Art What! Visual Art

Art What!: Singapore Biennale 2022 aka ‘Natasha’ arrives this Sunday

The seventh edition of Singapore Biennale 2022 (SB2022) named Natasha, officially opens to the public this Sunday, 16 October 2022. Three new venues – the Singapore Flyer, International Plaza and 22 Orchard Road – will join the exciting lineup of locations around Singapore. Organised by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore (NAC), audiences can embark on a journey with Natasha and its artists and collaborators, and re-discover different perspectives of viewing and relating to the world and the transformative potentials of life and relationships within it.

Installation view of Åsa Sonjasdotter & Daniela Zambrano Almidón’s Papitas Tarpuycha/Earthing Potatoes (2011-ongoing), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. Papitas Tarpuycha / Earthing Potatoes is a collaborative project involving a site-specific installation on Lazarus Island, workshops, and a Quechua food ritual. The work is centred on the potato, a staple from the Andes as well as a common crop all over the world. The project explores the restoration of non authoritarian food relations following migratory trajectories of potatoes and reflects on migration, food production and ancestral techniques of cooking on the land and in the community.

Eugene Tan, Director of SAM, said, “SAM is extremely pleased to present Natasha to the public. In developing this edition of the Biennale, the Co-Artistic Directors – Binna Choi, Nida Ghouse, June Yap and Ala Younis – created a biennale that sensitively responded to its time, as we contemplate the role and place of art in a post-pandemic world. Through framing Natasha as an intimate and collective journey across Singapore with artists, collaborators and audiences, SAM foregrounds its interest in placing relationships at the centre of our work, where art is infused into the everyday and made accessible to different communities. We look forward to how this journey with everyone will unfold as Natasha continues to evolve and transform over time.”

Installation view of Natasha Tontey’s Garden Amidst the Flame; Lacuna for Compassion (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. Garden Amidst the Flame; Lacuna for Compassion is a multimedia installation that expands on Natasha Tontey’s artistic research in Minahasan cosmology. This installation particularly focuses on the Karai ritual of the Minahasan people, an ethnic group native to Indonesia. The Karai is one of the Minahasan people’s main ceremonies and involve the donning on of an invincible armour that would make their warriors invulnerable. Where the Karai is mostly understood as a hyper-masculine ritual with most of the participants being male, Tontey attempts to reimagine the ritual in an alternative way, one in relation to care and invulnerability rather than a ritual of aggression and masculinity.

Conceived as exploratory spaces for audiences to wander, rest and converse, SB2022 will take place in a variety of locations beyond Tanjong Pagar Distripark and traditional gallery settings. International Plaza, the iconic Singapore Flyer and 22 Orchard Road are now part of the multiple locations visitors to the Biennale can experience art, in addition to the previously announced Sentosa Cove, St John’s Island, Lazarus Island, as well as everyday spaces like regional libraries and Yan Kit Playfield.

Zarina Muhamad’s Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil. 2022. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil is an audio-visual-tactile installation that invites visitors to reorient the senses to the coordinates of unruly spaces on maps. Zarina Muhammad’s work will unfold over nine archetypal signatures and departure points namely – The Guide, The Witness, The Wrathful Deity, The Pyramidal Cell, The Gate, The Peculiar Habitat, The Rotating Naga, The Talisman, and The Pragmatic Prayer – and are presented as a diorama of (inter)cardinal directions, palimpsests and constellations that may be read or experienced in various poly-sensorial ways.

SB2022 Co-Artistic Directors, Binna Choi, Nida Ghouse, June Yap and Ala Younis, said, “The additions of International Plaza, the Singapore Flyer and 22 Orchard Road as spaces for art takes the experience of Natasha into unexpected places, and probes audiences to change their perspectives through art. It extends our interest in the re-discovery of life and everyday encounters in SAM’s home of Tanjong Pagar Distripark and the neighbourhood around International Plaza and Yan Kit Playfield.”

Still from Ensemble for Non-Linear Time (Courtesy of Ranu Mukherjee and Gallery Wendi Norris). Ensemble for Non-Linear Time is a film installation in which Ranu Mukherjee employs a speculative process to explore forests as mythical figures and protagonists that connect with the histories of migration and colonisation, future ecologies and the lush internal spaces of longing, desire, and imagination.

The Singapore Flyer will serve as one of many locations under AWKNDAFFR’s (Wayne Lim and Soh Kay Min) multi-authored project Islandwide Coverage, which spans six diverse locations in Singapore, taking audiences from a well-loved icon of the Singapore skyline to regional libraries in the heartlands. By activating a variety of viewing experiences through these locations, AWKNDAFFR charts a course towards a sense of “no-whereness”.

Installation view of Heman Chong’s The Library of Unread Books (2016-ongoing), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. The Library of Unread Books is an itinerant library initiated by Heman Chong and Renée Staal. It is a living reference library with a collection of over 700 titles, that traces the perimeters of knowledge and reflects on notions of access, excess and the politics of redistribution. The Library of Unread Books is part of the Singapore Biennale 2022 (SB2022) organised by Singapore Art Museum. Every single book you find in the collection was once private property and has been donated by an individual who did not read it when it was in their possession. Contributors to the growing mobile library receive a personalised library card and a lifetime membership.

Through the integration of the artworks into the movement and mechanism of each venue, the audiences’ encounter with each location will be transformed. In keeping with AWKNDAFFR’s artistic practice of exploring forms of gathering, the art collective will also stage a roving exhibition consisting of a series of trailers and work-in-progress materials such as photographs and sketches of the presented artists’ work. The roving exhibition Prologue will be staged at the following three Regional Libraries: Woodlands Regional Library (Wednesday 9 November – Monday 26 December 2022); Jurong Regional Library (Wednesday 28 December 2022 – Sunday 26 February 2023); and Tampines Regional Library (Wednesday 1 March – Sunday 9 April 2023).

Installation view of AWKNDAFFR’s Islandwide Coverage (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

Venturing to SAM Hoardings, AWKNDAFFR’s Islandwide Coverage will be featured at the Hoardings along Bras Basah Road. Designed by CROP, the work uses a combination of symbols and shapes to represent networks and connectivity.

Apart from these works under Islandwide Coverage, audiences can also encounter Yejin Cho’s draw2play, an independent work presented on the Hoardings along Queen Street. The work consists of ten geometric notations with accompanying rules and instructions on how to play the associated games. Through this work, Cho invites audiences to gather and play, thereby creating a space for conversation and exchange.

Installation view of Cevdet Erek’s Bergama Stereo in Singapore (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. The title of the installation is derived from the combination of two terms. Bergama is the Turkish name for Pergamon, the ancient city in which the Pergamon Altar was built in. Stereos is the Grecian term for solid, and also a method of multi-directional sound reproduction. Typically, in audio playback and in amplification systems for live performances, stereo sound arises through the symmetrical placement of two single loudspeakers or two groups of loudspeakers. In Bergama Stereo, this audio-visual aspect is associated with the symmetric architecture of the Altar. The Altar’s famous frieze of the giants and gods is interpreted through a multi-channel composition that fills the room with sound. Here, sound assumes the central role that visual elements play in the original Altar, creating a multi-dimensional narrative.

From December, audiences can look forward to experiencing Natasha at 22 Orchard Road, an old shop house building that will feature artistic practices that puts the artists’ local communities at the core of the project such as Malaeb, Nina Bell F. House Museum, and S.O.I.L. Community with CONA PROJECTS. Also presented at this space are the works of Areumnari Ee, Sarah Abu-Abdallah, and Jaemin Cha, inviting more personal encounters and reflections. Brazilian-Indonesian artist Daniel Lie will present a new site-specific installation in January 2023.

Image of St. John’s Island. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

Natasha will also take audiences past Singapore’s coastline to the Southern Islands with the support of the Sentosa Development Corporation and the Singapore Land Authority. These islands provide a space for reflection, imagination, and projection while serving as a potent site for art, artists, and the public to gather in lived encounters. Audiences can look forward to six artistic projects that engage with our relationship to nature, social practices and myths.

Maile Meyer and Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick’s KĪPUKA (for “Natasha”)

Across the three islands, audiences can look forward to artworks such as Hawai’i USA artists Maile Meyer and Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick’s KĪPUKA (for “Natasha”) at Sentosa Cove, is set within an altered shipping container and brings together offerings from an intergenerational group of collaborators and friends. The word kīpuka carries many meanings in Hawaiian including ‘variation’ or ‘change of form’, ‘a calm place in a high sea’, ‘a deep place in a shoal’, and in everyday use, a metaphor for vibrancy and resilience.

Donghwan Kam’s Fermentation House

Donghwan Kam’s Fermentation House will be located at Sentosa Cove, St John’s Island and Lazarus Island. Fermentation House was developed from Kam’s previous work Fermentation Garden which saw the artist cultivating kimchi in miniature houses. Fermentation House is situated across the Southern Islands as well as other SB2022 venues.

Zarina Muhammad’s Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil

Singaporean artist Zarina Muhammad’s Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil at St John’s Island invites participants to lean in, listen and reorient their senses to unruly spaces on maps. Drawing from islands that have lost their names, among other inspirations, the title alludes to the multiple historical identities of Pulau Sekijang Bendera and apotropaic acts associated with itinerancy, inhabitation and engaging with the potency of various landscapes. Her multi-faceted installation will be accompanied by several on-site workshops, tours and performances that audiences can participate in.

Exhibition view of Level 5 Gallery, Tanjong Pagar Distripark. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

As audiences embark on their reflective journey with Natasha, they will come across a variety of artworks that respond to their respective environments, and spanning multimedia installations, immersive experiences and participatory workshops. Spanning various spaces on Levels 1, 3 and 5 of Tanjong Pagar Distripark, the homeground of SAM will play host to an exciting and diverse selection of works of artists from Singapore, Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Europe, and the Americas.

Installation view of Wu Mali’s 《旗 津本事: 旗津的帝國滋味》(Cijin Pún-Sū: Cijin’s Taste of Empires) (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. The artwork is a field study and performative project that is presented as a film. The project showcases the stories of Cijin residents, who have immigrated to the Cijin District over time and from different cities and countries. The Cijin District is a predominantly coastal district of Kaohsiung City in Taiwan and covers several islands including the Cijin island and the islands in the South China Sea. The stories of the residents are gathered through interviews, interpreted and then performed by Wu Mali’s graduate students at her Cijin Kitchen, a kitchen space of a former navy dormitory in the Cijin District of Kaohsiung City. Food is the central focus of the project, and through its preparation and consumption, these stories are embodied and shared. Community regeneration and cultural transmission are thus intertwined with artistic performance and social practice within the project.

This includes renowned artists such as Haegue Yang, Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Cevdet Erek, and Wu Mali and homegrown Singapore artists like Berny Tan and Ong Kian Peng. For the first time, audiences will be introduced to the practices of seminal artists including Samia Halaby and Joo Jae-Hwan and encounter newly commissioned works by Angkrit Ajchariyasophon, Kanitha Tith, Natasha Tontey, Kiran Kumar, Aarti Sunder, Brian Fuata, Ali Yass, Moad Musbahi, and Valentina Desideri and Denise Ferreira da Silva, among others.

Installation view of Extended Asia_s Ext.Asi Archive (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. Focusing on the theme of discovery by re-visiting, re-reading, and re-developing two previous online festivals, 1 Ext.Asi Archive aims to create a sustainable ecosystem of communities between Indonesia and Singapore by experimenting with live virtual performances and modes of hybrid collaborations. This project is a continuation of Impssblprjct: Affirming the Crisis, organised by the Cemeti Institute for Art and Society in 2021.

As part of SB2022’s artist residencies in partnership with Darat al Funun – The Khalid Shoman Foundation, Singapore artist Ong Kian Peng will present an immersive multimedia installation titled The Viscous Sea, created during his three-month residency in Amman, Jordan. Jordanian artist Raed Ibrahim, who is in-residence in Singapore till November 2022, will present on Level 5 a series of clay tablets coded and customised to reflect a subject that is missing, obstructing or obscuring, exploring the anonymity of established concepts. Singapore artist, curator, and writer, Berny Tan will also be in-residence from November 2022 to January 2023 at SAM’s EX-SITU space on Level 3, with a curatorial research project titled Page Break that looks at how everyday objects and scenes are explored through the medium of the art book.

Raed Ibrahim’s Scripted Tablets (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. Scripted Tablets is a series of engraved terracotta clay sculptures that explores the relationship between the communication of history with the underlying socio-political environments of the present time. Through this work, Raed Ibrahim retells history through the introduction of new elements into established narratives. New readings of history are not only produced, through the act of making and rearranging.

Through the act of naming, the public is invited to meet and connect with artists, their lives, and different forms of life that are more than human. A myriad of conversations with surrounding environments are introduced as some artists present their interventions and artworks across spaces, whether it is on the grounds of Tanjong Pagar Distripark, or beyond. Visitors are encouraged to traverse between SB2022 venues and spaces to truly experience the breadth and depth of relationships and narratives of Natasha.

Installation view of Haegue Yang’s The Hybrid Intermediates – Flourishing Electrophorus Duo (Sonic Intermediate – Hairy Carbonous Dweller and The Randing Intermediate – Furless Uncolored Dweller) (2022), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. The artwork is a set of two sonic sculptures that are part of Haegue Yang’s larger series entitled, The Intermediates (2015-). Through the series, Yang explores the use of artificial straw weaving as a critical inquiry into the notion of folk as a conventional term to define identity and belonging as being something fixed and given in her works. Equipped with handles, the sculptures are mounted on casters that can be operated for simple movements. While in movement, the bells that cover the sculptures rattle subtly and produce a metallic sound reminiscent of the sounds produced by bells used in rituals from various cultures (including Korean shamanism and European paganism), linking humans to the cosmos.

Low Eng Teong, Deputy Chief Executive Officer of Sector Development at the National Arts Council, and member of the Singapore Biennale Committee, said, “Since its inception, the Singapore Biennale has been crucial in spotlighting the artistic vigour of Singapore and the region’s arts and culture scene in a global dialogue on contemporary art. It has been an important platform for public engagement and to further nurture arts appreciation in Singaporean audiences. The Biennale continues to pursue its mission by inviting audiences to participate in a collective journey that traverses a variety of iconic, everyday and artistic spaces across Singapore. In transforming the island into a distinctive city through art, we hope to bring the arts to people of all ages and backgrounds. This is also in line with the next iteration of Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027), as NAC continues to work closely with our partners and key stakeholders to strengthen our arts ecosystem.”

Installation view of Samia Halaby’s Kinetic Paintings (1987-1988), as part of Singapore Biennale 2022 named Natasha. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. Kinetic Paintings is a series of 55 digitally created paintings coded on a Commodore Amiga 1000 with two coding technologies; BASIC (Steps, Mark8, Painting 7, Sound Painting 2, New Lines, Judd 6 197, Lines 3); and C (Milk, Circles, Flower, Jumps, Land, Nest, Niihau, Rain, Tide, and Weavings). Made in the 19080s, these computer-based kinetic art explores how new approaches to painting may transform the way we perceive the world. Of note, these works are not replications of existing imagery and are instead works and imagery created by Halaby, with each colour and line used imbued with specific meaning. Tangentially, Halaby also explores the potential for computer programming, as an artistic medium, to reflect reality. The works are accompanied with archival and documentation from Halaby’s personal collection and provide a rare opportunity into the creative processes of the abstract painter.

To celebrate the return of Singapore Biennale, SAM will be presenting a series of public programmes as it kickstarts the opening week of Natasha. Programmes are held across two weekends on 16, 21 and 22 October 2022, where audiences can participate in art experiences that reflect the vulnerabilities and stories of transformation of the artists and collaborators. These include encounters with many of SB2022’s participating artists and works in-person, through a series of artist talks, including Joo Jaehwan, Haegue Yang, Samia Halaby and Brian Fuata in deep conversations with the Co-Artistic Directors; workshop by Kiran Kumar; and performances by Brian Fuata and Natasha Tontey. SAM’s doors will also be open past opening hours on 21st and 22nd October 2022, inviting all to explore the museum after dusk in a fun-filled evening of art and entertainment. Parents can also plan an exciting day out for the family at SAMily Funday on 22nd October and enjoy a line-up of programmes and activities designed for all ages.

Benesse Holdings Inc. will be once again collaborating with SAM in presenting the 13th Benesse Prize at SB2022. In its third edition with the Singapore Biennale, the winner of the Prize will be announced at an awards ceremony on 15 October 2022, during the opening of the Biennale. The prize will be awarded to an outstanding artist or artist collective chosen from the participating artists of the Biennale, based on how their work embodies an experimental and critical spirit beyond conventional practices and who is expected to have the potential to create works that will lead to “Benesse = Well-Being”. The winner will be selected by an international jury that has been jointly appointed by Benesse Holdings Inc. and Singapore Art Museum.

Photo Credit: Singapore Art Museum

Singapore Biennale 2022 aka Natasha runs from 16th October 2022 to 19th March 2023. Tickets and more information available here

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