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Interview with Louis Ho, SAM Curator

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Interview with Louis Ho, SAM Curator

The Artling interviews Singapore Art Museum curator, Louis Ho, to find out more about this year’s President’s Young Talents (PYT), a contemporary art exhibition series profiling the work of talented young artists.

What can we expect to see from this year’s edition of the PYT?

This year’s show, in keeping with the spirit of the President’s Young Talents series, encompasses both a wide-ranging breadth of media and thematic concerns, presented in shapes and forms that reflect the diverse and ever shifting boundaries of contemporary art. Loo Zihan, for instance, has moved the Singapore Art Museum’s entire resource room from its office in another building – some 5,000 volumes – into a gallery within the museum, and there it will be presented as a reference library, an interactive installation, for the public. Ezzam Rahman will be staging several performances utilizing little else but talcum powder, and presenting diminutive, delicate sculptures of flowers crafted from his own skin, and Ong Kian Peng is creating an immersive installation that deals with environmental issues. Those are just some of the artworks that will be exhibited at PYT this year.

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Loo Zihan, Of Public Interest: The Singapore Art Museum Resource Room (2015), installation of books from the Singapore Art Museum

Since its inaugural exhibition as the pioneer art award in recognition of contemporary artists, how has the PYT charted the growth of contemporary practices in Singapore?

PYT has generally proved itself to be at the vanguard of contemporary art in
Singapore, highlighting emerging artists who go on to develop into important voices, and recognising those who, while just as compelling, have played less visible roles. Heman Chong, a PYT alumnus from 2003, is a prime example of the former; today he is one of the most prolific Singaporean artists active on the international stage.

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Bani Haykal, necropolis for those without sleep (2015), installation with custom designed mechanical turks, computer-programmed chess game

 

The PYT has extremely talented alumni such as Tan Pin Pin and Donna Ong. Whose practice amongst all of them would you consider truly definitive of contemporary art today?

“Truly definitive” can be a subjective label. The terrain of contemporary art is
(rightfully) polyphonic, plural, contested … Past PYT projects that I’ve personally enjoyed, or found interesting, are Liao Jiekai’s installation from the 2013 edition, which saw him explore the history of the former St. Joseph’s building – home, of course, to the Singapore Art Museum today – as well as Robert Zhao’s project that same year, a sparsely elegant yet cannily reflexive take not just on his ostensible subject matter (the wild boar infestation that Singapore suffered a few years back), but broad issues of perception and technology.

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Ang Song Ming, Days (2015), multi-part installation: video: photographs, drawing, text

 

There are two artists with performance art components in their work this year - what is your opinion on the actionism of performance-based art?

The body – in all its grace, frailties, imperfections, dysfunctions, sensuousness and sensuality – is one of the abiding concerns of contemporary art, and performance is simply the most direct expression of that.

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Ong Kian Peng, Too Far,Too Near (2015), DC Motor, metal balls, steel structure; 2-channel video with 3-channel sound. Duration: 15 mins

 

Will the interaction between the many media types represented in the
exhibition influence your design of it? Furthermore, how does the exhibition design process even begin for PYT?

The aesthetics of the exhibition really came about – as did so much of the exhibition itself – from a dialogue between the artists, their mentors, and SAM’s exhibition and design teams. The look of each project is specific to its conceptual contours; the theme and the design had to dovetail. For instance, Ang Song Ming’s “Days” installation features a flood of fluorescent lights, instead of the usual dramatic spotlights; the artist wanted the even, somewhat clinical feel of an everyday milieu, as the work foregrounds the prosaic details of his own life.

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Ezzam Rahman, Here’s who I am, I am what you see (2015), artist’s skin, nails and adhesive, second-hand furniture and glass bell jars

As curatorial mentorship is a defining aspect of the PYT throughout the entire process of art creation, what is your view on artistic and curatorial authorship?

I see “mentorship” as a dialogue, an exchange, and less of a hierarchical
relationship. For instance, I mentored Loo Zihan for his project, but – as he’ll tell you– the process was an organic, fluid one, where the curatorial shape of his installation really came about from bouncing ideas off one another. Not just between us, but the entire PYT team as well: artist, curators, the project manager, the exhibitions and design folks … Everyone played a part. Exhibitions on this scale are almost always a team effort, and should be acknowledged as such.

Today’s artists work in and respond to a global environment that is
culturally diverse, technologically advancing, and multifaceted, how do you think this affects the kind of work they produce?

It’s a connected world we live in today. Social media platforms ensure that news and ideas and values and even the minutiae of daily life are rendered immediate, visible, accessible - from one end of the earth to the other in the thud of a click. Art simply reflects that amorphous, cross-cultural social environment that we inhabit. It’s full of tension and ambivalence: between the local and the global, between a sense of the historical and an awareness of the flattened, horizontal character of the contemporary.

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Curator, Louis Ho and the artist Ang Song Ming by the artist’s installation Days

Louis HO – Bio

Louis Ho is the Lead Curator for the President’s Young Talents exhibition. He is also a Curator at the Singapore Art Museum and oversees the Malaysian contemporary art portfolio. Prior to joining the Singapore Art Museum’s curatorial team, Louis Ho was an independent art historian, critic and curator. He taught classes on Southeast Asian art at a number of local universities, including the National Institute of Education (NIE), where he still lectures part-time. In addition to teaching, he has contributed reviews to publications such as Art Asia Pacific and Pipeline, and has written about the work of Jason Wee, Alan Oei and Loo Zihan, among others; curated shows have included the likes of Cheo Chai-Hiang, Ian Woo and Sarah Choo. He was trained in art history, and his research interests include Southeast Asian visual culture, the intersections between art and the social, and cinema.

 

 


Any views or opinions in the post are solely those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the views of the company or contributors.


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