Strange Things is a show populated by unfamiliar entities and alien objects. Interventions, disruptions, interpositions, negotiations - the works included in the present exhibition represent a range of responses to the material and visual milieu of the derelict structures of the 2 Cavan Road complex. Dating from the early 1930s, the now disused factory space represents an eclipsed historical presence in the layers of the palimpsest that is Singapore's urban fabric. The objects and bodies of Strange Things, like transplanted beings in an otherworldly landscape, are playful, meditative, exotic, phantasmagorical.
Headlining STRANGE THINGS is “MERRY GO ROUND”, a massive installation by local artist Dawn Ng, who is mounting 299 pieces of L-shaped mirror floor-mounted in a circle, towering 2.5m in height.
Like an otherworldly, Ozymandian monument, the massive orbit that is MERRY GO ROUND represents a response to the material milieu and sense of temporal dislocation of the 2 Cavan Road building. A circle of columns, alternately mirrored and colored to echo the palette of the peeling walls, disrupts visual reality, fracturing space and splintering the self; the perpetual disappearance and re-emergence of the body and the environment creates an undulatory rhythm as the viewer moves around and within the installation. The piece alludes to the event horizon encircling a black hole, where, theoretical physics suggests, the fabric of space and time become curved, and the physical laws of the universe warp. Dawn Ng, who is based in Singapore, works across a diverse breadth of mediums and scale, ranging from text, illustration, collage, and sculpture to large-scale installations. Her work deals thematically with time, memory, identity and space.
“The first time I entered the warehouse, I was struck by how time has stood still, or rather, collapsed in on itself in this colossal space. Alluding to the celestial ring of light encircling a black hole, the installation serves as a response to how time could be condensed to a scintillating moment. Merry Go Round allows one to be confronted by facets of splintered time and self, as a sense of energy radiates both inward and outward through both reflection and refraction.” - Dawn Ng, Artist
False Spring / False Land is a suite of three structures inspired by the artist’s time in a residency program on an oil tanker. Chang here attempts to explore the realities of vision and illusion; the oceans represent an isolated environment, and their endless empty horizons a fertile setup for delusion and projection. Optical materials such as magnifying sheets, prisms, and lenses represent the artist’s interest in the mechanics of sight and distortion, while nautical motifs, like masts, sails, and water, are allusions to the history of the 2 Cavan Road site as a ship repair factory.
Mike HJ Chang is a Taiwanese-American artist and a fine arts educator; he currently resides and works in Singapore. Chang’s works are characterized by their handmade textures, while informed by a sense of humor and melancholy.
A worm’s-eye view of a patch of cerulean sky, framed by the silhouettes of buildings rising upward, is almost all that is visible in Il Fait Bleu. Purposively poised between the moving and still image, footage of the blue sky here evokes a range of references, from the blank screen of monitors to the Fluxus movement, of the pioneering experimental video work of the likes of Yoko Ono (Sky TV). The Il Fait Bleu series was begun in La Rochelle, France, while the artist was involved in a residency program there, and the blankness of the tableau also suggests a tabula rasa, or an emotional disconnection.
Muhammad Akbar works across a variety of mediums and expressions based on moving images: he is a visual artist, short film-maker, motion designer, VJ, vocalist of a noise rock band and member of various artistic collectives. He is based in Bandung, Indonesia.
Absurd Theatrics features a series of painting-and-light installations. While the artist’s visual vocabulary is positioned within a lineage of contemporary abstraction, these works are also driven by his interest in filmic language and the shifting moods and textures of cinematic tableaus, the emotional tonalities of which are here translated by formal qualities of color and line and light into an affective, immersive environment. Ong’s practice is grounded in his exploration of the relationship between the two- and three-dimensional, and the rich, varied range of perceptions and sensations engendered by his experiments across both surface and space.
Singaporean Nicholas Ong was trained as a painter at LASALLE College of the Arts. He focuses on the perception of materiality and intangibility, and his oeuvre incorporates dimensions of painting and installation alike.
Filippo Sciascia’s latest series of work, Primitive Mornings, returns to the originary moments of human evolution and civilization, inquiring into the symbiotic development of our technological and biological structures. (All works in the series are similarly titled.) The pose of the ape, depicted in the painting, recalls Auguste Rodin’s The Thinker, and represents the point in evolution when human cognitive development occurred, and separated us from simians. Mixed into both the painting and the lighted sculpture is melatonin powder - melatonin is produced by the human body to regulate our circadian cycles and sleep - and here it emphasizes the importance of natural light and its absence. Light is a constant motif in Sciascia’s work; it not only alludes to fire, one of man’s most important discoveries, but also serves as a metaphor for the morning, or origins, of humanity.
Filippo Sciascia is an Italian artist based in Bali, Indonesia. His work explores the tensions between painting and new imaging technologies, challenging the art of painting as a practice.
In One’s Breath – Nothing Stands Still emerged from Tuan Mami’s research in Thanh Thuy, a mining town in Ha Nam province in northern Vietnam. It is an area overwhelmed by heavy industries, especially limestone mining, that adversely impact local ecologies, environment, and communities. The work is a fictional narrative, recounting the story of a man’s death and his afterlife, in the language of documentary film. According to a commentator: “… many in this mountain village believe that after one dies, one’s spirit will remain on earth for three days in order to find a way to “the other world.” … Tuan’s film portrays these three days of wandering in a liminal zone between life and death, an apt metaphor for the emaciated landscape and jeopardized the health of the local residents.” The work’s form and content, then, are uncannily mirrored: the tale of life-in-death is told in the interstitial space between fact and fiction.
Hanoi-based Tuan Mami graduated from the Vietnam University of Fine Arts. His practice encompasses installation, video, performance, and conceptual art, and meditative experiments are premised on his interest in observing and taking part in the dynamics of human encounters
Santi Wangchuan’s practice is deeply rooted in his family’s background in traditional forms of weaving. His mixed media objects and installations utilize the language of this dying craft - which faces eventual extinction as cottage industries are supplanted by urbanization and mechanical technology - along with found objects of especial significance, such as personal belongings and remnants of clothes that once belonged to family members. My Local Way of Life features iconography derived from cultural and religious life in the artist’s hometown of Ubon Ratchathani, in the province of Isan; discernible are visual references to traditional dance, calligraphy and botanical species in northeastern Thailand.
Thai artist Santi Wangchuan was educated at Silpakorn University, Bangkok. His hand-woven works are inspired by his family’s traditions and is reflected by integrating religion, stories, equipment, and tools that are native to Isan, Thailand.
Wong’s multisensorial installation is a response to an abandoned altar found in the 2 Cavan Road building. Observing that notions of spectrality have, in the age of augmented reality, taken on new dimensions, the artist was inspired by both traditional beliefs and AR technologies such as the Pokemon Go game to suggest the possibility of presences and beings in the space, from the deity that once graced the shrine to other, unseen energies and entities. In his words: “I have always been intrigued by the lingering spirit - whether literal or metaphorical - of a place. A site is never truly a vacant, blank canvas… Through my intervention, I would like to offer a suggestion as to what this vestigial aura or energy might be, whether in terms of shape, sound or scent.”
Wong Lip Chin is a Singapore-born artist whose practice is premised on an exploration of the human sensorium, often encompassing the ocular, auditory and olfactory modes. He is particularly interested in folklore and historical events associated with local Chinese culture. bodies
Rakus is a performative installation that features Mella Jaarsma’s trademark body shelters - wearable garments and structures foregrounding corporeal realities and symbolic significance. Here, the garments take on the iconography of the figure of Rangda, the demon queen of Balinese mythology, who often appears in the Barong dance, representing the battle between good and evil, as a naked old woman with pendulous breasts and a long, protruding tongue. The word “rakus” means greed, and the work was born of the artist’s frustration at the status quo in Indonesia. As she puts it: “Sticking out one’s tongue represents a feeling of frustration … Rakus is about greed, corruption and the political manoeuvres of those in power. I looked to the image of Rangda - she is the personification of evil, yet nevertheless is still considered a protective force.”
Mella Jaarsma is Dutch-born, Indonesia-based artist, whose practice is often engaged with socio-political issues in her adopted home; her most celebrated works include body shelters made of organic materials. She was a co-founder of the Cemeti Art House in Jogjakarta, Indonesia.
Reflecting upon Celeste’s autobiographical experiences, FEAST is a recontextualized ritual that explores the act of consumption as a means of honoring the body, as well as a form of compensation and memorial to past wounds. The work marks the end of a period of grieving through a performative interpretation of a Chinese New Year's feast, welcoming abundance and rebirth. Featuring the garments and textile work of Shawna Wu as a point of activation for the ritual, through the donning of a mantle, the performance seeks to transmute shame into strength, melancholia into optimism and to elevate as well as attune the body to a primordial form of divinity.
David ‘Celeste’ Portwood is an artist and writer based in Singapore. Drawing from the mundane as well as their experience as a nonbinary individual, Celeste utilizes contemporary illustration and poetry to explore complex narratives of queer interaction, gender, and abuse.
Singapore-born Shawna Wu is a New York-based artist of Taiwanese origin. Her primary medium is the body, which she explores with the material language of textiles and garments that are often installed in performative and experiential events emphasizing beauty, healing and being.
TWENTY TWENTY KEY DATES & TICKETING INFORMATION:
2 Cavan Road, Singapore 209843
10~27 January 2020
Open Weekdays 5pm-10pm
Sat & Sun: 2-10pm
Suggested contribution at the door (closed on Mondays & CNY)
18 & 19 Jan:
CURATOR TOURS 3pm / 5:30pm / 8:30pm
($15 ticket includes general admission)
7~8:30pm Billiard Table Chats // Nicholas Ong
5~7pm Curated Tour // Jalan Besar Heritage Trail
5~7pm Curated Tour // Jalan Besar Heritage Trail
7~8:30pm Billiard Table Chats // Tuan Mami
6~7:30pm Billiard Table Chats // Mike Chang
Party by Ice Cream Sundays & Darker Than Wax
Tickets available here
TICKETING PORTAL: https://2cavanroad.peatix.com/
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