Thursday, 29 January 2015

Exhibition | Open Excess | Prep-room

[Gallery impression, Open Excess, 2015]
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Exhibition period: 23 January 2015-ongoing
Venue: NX2, Concourse Level, NUS Museum

Beginning from a collection of books and publications donated to the NUS Museum by art historian TK Sabapathy, Open Excess is a prep-room initiative dealing with the question of the library, the role of publications, accessibility, and visibility/transparency in relation to the region of Southeast Asia and its discourse. 

Open Excess is also a working project that anticipates the collection’s eventual consolidation into the Museum’s Resource Gallery at large.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Nadira Aslam

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

In December 2014, 8 interns joined us to work with the curatorial and outreach teams, conducting research for upcoming exhibitions and programmes in 2015 at the museum and the NUS Baba House. Besides those involving our collections and recent acquisitions, the interns prepared for upcoming exhibitions surrounding the work of alumni artists, the T.K. Sabapathy Collection, as well as SEABOOK. They also assisted with ongoing happenings at the museum, including exhibition installation and programme facilitation.
 


Nadira Aslam is in her third year at the Department of Southeast Asian Studies at NUS FASS. From November to December 2014, she was a curatorial intern attached to the SEABOOK project, a collaboration between NUS Museum, curator Shabbir Hussain Mustafa and artist Charles Lim. Over the course of two months, she worked with the curators and artist on the documentation and presentation of research materials that deal with Singapore’s waters as well as assisted with various research visits.

Applying for this internship was a natural result of an enduring eagerness to experience working in the heritage scene. These last eight weeks have gone beyond affirming my enthusiasm and broadening my perspectives on numerous levels.

I was the SEABOOK curatorial intern, tasked with the documentation and presentation of research materials that deals with Singapore’s waters. Part of the SEA STATE project chosen for the Singapore Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, SEABOOK is a collaboration between NUS Museum, curator Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, and artist Charles Lim, with the aim of gathering “an anecdotal history of Singapore’s troubled relationship with its seas.”

I sifted through an extensive amount of materials (books, journals, newspaper articles) discussing a wide range of topics pertaining to the sea. Along the way, I inevitably picked up various tidbits of information pertaining to sailing, shipwrecks, reclamation, fishing, among countless other sea stories – stories about places near and familiar, but which I might have otherwise overlooked. Among my favourite anecdotes were those pertaining to the offshore islands which number over 60, and yet most Singaporeans would probably only ever have visited or known about a handful.

My off-site ‘office’ at the Lee Kong Chian Reference Library
Apart from documentation, there were many other aspects of the project that I was lucky enough to assist with. Perhaps an interesting difference about my job scope was that I ended up spending more time off-site than I did in the museum. I was invited to participate in meetings with various parties, such as with the artist and the programmers who were developing the accompanying websites for SEABOOK and SEA STATE. I also got to tag along for interviews with individuals such as Captain Wilson Chua, who shared his vast pool of knowledge and fascinating memories. These meetings offered an insightful blend of creativity, critical thinking, pragmatism, and meticulousness as my supervisor Kenneth, as well as Charles and Mustafa were always encouraging me to contribute ideas and opinions, for which I am infinitely grateful.

Charles Lim interviewing Captain Wilson Chua
The opportunity to be involved in these different components provided a diverse experience and new challenges at every point of the project, which definitely kept things interesting and dynamic. While I did find myself encountering hurdles in unfamiliar territory, guidance was made readily available and I learned a lot from pushing myself to conceptualise new terrains of thought.

Adding to our individually assigned responsibilities, the museum’s internship programme ensures interns receive proper exposure to the inner workings of a museum. We were treated to tours of the current exhibits and of the NUS Baba House. The curators themselves guided us through exhibits, explaining the process of curating collections and finding ways to make the separate exhibits come together in a coherent space.

Baba House tour with fellow interns and the Conservation Workshop
We also had a conservation workshop held by The Conservation Studio, where we got to see before-and-after examples and discussed the ethical debate over the nature of conservation. As I was working outside the museum a lot, these additional programmes provided me ample time to interact with the other interns and to familiarise myself with the exhibits.

At the end of the day, I feel that it was a well-rounded internship that provided both structured learning and leeway for creativity. I would really like to express my sincerest gratitude towards my supervisor Kenneth, and Mustafa and Charles for trusting me and teaching me. I would also like to thank Janice from NLB for all her help, and of course, NUS Museum for giving me this opportunity to take a step towards pursuing a passion of mine. 

Grounded Conversations | Lee Weng Choy, Nora A. Taylor & Shubigi Rao in conversation with Lucy Davis

Tang Da Wu, Jantung Pisang: heart of a tree, heart of a people, The Substation, May 1999.
Courtesy of Koh Nguang How.
Date: Saturday, 7 February 2015
Time: 3.30 - 5pm
Venue: NUS Museum

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Free admission with registration at storiesofwood.peatix.com.

In this session, Grounded Conversations brings together artists, critics and scholars for a series of discussions on how various art practitioners located in this region have dealt with the question of materiality in their work. Ranging across various mediums such as writing, rattan and lacquer, this session will function simultaneously as a panel discussion which marks the closing of the exhibition “When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” | Stories of Wood by the Migrant Ecologies Project held at the NUS Museum.

About the panellists
Lee Weng Choy is an art critic and was the Artistic Co-Director of The Substation arts centre from 2000 to 2009. He has lectured internationally on art theory, cultural studies and policy. President of the Singapore Section of the International Association of Art Critics, his essays have appeared in After the Event: New Perspectives on Art History, Broadsheet, Forum On Contemporary Art & Society, Over Here: International Perspectives on Art and Culture; Theory in Contemporary Art since 1985, Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art, and Contemporary Art in Asia.

Dr. Nora A. Taylor is the Alsdorf Professor of South and Southeast Asian Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and currently Visiting Professor at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University (NTU ADM) and a Research Fellow at the Centre for Contemporary Art, NTU, Singapore. She is the author of Painters in Hanoi: An Ethnography of Vietnamese Art (Hawaii and NUS press, 2004-2009) and co-editor of Modern and Contemporary Southeast Asian Art: An Anthology. She has published and curated extensively on Vietnamese and Southeast Asian art. She is recently the recipient of a Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship to conduct research on the history of performance art in Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar.

Shubigi Rao is a visual artist and writer whose interests range from archaeology, neuroscience, 13th century ‘science’, language, libraries, historical acts of cultural genocide, contemporary art theory and natural history. Her work involves complex layered installations comprising handmade books, text, drawings, etchings, pseudo-science machinery and archives, and has been exhibited and collected in Singapore, Indonesia, Iran, Hong Kong, China, the Netherlands and India.

Lucy Davis is an artist, writer and Assistant Professor at NTU ADM. She is founder of the Migrant Ecologies Project. Her practice encircles nature in art and visual culture, materiality and memory in Southeast Asia.

About Grounded Conversations
Presenting a series of distinct projects on how art practitioners have begun to adopt comprehensive paradigms in their fieldwork methods traditionally associated with anthropological and historical research, Grounded Conversations brings together practitioners from the contemporary art world to unravel this ‘anthropological turn’.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Exhibition Programmes | Curating Lab: Phase 03 [31 January]

Curating Lab: Phase 03
Date: Saturday, 31 January 2015
Time: 10am - 6.30pm
Venue: NUS Museum

Free admission with registration at clabnusm.peatix.com

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CLICK TO VIEW OTHER EXHIBITION PROGRAMMES

The following series of programmes are presented in conjunction with Curating Lab: Phase 03, a group of  three exhibitions put together by participants of Curating Lab 2014.

Schedule
10am                Pictureshow: Nodes of Looking
11.15am           Tea reception
11.30am           Pictureshow: Nodes of Looking (continued)
12.45pm
          Break
3pm
                Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book
4pm
                 Notes from the (under)ground

10am - 1pm | Pictureshow: Nodes of Looking
in conjunction with Pictureshow

Speakers
Stefano Harney, Ground Provisions collective
A/P Stuart Derbyshire, Dept of Psychology, NUS
A/P Maurizio Peleggi, Dept of History, NUS
Shubigi Rao, artist
Kannan Chandran, publisher (moderator)

Pictureshow: Nodes of Looking is an attempt to spark cross-disciplinary conversations about perception as a means of knowledge production. This mini-lecture series bring together speakers from various fields of study and aspires to nurture a comfortable and constructive space for ‘looking’ from multiple vantage points. Through an exposure to multitudinous nodes of perception, participants are invited to explore ‘looking’ beyond its literal sensorial quality and inspire meaningful conversations about the diverse manifestations ‘looking’ can take. Expounding on different registers afforded by the neurological, historical and material, the symposium provides an occasion and platform for the unpacking of various perceptual issues beyond the artistic sphere.

3 - 4pm | Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book
in conjunction with Shubigi Rao: Exquisite Corpse
with Shubigi Rao, artist


Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book is a decade-long film, book and visual art project about the history of book destruction. Join Shubigi Rao as she shares her preliminary interviews, observations and vignettes from ‘Pulp’ as she visits public and private collections, libraries and archives around the world to retrace the disappearance of ideas long gone.

4 - 6.30pm | Notes from the (under)ground
in conjunction with Shubigi Rao: Exquisite Corpse
Speakers 
A/P Farish A Noor, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies, NTU
A/P John Miksic, Dept of Southeast Asian Studies, NUS
Koh Nguang How, archivist and artist
Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, writer and independent curator

MACBETH: […] I have no spur
To prick the sides of my intent, but only
Vaulting ambition, which o'erleaps itself
And falls on the other. (1.7.1)
William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Tread through a labyrinth of vault-less ambitions as we trawl through 700 year-old garbage, b-grade adventure stories, tabloid junk, material assemblage and inert email threads. At times a roll-call, a reportage, a reconstruction and restitution, this session examines the outliers of culture — civil waste, popular paraphernalia, itinerant memories.


***

About the exhibitions
Curating Lab: Phase 03 presents three exhibitions put together by participants of Curating Lab 2014 working with a selection of artists: Song-Ming Ang, Chun Kaifeng, Amanda Heng, Kim Lim, Matthew Ngui and Shubigi Rao. Situated in tandem with one another, the exhibitions may be seen as a constellation of divergent views and curatorial interests glimpsed from the works and practices of these six artists. Building upon the potentials of multiple perspectives that these three exhibitions point towards is also the very porousness of exhibitions themselves in facilitating such encounters between one another.
For more information on Curating Lab:
facebook.com/curatinglab2014
curating-lab.blogspot.com 


Shubigi Rao: Exquisite Corpse combines a selection of Shubigi Rao's work with items from her personal library, and material that has never been exhibited publicly. "Waste", in Rao's work — as a material presence, underlying poetic logic, and anxiety — becomes a way of framing her oeuvre and process, and forms the exhibition's curatorial provocation. At once a kind of monologue and dialogue, a coded silence, and a cacophonic game of cadavre exquis, Shubigi Rao: Exquisite Corpse invites the entanglement of old and new voices as audiences engage in the exhibition's premise of intertextuality, spectrality, hidden layers, and remainders.
Curated by: Luca Lum, Raksha Mahtani and Chua Ying Qing.

Pictureshow seeks to spotlight the act of looking as the primal means of perception and knowledge acquisition. Assembling works and materials which have since grown distant from the stability of the canvas, the painting, and the two-dimensional that the word 'picture' is so comfortably associated with, this exhibition asks: How has the relationship between artistic expression and the pictorial mode evolved over time? By unhinging the habitual mode of seeing a picture with works and materials that generate their own definitions about representation, Pictureshow contemplates the image as mediator in the relationship between artistic production and consumption. The exhibition features the works and materials of Chun Kaifeng, Kim Lim, Matthew Ngui and Song-Ming Ang.
Curated by: Selene Yap, Cheng Jia Yun, Euginia Tan and Wong Yeang Cherng.

Exhibition Programmes | Curating Lab: Phase 03 [1 February]

Telok Kurau Studios
Date: Sunday, 1 February 2015
Time: 2 - 6.30pm
Venue: #01-109, Telok Kurau Studios, 91 Lorong J Telok Kurau

LIMITED TO 25 PAX PER SESSION.
Free with registration at clabtks.peatix.com.
 

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CLICK TO VIEW OTHER EXHIBITION PROGRAMMES

The following series of programmes are presented in conjunction with Curating Lab: Phase 03, a group of  three exhibitions put together by participants of Curating Lab 2014.

Schedule
2pm
                
Shifting Representations 
4pm                 Tea reception 
4.30pm            Traversing Spaces

2 - 4pm | Shifting Representations

in conjunction with Conditions of Production
Speakers 
Lina Adam, artist
Wang Ruobing, artist and independent curator
Dr Margaret Tan, Tembusu College, NUS

In
Shifting Representations, three speakers will share about their experiences in the arenas of the personal and public as creative producers, and discuss the shifting roles and representations stemmed from these changing contexts. With an open view towards what constitutes creative production, the conversations will focus on the multiple roles within and outside different commitments that women artists hold - as mothers, daughters, educators, artists - and how these roles determine or affect artistic production. By discussing these multiple roles and going beyond the public view of an artist or performer, we may glean insight into different representations of the ‘artist’.

4.30 - 6.30PM | Traversing Spaces

in conjunction with Conditions of Production 
Speakers  
Tan Liting, theatre practitioner
Chu Chu Yuan, artist
Raksha Mahtani, researcher and
theatre practitioner
 
Traversing Spaces deliberates on the artist as citizen, tapping on the experiences of arts practitioners who seek to innovate and transform perspectives around space. It will reflect and expand on the subject of space beyond the physical, exploring its numerous complexities in the realms of the ideological, socio-political and the experiential. Delving into forms of civic engagement stemmed from their artistic practices or experiences in the creative sphere, the speakers may discuss views within civil society, the interplay between the public and private, and the shaping of communities. 

***
About the speakers
Lina Adam is a multi-disciplinary artist and has used various mediums such as performance, printmaking and art installation. Her work involves the scope of dissecting agents of socialization and habits dealing with but not limited to memories, environment and systems of daily life. She is the co-founder of Fetterfield, Singapore Performance Art Event, a site specific performance art festival (founded in 2006) and Your Mother Gallery, an alternative art space in Little India (founded in 2004). She has also been a committee member of The Artists Village since 1998.

Wang Ruobing was born in Chengdu, China and lives and works in Singapore. Comprising installation, sculpture, photograph and video, Wang’s work has a contingent quality that is underlined by the mindful representation of everyday activities. Her materials and subjects are often simple, everyday objects and things, but wittily resonant of the issues relate to consumption and the growth of knowledge. Solo exhibitions include The Earthly World, The Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford (2010); Eat Me, The Dolphin Gallery, Oxford (2009); Seeded I, The Substation Gallery, Singapore (1999).


Margaret Tan is currently a Fellow and Director of Programmes at Tembusu College, National University of Singapore (NUS), and the co-director of the NUS Art/ Science Residency Programme. She holds a PhD from the Department of Communications and New Media, National University of Singapore, a BFA from RMIT/LASALLE College of the Arts, and an MA in Interactive Media and Critical Theory from Goldsmiths College, University of London. Her works using a wide range of media had been showcased both locally and internationally. Margaret engages art now as a teacher and administrator but she hopes to return to her art practice some time in the future.


Tan Liting works full time as a theatre practitioner with an interest in devising performance from personal stories. Liting is also a founding member of Theatre Cell. Her past directorial credits include Taking The Subs (The Substation Director’s Lab), The Eulogy Project I: Muah Chee Mei and I (Potluck Productions), (When I’m) Sixty Four (Ageless Theatre), Re: Almost Left Behind (Singapore Arts Festival 2011), Almost Left Behind (NUS Thespis). Liting likes conversation, hearing and telling a good story. Liting also likes guitars, sneakers and referring to herself in third person.

Chu Chu Yuan is a visual artist and researcher, born in Malaysia and currently based in Singapore. With Jay Koh on the iFIMA (International Forum for Intermedia Art) platform, she has been developing a form of relational art practice that is based on dialogue, exchange and negotiation. She maintains an individual practice, using soft sculptures, drawing, installation, performance, painting and photography to explore the performing body as a cultural subject and cultural practices as ‘scripts’ and ‘scores’. She is now with the Singapore Art Museum as Senior Manager of Archive, Library & Research.

Raksha Mahtani functions occasionally as a writer, researcher, spoken word poet and theatre practitioner. She performed, co-wrote and co-directed a spoken word show about queer experiences in convent schools called Mass Hysteria both at the Substation in January 2014 and at Indignation 2014. She teaches poetry and literature in schools and with various groups, including AWARE and Word Forward and performs as part of Sekaliwags. Her writing, both in poetry and plays, explores themes of social justice, gender politics, decoloniality. She recently ran a series of writing workshops focused on gender-based violence, and volunteers with Sayoni. Currently, Raksha is working on a documentation project on violence and discrimination against LBTQ people in Singapore.


***

About the exhibitions
Curating Lab: Phase 03 presents three exhibitions put together by participants of Curating Lab 2014 working with a selection of artists: Song-Ming Ang, Chun Kaifeng, Amanda Heng, Kim Lim, Matthew Ngui and Shubigi Rao. Situated in tandem with one another, the exhibitions may be seen as a constellation of divergent views and curatorial interests glimpsed from the works and practices of these six artists. Building upon the potentials of multiple perspectives that these three exhibitions point towards is also the very porousness of exhibitions themselves in facilitating such encounters between one another.
For more information on Curating Lab:
facebook.com/curatinglab2014
curating-lab.blogspot.com

 
Conditions of Production is an ongoing project that seeks to pursue a field of enquiry situating objects and process within the complexities of artistic production and reception. To emulate the plurality of situations where artistic discourse may arise, this project calls attention to less tangible structures immanent in the creation of an artwork by adopting the multiple platforms of an exhibition, dialogue sessions, and an online repository of interviews and essays. The exhibition, as one part of a greater whole, examines these conditions by looking at the practice of three artists – Amanda Heng, Chun Kaifeng and Matthew Ngui. http://conditionsofproduction.com/
Curated by: Bernice Ong, Samantha Yap, Kenneth Loe and Melvin Tan.

More:
http://conditionsofproduction.tumblr.com/dialogues
http://conditionsofproduction.com/
conditionsofproduction@gmail.com

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Rachel Tan

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!


In December 2014, 8 interns joined us to work with the curatorial and outreach teams, conducting research for upcoming exhibitions and programmes in 2015 at the museum and the NUS Baba House. Besides those involving our collections and recent acquisitions, the interns prepared for upcoming exhibitions surrounding the work of alumni artists, the T.K. Sabapathy Collection, as well as SEABOOK. They also assisted with ongoing happenings at the museum, including exhibition installation and programme facilitation.



Rachel Tan is a third-year English Literature student at NUS FASS. In December 2014, she interned with the Outreach department, assisting in research for various ongoing and upcoming programme series including Malaya Black & White. She also assisted in the organising and execution of Outreach events and responsibilities.


“What a museum chooses to exhibit is sometimes less important than how such decisions are made and what values inform them.”
- Martin Filler

This quote by Filler resonates greatly with my learning experience over the past five weeks as an Outreach intern at the museum. Having just returned from an exchange programme in June 2014, I visited many museums in Europe and the various exhibitions really fascinated me. I began wondering about how an exhibition is conceptualised as well as how it comes to fruition and I realised that I had a very limited scope of knowledge with regards to curatorial work. Thus, I decided to apply for an internship at the NUS Museum to get a better understanding of the internal workings of a museum. 

Although I was not attached to any particular curatorial project, I felt that the position as an Outreach intern gave me a very comprehensive overview of how the museum was run. Listening to the exchanges between my supervisors and the curators provided me with an interesting picture of the thought processes behind how certain ideas are conceived and carried forward (or not). The scope of work that the Outreach department deals with is actually a very wide one that includes publicity, marketing, programming, logistics and all sorts of enquiries. Of course, there was also event planning and management which was another key aspect of their job scope.

As an Outreach intern I realised that aside from the nitty gritty details of logistics planning, understanding the subject matter of the various projects is another key aspect. In a sense, my supervisors, Michelle and Trina were like middlemen who had to first obtain a firm understanding of what they were dealing with before they could liaise with the curators and discuss the logistic arrangements.

During my internship, I was mainly involved in the programming of two projects, first of which is a new segment in an ongoing film screening series, Malaya Black & White. My work was focused on researching the films and trying to secure a copy of them. This included either watching the films if they were available or reading the texts that they were based on. Procuring the films was not easy because there was little information about them and some were either unreleased or not produced in playable formats. As a Singaporean, this film series departs from the usual thread of post-independence Singapore and her struggles towards becoming a developed nation. Instead, the series provided me with an unconventional view of our country through the lens of the developed world and further enriched my understanding of the social tensions during that period of Singapore history. 


The other series that I worked on was the Foundation series that is tied to the current exhibition titled Between Here and Nanyang: Marco Hsu’s Brief History of Malayan Art. This series includes panel discussions, film screenings and tours in conjunction with the exhibition. I was involved in researching the films for this series which features prominent films from the 1950s to 1960s as well. This series pursues the question of identity and freedom against the background of the strict social conventions of the time. Some films are shot on various locations aside from Singapore, including Hong Kong and Cambodia. However, the key issues highlighted are all closely related to the Singapore’s own social climate and history.



On top of that, I worked with fellow intern Gui Shuen on the designs of e-flyers for these film screenings. I researched the films and advised him on the key themes of the film and what could possibly be featured in the design. As such, I was also given the opportunity to write the blurbs for these films! It was a new and very fun experience for me because it deviated from the usual serious academic style of writing that I was used to. This experimentation with a different style of writing was one of the aspects of the internship that I greatly enjoyed.

Apart from research work, I have also worked on other aspects such as planning for field trips and signage measurements. The latter was done in preparation for the new museum’s new Resource Gallery opening. It was a different side of the job that I was engaged in and it was something that showed me how dynamic the job scope was for the Outreach team. It was definitely not about sitting at our tables the whole day because there was constant back-and-forth between the office and the museum. 

In my final week at the museum, the Curating Lab: Phase 03 exhibition opened and I experienced event hosting for the first time in my life! Admittedly, I was a ball of nerves before the start of the exhibition but a few rehearsals beforehand and the advice from others really helped ease the tension quite a bit. I fumbled a few times during the actual run under the pressure of over 140 pairs of eyes but it was nevertheless a very good first experience for me and I am truly grateful for this chance. 

I don’t think that I will ever look at museums in the same light again after the past one month. It was a really enriching experience that threw light upon many of the areas that I was unfamiliar with and now I truly appreciate the sheer amount of hard work that goes into tying everything together so as to present an informative, coherent and interesting exhibition. Of course, none of the above mentioned would have ever been possible without my awesome supervisors Trina and Michelle as well as the rest of the museum staff and I would really like to thank them for their guidance, patience and the laughter that they bring. It has made my stay at the museum a truly enriching and enjoyable one. I hope to be back again someday!

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Mei En Gui

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!


In December 2014, 8 interns joined us to work with the curatorial and outreach teams, conducting research for upcoming exhibitions and programmes in 2015 at the museum and the NUS Baba House. Besides those involving our collections and recent acquisitions, the interns prepared for upcoming exhibitions surrounding the work of alumni artists, the T.K. Sabapathy Collection, as well as SEABOOK. They also assisted with ongoing happenings at the museum, including exhibition installation and programme facilitation.



Mei En Gui is a second-year student at the Department of Global Studies at NUS FASS. During her internship, she worked on research for Between Here and Nanyang: Marco Hsu's Brief History of Malayan Art, our upcoming Resource Gallery, as well as a prep room project surrounding Vietnamese war prints. The Between Here and Nanyang: Marco Hsu's Brief History of Malayan Art exhibition is currently open at the South and Southeast Asian Gallery on the Concourse level of the museum.


During the semester, I was exposed to the theories used by Benedict Anderson in his book Imagined Communities. In this text, I was exposed to several interesting thoughts. One of it was the idea of the simultaneity of time (Anderson, 1991). It is said that the people in medieval times had a different understanding of time. There was no past, there was no future; there was only a continuous present. With the invention of clocks and the reinforcement of their use during the Industrial Revolution, we are more familiar with the concept of the past today. The museum is a labyrinth; we could find the past in its rarest form. Their timeless beauty, their arrogance, their majesty, their wretchedness were all encased in a time machine.  Stepping into one was akin to being transported into a dimension where one could exist in a time simultaneous with the artist or the merchant. The simultaneity of time is no longer a privilege of the past, as claimed by Anderson, when we step into a museum.

While working on the motifs; one of my favourite blue and white wares
I was first tasked to find out the different symbolism of the different motifs used in the decoration of chinaware. Beyond history, I had learnt about the attitudes of the Chinese. Working on Marco Hsu's Brief History of Malayan Art gave me insights into how artists and curators cannot function in an isolated time frame from the other (even if the artist is deceased). I was put in a position where I had to research on the times of tumult which the artists lived in back then. It seems we will not fully comprehend the emotions behind a piece of work if we cannot put ourselves in the same social climate as they had lived in. The only way to imitate as such was through imagination, aided by voracious reading. And the most delicate object put up in an exhibition, as I thought, would perhaps be the emotions behind every piece of work. When I stepped into the Curating Lab exhibition, an initiative to expose budding curators to the work of a curator, it was a moment of conflict. I thought: how different is a piece of artwork different from a piece of history? Are they in fact subsets of each other? Perhaps a piece of history would become a piece of art when it loses its social purpose for the people in that sphere of time.

The colonial map of Singapore and Johor in 1954, something which I’d chanced upon while reading an annual report for the Marco Hsu project


As a student studying politics, sometimes I find it difficult to dissociate works of art from its political purpose and functions. The private collection of prints and paintings from the Vietnam War period really taught me to look before and beyond cynical politics which exists in every frame of time. Sometimes, these objects may be avenue of escapes for the common masses, where they find temporary peace and solitude in a haven, safe from the destructive social climate of their times. Sometimes, it may be an outlet of expression. Or maybe, these objects are (merely) a source of bread and butter. Yet, the presence of these visual records of brutality and humanity may spell doom for the artist. Perhaps this contradicting flux is yet another microcosm of the society we live in today. 

“For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds; lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.”
I believe that one of the first sensations for a museum goer is the silent exhalations of the beautiful objects.  I realised that nothing is truly beautiful even if beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Instead, we are most interested in its deeds.  The historian is intrigued by the stories; the artists are intrigued by the techniques; the intern is intrigued by all the labour behind the scene. We delve; we discover; we are confused; yet at the end of the exhibition, we all seek to be enlightened. Even if the sweetest turn sourest; we savour the bitter aftertaste. 

In my four weeks, I barely had enough time to savour the aftertaste of anything. And it is in this period that my perspective of time and history was challenged, reinforced and recreated. I am thankful for my mentors and fellow interns who guided and accompanied me on this journey of exploration, making my time here such a fulfilling and enriching one.

References
Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism. Verso.

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Exhibition | Archaeology Library

[Gallery impression, Archaelogy Library, 2015]
CLICK TO ACCESS GALLERY IMPRESSIONS

Exhibition period: 6 January 2015-ongoing
Venue: Archaeology Library

The Archaeology Library is a project which brings together finds from past and newer excavations in Singapore and Asia. The objects are on loan from institutional and private collections. A significant proportion are artefacts excavated or gathered by archaeologist Dr John N. Miksic since 1977, and includes a vast range of pottery discovered at archaeological sites from Fort Canning (Singapore) to Changsha (China). As finds from the pre-colonial and colonial periods, they sample the materials produced and used in Singapore and beyond. Further, as part of an evolving body of artefacts, they provide a glimpse into the dynamics between material culture and history, and its making.

The display is organised along three broad themes. Active Sites in Ancient Singapore looks at parts of the island that were inhabited between the 14th to 15th centuries. The diverse range of artefacts reveals the use of these sites for habitation, worship, production and trade. The sites continued to be occupied into the 19th century, even as new areas on the island became active.  

Regional Networks draws attention to the shifting hubs of activity as political and economic centres emerged and declined over the centuries. It locates Singapore within the context of the networks to which it owed its earliest success and those which profited when its influence waned.

Shipwrecks showcases items retrieved from marine excavations in Southeast Asian waters. It introduces the potential that artefacts from underwater sites offer in elucidating historical events and data.

Monday, 5 January 2015

Exhibition | Chinese Ink Works from Lee Kong Chian Collection of Chinese Art

[Gallery impression, Lee Kong Chian Collection of Chinese Art, NUS Museum, 2015]
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Exhibition period: 6 January 2015-ongoing
Venue: Lee Kong Chian Gallery

The Lee Kong Chian Gallery of Chinese art reopens  in January 2015 after renovation, with a new feature in the gallery: a long-awaited area for the permanent display of the Chinese paintings and calligraphies in the NUS Museum’s Chinese collection. The Chinese ink works in the Museum’s collection comprise mostly works from the Qing dynasty period (1644-1911), but there are a couple of exceptional handscrolls from the Ming Dynasty period. Using works from the Qing Dynasty as a starting point to introduce viewers to the general history of Chinese ink traditions, the permanent display is conceived to go hand in hand with the Scroll and Paper Study Room in the new Resource Gallery on the top level of the Museum, catering to both visitors with a love of Chinese art, and to researchers and scholars with more specialist interest. Along with the more classical ink works are also displayed examples of modern Chinese ink work movements, and paintings made by Singapore and Malaysian artists, from the Nanyang Style to the contemporary.

Friday, 26 December 2014

Exhibition | Curating Lab: Phase 03

Opening night: 
Thursday, 8 January 2015, 7pm

Free admission with registration. 
To register, please email museum@nus.edu.sg

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Exhibition period: 9 January - 8 February 2015
Venue: Lee Kong Chian Temp Gallery, NUS Museum 

Curating Lab: Phase 03 presents three exhibitions put together by participants of Curating Lab 2014 working with a selection of artists: Song-Ming Ang, Chun Kaifeng, Amanda Heng, Kim Lim, Matthew Ngui and Shubigi Rao. Situated in tandem with one another, the exhibitions may be seen as a constellation of divergent views and curatorial interests glimpsed from the works and practices of these six artists. Building upon the potentials of multiple perspectives that these three exhibitions point towards is also the very porousness of exhibitions themselves in facilitating such encounters between one another.

Conditions of Production is an ongoing project that seeks to pursue a field of enquiry situating objects and process within the complexities of artistic production and reception. To emulate the plurality of situations where artistic discourse may arise, this project calls attention to less tangible structures immanent in the creation of an artwork by adopting the multiple platforms of an exhibition, dialogue sessions, and an online repository of interviews and essays. The exhibition, as one part of a greater whole, examines these conditions by looking at the practice of three artists – Amanda Heng, Chun Kaifeng and Matthew Ngui. http://conditionsofproduction.com/
Curated by: Bernice Ong, Samantha Yap, Kenneth Loe and Melvin Tan.


Shubigi Rao: Exquisite Corpse combines a selection of Shubigi Rao's work with items from her personal library, and material that has never been exhibited publicly. "Waste", in Rao's work — as a material presence, underlying poetic logic, and anxiety — becomes a way of framing her oeuvre and process, and forms the exhibition's curatorial provocation. At once a kind of monologue and dialogue, a coded silence, and a cacophonic game of cadavre exquis, Shubigi Rao: Exquisite Corpse invites the entanglement of old and new voices as audiences engage in the exhibition's premise of intertextuality, spectrality, hidden layers, and remainders.
Curated by: Luca Lum, Raksha Mahtani and Chua Ying Qing.

Pictureshow seeks to spotlight the act of looking as the primal means of perception and knowledge acquisition. Assembling works and materials which have since grown distant from the stability of the canvas, the painting, and the two-dimensional that the word picture is so comfortably associated with, this exhibition asks: How has the relationship between artistic expression and the pictorial mode evolved over time? By unhinging the habitual mode of seeing a picture with works and materials that generate their own definitions about representation, Pictureshow contemplates the image as mediator in the relationship between artistic production and consumption. The exhibition features the works and materials of Chun Kaifeng, Kim Lim, Matthew Ngui and Song-Ming Ang.
Curated by: Selene Yap, Cheng Jia Yun, Euginia Tan and Wong Yeang Cherng.


Organised by: NUS Museum
Supported by: National Arts Council
Institutional Partner: Centre for Contemporary Art, Singapore

More:
curating-lab.blogspot.com
facebook.com/curatinglab2014