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NTU Centre for Contemporary Art holds Paradise Lost, its first international exhibition at Gillman Barracks

17th Jan, 2014

PRESS RELEASE: From 18 January to 30 March 2014, three acclaimed artists will showcase their video installations for the first time in Singapore in a curated exhibition at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU)’s Centre for Contemporary Art (CCA).

NTU CCA Singapore’s inaugural international exhibition, Paradise Lost, at Gillman Barracks is co-curated by the Centre’s Founding Director and Professor at School of Art, Media and Design, NTU, Ute Meta Bauer and Anca Rujoiu, curator at the centre.

Paradise Lost features three audio-visual installations of moving image: Surname Viet Given Name Nam by Trinh T. Minh-ha, Yellow Patch by Zarina Bhimji, and Disorient by Fiona Tan.

Premiering in the centre’s newly inaugurated exhibition space, Block 43 at Gillman Barracks, these are key works by three internationally renowned Asian artists who are based in Europe and the US. Paradise Lost showcases imaginary perspectives of Asia where each work maintains a tight connection with the artists’ personal biographies and experiences of migration.

Paradise Lost will also serve as a catalyst for NTU and the CCA to embark on future long-term research projects focused on the political and economic histories of migration along old and new trade routes. New Silk Road is one of NTU’s Five Peaks of Excellence, which are interdisciplinary research areas that the university aims to make a global mark. The other four areas are in sustainability, new media, innovation and future healthcare.

Professor Ute Meta Bauer added: “We are very pleased to start off our 2014 exhibition programme with Paradise Lost presenting seminal works by Trinh T. Minh-ha, Zarina Bhimji, and Fiona Tan. This is the first time these works are exhibited in Asia by an art institution. With reflections on migration, old and new trade routes, colonial and post-colonial spaces, this exhibition sets out the frame for one of the CCA’s future areas of inquiry.

“As an art centre with a mandate in research and education, the Centre for Contemporary Art also aims to be a connector point between the artists and the public. Through Paradise Lost, we hope to spur in the public a greater interest in contemporary arts, while also cultivating a culture of research.”

Paradise Lost – Artists looking at Asia from afar

Paradise Lost complements current studies on Asia’s diversity and dynamism, from the 2013 Singapore Biennale to the 2014 Art Stage Singapore art fair, bringing to the fore a more complex perspective of Asia, its colonial history and its cultural diversity.

In one visit, the public can enjoy creative contemporary arts pieces of the Asian diaspora hailing from different generations. The notion of fast-changing societies and cultures as depicted by the theme of the exhibition is timeless and relevant to Southeast Asia.

In Yellow Patch (2011), Zarina Bhimji traces her father’s migration from India to East Africa, revisiting an array of buildings and landscapes in Bombay and Gujurat. The locations loosely refer to her father’s migration in colonial times. Though Yellow Patch is the result of an extensive and in-depth research conducted by the artist, the film refrains from dwelling on the journey of the artist’s father. Rather, Bhimji allows stories to take a life of their own in the physical structures of abandoned buildings that evoke a hauntingly metaphoric presence.

In Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), Trinh T. Minh-ha questions the conventions of documentary film and interviewing. Juxtaposing archival footage, proverbs and poetry, voice-over narrations, and written text, the film features interviews with five Vietnamese women. The interviews were originally recorded in Vietnamese, translated into French and finally re- enacted in the film. It only becomes clear towards the end of the film that the women portrayed in the film are actually amateur actresses living in the US. Taking a hybrid form, the film depicts the complex diversity of the lives and roles of Vietnamese women in modern society, and brings to focus Western cultural paradigms.

Inspired by Marco Polo’s travels, Fiona Tan’s Disorient was conceived for the Dutch Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2009. This project questions stereotypical representations of the East. The installation begins with The Travels of Marco Polo, a 13th century travelogue reflecting the journeys pursued throughout Asia by the famous Venetian merchant. Comprising two video works, one was filmed in the Dutch Pavilion in Venice prior to the biennale’s opening where the artist created an encompassing installation of artefacts and goods, whilst the other is a montage of news footage and archive materials. Fleshing contrasting time, place, facts and fictions, Disorient epitomises the strategic geopolitical position held by Venice in the distant past. The installation aims to bridge different centuries and raise critical questions about modern globalism and its origins.

Admission to the exhibition is free. The exhibition features about three hours of audio-visual programme. Another highlight of the exhibition is its specific public outreach programme. Visitors can participate in a rich array of activities including exhibition tours, artist’s talk and workshop with Trinh T. Minh-ha, reading groups and lectures. These events are scheduled to take place on Friday evenings and Saturdays.

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