Arts News Singapore

Art What!: Singapore Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia returns to Singapore during Singapore Art Week 2023

Image credit: Shubigi Rao, Talking Leaves, 2022, film still.

After its successful seven-month run at the 59th International Art Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia (Biennale Arte 2022), Pulp III: A Short Biography of the Banished Book (Pulp III) by artist Shubigi Rao and curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University (NTU ADM), will be one of the key events of Singapore Art Week (SAW) 2023. Presented at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands from 6 to 24 January 2023, Pulp III marks the midpoint of Shubigi Rao’s ongoing decade-long project Pulp, which explores the history of book destruction and its impact on the futures of knowledge.

Commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore (NAC), the Singapore Pavilion at Biennale Arte 2022 was officially opened by Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth. Marking Singapore’s 10th participation in Biennale Arte since 2001, the Singapore Pavilion, from 21 April to 27 November 2022, welcomed over 240,000 visitors in Venice. 

Mrs Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive of NAC said, “Singapore’s participation in the Biennale Arte has contributed to raising our profile as an emerging arts destination in Asia and showcases the strength of our artistic talents. We are heartened to see arts enthusiasts, critics, and visitors from around the world embrace Pulp III throughout its exhibition-run. Bringing this presentation back to Singapore represents NAC’s commitment in making the arts accessible to Singaporeans and a reflection of how it brings the wider community together through a shared experience. This is also in line with the next iteration of Our SG Arts Plan (2023-2027), as NAC works closely with our artists, stakeholders, partners and the public to build a connected society, establishing Singapore as a distinctive city that is powered by a creative economy through the arts. We invite everyone to join us in celebrating our artist Shubigi Rao and curator Ute Meta Bauer, who have sparked inclusive, relevant and thought-provoking conversations globally through their works.”  

The Singapore Pavilion itself represents the commitment to continue presenting Singapore arts internationally amidst challenging times, with the success of the Pavilion at the Venice Biennale a resounding one, receiving a record breaking turnout and often listed as a must-see pavilion. The Singapore Pavilion presented at Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum provides visitors the opportunity to engage with Shubigi Rao’s work through daily screenings of her film, Talking Leaves, and a presentation of her book, Pulp III: An Intimate Inventory of the Banished Book, Volume III of V (Pulp Vol. III)

Filmed over five years in various locations including Venice and Singapore, Talking Leaves highlights the tales of those at the forefront of the effort to save books and libraries through personal confidences and elegiac reflections, as well as incendiary documentary and mytho-poetic languages. In essence, it is a series of deliberately fragmented stories that present the perspective and view that the world’s knowledge is one of the most heavily monetised commodities yet least talked about, where it is accumulated, controlled and paywalled by big corporations.

Housed in an abstract studiolo, copies of Shubigi Rao’s book, Pulp Vol. III, are arranged in a way that speaks of the monumentality of its format as a container of knowledge and progenitor of change. This installation of books will change in form as visitors take copies and they are dispersed into the world over the course of the exhibition. For Shubigi Rao, each book is a messenger, a time-traveller, the embodiment of our need to communicate, and a rallying call to action. 

Presented alongside the books, Shubigi Rao’s Being a Brief Guide to the Banished Book (2017) is an expansive drawing of a phylogenetic tree that offers an intimate reading of the underlying themes explored across her artistic practice. This experience extends online through pulp-iii.com, where the public can delve into a selection of text excerpts and drawings from Shubigi Rao’s Pulp book series.

As a reminder of Singapore’s vital film history, Talking Leaves will also have a special screening on January 5, 2023 at Capitol Theatre—a historic building that was one of Singapore’s finest cinemas in the 1930s and had contributed significantly to the Malayan cinema industry. In many ways, it is a proud moment for everyone involved with this homecoming, and finally, a time for everyone to come together again after years of restrictions.

“It’s a privilege for us to be hosting the return presentation of Shubigi Rao’s exhibition from the Singapore Pavilion at the Biennale Arte 2022 at ArtScience Museum during SAW 2023. The work here will be presented as a series of film screenings in the museum’s cinema, alongside the display of books. Shubigi Rao’s practice is amongst the most urgent and critically engaged of any artist in Singapore, and we have greatly enjoyed working with her, and curator, Ute Meta Bauer, on the development of this show”, said Honor Harger, Vice-President, ArtScience Museum and Attractions.    

Additionally, a series of public programmes will be held at the ArtScience Museum. On January 7, 2023, artist Shubigi Rao and curator Ute Meta Bauer will be joined by exhibition designer and Associate Professor, NTU ADM, Laura Miotto and Vice-President of Attractions and ArtScience Museum and Attractions, Honor Harger, to present “The Making of the Singapore Pavilion.” On January 13, Shubigi Rao will share backstories of her film and book while on January 17, filmmaker Kirsten Tan, and Karen Chan, Executive Director of Asia Film Archive, will be in conversation with Shubigi Rao about her film.     

Pulp III will be presented at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands from 6th to 24th January 2023. More information available here

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

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