3 April – 30 June 2017
Artist and writer Lucy Davis’ (b. 1970, United Kingdom) interdisciplinary practice examines notions of nature in art and visual culture, science and indigenous knowledge, natural histories, materiality and urban memory primarily but not exclusively in Southeast Asia. Most notably, Davis is the founder of The Migrant Ecologies Project – the product of her longstanding interest in the mid-twentieth century Singapore Modern Woodcut movement which later informed a six-year long, material-led cumulative series of investigations under the auspices of The Migrant Ecologies Project. Davis was also the founding editor of the Singapore critical publication series focas: Forum on Contemporary Art & Society from 2000-2007. She was previously Assistant Professor at School of Art, Design and Media (ADM) at Nanyang Technological University.
Continuing to expand The Migrant Ecologies Project , Lucy Davis will focus on Railtrack Songmaps, the first iteration of which was launched as a multimedia installation at Gillman Barracks in 2016. A three-year research project conducted in conjunction with Nature Society of Singapore and National University of Singapore, Railtrack Songmaps features recordings of birds along the Tanglin Halt rail tracks, collecting the fleeting voices of nature to explore interspecies communication and the entanglements of animal life and urban development. Due to its wide-ranging interdisciplinary approach, the project unfolds through collaborations with several artists, scientists, designers, and photographers based in Singapore.
Bird People Series 1/8 (Lim Kim Seng & Lim Kim Chua)
The mixed-media selection presented in The Vitrine stems from Railtrack Songmaps, a project exploring competing claims to nature and culture that resound along the former Malaysian railway tracks at Tanglin Halt. For at least five decades, birds, nature lovers, songbird clubs, tree shrines, kampung gardeners and foragers have roosted and seeded themselves along the tracks, nurturing a tangled patch of urban wild that is currently undergoing redevelopment. The particular constellation of elements on display – photographs, Malay pantuns, embroidery on paper, and delicate airborne assemblages of images, cut-outs and coconut sticks – weave in and out of memories of Lim Kim Seng, who together with his brother Lim Kim Chua, joined the Nature Society of Singapore (NSS) as teenager. Both are now senior members of the NSS Bird Group. Kim Seng assisted The Migrant Ecologies Project in the identification of 105 bird species around Tanglin Halt. In an accompanying soundtrack he recalls how an early encounter with a kingfisher first drew him into a bird zone.
The Migrant Ecologies Project was founded in 2010 by artist, art writer, and educator Lucy Davis. Investigating movements and migrations of nature and culture in Southeast Asia and beyond, the project unfolds through collaborations with sound artists, photographers, scientists, and designers.
Lucy Davis has been an Artist-in-Residence at NTU CCA Singapore from April to June 2017.
Lucy Davis will talk about interspecies entanglements, natural and art historical legacies, and urban memory in the context of Railtrack Songmaps, a four-year interdisciplinary project delving into competing claims to nature and culture along the former Malaysian railway tracks at Tanglin Halt that the artist developed with a MOE Academic Research Fund Tier 1 at the School of Art, Design and Media (NTU).
Tree shrines, kampung gardeners, songbird gatherings have seeded themselves along the tracks over many decades. Today, a fifty-year-old HDB estate is undergoing demolition with existing communities moving away while the railway was object of an international competition to create a “Green Corridor” modeled on the High Line in New York. Davis has been re-developing an interactive media experience led by bird songs and stories recorded from residents and birders along the tracks. In collaboration with composer Zai Tang, photographer Kee Ya Ting, and graphic designer Hera, she is currently working on a book to be published at the end of the year as well as on a new series of portraits of “bird people.”