these movements through the different presentations in various sites, before the exhibition is presented at Tanjong Pagar Distripark later in the year.”

Zheng Mahler, The Green Crab: A Diagram of Auspicious Spatial Organization, 2022
Image courtesy of the artist.

Kicking off the first presentation at SAM’s Bras Basah Road and Queen Street hoardings, Lonely Vectors opens with a newly commissioned site-specific installation – The Green Crab: A Diagram of Auspicious Spatial Organization – a speculative feng shui map of Singapore’s urban environment that juxtaposes the philosophy of qi against the logic of the global economy’s flow, providing an alternative guide for navigating the city.  

Created by Australian artist-duo Zheng Mahler in collaboration with Singaporean architectural historian Ian Tan and One Bite Design Studio, the work reveals the hidden qi flows woven into the fabric of Singapore’s master plan for urban development. It is an exploration of the intersection between state-led urbanism in East Asia, and the guiding principles of Chinese metaphysics.

Zheng Mahler says, “It has been an incredibly interesting process as Hong Kong based artists to try and engage with and understand Singapore from afar during the pandemic.  This has only been possible through our collaboration with and learning from Ian Tan and his deep knowledge of Singaporean architecture and urbanism, and our engagement with the work of Master Tan whose reading of the city through the lens of Chinese metaphysics created a mythic and imaginary version of Singapore in our minds. It is also only through the incredible work of One Bite Design in Hong Kong that we could realize our vision. We hope the work gives a different perspective on the city to locals, as seen through alien and distant eyes.”

The latest in a series of commissions to wrap around SAM’s hoardings, The Green Crab invites the public to interact with the work by locating familiar neighbourhoods through annotated maps. As visitors discover various symbolic metaphors, myths and legends will be unravelled by way of these visually captivating maps.

Chu Hao Pei, work-in-progress image of Seeding Sovereignty, 2022. Image courtesy of Marcuse Woodworks.

In the second presentation of Lonely Vectors, a new commission by Singapore artist Chu Hao Pei will travel across the public libraries in Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, Jurong and Tampines. Titled Seeding Sovereignty, the presentation takes the form of a series of cabinets that function as a seed library to showcase Singapore’s intertwined past with rice and the region.

Chu says, “Seeding Sovereignty was born out of my lived experience working together with vernacular youth farming collectives in Indonesia which led to my interest in the circulation and histories of rice in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Rice is a staple within our diet, but most of us do not know much about the crop: how is it cultivated? Who grows our rice? Are there certain cultural practices of ours that are tied to our relationship with rice? Over the course of my research into rice, I’ve found that the most enduring and compelling way to encourage a certain cognisance about these ideas is to have access to native rice seeds and try growing these varieties for yourself.”

Both visual and tactile, these cabinets are accompanied by archival texts, images and myths within its drawers, and visitors are encouraged to interact with the seed library by gleaning information from its drawers and taking a packet of rice seeds home with them. The work reflects a different mode of seed distribution in response to the spatial typology of a library, inviting audiences to consider their relationship to the land, the food we eat, and how rice can bring a region together.

Chu adds, “Approaching this work as a seed library was a way for me to bring together some of the materials I’ve accumulated and to incorporate a clear call to action. Seeding Sovereignty is a work that is premised upon the exchanges and relations that it can facilitate, and in the process, responds to the fact that it is sited within the location of the public libraries – itself a place of knowledge, literature and dissemination.”

Drawing on Chu’s long-term interest in the circulation of rice within Singapore and the rest of Southeast Asia, the work is a continuation of Chu’s research on seed sovereignty, which was also explored at Present Realms, a joint presentation that concluded the pilot SAM Residency programme. 

The Green Crab: A Diagram of Auspicious Spatial Organization runs till 28 August 2022 at SAM’s Bras Basah and Queen Street hoardings. Seeding Sovereignty runs from 1 March to 11 September 2022 at Bedok, Ang Mo Kio, Jurong, Tampines public libraries. The third and final presentation for Lonely Vectors will be held at SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark from 3 June to 4 September 2022. More information available here

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