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In We Are the World These Are Our Stories, Amanda Heng produces intensely personal print works.

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Relations between Singapore and Batam is being explored in Fantasy Islands.

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Works at The Bizarre Honour surveys the history of the island and its relationship with animals, insects and pests.

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Lock Route will feature sculptures placed outdoors at Gillman Barracks.

New Year treats galore for visual senses

Here's a glimpse of the first "festival" that kicks off the art calendar.
Nov 25, 2016 5:50 AM

OUTDOOR sculptures at Gillman Barracks, a month-long pop-up gym with handmade equipment, art tours and talks will fill up the calendar in Singapore come January.

Visual art activities have become du jour in the first month of the year for the past four years, and Singapore Art Week (SAW) had a major part to play in that, being the first "festival" that kicks off the New Year with a slew of activities.

Joint initiative

The two weeks of arts events has now even got its own acronym, SAW, as revealed by Low Eng Teong, director of visual arts at the National Arts Council (NAC) earlier this week. SAW is a joint initiative by NAC, the Singapore Tourism Board, and the Economic Development Board.

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SAW isn't a festival per se as it's not curated by NAC, points out Mr Low, but it relies on the "eco-system" supported by art fairs and galleries which want to engage with the audience. One of the anchor events is, of course, the international art fair, Art Stage Singapore.

But besides the commercial side of SAW, there are several firsts for 2017. One of the firsts is Lock Route which will feature sculptures placed outdoors at Gillman Barracks. It is curated by Khairuddin Hori, director of Chan Hampe Galleries, who was last the deputy director of artistic programmes at Paris's Le Palaise de Tokyo contemporary art space. Mr Hori's Lock Route (Jan 13-June 30) takes its name from the route march that army recruits typically undergo during their training.

The outdoor sculptures will see newly-commissioned works by artists Cleon Peterson, Mel O'Callaghan and Oanh Phi Phi, alongside Singapore artists Gerald Leow and Sheryo+Yok. "We have a four-metre lightbulb by a Thai artist, lying on an albino buffalo. We're also working with an artist to make crazy bicycles, one of which is two metres tall, but which the public can ride if they want, and so on," he says.

Mr Hori says he liked the challenge of putting up a public art show in Singapore, but his intention was mainly to bring over international artists. Lock Route is expected to be the most expensive commission for SAW. "It's challenging because the works will be outside for six months, so there are logistics costs like engineering approval, insurance and so on," he adds.

Another area to see some public art works will be around the Ophir-Rochor vicinity. DUO Artwork Showcase: Poetics of Convergence is presented by developer M+S and art gallery Taksu. Each of the five commissioned works is inspired by the ties between Singapore and Malaysia and the interplay between heritage and modernity in Kampong Glam.

The relations between Singapore and Batam will also be explored, in Fantasy Islands (Jan 11-26), at Objectifs-Centre for Photography and Film on Middle Road.

Cult of the gym

Other highlights will be the pop-up gym at Aliwal Arts Centre. "No Regrets for Our Youth" by Singapore art collective DXXXXD (read as D4xD) will examine the cult of the gym and how it's changed from being a place where people exercised to be healthy to a place of vanity people post pictures of themselves on Instagram, says Muhammad Idzi, a member of the collective.

Artwalk Little India returns with a theme of traditional folktales and mythologies, while State of the Motion, conducted by Asian Film Archive, will take visitors on day and night tours to iconic Singapore locations which served as filming locations. The Art Week Tour on Jan 21, by Theo Arts Professionals, will be an exclusive tour to several artists' studios and collectors homes.

Another undisclosed location that viewers can be sign up to be taken to is for an "immersive installation" called The Bizarre Honour, by OH Open House. This collaboration with one of Singapore's most prominent contemporary artists - who wishes to remain anonymous - has transformed an old two-storey house in a residential area into a house of works that surveys the history of the island and its relationship with animals, insects and pests.

"There is something for everyone at SAW," says Mr Low. In a survey the NAC did with 1,000 people last year, about three out of four of them were actually seeing art for the first time, in the Art Week. "It's word of mouth that's the strongest motivator so we want people to tell one another what they saw during this two weeks."

  • Singapore Art Week will be held from Jan 11-22, 2017. For more information, please visit artweek.sg