LASALLE College of the Arts’ Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) Singapore will open two exhibitions on Friday, 19 Oct 2018. Titled Dissolving margins and Moving Pledges, both exhibitions explore the role of art in contemporary society and are part of the lead up to Art and Action, Singapore’s first contemporary Asian art histories conference. The global conference is organised by LASALLE and will take place in the College in December.
Moving Pledges, curated by Iola Lenzi, will showcase notable Southeast Asian artists whose works aim to probe social and political power structures, among other issues. The multidisciplinary exhibit will see participatory and performance art, photography, video and installations by the 14 artists involved, employing aesthetics and conceptual frameworks—sometimes borrowed from the state—to prompt discussion about the systems of authority that regulate daily life.
Produced over four decades (1977–2018), the works show the artists’ persistent belief in art as a conduit for social and political empowerment. Jakkai Siributr’s Changing Room (2017) invites audiences to try on military jackets embroidered with images of violence experienced by Muslims in Thailand’s deep south. While aesthetically seductive, Scandals (2013–), a series of hand-stitched slippers made of spent bullet cartridges by Filipina artist Josephine Turalba, are also painful to wear. Indonesian artist FX Harsono presents his pistol-shaped rice cracker installation (1977), one of the region’s earliest participatory artworks. Local artists include Koh Nguang How, Justin Loke and Yang Jie, and Tay Wei Leng.
“There is a need to showcase contemporary art from the region. Through this exhibition, we are trying to build a dialogue surrounding Southeast Asian art to showcase the ways in which regional artists, decades ago, and still today, mine visual and material culture that is embedded in our collective consciousness due to its place at the heart of society from upper to lower echelons. Contemporary art in Southeast Asia is engaging with the here and now, so references Southeast Asian realities before all else. Some of the most exciting, important contemporary art in Southeast Asia is not necessarily produced for museums or austere exhibition space, even though it may end up there! The art we are showing here at LASALLE was very much made for plural audiences, responding to real concerns and issues in people’s lives,” says Lenzi.
Curated by LASALLE’s ICA Singapore’s Melanie Pocock, Dissolving margins features the works of five artists. Singaporean scholar-scientist turned performance artist Eng Kai Er’s piece, Compressible sentiments, centres around the identity of the T-Rex meme based off the costume of the creature from the popular film Jurassic World. Local graphic designer Darius Ou’s year-long graphic design project Autotypography, a total of 365 posters using anti-design aesthetics made from 2012 to 2013, will also be on display. Other artists at the exhibition include 2013 Silver Lion winner Camille Henrot, filmmaker James T Hong and Bengaluru-based artist Tara Kelton. Bridging physical and digital formats, the works show the ways in which distinctions between people, cultures, and material and virtual worlds are disappearing, and explore the ethical and creative dilemmas generated by dissolving boundaries between people and cultures.
“In Dissolving margins, we see the kind of cutting-edge international contemporary art that is rarely seen elsewhere in Singapore. In the exhibition, viewers are immersed in expansive installations and experimental projects that merge disciplines—graphic design, computer programming, film, performance. Their content addresses phenomena unique to the 21st century: the merging of physical and online worlds, and the loss of identity that results from dissolving boundaries between people and cultures,” says Pocock.
Both exhibitions tie in with the upcoming Art and Action conference, co-convened by LASALLE lecturer Jeffrey Say, Programme Leader, MA Asian Art Histories, and Lenzi. Held at LASALLE, Art and Action will take place from 3 to 5 Dec 2018 and will see leading scholars of modern Asian art discuss the development of art practices in Southeast Asia from the 1970s to the present, focussing on the role of artists and artworks as social conduits, with the aim of generating discourses specific to the contexts and conditions of the region. The programme will include presentations from Professor Terry Smith, Andrew W. Mellon Professor of Contemporary Art History and Theory at the University of Pittsburgh; and Professor John Clark, Professor Emeritus at The University of Sydney and leading scholar of Asian modern art; among others. Art and Action will also include an artist panel, and a comics panel featuring Sonny Liew.