Art What! Visual Art

Art What!: Singapore Biennale 2022 gets a name – Natasha

Natasha is handwritten in Hangul on paper held in the air against the crater Lēʻahi on O‘ahu island on 21 February 2022

Natasha. A given name. A first name. A forename. Giving a name – especially a proper name – signals a subject. Through this act of naming – whether human or non-human – an entity takes shape.

Singapore Art Museum (SAM) announces the naming of the seventh edition of the Singapore Biennale (SB2022) as Natasha. Through this act of naming, SB2022 moves away from its perception as a mega-thematic exhibition and towards an engagement with the ways that art, and that which is considered other to art, may be deeply connected to the subject and matter of life. Visiting Natasha draws forth a journey, along which one might encounter the meaning of being from multiple perspectives. 

Through the biennale as a process, Natasha is to be found, formed or shaped by fellow travellers and dwellers – artists, audiences and researchers. The process includes encounters, durational infrastructure, reading performances, music, publications and study groups stretched over time and space. The main exhibition will take place in Singapore from 16 October 2022 to 19 March 2023 serving as a point of convergence. 

The Singapore Biennale is organised by SAM and commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore. SB2022 will feature several site-specific and commissioned contemporary works never seen before on the biennale circuit.

“From the dawn of history, proper names have been given to natural formations and forces: from mountains and rivers, to hurricanes and heatwaves. Even contemporary interactive technologies – such as Siri and Alexa – are granted first-name familiarity. In these instances, naming seems to produce intimacy, a relation of kinship and care, a way of engaging and living with other beings. But naming has also been the means through which possession and control have been gained, for example in colonial conquest. Indeed, the practice of naming involves and invokes a complex inheritance the name, Natasha, has its meanings and familiarity in certain cultures, not to mention its usage in references or across narratives,” comment the Co-Artistic Directors of SB2022.

“A biennale – by virtue of its scale and scope, its cyclical rhythm and momentum – is a force of its own. It is also a technology of our making that absorbs and responds to the aesthetic and discursive conditions of its time. As such, this act of naming is a deliberate attempt to shift the biennale from the convention of a large-format exhibition-event of presentation to something a little more ‘human.’ That is to say, it transforms what it means to visit and encounter the biennale, calling into question our understanding and assumptions of the exhibitionary experience, as well as of humaneness itself. 

At the same time, as a framework for acknowledging and exploring the plural nature of being, Natasha is not posited as a stable unitary subject, but as a changing constellation of affects and energies. After all, at a cellular or molecular level, all beings are an entangled network of various moments and states.

Through this act of naming, the artistic directors thus wish to draw attention to and to discuss the facets of: being and non-being, human and non-human, knowing and unknowing, visible and invisible, local and cosmic; and how these connect or intersect with creating, writing, encoding, and navigating each other and the world. 

Conceived as a shared commitment to the functions and potentials of a biennale of contemporary art in and after pandemic time, Natasha is a presence through which we can investigate the ways that art, as well as that which is considered other to art, may be deeply connected to life.”

Singapore Biennale will return for its seventh edition from 16 October 2022 to 19 March 2023 with a programme of activities starting in May 2022. A schedule of the activities and the comprehensive list of participating artists will be released later in 2022. More information available here

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