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Staying Woke with Children at NGS, Jun/Oct 2019 (II of II)

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...Pictures of burning art by Xiamen Dada - the collective Huang Yong Ping founded - calibrates my attention towards work made by artists residing in Greater China. This exhibition bookends a time frame, when a dense population is actively pursuing material capitalism. One very apt representation is Wang Jin's 'Ice: Central China 1996', where the artist installed ice blocks containing consumer goods outside a city mall, which Great Wall facsimile was progressively broken down by members of the public. Thousands of miles south, Lin Yilin builds then moves a brick wall from one side of a main street to the other, causing traffic disruption in the process. Such daring performances culminate in 'To Add a Meter to an Anonymous Mountain', Zhang Huan's notorious undertaking where ten naked bodies are stacked horizontally like a pyramid, to protest (or commemorate?) the government eviction of their artist community at Beijing East Village.

A pioneering performance art …

Staying Woke with Children at NGS, Jun/Oct 2019 (I of II)

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With half its exhibits already taken down 5 months into its 7-months run, "Children’s Biennale 2019: Embracing Wonder" at the National Gallery Singapore amounted to an unimaginative visit with the family. Rudimentary motion sensors, a stationary steering wheel in a stylised boat, throwing balls that only occasionally make chimes ring, a monochromatic illustration stuck up high on a glass wall, and stretching necks to peer at plant-filled dioramas - one wonders how many of the participating artists actually have offspring, or have worked closely with children. That the majority of them are established in the regional art world, hints at a questionable curatorial approach that favours relationships over relevant credentials. While some envy the government support Singapore accords artists, I wonder how many of its citizens are actually able to question critically how funds are utilized in this sector/industry...

...I visited National Gallery Singapore four months ago, when a …

Foreboding Purpose @ National Art Gallery (II of II)

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...In his tribute essay titled A Protean Appearance In Malaysian Art, Krishen Jit surmises that "Digital Collage (...) might well be an ironic strategy for Ismail wishes to raise consciousness about how in the decoding strategies of extracting meaning, observation is amalgamated with the observer." This task of decoding is mediated through the Macintosh SE, one boxy personal computer with a 9-inch monochrome display, also the cutting edge of consumer electronics in 1987. Ismail undertakes a pioneering move by exhibiting framed dot matrix printouts on gallery walls, thereby transmuting the binary bits of digital signals into art. This is an outdated concept in the age of Instagram creatives; Nonetheless, clear outlines ease one to dwell upon Ismail's visual semiology approach, and reflect on the appeal of the framed portrait-sized image that we consume through mobile phones, the cutting edge of consumer electronics now.

Published reviews of this show to-datereify the art…

Mem(Bayang) Maksud @ Balai Seni Negara (I of II)

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The exhibition title and its curatorial thread, derive from a conversational text between friends Noordin Hassan and Ismail Zain, published in the catalogue of the latter's 1988 solo exhibition "Digital Collage". The former questions the use of the word collage in this body of work, in which Ismail clarifies that collage here does not refer to the simple juxtaposition of images, but about "how borrowed fragments of the signified can be summarised in one form or another many characteristics." He goes on to quote two examples which perhaps fit his intention - the Malay pantun with its "pembayang maksud", and the "intellectual montage" coined by Sergei Eisenstein. I imagine seeing a  landscape of paddy fields & coconut trees, followed by a 'Tumpal' painting by Syed Ahmad Jamal, which then conjures one packet of nasi lemak bungkus in my mind... or maybe, I am just hungry.

Outside Galeri 2B, a video loop shows local cultural luminari…

Crowded Balai, Muda (Su)dah Wince See

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During my first visit to "Leonardo Opera Omnia" at the National Art Gallery, I was startled by the crowd in attendance. A year ago, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has staged reproductions of works by the the superior Italian painter Caravaggio, in the same Galeri 3A. The number of visitors then were the usual, i.e. less than 10 persons in a single gallery, including tourists. Queuing up to look at La Gioconda – whose back-lit eyes do not follow this observer – I found the atmosphere pleasantly joyful. Guided tours in Bahasa Malaysia. Observers quoting Dan Brown while comparing Virgin of the Rocks. Baffled onlookers gazing intently at da Vinci's left-handed mirror writings. Who said Malaysians are not interested in art? A different question: are these light boxes, art

Famous Renaissance Man aside, the marketing campaign worked, regardless of WhatsApp group chat misconceptions that the real Mona Lisa was on display. Free entry (and free parking). Fully air-cond…

Catalogue Essay: Merdeka, The Lonesome Club, May 2019