SG’16 Biennale: 10 Must See

As the arc of Southeast Asia’s shared histories encompasses East and South Asia’s, these regions bear the imprints of one another’s diverse cultures through borders currently characterized by fluid movement and migration; highlighting the challenges that beset contemporary societies in this part of the world.

How will a coupling of atlas and mirror shape the way in which we view the world? How will both bring us into that which is still so mysterious – the self?

SingArt suggests its top 10 picks from “Atlas of Mirrors” with which we muse over the current affairs and our precious histories affecting the world we inhabit today, and ultimately of the essentials that define us as a community and as an individual:


(1) Eddy Susanto’s “The Journey of Panji”

The Indonesian artist continues his signature oeuvre by painstakingly using the Javanese script to outline his gigantic rendition of reliefs illustrating the collection of stories of the legendary Prince Panji, and then makes an ingenious artistic twist by morphing this script into letters in the English alphabet that eagerly flow into a gigantic replica of S.O. Robson’s “Wangbang Wideya”, a single volume of gathered stories from the Panji cycle.


(2) Made Djirna’s “Beyond Boundaries” 

A spiritual installation of found objects, with hundreds of seated miniature terracotta figurines, symbolizing the souls of frail humanity after death, carried by a still sturdy ancient boat through an ethereal portal to their heavenly ancestral abode, represented by thousands of equally small clay figures effortlessly ‘floating’ on the gallery’s walls. Thus magically playing out Made’s steeply entrenched Balinese belief.


(3) Haruni Yukutake’s “Paracosmos”

With a sublime Japanese aesthetic, Haruni’s thousands of precision hand cut mirrors lining the endless curved walls of SAM’s central staircase dissolves the foreground and background by dissipating a single image into an explosion of infinite reflections; creating an eternally liminal heterotopia that hypnotically disturbs and distorts the space held in its surreal embrace.


(4) Qiu Zhijie’s “One Has to Wander through the Outer Worlds to Reach the Innermost Shrine at the End”

Zhijie transcends his renowned oeuvre by crafting his signature mythical creatures in pristine glass; imbuing them with the sublime connotation of having successfully popped off the China-born-and-bred artist’s numerous beautiful monochromatic cartographic ink-brush renditions of pre-Columbian trans-oceanic contact theories stitched together historically, philosophically, mythologically and scientifically on humongous Chinese scrolls fluidly flowing down the lengths of the gallery’s walls.


(5) Martha Atienza’s “Endless Hours at Sea”

With almost all her family involved in the maritime industry, Martha’s video, sound, light and water installation juxtaposes the sublime intoxicating siren-like allure of the oceans that surround her home in the Philippines with the almost jarring reverberations of engines in industrial ships plying these very waters; to cast a dawning that an actual voyage on watery expanses is an existence in liminal space: always a ‘somewhere’ between leaving and arriving, and a ‘nowhere’ forever surrounded by ever-changing waters and weather.


(6) Titarubi’s “History Repeats Itself”

The menacing presence of Titarubi’s towering shadowy figures ominously cloaked in flowing robes of uniquely gold-plated nutmegs riding atop menacing partially charred heavily canon-equipped slave ships compellingly reminds fellow Indonesians of the bloody dark period in their country’s history when the “For God, Gold and Glory” Dutch East India Company’s armadas seized control of the archipelago’s highly lucrative spice trade.


(7) Deng Guoyuan’s “Noah’s Garden II”

Enter a vast labyrinth of mirrors-upon-mirrors to find yourself in an immense kaleidoscope of vibrantly coloured artificial ‘scholar’ rocks and plants that playfully reference conventional colour-codes in map-making and Guoyang’s country’s classical Song Dynasty floral representations; creating a giddy sensation of absolute lost subjectivity in a beguiling utopia that seems simultaneously disorienting and disassembled.


(8) Melissa Tan’s “If you can dream a better world you can make a better world or perhaps travel between them”

Melissa creatively creates huge mechanically cranked ‘music boxes’ by turning impressions made by natural weathering and human interventions on Singapore’s countless pavements, paths, walkways and roads into harmoniously composed musical scores of ‘data points’ through beautifully scoring, carving and notching paper. Thus poetically recording – in sound and sculptural forms – the passing of time on ‘maps’ of physical features making our transient landscape.


(9) Adeela Suleman’s “Dread of Not Night 1, 3, 4, 7-9” & “Blood Stains the Soil 1”

With a belief upholding that violence and its memory are deeply embedded in our psyche, bodies and landscapes, Adeela imbues India’s traditional miniature Persian and Mughal paintings with imagery of bloodshed, death and aggression; mounting these consequently decoratively painted ceramic plates on elaborately carved wooden frames as, in her words, “The more heinous the crime, the more beautiful the object needs to be.”


(10) Bui Cong Khanh’s “Dislocate”

Khanh combines the woodworking craftsmanship of his ancestral province of Fujian, China, with the icons entrenched in the cultural identity of his central Vietnam to create a breathtakingly lovely artwork made entirely of jackfruit wood – a much-prized timber native to South and Southeast Asia – to showcase his family’s history and heritage, and the complexities surrounding social and national identity, in light of current geo- and socio-political tensions between Vietnam and China.


Exhibition: Atlas of Mirrors

Where: Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555

When: Till 26 February 2017


Feature image: Ryan Villamael’s “Locus Amoenus”

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