Negotiating SPACE

Yesterday Elon Musk posted on Instagram the first official photo of his SpaceX spacesuit(1). Meant as pressure suits for NASA astronauts riding inside his company’s Dragon Capsule to and from the International Space Station and capable only of thwarting fatality should the capsule depressurize, rather than for spacewalks, it is in effect one small step closer to his gigantic ambition of colonizing Mars as his way of reducing the risk of human extinction(2).

The reverberations of that news get arrestingly echoed in Mark Justiniani’s “Provoking Space” exhibition at Mizuma Gallery. Epitomizing space as a whole universe of mystery, the Filipino artist’s foray into the cosmic labyrinth’s vortex of spatial depth and image holds within his creative palms the infinite promise in his “Ember” and “Warp” of equally endless wonders waiting to be encountered; of the definite probability that there never will be a cosmos not pregnant with possibilities.

Yet the highly fascinating captivation of Justiniani’s ominous “Break”, “Capsule” and “Gyroscope” has the terrifying ability of insistently shifting us to a reality grounded by human uncertainty of that eventual destiny; resonating Adam Rogers’ recent itineration on of the challenging galactic obstacles standing in man’s determination of getting to and pioneering on Mars(3): from cosmic radiation to zero gravity transforming farming into a science we have yet to master.

Rogers ends by reiterating from science fiction author Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest book, Aurora: it is pernicious for us to think if we fuck up Earth we can always go to Mars or the stars as we probably can’t. As far as anyone knows, Earth is the only habitable place in the universe. If we are going to leave this planet, let us go because we want to – not because we have to.

Precisely resonating Justiniani’s ‘Provoking Space’: it “probes into the nature of space, its structure, malleability and its boundaries… Delv[ing] into… infinities and its variants and how [we] navigate these dimensions as we struggle to break through and move towards unknown destinations.”

Irony then abounds in abundance when we deploy this lens on Jason Wee’s “Labyrinths” exhibition at Yavuz Gallery. Comprising 8 mixed-media panels and an installation that rework the municipal green fence used ever so commonly in Singapore, the Singaporean art maker’s works “recall the fence that shape the line on the Padang for Lee Kuan Yew’s wake, the cage that is the emergent sign of new regulations around Hong Lim Park, as well as the extensive fencing of Singapore’s beaches and shores against illegal landing”.

All cues of the way residents in this garden city “navigate our varied physical and political geographies, and [of] how the language and architecture of walls and fencing become signs of authority and power; offer[ing] security as well as entrapment, privacy but also control, navigation as well as punishment”.

When we are so game to crash through the boundaries defining our galaxies, why then do these signs of polarization, powerlessness and impasse continue to insecurely persist on this miniscule red dot inhabiting the equator on an earth dwarfed by our own solar system?

Is this persistence due to living in an increasingly globalized city, constantly in a state of flux accelerated by instantaneous transactions that mentally and emotionally disorientate? As personified by Singapore-based Australian artist Merryn Trevethan’s 5 acrylic panels of “Slow Motion Collapse” in her group exhibition, “Apertures” at Yeo Workshop – a rendition of our city’s skyline as viewed from her studio in River Valley.

Would this persistence render our nation with the same risks emblazoned by Masanori Handa’s “A Palace” exhibition at Ota Fine Arts?

By attaching tiles made from Indian sandstone and marble to Japanese andesine onto wooden structures erected on the ground to form an impressive collection of deconstructed stone patterns, the Japanese artist’s installation reveals that there only exists a facade; one where these tiles do not carry their conventional function of decorating a building or room’s surface as an integral component of a larger structure.

The structure in this instance is that of a palace – a space reserved for royalty. Often admitting no entry, we can only admire its gorgeous architectural structures from the outside, but we remain clueless of what its interiors are like.

Perhaps this very boundary delegates the palace to an old legacy with no inhabitants, entailing a sense of nostalgia of an embodied beauty whose most prosperous time may have already passed? A hollow shell with a glorious exterior that invites us to journey through entity and imagination, future and past of issues related to our recognition?

Or should we embrace the stacks of bricks, the modest dinner tray for 4, the straw mat and the patterned floor tiles so ubiquitous in many old Hanoi buildings instead?

All ever so lovingly lacquered into objet d’art by Vietnamese American Phi Phi Oanh in her “Make Shift” exhibition at Fost Gallery to reflect her ruminations of the provisionary and temporal nature of life while we bide time for the construction of something more permanent in our sub-conscious relationship with our living spaces in a changing urban landscape, and for the ways we exercise our will over them.

A relationship that epitomizes a space of unlimited possibilities even though the passage of time is at a still – ever so expressively driven by the desire to conserve it for posterity; as divinely espoused in Massimo Giannoni’s figurative and imaginative paintings of ancient libraries replete with ceiling frescoes dotting the length and breath of Europe.

A space we may well realize: in this Italian artist’s “Panopticon” exhibition at Partners & Mucciaccia of places where he draws inspiration from the past to classify and reinterpret from a contemporary point of view of new complex mechanism of nested structures where worlds return to other endless worlds, he has 1 inspirational representation of modern Singapore’s city centre skyline!

Embark on your own negotiation for space in Singapore and beyond as you negotiate through their spaces:

• Mark Justiniani’s “Provoking Space” at Mizuma Gallery, 22 Lock Road, #01-34, Singapore 108939 ends on 17 September.

• Jason Wee’s “Labyrinths” at Yavuz Gallery, 9 Lock Road, #02-23, Singapore 108937 ends on 17 September.

• Merryn Trevethan’s group exhibition, “Apertures” at Yeo Workshop, 1 Lock Road, #01-01, Singapore 108932 ends on 3 September.

• Masanori Handa’s “A Palace” at Ota Fine Arts, 7 Lock Road, #02-13, Singapore 108935 ends on 2 September.

• Phi Phi Oanh’s “Make Shift” at Fost Gallery, 1 Lock Road, #01-02, Singapore 108932 ends on 17 September.

• Massimo Giannoni’s “Panopticon” at Partners & Mucciaccia, 6 Lock Road, #02-10, Singapore 108934 ends on 24 September.


Photo credit: Mizuma Gallery

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