Arts News Singapore

Art What!: OH! Open House’s For the House; Against the House 2023 – The Museum is Dead and Desire is Dead

“We must forget in order to remain present, forget in order not to die, forget in order to remain faithful.”- Marc Augé, ‘Oblivion’

For the House; Against the House returns for its third edition with two new motions up for debate. Titled ______ is Dead, the debate-oriented series presents ‘The Museum is Dead’ and ‘Desire is Dead’ conceptualised by Singaporean curators John Tung and Adele Tan respectively.

Taking place within Tanglin Shopping Centre – a mall scheduled for enbloc – the exhibitions’ manifestation at the site goes beyond their topics of inquiry, revealing the entanglements between Singapore’s ubiquitous shopping malls and our cultural identity. Bringing together new commissions and artworks from private collections, the two exhibitions set the stage for discussions on the mortality of cherished concepts.

In the season of art fairs, one artist tries to defy the market by putting his artwork up for social exchange – one can own his artwork by volunteering hours to any charity or non-profit. As a participating artist for the third edition of For the House; Against the House, Mit Jai Inn, a leading figure of contemporary art in Thailand, has created and donated 32 art objects to OH! Open House. The public is welcome to collect his work by committing to community service hours. The number of hours they are to volunteer would be commensurate to the monetary value of the artist’s works and pegged to the median Singaporean hourly wage. They are given a year to complete the hours in exchange for the art object.

“My 1991 work, Vienna Apartments, comprised over five hundred sculptures – found objects and crafted ones painted in bright pastel colours. Visitors could take works away on the condition that they would open their homes to the public – it was my version of open house. 31 years later, I’m creating another social movement. I want to question the idea of value in current times and show how art can manifest a tangible social good,” said Mit Jai Inn.

Artist Mit Jai Inn’s work is one of ten new commissions set to reflect on two propositions in this year’s edition of For the House; Against the House. Set to the title __ is Dead, the debate-oriented series presents The Museum is Dead and Desire is Dead conceptualised by Singaporean curators John Tung and Adele Tan respectively. It draws artworks from the private collections of Jim Amberson, Michelangelo & Lourdes Samson Collection, Shi’ai Liang Collection, and The Yan Collection. Audiences can also look forward to new commissions from both local and overseas artists.

In the section The Museum Is Dead, curated by John Tung, with artworks from Jim Amberson and Michelangelo & Lourdes Samson Collection, the exhibit considers how the Museum is heralded as a key repository of humanity’s cultural history, but every institution colours its collection with specific narratives. In an era fueled by technology and new possibilities for decentralisation, does The Museum need to exist anymore? How far can we stretch and redefine the concept of a museum until it no longer means anything?

In a nod to 5th Passage, an artist-run initiative in 90’s Singapore that turned local malls into contemporary art spaces, The Museum is Dead posits Tanglin Shopping Centre as an everyday place that could well take the place of the institution. On what inspired the proposition, curator John Tung shared, “I want to question the relevance of the museum to our daily lives. The show offers new ways to think about an institution that has been with humanity for many years, to which we often think more about what’s in it rather than what it’s all about.”

Commissioned works include pieces by Joanne Lim (Singapore), Michael Lee (Singapore), Miguel Aquilizan (Philippines), Mit Jai Inn (Thailand), Thitibodee Rungteerawattananon (Thailand), and Wantanee Siripattananuntakul (Thailand).

Under the section Desire is Dead, which is curated by Adele Tan, with artworks from Shi’ai Liang Collection and The Yan Collection, Desire can be a powerful tool in service of institutional agendas, whether political or capitalistic. Do we still experience desire on our own terms, beyond the boundaries and regulations others have set for us? What are the points of tensions that arise, as well as new potentials?

Through a playful juxtaposition of artworks, Desire is Dead seeks to tease out the erotic presences, complexities, and potentialities in Singapore’s midst, where a plenitude of desire still surrounds us every day and everywhere despite the received perception of Singapore as unsexy and sterile. “Desire is primary and primal; it does not have to be prohibited. Desire is as singular as it is multivalent. I want the show to get everyone in touch with their senses and have their faculties engaged,” shared curator Adele Tan.

Commissioned works include pieces from Joshua Kon (Singapore), Kray Chen (Singapore), Liana Yang (Singapore), and Marla Bendini (Singapore).

For the House; Against the House: The Museum is Dead and Desire is Dead runs from 5th to 15th January 2023 at Tanglin Shopping Centre, 19 Tanglin Road. More information and full programme available here

SAW 2023 runs from 6th to 15th January 2023. For more information on SAW 2023 programmes, visit, or follow @sgartweek on Facebook, Instagram and Telegram

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