Stemming from personal circumstances—due to his father’s employment as commander of the prison tactical unit, the artist grew up in Changi Prison’s quarters —Morton developed a direct, albeit unspoken, intimacy with the tortuous ethical issues and psychological consequences related to the most extreme form of law enforcement. Through researching archival materials, oral histories as well as literature and films from post-independence Singapore, the artist plans to interweave the nightmares and traumas experienced by both the punisher and the punished by steeping the fictional narrative into Malayan myths, folk music, and vernacular architecture.
In this episode of AiRCAST, we venture into the mysterious and mobile mindscape of our Artist-in-Residence, Russell Morton. During the residency, Russell has been deeply immersed in the development of his most ambitious project to date, his first feature film. Find out how a grim, largely forgotten historical event and past personal experiences will contribute to shape the narrative and the ambience of the film. The artist also reveals how he managed to overcome ‘the anxiety of influence’ and expands on his fascination for Southeast Asian folklore, the psychological underpinnings of horror films, and the role music plays in his work.
The filmic and performative practice of Russell Morton (b. 1982, Singapore) explores folkloric myths, esoteric rituals, and the conventions of cinema itself. His film Saudade (2020) was commissioned for State of Motion: Rushes of Time, Asian Film Archives, Singapore, and presented at the 31st Singapore International Film Festival (2020); The Forest of Copper Columns (2015) won the Cinematic Achievement Award at the 57th Thessaloniki Film Festival, Greece (2016) and was selected for several festivals including the Short Shorts Film Festival, Tokyo, Japan (2017); the Thai Short Film and Video Festival, Bangkok, Thailand and Jogja-NETPAC Asian Film Festival, Indonesia (both 2016).
Contributor: Russell Morton
Conducted by: Anna Lovecchio
Programme Manager: Kristine Tan
Sound Engineer: Rudi Osman
Intro & Outro Music: Tini Aliman
Cover Image & Design: Arabelle Zhuang, Kristine Tan
11:53: Audio excerpt from Island of Hope, National Archives Website, Record date 1960s, https://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline/audiovisual_records/recorddetails/46b4445e-1164-11e3-83d5-0050568939ad
21:35: Recording from Russell Morton’s site visit to a kelong in Singapore. Courtesy the artist.
25:48: Audio excerpt from Russell Morton’s Saudade, 2020. Music by Syafii Ghazali. Courtesy the artist
35:20: Audio excerpt from Tani Yutaka, Marai no Tora, 1943 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lTigyqta_k]
36:58: Audio excerpt from “Siapa Dia” by Zainab Majid, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-gDHPP6K-mA]