04 December 2017 – 31 May 2018
Kent Chan (b. 1984, Singapore) is a Singaporean artist, filmmaker, and curator. Addressing the relationship between moving images and the contemporary city, his work often results in films and in installations that merge text and time-based media. Lately, he has focused his interest on the symbolic and political aspects of the tropical imagination, regarding the equatorial vegetation as a site generative of alternative aesthetics and narratives. Chan has participated in numerous group exhibitions abroad and has received solo exhibitions at SCCA-Ljubljana, Centre for Contemporary Arts, Slovenia (2017); Grey Projects, Singapore (2016); Stedelijk Museum Bureau, Amsterdam, Netherlands (2014); The Substation, Singapore (2013). His recent curatorial projects include State of Motion 2017: Through Stranger Eyes and Superposition(s), ICA, Singapore (2016).
Over the course of the residency, Chan will delve into his longstanding interest for the rainforest seen as a site of contemporary art. Regarding the opulent wilderness of tropical nature as the physical and conceptual obverse of the white cube space, the artist will research an episode of Singapore’s curatorial history: the first group exhibition of Singaporean artists in the West. Titled Paintings by Singapore Artists, the exhibition took place at the former Imperial Institute in London in 1955 and was organised by the chairman of the Singapore Art Society, Ho Kok Hoe (1922-2015). It is rumoured that the artworks were brought to London without prior arrangements about the venue, leaving the materialisation of the show a matter of conjecture. Focusing on the 1955 exhibition, Chan will explore the epistemological connections between the colony and the imperial capital while also excavating the anxieties that lurk in the global peripheries of the art world.
Researching official and unofficial records, media coverage, oral testimonies, and other relevant materials, Kent Chan is excavating a little-known episode of Singapore’s curatorial history: the first group exhibition of Singaporean artists in Europe. Titled Paintings by Singapore Artists, the exhibition took place in 1955 at the former Imperial Institute in London and was organised by Ho Kok Hoe (1922-2015), then chairman of the Singapore Art Society. The research tackles the relation between the colony and the imperial capital in terms of cultural representation culminating in a film project titled Seni, after the Malay word that most approximates the Western concept of “art”. In the talk, Chan will discuss his interests in the history of colonialism and modernity, the tropics and the arts, sharing the artistic process and working methodology that led to the production of the Seni. Act II, the first chapter of the work conceptualized and filmed during his six-month residency.
The talk will take place in the artist’s studio.
Image credit: Kent Chan, Seni. Act II, 2018, still from single-channel video. Courtesy the artist.