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And in the Chapel and in the Temples:
research in progress by
Buddhist Archive of Photography
and
Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho
1 Dec 2018, Sat - 10 Feb 2019, Sun

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Opening night: Friday, 30 November, 7.00–9.00pm

How are aspects of Southeast Asian modern art imaginatively engaged in contemporary practices—by artists, by archivists, and by others? This presentation pairs two ongoing research projects, which draw on histories of modern art in Southeast Asia with radically unlike methodologies: one is archival, yet innovative and unconventional in nature; the other is artistic, yet includes work from archives and involves other kinds of looking. The experimental curatorial juxtaposition of the two projects explores unlikely resonances between them, suggesting unexpected connections across the region, and across times. Among these synergies are the presences of spirituality and the Cold War, and the refiguring of forms and images within differing developments of the modern.

The Buddhist Archive of Photography in Luang Prabang, Laos, has gathered over 35,000 photographs either taken or collected by monks since 1890. The photographs have recently been digitised and catalogued, using innovative methodologies attentive to climatic, cultural, and religious circumstances. This Archive is, therefore, a fascinating instance of specifically 21st-century contemporary practice, as much as it is a unique collection of 19th and 20th-century modern photographs. This is the first time images from the Buddhist Archive of Photography are publicly presented in Asia, outside of Luang Prabang. The Archive has also published a series of bilingual English and Lao research volumes, which are made available in this presentation.

When considering this vast repository of images, several tropes and questions recur. What is photography’s relationship to anicca (impermanence), dukkha (suffering), and anatta (non-self), the three marks of existence in Buddhist thought? What role did Buddhists and photographers play in the Southeast Asian theatre of the global Cold War? And what are the limits of architectural modernity? These questions are explored in three distinct collections of photographs selected for this presentation. The first is a series of portraits of the late Most Venerable Pha Khamchan Virachitta Maha Thera (1920–2007), co-founder of the Buddhist Archive, taken every year from the age of seven until his death. The second selection comprises photographs collected by photographer-monk Pha Khamfan Silasangvaro (1901–1987), which protest the effects of civil war in Laos from 1959 to 1975, as well as photographs taken by another photographer-monk Pha Oun Heuane Hasapanya Maha Thela (1928–1982), who chronicled rarely seen aspects of Buddhist life, such as women’s vipassana meditation retreats. The third selection of images depicts the 1950s modernising renovations of Wat Saen Soukharam temple, under the direction of the late Most Venerable Pha Khamchan. These photographs, and the publications which accompany them, reward historical, spiritual, aesthetic, and other modes of attention and analysis.

 Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho (Philippines/United States/Germany) are collaborating contemporary artists, whose practice often draws on translocational formations of culture and discourse. Within this roving sensibility and method, Lien and Camacho also often engage with Philippine histories and contemporary circumstances. This presentation includes works-in-progress and materials relating to the artists’ ongoing research on the Filipino-American modernist painter, Alfonso Ossorio (1916–1990). Their focus is his 1950 mural, commonly called the “Angry Christ,” painted in a modern chapel located alongside a sugar refinery owned by the artist’s wealthy family, in Victorias, Negros Occidental, the Philippines. It is the first time that work relating to Lien and Camacho’s ongoing research on Ossorio is publicly presented.

Born in the Philippines, Ossorio left when only 8 years old, and his visit to paint the “Angry Christ” mural was his first and only return to the Philippines. In the intervening decades, Ossorio had eventually settled in New York, where he held his first exhibition at Betty Parsons’ celebrated Wakefield Gallery in 1941. He became close to with Jackson Pollock and other artists associated with Abstract Expressionism, a movement which was ideologically charged during the Cold War, due to its covert promotion by the US. Ossorio described his “Angry Christ” mural as an “animated space,” explaining in a 1980 interview that he had attempted to “put as rich an iconography for those who knew and for those who didn’t know… The mural comes to life.” For Lien and Camacho, Ossorio’s mural is a “multivalent cipher,” linked not only to its religious function but also to its economic and environmental context, being located in Negros Occidental, the “sugar bowl of the Philippines,” which produces over half of the nation’s sugar. Lien and Camacho question whether the “Angry Christ” can be “radically reprogrammed” from the specific and highly privileged subjectivity of Ossorio, its maker, and the Ossorio family’s sugar dynasty, its commissioning patron. As well as making repeat visits to the chapel and Victorias over several years, Lien and Camacho have conducted archival research at Ossorio’s alma mater, Harvard University, and at the Ossorio Foundation, New York. They present a mural offering fragmented glimpses of their research notes and work-in-progress.

And in the Chapel and in the Temples: research in progress by Buddhist Archive of Photography and Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho is conceived and organised by Dr Roger Nelson, an art historian and curator specialising in modern and contemporary art in Southeast Asia, and currently Postdoctoral Fellow at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and the School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. The presentation draws on Nelson’s ongoing art historical archival research in the Buddhist Archive, and his ongoing curatorial dialogue with Lien and Camacho.

Presented as a Fringe Programme of the 6th Singapore International Photography Festival.

Roger Nelson thanks Dr Khamvone Boulyaphonh, Hans Georg Berger, the Acuña family, Lynda Tay, the caretakers of Gillman Barracks, Drusilla Tay, Marc Glöde, Guo-Liang Tan, Patrick D. Flores, Simon Soon, and others who assisted in the development and realisation of this presentation.

 

Image credit: (Top) Pha Oun Heuan Hasapanyo, main sim hall at Vat Nong Si Khun Meuang, Luang Prabang, 1950s. Hand-coloured silver gelatine DOP. Courtesy Buddhist Archive of Photography. (Bottom) Interior of St Joseph the Worker Chapel, Victorias, Philippines, 2017. Courtesy Amy Lien and Enzo Camacho.

Workshop: !Women's Questions? a facilitated discussion by ground-up initiative Crit Talk
16 Feb 2019, Sat 02:00 PM - 04:30 PM

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Free admission but registration is required via Peatix: womensquestions.peatix.com
 
!Women’s Questions? (1965) was a list of handwritten questions that artist and educator Jef Geys made for, and with, the students he taught. For Geys, his artistic life was often integrated with his work—instead of teaching the history of classical art, Geys preferred to engage his students in discussions about the position of women in society.
 
Taking inspiration from !Women’s Questions?, this collaboration with Crit Talk is a facilitated discussion around issues related to women in contemporary Singapore. It hopes to provide a safe and critical space for participants to share their perspectives, personal encounters or observations on feminism and gender identity, and to debate and create new “Women’s Questions” that take on relevance today.
 
 
BIOGRAPHIES
 
Crit Talk (Singapore) provides open, critical, and participative spaces for young Singaporeans to discuss their unique experiences and topics participants feel important to address but are taboo or too controversial for a mainstream setting. Crit Talk is the brainchild of Sya Taha and Saiful Anuar. Sya writes about the media representation of Muslim women through race, disability and other intersectionalities, and is currently pursuing her PhD in the National University of Singapore, while Saiful is a consultant on diversity and inclusion issues, and conducts design-thinking training.
 
 
A public programme of Jef Geys Quadra Medicinale Singapore
 
 
 
Image caption: Jef Geys, !Women’s Questions?, 1965. Courtesy the artist.
Exhibition (de)Tour: SuperNature: Finding Magic and Meaning in the Natural History Drawings from the William Farquhar Collection by writer and curator Marcus Ng
19 Feb 2019, Tue 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM

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Ethnobotany—the study and use of plants in human culture—has long been practised in Southeast Asia. In the early 1800s, William Farquhar, the first British Resident and Commandant of colonial Singapore commissioned a collection of 477 watercolours—a testament to the knowledge, application, and reverence people had about plants in the 19th century. In this talk, Marcus Ng delves into the natural and cultural histories of some of these plants and look at their usages, which range from the mundane to the magical.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Marcus Ng (Singapore) is an independent researcher, writer, and curator, with a particular interest in natural history. His research focuses on the way in which biodiversity has shaped the nature of places and its inhabitants. He is the curator of two concurrent exhibitions at the National Museum of Singapore featuring the William Farquhar Collection of Natural History Drawings, Desire and Danger (2016–18) and Magic and Menace (2018–ongoing).

 

A public programme of Jef Geys Quadra Medicinale Singapore

 

Image caption: Prickly-leaved Elephant’s Foots (1803–1818), William Farquhar Collection of National History Drawings. Courtesy National Museum of Singapore, National Heritage Board.

 

Residencies Studio Sessions: Looking for “the contemporary” in Singapore’s Chinese ink painting. Artist-in-Residence John Low in conversation with Koh Nguang How (both Singapore)
21 Feb 2019, Thu 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM

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How does “the contemporary” manifest itself in the Chinese ink painting practiced today in Singapore? By looking at the historical development of this practice and its teaching methodologies, can we perhaps grasp its contemporary gist more accurately? These and other questions inform John Low’s research during his six-month residency and they are inspiring his ongoing experiments with ink painting in terms of medium, style, format, and spatial configuration. For this Studio Session, Low invited artist and archivist Koh Nguang How to dig deep into his archival collection—Singapore Art Archive Project—and select publications related to the development of Chinese ink painting in Singapore from the 1920s onwards. Ranging from manuals on ink painting and calligraphy used in Chinese-language schools to monographies on master painters, texts on painting collectives, critical essays, and exhibition catalogues, these printed matters will guide Koh Nguang How and John Low’s open-ended conversation on the subject. 

 

BIOGRAPHIES

Koh Nguang How (b.1963, Singapore) is an artist, archivist, and independent researcher whose practice encompasses photography, collage, installation, performance, documentation, archiving, and curating. Since 2005, he has developed the Singapore Art Archive Project (SAAP), an heterogenous collection of newspaper clippings, photographs, exhibition catalogues, documents, books, and other ephemera related to the development of the arts in Singapore and the region that he has meticulously gathered since 1980. Thematic selections of the SAAP have been presented in numerous group shows such as, most recently, Gwangju Biennial 2018 (South Korea) and SUNSHOWER: Contemporary Art from Southeast Asia 1980s to Now, National Art Center, Tokyo (Japan, 2017). Recent solo exhibitions include The Past and Coming Melt at Grey Project (Singapore, 2019) and On the Cusp: Early Contemporary Art Activities in Singapore (1976 – 1996). Documentation from the Koh Nguang How Archive Collection, Singapore Art Museum (2018). 

Koh was a finding member of The Artists Village. He was Artist-in-Residence at NTU CCA Singapore from July 2014  to January 2015. 

John Low (b.1958, Singapore) is an artist and independent researcher. In the last decade, his practice has shifted its focus from the representation of urban and rural landscape to the tensions between the local and the global. He is especially interested in understanding how cross-cultural and transnational discourses influence the production of art practices and critical writing in Singapore and Southeast Asia. His work has been featured in the 3rd Singapore Biennale (2011). He was a contributor to the publication Histories, Practices, Interventions: A Reader in Singapore Contemporary Art (2016).

 

 

Image caption: Studio of John Low (detail), Residencies OPEN, 25 January 2019.

Exhibition (de)Tour: The Wonders of Weeds by Dr Shawn Kaihekulani Yamauchi Lum, botanist, Senior Lecturer, Asian School of the Environment, NTU, and President of Nature Society, Singapore
26 Feb 2019, Tue 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM

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“Weeds” are not a group of related plants (like “orchids” or “gingers” or “palms”), nor are they plants with shared physical characteristics (like “trees” or “shrubs”). Although weeds defy easy definition, their name suggests something unwanted or out of place. Many, however, are quite beautiful and merit closer examination and appreciation. This talk will explore different aspects of weeds – what they are, their place in the human psyche, their fascinating life histories – and their inextricable link to human existence.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Shawn Kaihekulani Yamauchi Lum (United States/Singapore) helped form the Nature Society (Singapore) Plant Group with the intention of promoting an interest in plants and plant conservation as part of a broader effort to promote Singapore’s natural heritage. He is a strong advocate of public participation in nature discovery and monitoring, and believes that our quality of life is made better by becoming acquainted with the beautiful and diverse living world around us.

 

A public programme of Jef Geys Quadra Medicinale Singapore

 

 

Image caption: Documentation of Exhibition (de)Tour: Medicinal Herbs by Ng Kim Chuan, gardener, NTU Community Herb Garden, Singapore, Saturday, 12 January 2019. 
Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore.

Residencies Insight: On the Necessity of Transforming One's Practice, curator talk by Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez (Slovenia), Curator-in-Residence with the support of the Embassy of France in Singapore
27 Feb 2019, Wed 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM

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As cultural workers and artists, how can we work with or within institutions at a time of violent racialization and profound ecological crisis? From the point of view of a cultural worker based in Global North countries whose governments cause and contribute to inhuman civil wars and drone strikes in other regions of the world forcing thousands of people into displacement, Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez will discuss the necessity to engage various art institutional constituencies through curatorial practice. Showing how her curatorial projects, developed in specific locales, engage with a wider geopolitical reality, Petrešin-Bachelez will address the necessity to slow down one’s way of working and being, to imagine new ecologies of care as a continuous practice of support, and to listen with attention to feelings that arise from encounters with objects and subjects. For this talk, she will focus on her latest project, the recently opened Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton (11 January – 20 October 2019, Mechelen, Belgium), to talk about the possibility of opening up institutional borders and render them more palpable, audible, sentient, soft, porous and, most of all, decolonial and anti-patriarchal. 

 

BIOGRAPHY

Nataša Petrešin-Bachelez is an independent curator, editor, and writer based in Paris whose research interest spans situated curatorial practices, empathy, transnational feminism, slow institutions, degrowth, and performative practices in the former Eastern Europe. She is the curator of the Contour Biennale 9 (Mechelen, Belgium, 2019). She is developing, with Giovanna Zapperi, the first comprehensive exhibition of the videos of French actress and feminist activist Delphine Seyrig (1932-1990).  She co-founded, with Elisabeth Lebovici and Patricia Falguières, Something You Should Know, a seminarseriesheld at the School of Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences(EHESS) and she is a member of the research group Travelling Féministeat the Centre audiovisuel Simone de Beauvoir, both in Paris.

Her previous exhibitions include: Let’s Talk about the Weather. Art and Ecology in a Time of Crisis (curated with Nora Razian), Sursock Museum (Beirut, Lebanon, 2016); Becoming Earthlings. Blackmarket for Useful Knowledge and Non-Knowledge #18 (curated with Alexander Klose, Council, and Mobile Academy), Musée de l’Homme (Paris, France, 2015); Tales of Empathy, Jeu de Paume (Paris, France, 2014), and Resilience, Triennial of Contemporary Art, Museum of Contemporary Art (Ljubljana, Slovenia, 2013) amongst others.  Petrešin-Bachelez was chief editor of L’Internationale Online(2014-2017) and of the Manifesta Journal (2012-2014); co-director of Les Laboratoires d’Aubervilliers (2010-2012), and co-founder of Cluster, an European network of small-scale art institutions.  She has contributed texts to numerous publications and magazines such e-flux journalBidounSarai Reader, SpringerinParkett Magazine.

 

 

Image caption: Heart-to-Heart Conversation with Laura Nsengiyumva and Monique Mbeka Phoba, Contour Biennale 9: Coltan as Cotton/The Waxing Crescent Moon Phase, January 2019. Photo by Lavinia Wouters.

 

 

Screening: Jef Geys, Een dag, een nacht, een dag…, (Day and Night and Day…) (2002)
1 Dec 2018, Sat - 3 Mar 2019, Sun 12:00 PM - 07:00 PM

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Variously described as the “ultimate film” and an “anti-film,” Een dag, een nacht, een dag…, (Day and Night and Day…) (2002) is a 36-hour-long projection of a compilation of thousands of photographs from Jef Geys’s archive. Photography and the archive feature heavily in the artist’s practice, which concentrates on the connection between art and everyday life. In 1998, Geys published Al de zwart-wit foto’s tot 1998 (All the Black-and-White Photographs until 1998), a five-centimetre thick volume containing approximately 40,000 photographs produced between 1950 and 1998, in random order and in the form of contact prints. The photographs, which presented a wide range of subjects and abstained from selection or interpretation, presented an inventory of the artist’s life, and speaks to the importance of photography to Geys as a means to record, collect, and document life. In 2002, Geys extended this book project through the film Een dag, een nacht, een dag…, (Day and Night and Day…), which was presented at Documenta11 at Kassel in 2002. It illustrates a similar approach to photography as the ultimate medium to represent the vernacular, and offers an archive that oscillates between the private and the public, art and the everyday. Though the film will be hardly seen in its entirety, its dramatic sequence of pictures emphasises the flow of time.

 

BIOGRAPHY

Jef Geys (1934–2018, Belgium) is among Europe’s most respected yet underacknowledged artists. Producing artwork since the 1950s, Geys’s practice probes the construction of social and political engagement, and his work radically embraces art as being intertwined with everyday life. Geys graduated from the Antwerp Arts Academy before settling in Balen in the Kempen region of Belgium, where from 1960 to 1989, he taught art at a state school, focusing on educational experimentation in the arts. Since the late 1960s, Geys, who was also part of the Mail Art movement, has been the editor and publisher of his local newspaper, the Kempens Informatieblad, and subsequently produced them in line with his exhibitions. He is known for his meticulous archive of his work, which in turn became generative of other works.

Geys represented Belgium in the 53rd Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition in 2009. His work was included in Documenta11 (Kassel, Germany) in 2002, Skulptur Projekte Münster in 1997, and the 21st Bienal de São Paulo in 1991. He has exhibited worldwide including at M HKA, Antwerp (2017, 2011, 2009); IAC Villeurbanne/Rhone-Alpes (2017, 2007); S.M.A.K., Ghent (2015); Cubitt, London (2013); CNEAI, Chatou (2016, 2014, 2012); WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels (2013, 2009); Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (2010); Bawag Foundation, Vienna (2009); Pori Art Museum (2005); Van Abbemuseum, Eindhoven (2004); Kunsthalle Lophem (2003); Kunstverein Munchen, Munich (2001), amongst others.

 

This screening is part of the exhibition Jef Geys Quadra Medicinale Singapore.

Image caption: Jef Geys, Day and Night and Day and…, 2002, Installationsansicht Bawag Foundation. Copyright Oliver Ottenschläger.

In The Vitrine:

Izat Arif
Semangat Kejiranan
everybody loves good neighbours
15 Dec 2018, Sat - 24 Mar 2019, Sun 12:00 PM - 07:00 PM

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Interested in the contiguities and frictions between the natural and urban environment, Izat Arif has conducted experiential and erratic fieldwork in various landscapes in Singapore observing plants, soil, insects, and traces of human presence. This investigation is presented in The Vitrine as a form of a provisional “cabinet of essential items,” which contains a selection of the artist’s notes and drawings, research tools, and findings.

 

Project launch on Saturday, 15 December, 2.00 – 3.00pm.
The artist will be present.

 

BIOGRAPHY

The practice of Izat Arif (b.1986, Malaysia) combines videos, drawings, and readymade objects into intricately layered installations. His work often conveys an ironic commentary on everyday life and the art ecosystem in his hometown, Kuala Lumpur. He has participated in several group exhibitions including A History of Drawing, Camberwell College of Arts, London, United Kingdom (2018); Malaysia Art: A New Perspective, Richard Koh Fine Art, Singapore (2016); Young Malaysian Artist: New Object(ion) II, Galeri Petronas and Young Contemporaries at National Visual Arts Gallery, both Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (2013). Izat Arif is one of the founding members of the collective Malaysian Artist Intention Experiment (MAIX). He was Artist-in-Residence at NTU CCA Singapore from September to December 2018.

Image caption: Izat Arif, sketchbook, 2018. Courtesy the artist.