Curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University
Opening Reception: Friday, 8 December 2017, 7.00 – 9.00pm
Media Preview: Thursday, 7 December 2017, 11.00am – 12.00pm
NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore is pleased to present The Oceanic, an exhibition focusing on large-scale human interventions in oceanic ecospheres with contributions by 12 artists, filmmakers, composers, and researchers who engage with both the long cultural histories of Pacific Ocean archipelagos and their current conditions. As part of Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary–Academy’s (TBA21–Academy) The Current, an ongoing research initiative into pressing environmental, economic, and socio-political concerns, NTU CCA Singapore’s Founding Director Professor Ute Meta Bauer was invited to lead the project’s first cycle of expeditions from 2015–17. The featured contributors in The Oceanic are The Current Fellows who joined the expeditions on TBA21–Academy’s vessel Dardanella to Papua New Guinea (2015), French Polynesia (2016), and Fiji (2017).
The expedition to Papua New Guinea, with Laura Anderson Barbata (Mexico/United States), Tue Greenfort (Denmark/Germany), Newell Harry (Australia), and Jegan Vincent de Paul (Sri Lanka/Canada), took as a starting point the concept of the Kula Ring, a ceremonial exchange system practiced in the Trobriand Islands. The second excursion, to French Polynesia, titled Tuamotus, the Tahitian name for distant islands, included Nabil Ahmed (Bangladesh/United Kingdom), Atif Akin (Turkey/United States), PerMagnus Lindborg (Sweden/Singapore), and Filipa Ramos (Portugal/United Kingdom). The atolls Mururoa and Fangataufa were the sites for 193 nuclear tests between 1966 and 1996, despite being declared a biosphere reserve by UNESCO in 1977. Coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the first atomic weapons test on Mururoa, then considered a French colony in Polynesia, this expedition discussed the still neglected long-term impact of nuclear experiments in the Pacific on the populations and the environment. On the third and last expedition of this cycle, the Fijian practice of the Tabu/Tapu, where a community chief demarcates something as “sacred,” or “forbidden,” continued the enquiry on the Polynesian Rahui—a traditional rule system that in recent times became significant for marine conservation and resource management. This journey to the Fijian Lau Islands was joined by The Current Fellows Guigone Camus (France), Lisa Rave (United Kingdom/Germany), and Kristy H. A. Kang (United States/Singapore). Participating in all three expeditions was Armin Linke (Italy/Germany), who not only documented these journeys with his camera, but also questioned the role of image production in such unique yet loaded encounters.
Stemming from this cycle of expeditions, the exhibition addresses various ecological urgencies affecting the ocean and its littorals as a habitat for humans, fauna, and flora, as well as particular aspects of sea governance. Questions addressed in the show include: Who are the regulators of global oceans? Why should communities who only contribute one per cent of the global carbon footprint be among the first ones to be fatally affected by the rise of sea levels caused by global warming? Is the economic benefit of land- and seabed mining evenly shared with the impacted communities? What are the long-term effects of such industries? Who owns the ocean?
The interest in exposing the technology behind the human infrastructures is present in Armin Linke’s video installation OCEANS – Dialogues between ocean floor and water column (2017) while Tue Greenfort explores complex ecosystems and scientific production practices, challenging human understanding of and relationship with nature and culture.
Inspired by the materials used for gift exchanges such as the Kula Ring, Newell Harry documents this practice in his black-and-white photo series (Untitled) Nimoa and Me: Kiriwina Notes (2015–16), and also creates (Untitled) Anagrams and Objects for RU & RU (2015) with text on tapa, a cloth made from softened bark. Likewise incorporating items by artisans from Milne Bay Province, Laura Anderson Barbata produced striking costumes for the performative piece Ocean Calling (2017), created as part of TBA21–Academy’s intervention on World Ocean Day 2017 at the plaza in front of the United Nations Headquarters in New York.
Addressing the exploitation of finite resources, Nabil Ahmed collaborates with other researchers to call for an Inter-Pacific Ring Tribunal (INTERPRT) (2016–ongoing), a long-term investigation into environmental justice in the Pacific region. Lisa Rave’s film Europium (2014) investigates this rare eponymous mineral that has become one of the allures of deep-sea mining—the new gold rush spreading across the global oceans. In Europium, Rave also draws the often-invisible connections between colonialism, ecology, and currencies.
The exhibition will also include a sound component by PerMagnus Lindborg who recorded the land and underwater soundscapes of the Tuamotus in French Polynesia, as well as a film programme selected by Filipa Ramos and other The Current Fellows. Jegan Vincent de Paul will expand his research on socio-economic networks into the Pacific region. In The Lab, the Centre’s project space, anthropologist Guigone Camus will display documentation from the Fiji expedition, as well as diverse materials from her extensive research in Kiribati, while Kristy H. A. Kang will reflect on her experience in Fiji through an iterative installation and research process that will explore vernacular forms of mapping cultural memory and spatial narrative.
The Oceanic marks the start of NTU CCA Singapore’s new overarching research topic CLIMATES. HABITATS. ENVIRONMENTS., which will inform and connect the Centre’s various activities—ranging from research to residencies and exhibitions—for the next three years. This is the third exhibition by the Centre, following Allan Sekula’s Fish Story, to be continued (2015) and Charles Lim Yi Yong’s SEA STATE (2016), to feature long-term, critical enquiries by artists about the radical changes for communities whose livelihoods are inseparable from the sea, the precarious labour at sea, and the irreversible impact of technologically driven human interventions on one of the Earth’s most precious resources, the oceans.
This opportunity has led to a Memorandum of Understanding between TBA21 and the Nanyang Technological University in developing academic and scientific relationships.
From 25 – 27 January 2018, on the occasion of the exhibition and coinciding with Singapore Art Week 2018, The Current Convening #3, conceived by Professor Bauer, Markus Reymann, Director of TBA21–Academy, and Stefanie Hessler, Curator of TBA21–Academy, will take place at the Centre, featuring conversations, roundtables, workshops, performances, and screenings. The event will focus on modalities of exchange and shared responsibilities, while addressing the rights of nature and cultures.
The speakers will share their experience of the first cycle of research trips to the Pacific Ocean archipelagos as part of TBA21–Academy The Current, giving background into how the exhibition project evolved out of these journeys. The insights into the expeditions will give further context to the works in the show, while presenting broader vision of The Current.
12 Jan 2018, Fri 02:30 PM - 05:30 PM
Saturday, 9 December 2017, 10.00am – 1.00pm
Workshop for Teachers and Educators
by educator and artist Kelly Reedy
with the presence of artist Newell Harry and Markus Reymann, TBA21–Academy Director
Friday, 12 January 2018, 3.00 – 5.00pm
Workshop for Teachers and Educators
by educator and artist Kelly Reedy
with the presence of artists Kristy H. A. Kang and PerMagnus Lindborg
To attend either session, please register at NTUCCAEducation@ntu.edu.sg.
Focusing on the artists and works included in the exhibition The Oceanic, the workshop engages with artistic practices and prepares educators for visits with their students by providing educational tools as entry points to the exhibition, and assisting in identifying aspects of the exhibition that might be relevant to their classes. It suggests techniques for exploring both the visual arts and other areas of daily encounters.
The audience will meet the curator of The Oceanic Professor Ute Meta Bauer, in an open Q&A session in conversation with contributing sound artist PerMagnus Lindborg. The tour includes a “sound walk” through the exhibition guided by the artist.
Impact of climate change on human communities—flood, drought, heat: who will suffer really? by geographer and cartographer Philippe Rekacewicz (France/Norway)
In this (de)Tour, renowned cartographer Philippe Rekacewicz will speak about the impact of climate change and environmental migration using maps as the main tool for analysing ocean, environment, and urban phenomena. He will also share his research process and recent projects in experimental cartography. A map can be both a representation of factual data as well as a political object that is in continuous dialogue with real and projected conditions. As a carefully designed visual image, it is at the intersection of cartography, art, and politics.
Rekacewicz is in Singapore under the auspices of University of Helsinki Department of Anthropology, visionscarto.net, and Singapore-ETH Centre Future Cities Lab.
How do images lead to stories? And how do stories convey images? In this workshop, we will explore the stories that pictures of oceanic life and sites of environmental transformation tell, and the images that stories summon. Together, we’ll write and enact one and many stories, thinking about how tales are told, inventing new ways of combining memory with discovery and imagination, and discussing the ways in which we share experiences, visions, and emotions with others.
Designed for children aged 7-12.
Tabu / Tapu – Who Owns the Ocean?A collaboration with TBA21–Academy
Part of Singapore Art Week 2018
Guest-of-Honour during reception on 26 January 2018:
Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources of Singapore
The Current Convening #3 Tabu / Tapu – Who Owns the Ocean? marks the culmination of TBA21–Academy The Current’s first cycle of expeditions, bringing together The Current Fellows; thought leaders from diverse disciplines; local agencies and activist NGOs. Through discursive events including talanoa discussions, case studies, workshops, provocations, as well as performative events, Convening #3 shares with a wider public the research and challenges generated through the format of such expeditions. It focuses on the modalities of exchange, addresses environmental urgencies, raises questions regarding responsibilities and ownership, and discusses whether rights of nature can be equal to human rights. Environmental researchers, conservationists, anthropologists, and policymakers will share a platform that invites active and creative participation on how we can understand and effect the development to international law, policies, culture, and environmental education.
Coinciding with NTU CCA Singapore’s current exhibition The Oceanic, featuring contributions by TBA21–Academy The Current Fellows from the first cycle of expeditions (2015–17), Convening #3 marks the culmination of inquiries on the vessel Dardanella to the Pacific archipelagos of Trobriand Islands in Papua New Guinea; the Tuamotus in French Polynesia; and the Lau Island Group in Fiji.
The Current Convening #3 Tabu / Tapu – Who Owns the Ocean? has been conceived by Markus Reymann, Director of TBA21–Academy; Stefanie Hessler, Curator of TBA21–Academy; and Professor Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of NTU CCA Singapore, and expedition leader of The Current’s first cycle.
Previous Convenings in the first cycle of The Current:
Convening #1 The Kula Ring in Kingston, Jamaica (16 – 17 March 2016)
Convening #2 Tuamotus, Distant Islands in Kochi, Kerala, India (13 – 15 December 2016)
Thursday, 25 January
[Closed talanoa sessions]
Friday, 26 January, 1.30 – 10.00pm
*Venue: The Single Screen, Block 43 Malan Road
Case Study by Taholo Kami (Tonga/Fiji), Special Advisor, Pacific Partnerships and International Civil Society, COP23 Presidency Secretariat of the Fijian government
Case Study by Dr Hervé Raimana Lallemant-Moe (French Polynesia), Law Department, University of French Polynesia
Atif Akin (Turkey/United States), artist, designer, and Associate Professor, Mason Gross School of the Arts, Rutgers University, United States
Roko Josefa Cinavilkeba (Fiji), High Chief of the Yasayasamoala Island group
Andrew Foran (Australia/Fiji), Head, Pacific Centre for Environmental Governance, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Fiji
Armin Linke (Italy/Germany), photographer and filmmaker
Maureen Penjueli (Fiji), Coordinator, Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG)
Valérie Portefaix (France/Hong Kong), Director, MAP Office
Joey Tau (Fiji), media and campaign officer, Pacific Network on Globalisation (PANG)
Jegan Vincent de Paul (Sri Lanka, Canada/Singapore), architect, artist, and NTU ADM/CCA Singapore PhD candidate
*Venue: Outside Block 43 Malan Road
Professor Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore
Markus Reymann, Director, TBA21–Academy
Professor Alan Chan, Dean, College of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University
Guest-of-Honour: Masagos Zulkifli, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources of Singapore
*Venue: The Single Screen, Block 43 Malan Road
Place.Labour.Capital Publication Launch and Reception
Published by NTU CCA Singapore and Mousse Publishing
*Venue: Outside Block 43 Malan Road
I/E – the solo sessions
Sound Performance by Tarek Atoui (Lebanon/France), musician, composer, and sound artist
Tarek Atoui’s ongoing project I/E consists of recordings at major ports and harbours all over the world. Since 2015, the artist has recorded the activities, waters, and surroundings at Elefsina in Greece and the Mina Zayed port in Abu Dhabi.
For Atoui’s performance as part of The Current Convening #3, each of these recordings will serve as a sound capsule that functions similar to a multi-channel playback machine as well as a small modular synthesiser. Using specific instruments built by the artist, Atoui will be playing with the sounds of these locations and morphing them with other electro-acoustic devices.
The sounds used in I/E – the solo sessions will be augmented with recordings from Singapore’s waterfront and added to Atoui’s solo presentation at NTU CCA Singapore in March 2018 to create one of the main layers of the exhibition.
Saturday, 27 January, 11.00am – 6.00pm
*Venue: Outside Block 43 Malan Road
Discursive Brunch 70 x 7 The Meal Act XLI (41) by Lucy + Jorge Orta (United Kingdom/France, Argentina/France) and restaurateur Ken Loon (Singapore), The Naked Finn
(Free admission; by registration only http://ptix.at/kQMUoN)
Lucy + Jorge Orta’s discursive brunch draws from the tradition of communal eating to create a platform that explores questions relating to the ocean, such as the entitlements of resources, its waters, food security, as well as ownership of oceanic practices, materials, and images.
This special meal is developed in collaboration with restaurateur Ken Loon of Singapore’s The Naked Finn, who has locally sourced the ingredients, each of which will be explained and related back to the wider conversation of Singapore’s food sources, its specific environment and infrastructure.
*Venue: The Single Screen, Block 43 Malan Road
Case Study by Dr Cresantia Frances Koya Vaka’uta (Fiji), Director, Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies & Pacific Heritage Hub, UNESCO Faculty of Arts, Law and Education, The University of the South Pacific, Fiji
Case Study by Dr Cynthia Chou (Singapore/United States), Professor, Department of Anthropology, College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, University of Iowa, United States
Laura Anderson Barbata (Mexico/United States), artist
Barney Broomfield (United Kingdom/United States), filmmaker
Dr Guigone Camus (France), anthropologist
Newell Harry (Australia), artist
Dr Kristy H. A. Kang (United States/Singapore), media artist, and Assistant Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Dr PerMagnus Lindborg (Sweden/Singapore), composer, sound artist, and researcher
Tuan Andrew Nguyen (Vietnam), artist
Filipa Ramos (Portugal/United Kingdom), art writer, curator, and Editor-in-Chief, art-agenda
Lisa Rave (United Kingdom/Germany), artist and filmmaker
SUPERFLEX (Bjørnstjerne Christiansen, Jakob Fenger, and Rasmus Nielsen) (Denmark), artists
Tidalectics: Imagining an Oceanic Worldview through Art and Science Publication Launch and Reception
Published by MIT Press and TBA21–Academy
Image credit: Lisa Rave, Lau Islands, Fiji, 2017, documentation. Courtesy the artist.
4 Feb 2018, Sun 12:00 PM - 06:30 PM
What do we look at when we look at the ocean? From where do we look at when we look at the ocean? What shapes the visions of the sea, what are the sources of our personal and collective imaginaries, the references for our impressions, desires, and fears in relation to the sea?
During the past two years, a dispersed community of artists, thinkers, writers, and researchers was summoned, assembled, and brought together by curator Ute Meta Bauer on a set of three expeditions on board of the Dardanella, TBA21-Academy’s research vessel, which was travelling across various locations in the Pacific Ocean.
These expeditions were deeply cinematic experiences. In itself the boat was both a real and figurative site of projection: at once a privileged place from where to observe the ocean, the life forms, transactions, and infrastructures it hosts, and at the same time a vessel that embodied the tropes of the expedition, voyage, and exploration that were being performed.
Further pursuing the production and sourcing of images of the ocean and all that surrounds it—from its infrastructure, to the politics and cultures of extraction and management, to the observation of its social and natural landscapes—the selection of films of Liquid Traces—visions (a title borrowed from Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani’s film Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat Case film) followed the collective agency of Ute Meta Bauer’s Dardanella expeditions. The films presented were chosen by the 12 participants of the expeditions.
The selection of films has been arranged around two programmes, the first focuses on poetic, dreamlike approaches and the second on documentarist portraits of more concrete scenarios and realities. Together, they interrogate the cinematic references that shape our dreamscapes and they offer glimpses of what sort of moving images inform the common gazes of the expeditions participants, their discourses and encounters.
Saturday, 3 February 2018, 12.00 – 4.00pm
Proteus, David Lebrun, 2004, video, 60 min
Proteus is an animated documentary film that depicts a 19th-century understanding of the sea with a particular emphasis on the life and work of German biologist and naturalist Ernst Haeckel (1834–1919). Haeckel was a promoter of Darwinism in Germany who discovered, described, drew and named thousands of new species, namely an extensive number of underwater creatures.
The key to Haeckel’s vision was a tiny undersea organism called radiolaria, one of the earliest forms of life. Haeckel discovered, described, classified and painted four thousand species of these one-celled creatures. In their intricate geometric skeletons, Haeckel saw all the future possibilities of organic and created form. Proteus explores the metamorphoses of the radiolarian and celebrates their beauty and seemingly infinite variety in animation sequences based on Haeckel’s graphic work. Proteus weaves a tapestry of poetry and myth, biology and oceanography, scientific history and spiritual biography.
Marsa Abu Galawa (Careless Reef Part 4), Gerard Holthuis, 35mm film transferred to digital file, 2004, 13 min
Marsa Abu Galawa (Careless Reef Part 4) is a psychedelic, mind-altering, rhythmic sequence of images of the underwater world shot in the Red Sea and pacing at the soundtrack of Egyptian shaabi singer Abdel Basset Hamouda. The structure of the film is based on flicker films, in which the whole unconscious experience of the flux of images is more important than the single shots. Marsa Abu Galawa is the fourth part of the “Careless Reef” series, four short films made by Gerard Holthuis, which deal with the underwater world.
Million Dollars Point, Camille Henrot, video, 2011, 5 min 35 sec
Courtesy the artist and kamel mennour, Paris.
Million Dollars Point is the name of a dive site on Santo Island, Vanuatu—a lagoon that became an underwater cemetery for hundreds of tanks and canons abandoned by the North American army after the Second World War. The site was named after the amount offered by the local islanders to buy out this war debris. Million Dollars Point juxtaposes the images of this submarine battlefield with footage of a local music video showing a French moustached man dancing and singing on a Pacific beach, flanked by Polynesian girls wearing typical costumes. The choreography of the young women seems to respond the images of engulfed weapons, they hide their faces as a refusal to see and they mimic waves, which recall the borderline between the surface and the sea bottom.
Limits to Growth, Nicholas Mangan, HD video, 2017, 8 min 55 sec
“Limits to Growth begins by staging a comparison between two virtual monetary currencies: the cryptocurrency Bitcoin and Rai, the Yapese currency. While bitcoins are virtual and in a sense immaterial, Rai are made of stone and are often very large and heavy. Bitcoins are mined by computers solving complex algorithms, often collectively, working in a blockchain. In order to “mine” Bitcoins, vast quantities of energy are consumed by the computers processing the algorithms as they labour to verify and record transactions. Processor farms must labour continuously to keep the network alive. Although Bitcoin’s medium of exchange is virtual, it remains, like Rai, bound to the physical world. (…) My interest in Bitcoin was piqued by the use of terminology such as “mining” and “workers.” Trawling through various online forums, I found someone in Australia who was actually mining bitcoin, despite the fact that the country’s high electricity costs render it unprofitable. I came across a discussion taking place within a remote community in Western Australia that was established by a mining company to service an actual mine. As is common practice, the company provided free housing and electricity to workers, as well as much needed air-conditioning in the hot climate. In the online thread, a worker from the mine suggested that a Bitcoin rig could be set up at his company-funded housing in order to take advantage of this free electricity and cooling. This physical mine could indirectly provide the climate for profitable virtual mining in Australia. This situation of a parasitical economy and how the potential overlay of the physical and the dematerialised might function in relation to resource extraction was of particular interest. Limits to Growth includes an underwater video of a Rai stone lying on the bottom of the Miil Channel off the northwest coast of Yap. The sound of a human breathing through a scuba apparatus is taken directly from the video.”
Nauru – Notes from a Cretaceous World, Nicholas Mangan, HD Video, 2010, 14 min 50 sec
Courtesy the artist; Sutton Gallery, Melbourne; Hopkinson Mossman, Auckland; and LABOR, Mexico City.
“I wanted to look at this moment in human history within a much longer period of time. I wanted to place human agency within the contours of a deeper time frame and an evolving ecosystem that doesn’t place humans as the primary organism.”
Nauru – Notes from a Cretaceous World is a video essay that contrasts the ancient geological history of the Pacific nation of Nauru with the country’s more recent political and economic situation. Historically, Nauru’s coral limestone rocky landscape has been rich in phosphate—a valuable mineral which, in Nauru, is the product of a mixture of decomposed marine life and guano deposits compressed over millions of years. In the 1920s, the British Phosphate Commission initiated industrial strip-mining of Nauru’s ancient coral landscape, selling the phosphate mineral off to Australia, the United Kingdom and New Zealand, where it was processed into a superphosphate fertiliser used to enrich agricultural soil.
Over the coming decades, the Nauruan government allowed mining to occur at such intensity that, by 1977, the tiny island nation of Nauru had become the second-richest nation per capita after Saudi Arabia. That year, as a sign of its wealth, Nauru built the then-tallest sky scraper in Melbourne. Called Nauru House, it was crudely dubbed “Bird Shit Tower” by many Australians. By the turn of the millennium, as phosphate levels became depleted, the Nauruan government began to default on numerous major international loans and declared bankruptcy. At this time, the Australian government initiated its so-called Pacific Solution (2001–07) policy, and later Operation Sovereign Borders (2013–ongoing), in which it paid the financially desperate Nauru to house asylum seekers attempting to arrive in Australia by boat.
Drawing Restraint 9, Matthew Barney, video, 2005, 135 min
Drawing Restraint 9 comprises the presented feature-length film, alongside large-scale sculptures, photographs, drawings and books. The “Drawing Restraint” series consists of 19 numbered components and related materials. Some episodes are videos, others sculptural installations or drawings.
Drawing Restraint 9 is a love story set in Nisshin Maru, a Japanese whaling vessel making its annual journey to Antarctica. The histories and traditions of Shinto religion, Japanese tea ceremony, whaling, and global forms of fuel extraction are intertwined in this non-narrative, monumental epic. Two actions unfold simultaneously on the vessel: one on deck and one beneath it. The narrative on deck involves the process of casting a 25-ton petroleum jelly sculpture that rivals the scale of a whale. Below deck, the two characters participate as guests in a tea ceremony, where they are formally engaged after arriving on the ship as strangers. As the film progresses, the guests go through an emotional and physical transformation slowly transfiguring from land mammals into sea mammals, as they fall in love. The petroleum jelly sculpture simultaneously passes through changing states, from warm to cool, and from the architectural back to the primordial. The dual narratives, the sculptural and the romantic, come to reflect one another until they merge into one.
AXIS – Anatomy of space, Good Company Arts / Daniel Belton, video, 2017, 6 min
“With the same evolutionary effect that was followed by the ancient Greeks in their search for beauty, AXIS offers a resonating, lyrical space. Dancers are seen travelling through apertures tensioned with the happening of projected light. Their choreography establishes a circuitry of luminosity. Like a great celestial dynamo, the screen environment transmits oscillating shafts of digital dance and sound—illuminating song cycles in a cosmic choreography of light. We are each made up of photons.
Photons are particles of light. Light is inspiration. Every space has an “anatomy.” AXIS creates a new search with the human figure in space, as projected film and processed sound performance combine. Nothing is in stasis.”
—Good Company Arts
Note: This single-channel version of AXIS was created from parts of the original full-length work of 38 minutes made for 360º full-dome cinema.
Sunday, 4 February 2018, 12.00 – 6.30pm
Trobriand Cricket: An Indigenous Response to Colonialism, Gary Kildea and Jerry Leach, 1976, 54 min
Anthropologist and filmmaker Jean Rouch described Trobriand Cricket as “a wonderful film, perhaps one of the greatest anthropological films of recent time”
(Film Quarterly, 1978).
A key reference of ethnographic cinema, Trobriand Cricket depicts the transformations introduced by the inhabitants of the Trobriand Islands in Papua New Guinea to the British version of cricket, a game that was introduced to Trobriand by a British Methodist missionary in the early 20th century as a way to replace violent tribal warfare with Western sportsmanship.
The film shows how the islanders responded to a British colonial imposition by appropriating and transforming the game into an expression of tribal rivalry, mock warfare, community interchange, eroticised dancing and chanting, and unruly fun.
The Shark Callers of Kontu, Dennis O’Rourke, 16mm transferred to video, 1982, 54 min
From 1974 to 1979, Dennis O’Rourke lived in Papua New Guinea, where he taught documentary filmmaking. Made during his stay there, The Shark Callers of Kontu depicts the ancient tradition of ‘sharkcalling’ in the village of Kontu, on the west coast of New Ireland. The documentation of Kontu inhabitants’ traditional way of shark hunting, in which sharks are called and killed by hand, is combined with a portrait of their lives and environment, presented both from still images commented by O’Rourke and interviews with the local population. The film explores the changes to cultural values and traditional customs wrought by colonisation, alcohol, commerce, and Christianity.
The People’s Elect – Pouvanaa te Metua, Marie-Hélène Villierme, HDCam PAL, 2012, 90 min
In the late 1940s, the French Establishments in Oceania (now French Polynesia), saw the dawn of a local political era. In 1949, Pouvanaa a Oopa (1895–1977) became the first Tahitian to serve in the French Chamber of Deputies. Pouvanaa was also the charismatic leader of the country’s first political party, the RDPT (Democratic Rally of the Tahitian People). A supporter of the independence of Tahiti, he strongly opposed the French colonial administration and the French nuclear testing in the Tuamotu Archipelago during the 1960s. Sentenced to prison and exile in metropolitan France, Pouvanaa only returned to French Polynesia in 1968. Combining archival materials, found footage, newsreels and interviews, The People’s Elect offers a vivid portrait of this important figure of French Polynesian political life.
Liquid Traces: The Left-to-Die Boat Case, Forensic Oceanography (Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani), video, 2014, 17 min
“Liquid Traces offers a synthesis of our reconstruction of the events of what is known as the “left-to-die boat” case, in which 72 passengers who left the Libyan coast heading in the direction of the island of Lampedusa on board a small rubber boat were left to drift for 14 days in NATO’s maritime surveillance area, despite several distress signals relaying their location, as well as repeated interactions, including at least one military helicopter visit and an encounter with a military ship. As a result, only 9 people survived.
In producing this reconstruction, our research has used against the grain the “sensorium of the sea”—the multiple remote sensing devices used to record and read the sea’s depth and surface. Contrary to the vision of the sea as a non-signifying space in which any event immediately dissolves into moving currents, with our investigation we demonstrated that traces are indeed left in water, and that by reading them carefully the sea itself can be turned into a witness for interrogation.
As a time-based media, the animation also gives form to the Mediterranean’s differential rhythms of mobility that have emerged through the progressive restriction of legal means of access to the EU for certain categories of people and the simultaneous acceleration of the flows of goods and capital.”
—Charles Heller and Lorenzo Pezzani
Neytal Diary, Ravi Agarwal, HD video, 2016, 38 min
Neytal Diary was shot over one year off the coast of Tamilnadu in South India. It derives from artist and environmental activist Ravi Agarwal’s ongoing work with a fishing community near the town of Pondicherry, which seeks to examine the ecological understandings and conflicts from the perspective of its inhabitants. The texts of the film are extracts from a diary (Ambient Seas, published in 2016) kept by Agarwal over the years, and contain his reflections on the complex ecological, cultural, and political underpinnings of the fishermen’s lives and their absence from the dominant global debates on the Anthropocene and climate change.
One Belt, One Road: Documentary – Episode One: Common Fate, video, 2016, 55 min
One Belt, One Road: Documentary – Episode One: Common Fate focuses on “One Belt, One Road” or the “Belt and Road Initiative,” a development strategy and framework proposed by Chinese paramount leader Xi Jinping. This strategy focuses on connectivity and cooperation among countries and primarily between the People’s Republic of China and the rest of Eurasia, consisting of two main components: the land-based “Silk Road Economic Belt” and oceangoing “Maritime Silk Road.”
The strategy underlines China’s push to take a bigger role in global affairs, and its need for priority capacity cooperation in areas such as steel manufacturing.
Matthew Barney: No Restraint, Alison Chernick, video, 2006, 72 min
Matthew Barney: No Restraint documents artist Matthew Barney and his then partner, collaborator, and singer-songwriter Björk, as they film Drawing Restraint 9.
Selection of films made by TBA21–Academy’s participants to Ute Meta Bauer’s The Current three expeditions to the South Pacific: Nabil Ahmed, Atif Akin, Laura Anderson Barbata, Newell Harry, Stefanie Hessler, Dr Kristy H. A. Kang, Dr PerMagnus Lindborg, Armin Linke, Filipa Ramos, Lisa Rave, and Jegan Vincent de Paul.
Image credit: Gerard Holthuis, Marsa Abu Galawa (Careless Reef Part 4), 2004, film still. Courtesy Light Cone.
Exploring the ways in which artistic practices reflect on social and ecological phenomena, James Jack will reference one of his curatorial projects, Play with Nature, Played by Nature (2013), an exhibition and series of conversations that looked at creative practices as a way to reinvigorate our consciousness of cycles occurring in the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake and tsunami off the Pacific coast of Tohoku, Japan. Jack will also share his artistic research process for Sea Birth (2017), which takes as its starting point the spirits in the sea off the Okinawa coast for a re-imagination of the links between fragments from a turbulent past. In addition, having been a guest for Convening #3—a collaboration between NTU CCA Singapore and TBA21–Academy The Current held in January 2018—Jack will pursue, in an open dialogue format, questions regarding ancient knowledge and alternative imaginaries found in the Pacific that arose during this gathering.
INTERPRT: Spatial investigation of environmental crimes by artist Nabil Ahmed (Bangladesh/United Kingdom)
INTERPRT is an interdisciplinary project on environmental justice in Oceania at the intersection of spatial practice, international law and artistic research. The Pacific ring—a geological force field rising from the ocean floor—reorganises a fluid, geological imaginary of the region as a global commons. At this mineral frontier, environmental violence is spatially diffused and temporally protracted, requiring new methods of detection and reconstruction. This talk will present investigations on environmental crimes and new forums for ecocide law.
For the launch of Final Report of the Christmas Island Expert Working Group in The Lab, Robert Zhao Renhui, founder of The Institute of Critical Zoologists, discusses the scope of his two-year long investigation as well as the research process and methodological approach developed as he ventured into the fractured ecosystem of Christmas Island. Merging scientific observation and artistic speculation, Zhao frames the absurdity of the real and weaves multiple narratives that address the uneasy relationship between humans and the natural environment.
Current international laws are inadequate to protect the oceans and the planet. A law against ecocide and the principle of universal jurisdiction are the missing factors that can address this problem. Criminal accountability for environmental and climate-related crimes also addresses wider issues of climate justice beyond economic remedies. The workshop, convened by INTERPRT brings together leading practitioners from the field to examine emerging legal concepts and cases around ecocide, universal jurisdiction, and nature as a legal subject in a Pacific region context.
This is a workshop for tertiary students. Please email us at NTUCCAEducation@ntu.edu.sg to register.
Participants of the workshop are encouraged to attend the public talk by Nabil Ahmed on Thursday, 1 March 2018, INTERPRT: Spatial investigation of environmental crimes
In this full-day workshop, participants will be introduced to the process of art making, from research and conceptualisation to execution. Developed for participants 14 years and above, the day will consist of a trip to the beach to collect plastic waste and organic debris like shells washed ashore to create artworks out of these found materials during the second part of the workshop. Using The Oceanic as an entry point to raise awareness on the dire health of our oceans and the islands most affected, participants will learn how to engage with questions of climate change, as well as its impacts.
Designed for families and participants aged 14 and up.
For advance registration, please email NTUCCAEducation@ntu.edu.sg.