The National Gallery Singapore is taking visitors on a journey back in time with an exciting new exhibition that explores the history of video installation art. This free exhibition, titled “See Me, See You: Early Video Installation of Southeast Asia,” is a two-part series offering a fascinating look at the pivotal moments when video installation first emerged in the 1980s and 1990s.
In this exhibition, National Gallery Singapore brings to the forefront pioneering Southeast Asian artists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. The artists broke through conventional art forms of painting and sculpture that was prevalent at that time. Through experimentation, they combined installation, performance, audience participation together with video, leading to a new form of art as a result of their interdisciplinary approach.
To enable visitors to experience these works, the Gallery has commissioned the recreation of several of these artworks, many of which have been forgotten and have not been exhibited for decades. The exhibition also highlights the new challenge of preserving time-based media, ensuring that these pioneering video works are available for future generations to enjoy.
Located at the Gallery’s Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery, the first edition of See Me, See You features five Southeast Asian artists with five video art installations. Choose (1982) by Johnny Manahan may be the earliest surviving video artwork in Southeast Asia, and the artist is the first Filipino artist to experiment with video as a medium. The work highlights televisions’ association with mass entertainment and the challenge to focus on multiple screens at once. It continues to be relevant today where multitasking and constant stimulation are the norm. It serves as a self-reflexive commentary on the medium of video and television through five video segments, showcasing the artist’s deep understanding of the medium from his work in the entertainment industry.
How to Explain Art to a Bangkok Cock (1985) by Thai artist Apinan Poshyananda makes a return to the Gallery with a 2019 version of Apinan’s early work that incorporates LCD screens showing digitised footage from the original video the artist had made. The artwork takes a satirical approach to the iconic Mona Lisa, with Apinan humorously explaining the painting’s images to chicks, chickens and turkeys.
The artwork See Me, See You (Revenge of the Giraffe) (1986) by Jean Marie Syjuco from the Philippines will feature an interactive piece involving an abstracted giraffe sculpture. This sculpture allows visitors to open a lid on its back, look through its peep hole and talk to it. The work also captures visitors’ interactions through the live feed of a video camera, which can be viewed through a TV located at the entrance of the museum. Such unique and engaging experiences are a highlight of the exhibition, which showcases the seamless fusion of art, playfulness, and technology.
The fourth video art installation by Malaysian artist Baharudin Mohd Arus was inspired by the ideas of media theorist Marshall McLuhan. Known as Medium is the Message (After Marshall McLuhan) (1989), the artwork involves a moving automaton equipped with a video camera which displays live feed on one of the two televisions it encircles. The other television shows a video montage of clips of circumambulation in nature and social customs as well as cyclical patterns of everyday life. Through his work, the artist contends technology’s increasing proximity to life.
Finally, the last artwork of the series features a multi-channel video installation, titled Sin of Apathy (1991), created by Singaporean artist Chng Nai Wee. First presented at the National Museum Art Gallery’s National Sculpture Exhibition in 1991, the artwork consists of twelve video channels and delivers a poignant commentary on societal apathy. Through intense and passionate depictions of figures who embody six forms of crisis in society: War, Disease, Poverty, Famine, Disaster and Refugee, the installation challenges viewers to confront their own indifference and take action. Sin of Apathy powerfully embodies the artist’s belief in the transformative power of art and its ability to shape public discourse.
Dr. Eugene Tan, Director of National Gallery Singapore, says, “The Gallery is excited to present See Me, See You: Early Video Installations of Southeast Asia. As a dedicated museum to modern Southeast Asian art, we wanted to highlight the important contribution of pioneers of video art in Southeast Asian art history. Video installation is commonly found in contemporary art and this exhibition demonstrates how the artists experimented with new video technology at the time, which was not as advanced as it is today. Through careful recreation and staging, these early video works are now available for visitors to experience. We hope that this exhibition will enable visitors to gain new perspectives on the evolution of modern art in Southeast Asia and better understand and appreciate the region’s artistic history.”
The first edition of See Me, See You: Early Video Installation of Southeast Asia will run from 5th May 2023 to 17th September 2023. at displayed Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery, Concourse Level, City Hall Wing. Admission is Free.
The second edition will run from 13th October 2023 to 4th February 2024 and feature artists Heri Dono (Indonesia), Hasnul Saidon (Malaysia), Ray Langenbach (USA), Vincent Leow (Singapore) and Krisna Murti (Indonesia). More information available here
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