Friday, 26 September 2014

journal | The Task(s) of the Curator*

by Luca Lum
NUS Museum

Left: Briefs for NUS Museum’s programme for 2015, Concrete Island; right: Brainstorming passwords for the Concrete Island reader
*The title refers to Walter Benjamin's seminal essay "The Task of the Translator"

I'm part of the team working on NUS Museum's year-long programme for 2015, Concrete Island. Unlike the other two industry immersions at NAC and the CCA where the participants are involved with programmes that have already been charted out, those of us at the NUS Museum are dealing with the something in its burgeoning stages. I feel really fortunate to being able to contribute to the conceptual foundations of the project.

During the immersion at NUS Museum I gained insights into the following:
  1. a style of programming that is always in dialogue with the museum's specific history and collection, yet wide-ranging in its scope of exploration
  2. how creating ways for open and continual dialogue enable small kernels of thought, gestures, and procedures which build up to a full exhibition
  3. what a curator is and what curation entails
            Concrete Island is named after the novel by J.G. Ballard. Ballard’s novel is a re-writing of Robinson Crusoe for the post-industrial age, the age of hyperspeed, where isolation and being nowhere occurs within civilisation, generated primarily by constant mobility. Set in London, the plot of the text involves architect Robert Maitland getting into a traffic accident and becoming trapped on a man-made island -- a kind of urban wasteland -- between Westway and the M4 Motorway. The title, Concrete Island, accords with Singapore as both a concrete jungle and island. It forms a loose frame for the works we’re exhibiting by Debbie Ding (visual artist), Tan Pin Pin (film-maker), and Lilian Chee (architect). Concrete Island is thus a vehicle that mobilises thinking about space and time, trajectory and speed -- where we've come from, where we are, and where we're going. It’s meant as a kind of counter-point to SG50, the island-wide programme scheduled to celebrate Singapore’s 50 years as a nation-state. I see Concrete Island as an iteration of the Museum’s cartographical investigation of place through the histories of colonial sites in the past year with Erika Tan’s Come Cannibalise Us Why Don’t You and Charles Lim’s In Search of Raffles’ Light, but with an interest in a much broader stretch of time and a more overt interest in the present and future of place.

            Our team's task is to lay the foundation for the reader accompanying Concrete Island, first by generating a list of passwords, a concept derived from Jean Baudrillard. Passwords are key terms that form points of entry and departure into the programme. It will be used as prompts for short texts we are commissioning from writers (academics, artists, etc). To some extent our own immersion feels like these passwords: we're accumulating nodes of experience and concepts that we keep circling back to over the course of the immersion which we feed into other trajectories, such as our exhibition at the end of Curating Lab.

Left: Reading up on Pulau Saigon for Debbie Ding’s project; right: a list of archaeological artefacts found at the site of Pulau Saigon from Jennifer Barry’s text
          We also began research on three of the sub-programmes. I’m working on Debbie Ding’s upcoming project, The Library of Pulau Saigon, which has to do with an island that used to reside in the middle of the Singapore river lost to development. Our team spent the second week researching at NLB where I dug up some texts that dealt directly with Pulau Saigon, and then broadened my research to texts in fields related to her work — archaeology, psycho-geography, cartography, philosophy of waste, etc.

            By now the team has accumulated so much material we needed a way to chart and share what we each found relevant to keep the flow of ideas going. We started a private Facebook group and a group tumblr, which form maps of visuals and ideas. None of us are keeping exclusively to the artist we chose to research on, but are feeding the relationships we see between the three projects.

Our tumblr site:
            Our work doesn’t end at NUS Museum; we also took time out to help out with the installation of Charles Lim’s Safe Sea — a library of books relating to the sea — at the National Museum Singapore as part of Singapore’s Heritage Fest , which provided an insight into the practical concerns around setting up an installation as well as being present in looking at an iteration of Lim’s much larger body of work that had to do with Singapore’s history to the sea. Charles’ project is in some ways the opposite — or more accurately, a close cousin —of Concrete Island: it's a negative image of Singapore from its watery perimeters, the flows that come and go and shape its boundaries. It also struck me that a curator has to be aware of existing ideas in circulation, as no exhibit is conceived or received in a vacuum but in the context of things already floating in the metaphorical ether…(or sea)

Left: Installation of Safe Sea in progress; right: paraphernalia found in the library of books
I'm compelled by the similarities between the curator and the translator. According to the OED, the word "translator" can mean several things:

1a. One who translates or renders from one language into another; the author of a translation.
1b. One who renders a painting by engraving, or the like: cf. translation n.
1c. Computing. A program that translates from one (esp. programming) language into another.

2. One who transforms, changes, or alters; spec. a cobbler who renovates old shoes.

3. One who transfers or transports. (Obscure)

4a. An automatic repeater in long-distance telegraphy. Cf.
4b. A relay set or station which receives television signals and retransmits them without demodulating them.

            The task of the curator is much like the task of the translator in the combined definitions and applications on the term listed above. The curator, like the translator, tries to mobilise a thing — an idea, or an artwork — from one co-ordinate to another, from an artist's personal oeuvre to the context of the exhibition and new sets of relations with other works. In doing so, the act of translation enacts transformations. 
Like the telegraphers or station operators of definition 4, curators are also sending signals from afar, from a perspective of knowledge. But unlike these telegraphers and station operators, curators know that the signals will undergo some form of attenuation and entropy, that sort of scattering is to be expected and can even be productive. Curators are transporters, creating in-roads of access and departures from the source, much like Baudrillard's passwords, for people to arrive at and depart from — nodes of material that work like some kind of weather vane where ideas, nebulous and unfixable, momentarily curl around to direct our attentions somewhere. Curation, like translation, is also an act that is never complete, but always in the midst of transition and flux. The end of an exhibition is only a still weather vane; sometime elsewhere, the breeze will blow again.

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

journal | Pirates of the Curatorrent

by Kenneth Loe
Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore 

 Image: Kenneth Loe
“torrent (ˈtɒrənt)
1. (Physical Geography) a fast, voluminous, or violent stream of water or other liquid
2. an overwhelming flow of thoughts, words, sound, etc
3. (Computer Science) computing a file that controls the transfer of data in a BitTorrent system. See BitTorrent [1]

I admit. My childhood fixation with 17th century buccaneers and their wayward seafaring ways never really went away. From plundering the “Horrible Histories” series in the children’s section at my neighborhood library for books on them Vicious Vikings and Plundering Pirates, which in hindsight was my first encounter with the authority of alliteration, to building and running my very own pirate haven as Pirate King on the PC game, Tropico 2: Pirate Cove, I was acquainted with infamous pirates, from the can(n)onical Blackbeard and Anne Bonny to the fictional Captain Hook and Long John Silver. Needless to say, I was hooked, line and sinker.

A whole decade later, as I mull over my month-long immersion at the Centre of Contemporary Art, I find myself hearkening back to those formative years and digging for doubloons. Incidentally, I had recently re-watched Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy, the glib repartee of the roguish Captain Jack Sparrow meets piratical phantasmagoria of sword-wielding lobster bisques and anthropomorphic barnacles. Something I gleaned from all three films was how the responsibilities of the crew were in perpetual flux in relation to its captain. Every crew member wore many hats (literally and figuratively), its multifarious directional approach in collusion with a compass that pointed to what one wanted most instead of mere magnetic North, a captaincy that was bound to the whim of the tides and the looming presence of the enemy, be it the nefarious Davy Jones and his pet kraken or the “it’s just good business” armada of the East India Company, the indeterminacy of a life at sea, a never-ending balancing act between one foot and a pegleg and a bottle of rum in between.

Before I expound on my experience further, perhaps I should explain in pseudo-etymological terms, within rhyme and reason, how I arrived at this farrago of a word, “curatorrent”. There is a bot on Twitter that goes by the handle @portmanteau_bot, a bot that for a period of time tweeted the most wondrous of algorhythmically-generated portmanteaus but in recent times have slumped into incomprehensible gibberish. “Curatorrent”, an obvious portmanteau of “curator” and “torrent”, was born in my attempts at hacking together a word within a set of self-imposed conditions:
  • The word has to contain some form of the word “curate”.
  • The word has to rhyme (kind of) with Caribbean.
  • The word has to make enough sense while sounding absurd.
The past few years have been inundated with news of the clamping down on countless Torrent sites in the name of copyright, forcing them to set sail, go under before re-surfacing over and over, the online cousin of POTC’s Flying Dutchman and its undead crew, namelessly and tirelessly toiling, seeding and ferrying torrents of data to and fro-yo ho! And if we look at definition no. 2 of “torrent”, as “an overwhelming flow of thoughts, words, sound, etc”, you would be looking at a one-word tour d’horizon of my experience in the deep undulations of theory and theatricality.

On my first day at CCA, I was introduced to a book that I was to spend the next month and a half ploughing through by Anca Rujoiu, CCA Curator Exhibitions. “Mimesis, Masochism & Mime: The Politics of Theatricality in Contemporary French Thought”, a book of essays edited by Timothy Murray, I was told, formed the basis of Theatrical Fields, the exhibition curated by Ute Meta Bauer, CCA Founding Director, and Anca, first presented at the Bildmuseet, Umeå in Sweden and currently exhibiting at CCA. I was tasked with assisting in the areas of research and public programmes for the exhibition.

The next month was spend swashbuckling with a diverse range of texts, some denser than others, from Derrida’s circuitous reading of Artaud’s Theatre of Cruelty to the super abstract but immensely enjoyable text by Luce Irigaray titled “The Stage Setup”. The essay reinterprets and subverts the phallocentricity immanent in Plato’s myth of the cave, the necessity of which lent itself to my watching of Mass Hysteria Relapsed!, a remarkable spoken word performance by the AmOk Collective that sought to “to re-act and negotiate the hysterical and the historical”[2], performed in late August as part of Indignation Festival, Singapore’s annual queer pride season. I was to spend a whole week on the text, albeit in disjointed spurts and long bouts of pondering double negations and complex conjunctions in a torrential jouissance of theorizing by Irigaray, before the gaze gave way to this light which is not one nor the sun.

Looking at this idea of the “curatorrent”, which if I were to elaborate would refer to “the deluge of information one devours in endeavoring to knowledge production through curatorial labour”, I can safely say I have never read so intensely or successively in a field of thought or re-oriented that radically the lens through which I approached and perceived something as I have when working on Theatrical Fields. Having always struggled with while relishing in being a “Jack of all trades”, dabbling into whatever I fancied or found an opportunity in, Curating Lab not withstanding, I was utmost daunted in the beginning by the task ahead of me and utterly grateful at the end to be inducted into a methodology I’ve always maintained I never had the tenacity for.

While my commitment in the month of July was primarily anchored to CCA, I still had obligations at the gallery I worked at to attend to. Concurrently, my fellow CCA mates and I had to conceptualise the workings of an exhibition that we are co-curating in January 2015. I saw myself constantly shuffling between roles, shuttling from working on research and public programmes at CCA to administrative work and managing an exhibition at the gallery, to learning the ropes of what curating an exhibition entails alongside my peers. The parallel I observed happening in the scenes of POTC resonated strongly with me, the switching between modes of existence a crew member assumes, from rigger to powder monkey to becoming cannon fodder, the swapping of captaincy from Jack Sparrow to Barbossa to the crew becoming captain. Of course, the perils of what I imagine to be a life at sea is but an analogy inflected by my 14-year-old self, a Peter Pirate Pan who decided not to grow up.

Screenshot of “The Curse of Monkey Island” A Pirate I was meant to be
The Curse of Monkey Island, yet another pirate-inspired adventure PC game I fell head over heels for while growing up, is a charming cartoon-ish cabal of object-based puzzle-solving and insult swordfighting in a marvelous display of wordplay. In one scene, the protagonist and playable character, Guybrush Threepwood, a buffoonish self-proclaimed “mighty pirate”, finds himself on a ship he stole and a crew he gathered from the local barbershop comprising of Cutthroat Bill, Haggis McMutton, and Edward Van Helgen. On boarding the ship, the hapless pirates break out into a song and dance that’s all rhyme and ridiculousness that feeds off Guybrush’s/your responses by turning it into a verse. The only way that Guybrush/you can stop them is to foil their scheme by coming up with a sentence that is metrically impossible for them to find a rhyme to. The scene ends with the following exchange:

“Guybrush: We'll surely avoid scurvy if we all eat an orange.
Haggis: And...!
Bill: Well...
Bill: Door hinge?
Edward:No, no...
Bill: Guess the song's over, then.
Haggis: Guess so.
Edward: Okay, back to work.
Guybrush: Well gee. I feel a little guilty, now.”

“In civilizations without boats, dreams dry up, espionage takes the place of adventure, and the police takes the place of pirates.”[3] As I rest my feet at this port of call before the next journey beckons, Foucault’s assertion that “the ship is the heterotopia par excellence” floats to mind. I console myself that oranges are not the only fruit and what I’d really like right now is a Bloody Mary sans guilt. Avast, me hearties!

[1] Collins English Dictionary – Complete and Unabridged © HarperCollins Publishers 2003
[2] From “Mass Hysteria Relapsed!” Facebook event page -
[3] Michel Foucault. Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias. In Architecture/ Mouvement/ Continuité journal, October 1984, translated from French by Jay Miskowiec

Monday, 22 September 2014

journal | 0018A / 5724C

By Cheng Jia Yun, Euginia Tan, Selene Yap & Wong Yeang Cherng
National Arts Council 

0018A / 5724C from nusmuseum on Vimeo.

How do we map an experience? Across the grids that mark our seas, how do memories, ideas, and existence become decontextualised?  The absurdity of mapping or dividing the fluid composition of the sea into pixels of definable space parallels the tensions of confines imposed on the shifting location of human consciousness. In our work with SEABOOK, mapping is materialised through a formal treatment of trajectories of the sea –narratives are accumulated, compartmentalised and located in neat boxes, dissecting real life experiences into identifiable pixels for easy storage and retrieval.

In 0018A / 5724C, we attempt to grapple with the boundlessness of the sea, reconciling our encounters on Pulau Ubin, an island off the eastern shore of Singapore with the intransigent coordinates binding the island. Conversation snippets with islanders are met with Charles’ banal recitation of coordinates –a confluence that underpin state desires to effectively plot (and exert jurisdiction) over the sea and its activity.

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.

Monday, 15 September 2014

journal | in four movements

by Chua Ying Qing

On composition
It is rather peculiar that we have begun composing in space, without really knowing the language of space. What are the syntactic rules, the physical forces, the natural laws that govern the space? Do they operate differently from the world outside, the space beyond? Is there a need for an order, a system, a logic in the space? Just as how sounds are drawn to silence, would objects gravitate toward voids? How much of these physical inevitabilities are in play when we think about composing in space? 

National Museum of Singapore // Safe Sea

On arrangement
Fidelity to artworks is a tricky situation. We are told to let the works speak, allow them to breathe, listen to their individual voices. But fidelity has to be silenced (or at least tucked away) before the exhibition begins. If we overly commit to every work, we sin by omission because all the voices get through. By refraining from editing, we lose voices because they drown out in the space. So then, how do we play off the voices, how do we pit them in counterpoint? 

Asian Film Archive // Invisible City

On performance
Authenticity serves a single point in time. To be deemed authentic, we justify the work in the present, in relation to the past. As Dr. Eva Meyer said “To understand something, is giving it a past”, but which past do we want? And who is entitled to it? Is the question then the authenticity of the interpretation (rather than of the work)? Perhaps then, we can view exhibitions as moments of re-enactment, by the artist and the viewer, entering the works.

Singapore International Festival of the Arts // Give Me Your Blood and I Will Give You Freedom

 On reception
How do you plant an idea? How can we articulate the subconscious? When the audience experiences an exhibition, they perceive it through a series of reflections. They never get to see the original source – the womb of curatorial intention. The trick then is not to leave traces of the illusion/intrusion. For we are now double agents, and this is the perfect crime.

NUS Museum // Crime Scene

Friday, 12 September 2014

RECAP: Curatorial Roundtable 02 | Dis-positions: Between Artistic Practice and Curatorial Practice

Moderated by Anca Rujoiu, curator at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore (CCA), the second session of the Curatorial Roundtable convened last Thursday evening with Singaporean artist, curator and publisher Michael Lee and Romanian artist Florin Tudor, currently on residency with the CCA.

Topic: Dis-positions: Between Artistic Practice and Curatorial Practice 
While the debate on the intersections between the artist and the curator continues, much of such discussions and theorisations continue to move at the expense of discerning the local contexts within which they are articulated. This session is an attempt to add to this ongoing debate concerning artistic practice and curatorial practice; but at the same time it insists also on a plurality within this discussion by examining the different contexts where artistic practice and curatorial practice may meet.

About the moderator
Anca Rujoiu is a Romanian curator currently based in Singapore. She is curator at CCA - Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore and co-director of FormContent, a curatorial initiative in London. Previously, she coordinated the public programme of the School of Fine Art at the Royal College of Art (UK). With FormContent she explored various exhibition models and challenged the relationship between artist/curator often overlapping their roles in the process. Her recent project with FormContent, It’s Moving from I to It unfolded as a performative script within a nomadic structure testing formats of production and distribution. She has been a visiting lecturer at various universities including Goldsmiths College, Central Saint Martins University and Newcastle University (UK). As a researcher and writer, she worked for several film and television productions, artists’ publications. She graduated from the MFA Curating Programme at Goldsmiths College (UK) and was one of the curators selected for the 3rd International Curator Course at the Gwangju Bienniale (KR) in 2011. 

About the speakers
Michael Lee is an artist, curator and publisher based in Berlin and Singapore. He researches urban memory and fiction, transforming his observations into objects, diagrams, situations, curations or texts. He has staged solo exhibitions in Berlin, Hong Kong and Singapore. His biennale participations include Shenzhen Sculpture (2014); Kuandu (Taipei, 2012); Singapore (2011); Shanghai (2010), and Guangzhou Triennial (2011, 2008). His curatorial projects include Between, Beside, Beyond: Daniel Libeskind's Reflections and Key Works 1989-2014 (Singapore Art Museum, 2007), and his editorial projects include Who Cares: 16 Essays on Curating in Asia (published by Para/Site Art Space, Hong Kong, 2010).

Florin Tudor, together with Mona Vatamanu, is an artist in residency at the Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore. Mona Vatamanu & Florin Tudor¹s artistic practice span diverse media including film, photography, painting, performance, and site-specific projects. Through their works, they confront the traumatic legacy of Communism in their native Romania and Eastern Europe, while wrestling with the ongoing challenge of how to process history. As part of their residency at CCA so far they have taken a look at the surrounding environment of both the natural jungle-like environment and various constructions happening in Gillman Barracks to explore various social dynamics. Their work has been included in numerous international exhibitions including (selection): Untitled (12th Istanbul Biennial), Istanbul, 2012; Blind Spots, Akademie der bildenden Künste Wien, Vienna, 2009; 5th Berlin Biennial, Kunst-Werke Institute for Contemporary Art, Berlin, 2008; among others. Vatamanu and Tudor live and work in Bucharest.

Curatorial Roundtable 01 | in photos

Curatorial Roundtable 01 |  video
Curatorial Roundtable 02 | Dis-positions: Between Artistic Practice and Curatorial Practice from nusmuseum on Vimeo.

*Due to a technical fault, parts of Anca's and Michael's presentations have unfortunately not been captured on video.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

journal | Pulau Gillman

by Bernice Ong 
Centre for Contemporary Art, Gillman Barracks 

       On some days, the journey to the Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (CCA) feels a little like a pilgrimage from the far-eastern end of Singapore where I live. It is more than just a physical traversing of space. To step out of a technical role in theatre production, and into a primarily desk-bound job is a change surely. Thrown into the thick of things, as we consider and ponder the quotations from different companies bidding to be appointed our Theatrical Fields show-build contractor, it does feel pretty great to be privy to such decision-making processes. Given access to the exhibition planning process from the beginning of our internship, one of my first jobs was to draw up a timeline indicating work that was to be done by the contractors. I pondered the necessity of laying out such a clear sequence of tasks for the show-build contractor, but also quietly, really enjoyed drawing up a table and organising the necessary information. I love running about and working with my hands, but man, can I get pretty obsessive once I dive into administrative mode!

       Interestingly, working in the Barracks does not actually accord me with more time to hang around the art galleries there in spite of my close proximity. However, the Post-PopUp program with Post-Museum (13 June - 30 October 2014) has introduced a constancy of talks at their premises, and does provide some benefit to being in the area as they are scheduled in the evenings after work hours.

       Oh, what can I say. My favourite option is Sum Kee Food in Telok Blangah, introduced by Samantha Yap - SilverLens assistant and other curating lab extraordinaire. Otherwise, it’s a trip across Alexandra Road, through a space-age tunnel, into some office tower, before descending into a car park, which gives access to a food court full of office workers. A bit of a trek to be honest.

       Unfortunately, our time at the CCA is a short-lived one. The office space of 7 Lock Road is also but a temporary one. The studio residencies are by their nature programmed in periods. And so does the name of Post-Museum’s ‘Post-PopUp’ inclusion point to its impermanence. But, being confronted by the transience of such arrangements is not all that undesirable. In my own practice as an artist, I am hugely attracted to construction sites not because I love them, but because I get really annoyed at them. Onsite research processes affords me understanding, as any prolonged discovery has got to be beneficial; I am therefore able to flip this annoyance on its head the more I engulf myself within these transitioning spaces. Changing spaces also hint at a constant renewal. In the arts, although the affordability of time offers stability with long-term benefits, I think working within limitations can also spur us on towards more creative synergy as we consciously expound on what we have.

       I have a dream of setting up an arts centre to support and connect emerging and established artists. Being at the CCA offered a good insight into the running of an organization in terms of exhibition management. Each one of us in our group had been assigned to a specific area to immerse ourselves in, and although I would have loved to have jumped more into research, it was equally wonderful to have been able to assist and observe the process of planning for Theatrical Fields’ exhibition space.

Theatrical Fields is on from 23 August - 31 October 2014
Exhibition Centre: 34 Malan Road, Singapore 109443
Opening Hours: Tue to Sun 12-7pm, Fri 12-9pm

Monday, 8 September 2014

journal | Museum [noun]

by Raksha Mahtani 
NUS Museum

Museum [noun]:

1. Lawrence Chin explicating preservation to a series of classes of baby curators who aren't art history experts and hence may be unemployable;

2. Charles Merewether talking about the index being the crucial difference between the archive and the collection, and describing his illustrious career without ever mentioning the word fame;

3. Rubbing shoulders with two artists you're currently following on Twitter, one of whom sat 3 seats away from you at a roundtable - with absolutely no pretense of false grandeur about them;

4. Encountering art at its truest, most pristine, most democratic state at concurrent arts festival, with two figures on a phosphorus-lit stage reminding you that loss is always felt before it is learnt;

5. Realising that in art of collaboration, the phrase, 'Yes, and?' must be scattered generously in the spirit of inquiry and support;

6. Spending time with close friend and fellow dreamer who has been in your life for close to a decade (@lactasered) on the long eastbound ride home(#faghag4lyfe);

7. Acquaintances turn groupmates turn warm friends in the cold wintry conditions of the prep room;

8. Anxieties of come-what-mays, erudition and wall text mastery;

9. A thousand blank walls of potentiality - the space to research, interrogate, dream;

10. Above all else, poetry.

Friday, 5 September 2014

journal | I'll be your mirror

by Samantha Yap
Centre for Contemporary Art, Gillman Barracks

Having worked in Gillman Barracks for close to seven months, at both CCA and Silverlens, it has become the landscape of my quotidian traffic. The silence of a bustling arts enclave, the people who inhabit this microcosm and the many women who actively try to make this place work – these are all part of my collective understanding and definition of the enclave.

One prominent characteristic across the complex is its decidedly strong female presence, an observation further reinforced through my internship at CCA. It led to my eventual rumination over the topic of female representation in the art world and more specifically, within Gillman Barracks itself.

Looking at representation in Gillman Barracks through a gendered perspective was something prompted by my one-month immersion with CCA. As an integral part of Gillman Barracks, it is interesting to note that CCA’s team possesses a very strong female representation. Curiously, this representation also extends (be it consciously or subconsciously) itself to exhibitions like Theatrical Fields and Paradise Lost.

Paradise Lost, which dwelled on themes of displacement, travel and personal narratives and histories, featured three female artists – Trinh T. Minh-ha, Fiona Tan and Zarina Bhimji.  The curatorial approach made no pointed emphasis towards the fact that the artists were all female. Neither were there attempts to pursue feminist tangents. Both of which are not usually common with group shows featuring female artists. Personally, I saw Paradise Lost as a beautiful subversion of androcentric approaches to culture and history.

It makes for interesting case study material, particularly in the reading and consideration of curatorial processes and exhibition-making through a gendered lens. Echoing the sentiments of “by women for women”, I wonder, does the gender of the curator and/or director have any effect in the representation of female artists in their exhibitions or artist rosters? Such a parallel may seem arbitrarily made and lacking in cogent arguments, but I want to consider it, even just for a little while. If the answer is yes, then is it sympathy? Or is it visibility? We choose who we want to see, and as females, we readily see other females too.

The fact that there are more females than males here in Gillman Barracks is not difficult to see. It could even appear as though female representation in the microcosm of Gillman Barracks is not something to worry about, far from being in dire straits. But, I would like to also cogitate on representation in an expanded sense, as something dynamic that stretches beyond mere presence.

When I speak of representation, I am thinking of presence and action, I am thinking, is our art world diverse and inclusive enough? Is it amplifying voices and strengthening the presence of those who have already been consistently in the fore? I realize I am trying (or aspiring) to deconstruct a paradigm in order to see what are the walls of barrier and powers at play. Perhaps, very simply, what I am doing is to understand what it means to be a woman (working with)in Gillman Barracks. And as a woman in Gillman Barracks, you are likely a gallery assistant or manager.

There is some talk about representation in the art world and its imbalances and inequity. The Gallery Tally, a project by Mico Hibron that looks at female representation in artist rosters, is one great precedent. The results are disappointing, the excuses even more so. The discourse about (under)representation on the Internet have mostly originated from the perspective of artists. But we should also consider gender representation amongst gallerists, gallery managers and curators, all of whom also hold an inevitable stake in the art world and the career of artists. How is the gender representation there reflective of the art world and how does it bleed into the prospects and careers of artists?

Even if the galleries within Gillman Barracks seem to balance themselves quite nicely on the scales of gender representation, there is still much more that can be read into and considered. There are still many more insidious factors at play. For instance, a certain pattern that pops up quite frequently – the dichotomy and/or relationship between male directors and gallerists and female gallery managers and assistants.  A dichotomy that reinstates the hierarchal structure of galleries, where decision making is its strongest and most absolute at the top of the pyramid.

There is female representation. There is presence, but how much does presence mean? There are not much resources that I could reference apart than the raw unattested data that lies before me.

The editors of London Review of Books declare, “Counting is a feminist weapon.

I look at the Guerrilla Girls and The Gallery Tally and I think, I have been counting for years. Furiously tabulating. It is an instinct I have developed to counter blindness. I will always choose to see. The furious counting is my furious looking, it is me realizing and remembering those who have been conveniently forgotten and conveniently overlooked. 

What is the point of this reflection? I bared no results, no percentages, just a thought piece. I ranted, rambled. Maybe, the point is to point. To make you see. Look to the direction of what has been easily obfuscated.

Talking about this little project of mine with people has so far been both aggravating and rewarding. I will embark on this (eventually). And I will keep counting.  

Any souls angry and concerned enough to go down the deep gendered end with me?



Women and book reviews / Viv Groskop. (n.d.). Retrieved September 1, 2014, from