Inventory: New Art from Southeast Asia
Inventory: New Art from Southeast Asia will present recent works by eight of the region¡¦s most significant artists for the first time in Singapore, taking stock of the state of art production in the region. The exhibition will showcase new works by established Singapore artist Cheo Chai-Hiang, as well as recent works by emerging artists Poklong Anading (Philippines), Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore), Lee Kit (Hong Kong), Vincent Leong (Malaysia), Pratchaya Phinthong (Thailand), Wit Pimkanchanapong (Thailand), and Tintin Wulia (Indonesia).
Following the success of his solo exhibition at Osage Kwun Tong, Hong Kong last year, Cheo Chai-Hiang¡¦s The Story of Money will be shown for the first time in Singapore. The three works in this installation, Dang Dang, 35 White Cowries, and 35 Black Cowries, explore the complex relationships between the Chinese language and contemporary capitalist society. 35 White Cowries and 35 Black Cowries comprise a total of seventy stainless steel Chinese characters, each of which consists of the symbol?(bei), meaning ¡¥shell¡¦ or ¡¥cowry¡¦, but in which the symbol ?is replaced by a real cowry, highlighting how the word ?originally evolved from the physical shape of a cowry. By returning the symbol ?to its physical origin, the works highlight the ingenuity of the Chinese language by revealing the hidden layers of meanings that exist in the use of the language within the context of our late-capitalist societies. It further reveals how other words in the Chinese language are transformed into words of new and vastly different meanings through the inclusion of the monetary symbol ?, an allusion to how the introduction of financial or monetary aspects change the ways in which we perceive the world.
The question of values and perception is taken further in Pratchaya Phinthong¡¦s Demonstrations, which consists of only a note informing the audience to contact the gallery assistant to see the actual work which turns out to be a piece of fake Thai baht. This work is a response to news in 2008 about fake Thai Baht banknotes being distributed all over the country and in a way questions what is ¡¥real¡¦ since everything is constructed, filtered and presented by those who have the power and opportunity to do so.
Imitation and reality are also explored in the works of Vincent Leong and Wit Pimkanchanapong. Leong¡¦s Doolby Surround Sound recreates the cinematic qualities of sophisticated audio systems through low tech means. Functioning between the realms of parody and experimentation, this pirated version of the well known Dolby sound system reveals Leong¡¦s continuing fascination with new media and the authenticity of personal experience in an increasingly marketed and repackaged world. In Wit¡¦s Apple Apple, two apples are presented on display shelf, one as a screensaver and another in a form of a paper-model fixed with servo motor. Both are synchronised and moves in the same direction at the same time. The perfect imitation of apple¡¦s image is an endeavour to insist the illusion of representation that the idea of real and concrete object may not be necessary anymore. In another work, Pear, Apple, Banana, Mangosteen, Orange, and Starfruit, the idea of ¡¥avatar¡¦ is introduced. A variety of paper model fruits is displayed but each fruit form carries the skin of another fruit alluding to the freedom offered by the virtual world to become someone else, challenging the idea of fixed identity and form.
Issues of identity are also prominent in Tintin Wulia¡¦s Lure, a spatial installation where a trail of colourful miniature passports are laid along the wall and floors of the gallery space guiding the viewers to a claw vending machine. In the machine¡¦s transparent container, instead of prizes, the audience sees a collection of colourful handmade passports of all the current nation-states in the world. The audience can play the machine by inserting a coin and try their luck at winning a passport. In Lure, passports are like candies: people want as much as they can have, and it is attainable for just a small fee. Stemming from the artist¡¦s ongoing project (Re)Collection of Togetherness, where she collects and remake passports of all the current nation-states in the world, Lure examines the relationship between chance and citizenship in a re-imagined world.
A shift from his usual narrative works, Ho Tzu Nyen¡¦s NEWTON presents a minimal exposition on the act of inspiration. A play on Issac Newton¡¦s discovery of gravity, the figure in the work undergoes a similar weighty experience that however circles back upon itself in an exploration of determinism and freewill.
Hong Kong artist Lee Kit¡¦s ongoing hand-painted cloth series explore the role of art in our everyday lives. The works in this series are all produced in a very similar fashion: the artist paints monochromatic cloth with coloured lines to create new patterns. These cloths are then put to use: as bedsheets, picnic blankets, towels, cleaning rags, table cloths, and curtains. Although each object is essentially the same, their varying functions contribute to subtle variations in colour, texture, wear, and so on, leading to a second stage of co-production in which the cloths contribute to their own becoming. Clearly, these cloth pieces are never wholly reducible to their identities as either household tools or decorations; instead, their multiplicitious production suggests a further life for the object beyond its objecthood. The status of art object disappears and reappears.
Opening reception for the above exhibition will be held on Tuesday, 2 March 2010 from 6:30pm to 8:30pm.