Symposium: The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: a structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, Part II
Friday, 17 June & Saturday, 18 June 2016
7th Apr, 2016
PRESS RELEASE: SEA STATE by artist and former Olympic sailor Charles Lim Yi Yong, commissioned for the Singapore Pavilion for the 56th Venice Biennale and curated by Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, will be presented at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore from 30 April to 10 July 2016. For over a decade, Lim’s ongoing project SEA STATE examines the biophysical, political and psychic contours of Singapore through the visible and invisible lenses of the sea. SEA STATE is an in-depth inquiry by an artist that scrutinises both man-made systems, opening new perspectives on our everyday surroundings, from unseen landscapes and disappearing islands to the imaginary boundaries of a future landmass.
The exhibition at NTU CCA Singapore is the first significant gathering of the various critically acclaimed components of the project since it started in 2005, and the Centre’s first major exhibition of a Singaporean artist. SEA STATE encompasses digital video works, altered marine charts, a three-dimensional sand model of the seabed around Singapore, and a five metres tall maritime buoy. The buoy, fondly referred to as the Sajahat Buoy, alludes to Pulau Sajahat (Sajahat Island), which disappeared from the world’s nautical charts in 2002 as it came to be subsumed by Pulau Tekong due to Singapore’s intensified land reclamation efforts. The buoy that once marked the island similarly disappeared, compelling the artist to reconstruct the buoy to fully unravel the gravitas of this disappearance. In addition to the works exhibited at the Singapore Pavilion, the exhibition in Singapore will be extended by the photographic series inside\outside (2005), part of SEA STATE 1, and Lim’s short film all the lines flow out which received a Special Mention at the 68th Venice Film Festival in 2011, making Lim the first Singaporean to be honoured at the festival.
SEA STATE is inspired by the World Meteorological Organization’s code for measuring sea conditions and numbered in chapters following the varying states of the sea ranging from calm, to moderate, to the phenomenal. Previous iterations and various stages of SEA STATE have been exhibited at Manifesta 7 (2008), Singapore Biennale (2011), Institut d’Art Contemporain Villeurbanne (2013), and Osaka Biennale (2013). Lim's engagement with Mustafa began when they initiated In Search of Raffles' Light (2012-) at the NUS Museum, a multimodal project that meditates upon Singapore's vexed relationship with the sea.
Since 1965, Singapore has grown by more than 50 square miles through land reclamation, with sand bought from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. A nation created by maritime trade, both colonial and modern, Singapore has found itself at the centre of global debates surrounding resource use, climate change and territorial sovereignty. Singapore’s often bold solutions—from land reclamation to the vast undersea caverns recently constructed beneath its southern coastline—represent singular yet suggestive prototypes for the management and navigation of these pivotal challenges of our time. As Singapore continually reclaims and recreates itself, SEA STATE frames these debates with the transnational spaces of the sea.
“When we think of a nation as a physical thing we imagine a landmass. Yet the true border of any country touching the sea is not the edge of the land, but out in the water. The actual border and the imagined border are quite different, especially for an island like Singapore. SEA STATE makes that border visible. It brings to the fore what is ordinarily kept in the background, the real depths of the sea and our uneasy maritime unconscious,” says Lim.
Lim clarifies further, “SEA STATE represents the place that I am in currently, which is the state of Singapore. Along with being a reference to a system used to determine the condition of the sea, the idea behind the project is that, as an artist, I’m interested in looking at the sea. I wanted to create a situation where I can work with the sea in a more intimate way.”
As a research-intensive investigation into the evolving cultural and territorial space of the sea, Lim’s presentation of SEA STATE closely aligns with the Centre’s research focus on knowledge production in contemporary art practices. To support the development of the Venice presentation, Lim was awarded a nine-month residency at the NTU CCA Singapore in 2014/2015. The residency at, and subsequent hosting of the return show by NTU CCA Singapore signals the continual support of local institutions in the profiling of local artists working in the international art arena and efforts at introducing home audiences to the compelling works of Singapore artists.
NTU CCA Singapore will organise the symposium The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: a structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, Part II on 17 and 18 June 2016. The conversation will continue and expand upon the debate first held on the occasion of the Singapore Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale in May 2015, addressing the possibilities and uncertainties faced by societies within and beyond the boundaries of Southeast Asia, focusing on the notion of national representation and its challenges. A comprehensive public programme for SEA STATE offers points of entry into and expands on Lim’s practice with various contributions from speakers including Professor Lui Pao Chuen, former Chief Defence Scientist at the Ministry of Defence Singapore, Jegan Vincent de Paul, researcher and PhD candidate at NTU CCA Singapore, amongst others.
“Lim’s ambitious project demands multiple readings, revealing the indirect histories that art can unpack. A highly significant project pivotal to understanding Singapore’s geopolitical anxieties as a city state, SEA STATE is most of all a contemplation of an artist’s profound and cerebral relationship with his environment,” notes Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore.
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The presentation of SEA STATE and the symposium The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: a structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, Part II held at NTU CCA Singapore are generously supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth, National Arts Council Singapore and the Singapore Tourism Board.