17 regional artists, 25 works, 1 travelling show

Published Thu, Nov 26, 2015 · 09:50 PM
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ARTISTS have that way of helping us focus on that one singular issue or topic through their work. Putting their works together in a group show offers a chance to observe what they do as individuals and how their practices correspond to one another's.

In Time of Others - Contemporary Art from Four Museums across the Asia-Pacific, works by 17 artists have been picked for this purpose.

They have been selected by four museums, namely Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo, National Museum of Art Osaka and Queensland Art Gallery: Gallery of Modern Art, along with the Japan Foundation Asia Center.

SAM is the third museum to showcase the travelling exhibition; the Singapore leg presents more than 25 artworks by the 17 artists, drawn from the participating museums' collections, artist loans and commissions.

The show heads down to Queensland, Australia, next year.

Featured here are works of Chen Chieh-Jen (Taiwan), Heman Chong (Singapore), Kiri Dalena (the Philippines), Graham Fletcher (New Zealand/Samoa), Saleh Husein (Indonesia), Jonathan Jones (Australia), On Kawara (Japan), An-My Lê (Vietnam), Lim Minouk (South Korea), Basir Mahmood (Pakistan), Miyagi Futoshi (Japan), Pratchaya Pinthong (Thailand), Shitamichi Motoyuki (Japan), Vandy Rattana (Cambodia) and Dahn Vo (Denmark/Vietnam).

The Singapore iteration of Time of Others additionally features the works of Hong Kong artist Tozer Pak and Filipino artist Ringo Bunoan, who haven't been featured in the aforementioned museums.

The works ask the basic fundamental questions of how we understand one another, says Ms Joyce Toh, the co-head of Curatorial at SAM. "Given that there are different boundaries and 'Otherness', this show aims to find ways to meaningfully understand the Other."

Many of the works revolve around history and excavate memories and pull out what has been forgotten from the fringes. They also examine the concept of space.

Time of Others is worth making time for, as it unveils hidden or less-known aspects of history and society across borders in this part of the world.

Time of Others, a ticketed exhibition, runs until Feb 28 at the Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road. Opening hours are 10am-7pm daily, with extended hours until 9pm on Fridays. For more information, please go to www.singaporeartmuseum.org

A tourist with only imagined views of his destination

Tozer Pak (Hong Kong) A Travel Without Visual Experience: Malaysia 2008 Room installation with travel photographs

WHEN Tozer Pak was planning his first visit to Malaysia, he had only one term of reference - the Malaysia Truly Asia advertising campaign and its pervasive jingle.

So, as part of his art project, he decided that he would visit Malaysia - by not seeing it at all.

He taped his eyes shut for the entire five-day, four-night trip and took pictures of his surroundings, sight unseen.

He was accompanied by his mother and followed a tour group. "Because the group assumed I was blind, they were very helpful in describing the sights to me," he said.

Pak took that approach for two key reasons.

One is that, as a artist with a weekly column in Ming Tao, a newspaper in Hong Kong, his task is to observe what's happening in the city and create a work for the paper every week. He wanted a break from that while on "holiday".

The other reason was simply that he was looking for a different way of experiencing a destination.

"The advertisement enabled me to be able to imagine Malaysia, and I didn't want to lose that ability to imagine it - so I didn't want to see it in real life. It's like seeing a country through another person's eyes but here, I've taken it to the extreme," he said.

Visitors to the exhibition are led into a darkened room where his photographs have been laid out, and are allowed to use the light from their camera phones to view the pictures he took.

Such is the extent of his dedication to his art that Pak doesn't intend to re-visit Malaysia.

"It's so that when I think of the country, the only image I have are the photographs I took," he said.

The artist as story-teller

Saleh Husein (Indonesia) Arabian Party 2013 Acrylic on canvases, drawings and archival materials

ARABIAN Party is presented as a collage of paintings by Saleh Husein, drawn from photographs he found in his research.

Arabs born in Indonesia had their rights restricted during Dutch colonial rule. Abdurrahman Baswedan led a nationalist movement in the 1930s, founded on the belief that one's birthplace is one's motherland.

Saleh says: "I think Indonesian people, especially youth, barely know the history of the Arabian-Indonesian party that once existed in Indonesia."

After the 1930s movement, Indonesians of Arab descent assimilated into society. As an artist, Saleh is positioning himself as a story-teller, one who can disseminate information gleaned from his research through his paintings.

He also puts his findings in context with the present, so that lessons can be drawn from history, he says.

"It's not merely remembering the data or facts, but also aiming to define and interpret why history occurred."

Arabian Party was first exhibited at the Jakarta Biennial 2013.

Words of protest, digitally muted

Kiri Dalena (the Philippines) Erased Slogans 2008 Video projection on desk

Red Book of Slogans 2008 Hardcover book with wood armrest

KIRI Dalena started working with archival photographs for one simple reason - because she didn't have a camera and it became embarrassing for her to have to borrow one from friends.

"But I had access to a scanner, so I decided to work on existing photos and see how I could alter them digitally to create new narratives," she says.

Erased Slogans is based on a photographic archive of the Lopez Museum in Manila, of the popular demonstrations that took place from the 1950s until the 1972 declaration of martial law. Dalena selected about 100 photographs and erased all the slogans on the placards captured in the images.

These slogans were then compiled into the adjoining work, the Red Book of Slogans. With one slogan on each page, the 700-page book reads like an expanded communist red book.

Dalena says that, besides the immediate political implications, her work is also a question about photography, the medium that is supposed to best represent the exactness of truths, the exactness of what the subject wishes to convey.

"By erasing the words from the placards and other surfaces that are shown within the photographic frames, I was facilitating not just one clear stream of meaning and interpretation, which in the case of Erased Slogans, can be the imposition of dictatorial rule through censorship or even our people's tendency towards historical amnesia," she says.

At the same time, she believes that she activates a space for the projection of other thoughts, or even the absence of them. "When the viewers propose different interpretations about my work, ideas that I was not able to foresee, it makes it richer."

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