Wednesday 17 September 2014

journal | Thoughts around the Institutional Prerogative: Part 2 PostPop-Up

by Melvin Tan
Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore

As I write this post, the CCA attachment is still ongoing. I am mainly tasked to create the user manual for Block 38’s art space. The booklet is designed to elaborate on the use of Block 38's #01-07 space and also, to document Post-PopUp, the first programme in their newly established space.

The project was enjoyable, involving a bit of editorial design and an opportunity to get first hand experience to see through the running of More than [show] business: Post-PopUp between Post-Museum and CCA. This is a unique convergence of two different organizations working together: a research-based institution for contemporary art and an independent cultural and social enterprise for the current span of three months to collaboratively program the space.

Take aways I've had from this attachment so far, is how collaboration here is observably not limited to the two organizations but also, it extends to the negotiation with the art and civic community. PostPop-Up shuffles the professional, experimental, non-art and the amateur. This is done by the device of an open-call for shows and going by a lightly-curated and lightly-managed model of programming and showing. I remembered remarking about how exhibitions and programmes allows a shift in focus onto the subject matter or work people make, rather than on the spectacle and standing of the artist or event.

The operational currency leans towards outreach and inclusivity, playing down on stringent selection processes and distinction. This offers an effervescence of programmes that makes the institutional platform unprecedentedly accessible, experimental and tangential to more professional practices in the vicinity—something new to the otherwise commercial and frigid environment of the enclave.

The strategy seem to leverage on the white-cube as anchor to open-ended operations between the two organizations towards its use. The affiliations and followings of both, mixes crowds of different camps to the contents hosted. This framework is designed to imbue creative mixing and eventually a better understanding between the different modes.

The programming is nothing new to Post-Museum, whom by model of independence and activist sensibility, can operate as a platform for expression and civil extensions in Rowell Road and nomadically. Their efforts for the past seven years, together with some other self-run initiatives, had served as a foundational and formative role towards inculcating an ideally inclusive & diverse environment in an otherwise controlled environment. Their work can be seen as a catalyst for criticality and arguably, a more habitable civil society at large. The Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore comes from another place in the art ecology, a young top-down investment, established by multiple governing and academic bodies in Singapore. The Centre is designed to be important in that it serves as a central programming institution and only non-commercial space of Gillman Barracks. It also is a key player in bringing in some of the biggest names in international contemporary art through exhibitions, residencies and a research centre— a facet that Singapore now adds to its infrastructure as a burgeoning regional destination for art.

The collaboration offers a meeting point for appreciation between these different communities of the local art scene that by virtue of practices, may not meet, let alone work or show together.

It is therefore really interesting for myself, when in the previous blogpost, I had problematized the institutional state-of-mind. What I have learnt from this PostPop-up was not to have a polarizing reading of independent and institutional frameworks. Independence, often discussed as an ‘alternative' or 'oppositional’ operation, can also be seen as existing outside of such singularity and measurement. In place of that, the essence of being free also allows for a multi-dimensional and inclusive reading that should focus on collaboration, that which better counters narrow and isomorphic purview to practices.

PostPop-Up ideally sets to be that layered and encompassing mode that presents itself as something more than just another event, or as the project puts, "more that (just) show business”.

This is reaffirmed from first hand experience and also from separately hearing experiences shared in the first Curatorial Roundtable. There was already talk about the subjectivities of independence in the dialogue: (1) from the point of view of an individual person, or (2) projected on an institutional level. E.g, Charles Merewether, someone who worked in large institutions internationally as creative director or curator, still considers himself as independent in the way that he has full agency to continue or leave the institution he is in, when he feels the need to.

There is still much more to do till completion and I might have a more concise point of view after. But this is what I am thinking for now.

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