Expanding his ongoing enquiry into the historical narratives of power structures and their geopolitical reverberations onto the present, Anthony Chin will dedicate his residency to research the ramifications of Singapore’s colonial past. Prompted by the history of Gillman Barracks—where the Residencies Studios are located—as the site of the last battle before Singapore was surrendered to the Japanese. Soon after the Fall of Singapore (1942), the Imperial Japanese Army established OKA 9420, a research centre where experiments on Bubonic plague pathogens were conducted. Addressing lesser-known histories as well as the growing awareness of pathogens due to global events such as the recent pandemic, Anthony seeks to develop a deeper understanding of pathogens while unpacking the ethical concerns surrounding the rapid advancements in science and technology. The research process will encompass both primary and secondary sources and it aims to grow through connections and collaborations with historians, researchers, and scientists so as to lay the foundations for a long-term artistic project that addresses the impact of biochemical weapons on society.

Pursuing her ongoing research into intergenerational conflicts and trauma, Yanyun Chen will spend her residency examining methods of discipline within the family context. With a focus on Singaporean personal and communal childhood histories of discipline and punishment, the artist will explore how the indelible traces of disciplinary behaviour linger on in people’s bodies and minds and bleed into the everyday. Observing the irony and self-deprecating humour that come into play as a self-soothing practice in the retelling of such memories, she will also seek to unpack the heterogeneous ways in which pain and violence are remembered by conducting fieldwork, literary investigations, and interviews. The research weaves through histories of punishment and discipline in Singapore. Ultimately the artist intends to create large scale drawings that address these intergenerational wounds through the lens of medical, ethnographic, historical, and material studies.

In the Singaporean-Malay slang, “world” is used to signal boastful aspirations towards a social status higher than one’s own, often conveyed through self-aggrandising story-telling. Utilising this as an alternative framework to the postcolonial notion of “worlding”, whereby one’s conceptualisation of the world is devised through colonial attachments, the artist will spend his residency investigating the multitude of meanings behind the word’s usages as a way of unravelling sociolinguistic constructs and processes of identity formation. This research will ultimately result in lens-based explorations that engage with “world” through conceptual propositions and visual arrangements comprising archival photos and sociohistorical accounts. 

Propelled by an interest in the conceptual frictions between art and craftsmanship, artistic and industrial labour, the artist intends to develop this research into a comparative study of masonry and ceramics, two techniques that have significant affinities in terms of materials but carry different class connotations. Focusing on existing sites such as local brick factories and heritage buildings made of bricks, he will also codify the schemas of bricklaying in an attempt to delineate different morphologies of brick architecture. This research will potentially culminate in a series of material experimentations and pictorial mappings of brick trade, bringing to the forefront the overlooked history of this material in the context of Singapore.

Working at the intersection of painting and sculpture, Ben Loong (b. 1988, Singapore) explores themes and questions of utility within traditional craftsmanship. Through the manipulation of industrial and mass-produced materials and the observation of textures and patterns in the everyday, his practice attempts to challenge the value systems embedded in our material culture. Ben has regularly presented in Singapore, in both solo and group exhibitions. His solo exhibitions include Squaring the Circle, Mizuma Gallery, Singapore (2021); MONO, S.E.A. Focus, Singapore (2020); and Aggregate, I_S_L_A_N_D_S, Singapore (2018). His group exhibitions include Ancient Future Myths, AC43 Gallery, Singapore (2021); FrictionaL and Lingering Manifestations, Pearl Lam Galleries, Singapore and River Stories, LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Art Singapore (both 2018); Untapped Emerging, Visual Arts Development Association, Chan + Hori Contemporary, Singapore (2017); Ends, Hart Lane Studios and Joyless Unity, Mori + Stein, both London, United Kingdom (2014 and 2013). He received the Highly Commended mention in the Established Artist Category at the UOB Painting of the Year Competition in 2018.

With a body of work spanning across film, installation, and photography, the artistic practice of Zulkhairi Zulkiflee (b. 1991, Singapore) is committed to exploring Malay identity and its social ontology. His lens-based artworks investigate themes of Malayness in relation to local and global contexts, social agency, knowledge production, and notions of taste. Zulkhairi recently concluded his first solo exhibition, Proximities at Objectifs – Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore (2022). His work has also been presented in group exhibitions such as  Kenduri Seni Nusantara, Patani, Thailand, Singapore Shorts ‘22, Asian Film Archive, Singapore, Mini Film Festival, S-Express Singapore, Kuching, Malaysia, and The Singapore Pavilion, Expo 2020, Dubai, United Arab Emirates (all 2022); The Body as a Dream, Art Agenda SEA, Singapore (2021) and How to Desire Differently, Lim Hak Tai Gallery, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts, Singapore (2020) among others. Zulkhairi is also an educator, independent curator, and founder of Sikap, a project group that engages with the creative value of ‘let do’ in the form of organizational experiments. He was the Curatorial Winner of the IMPART Awards in 2020. 

Priyageetha Dia is an arts practitioner who experiments with time-based media, 3D animation and game engine software. Her practice addresses the transnational migration of ethnic communities and the intersections of the colonial production with land, labour and capital in Southeast Asia through speculative methods and counter-narratives. She has been invited to participate in several exhibitions including the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2022); Attention Seeker, La Trobe Art Institute, Bendigo, Australia (2022); An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season, National Gallery Singapore (2020); 2219: Futures Imagined, ArtScience Museum Singapore (2019). She was a recipient of the IMPART Art Award in 2019.

The migratory movements of her ancestral lineage from Southern India to Malaysia, and later to Singapore, sparked Priyageetha’s deep-seated engagement in South Asian diasporic histories, the labour relations that underlie plantation agriculture in Malaya and the vast terrain of colonial narratives. Interweaving these research threads in her multimedia practice, her works figure alternative histories that empower subaltern forms of existence. 

During her residency at Jan Van Eyck Academie, the artist is interested in delving deeper into the emergence and expansion of agro-industrial plantation projects, the dispossession and displacement of lands and communities in Southeast Asia, and their relation to The Netherlands through archival research. Moreover, the residency will provide her with a supportive environment to articulate critical viewpoints and counter-narratives through her ongoing and self-led experiments with computer-generated imagery (CGI), animation technologies and game engine software while also allowing her to gain an understanding of issues related to contemporary transnational interactions within Southeast Asia and Europe.

Drawing from oral histories and unwritten memories, the works of Saroot Supasuthivech unearth the multiplicity of narratives embedded in specific locations. His installations often combine moving image and sound to conjure the affective aura of a site and bring forth its intangible socio-historical stratifications. Using photogrammetry techniques, he turns 2D images into 3D models as a way of to blur the lines between the real and the mythical. His latest video installation, River Kwai: This Memorial Service Was Held in the Memory of the Deceased (2022), was featured in the Discoveries Section at Art Basel Hong Kong 2022.

For his residency at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Saroot Supasuthivech will research the encounters of cultures, faiths and rituals among immigrant communities and local inhabitants. He is especially interested in the spiritual beliefs and ceremonial traditions by which humans ritualise the moment of death. With a focus on the historical impact of immigration on funerary practices across different regional and religious contexts, the artist will survey specific burial sites and rituals in Germany and Thailand looking at how foreign communities enact their funerary traditions abroad.

Major sites of interest for his research are the Protestant Cemetery in Bangkok and the Kurpark (Spa Park) in Bad Homburg, the only town outside of Thailand that features two Sala Thai (open pavilions). The Sala were gifted to the city of Bad Homburg by King Chulalongkorn of Siam (1853 to 1910) as a token of gratitude after the monarch’s illness was healed in the spa town in 1907. From the materials gathered through field trips, interviews and archival research, the artist plans to develop a video installation that will convey the mystical structures of those sites as well as the spiritual intersections engendered by global migrations.

The multimedia practice of Ngoc Nau encompasses photography, holograms, and Augmented Reality (AR) and she is currently working with 3D software and other open source technologies to create new possibilities for video installation. In Nau’s work, different materials and techniques attempt to capture the subtle ways in which new media shape and dictate our views of reality. Blending traditional culture and spiritual beliefs with modern technologies and lifestyles, her work often responds to Vietnam’s accelerated urban development. She has participated in several exhibitions across Asia, including the Thailand Biennale, Korat (2021) and the Singapore Biennale (2019) among others. She also participated in documenta 15, Kassel, Germany (2022) with Sa Sa Art Projects.

During the residency, Ngoc Nau intends to research the impact of urbanisation and modernisation on contemporary living conditions, collective memories, traditional practices, and the natural landscape. Situating herself within the creative community of Rupert will allow her to explore Lithuanian cultural landscape and to access a new trove of materials, including oral traditions, historical archives, and ritual ceremonies. Through encounters will the local community, she intends to unearth the traditional values and ancient practices that have been lost to industrial and technological advancements in order to come to a better understanding of how different communities configure their values and identities within the fast-changing landscape of today. Nau is particularly interested in the gaps created by modern development in the intergenerational transmission of knowledge and she plans to experiment with new media technologies to imagine modes of being that reconcile the past and the future.

Against Singapore’s persistent acceleration towards the future through redevelopment and modernisation, the artist is interested in the way certain memories are kept while others are discarded. From her point of view, “the past is more than objects waiting to be discovered; it is a series of perspectives waiting to be unearthed”.​ Investigating the present with the tools of archaeology, she plans to explore the physical sediments of contemporary life through a series of participatory sessions aimed at making, archiving, and combining fragments of the present into new scenarios, perspectives, and meanings.

In this episode, curator Samantha Yap digs deep into the practice of Artist-in-Residence Fazleen Karlan. We are happy to bring the two of them back together, after they first collaborated a couple of year ago on an exhibition titled Time Passes (2020-21), to talk about Fazleen’s evolving artistic sensibility and sources of inspiration.

In this circular conversation that revolves around a shared reading, the novel Lighthousekeeping by Jeanette Winterson, Fazleen and Samantha exchange memories, experiences, and thoughts about time, materiality, pop culture, and the vitality of archaeology in Fazleen’s work. And they do so with that special kind of fluid intimacy that interlaces persons of the same age. Just a few words to introduce them.

The practice of Fazleen Karlan weaves together art-making and archaeology to explore matters of time by mapping and reframing physical remains found within the landscape and socio-historical context of Singapore. By engaging the stratifications of a site and by reassessing the chronology of everyday objects through the tools of archaeology, her work generates news records of contemporary life that cast the relation between past, present, and future into a speculative framework.

Shuffling between writing and curation, Samantha Yap nurtures her interests in forms of reciprocity, the ethics of care, love, vulnerability as well as an ongoing exploration of feminist perspectives across literature and visual culture. She has curated a number of exhibitions in Singapore, including Time Passes, National Gallery Singapore (2020) which marked her first collaboration with Fazleen Karlan. Her curatorial texts are featured in several exhibition catalogues and her creative writing is included in My Lot is a Sky (Math Paper Press, 2018), an anthology of poetry by Asian women. She graduated with a BA (Hons) in English Literature and Art History from Nanyang Technological University of Singapore. 

Contributors: Fazleen Karlan, Samantha Yap
Editor: Anna Lovecchio
Programme Manager: Nadia Amalina
Sound Engineer: Ashwin Menon
Intro & Outro Music: Yuen Chee Wai
Cover Image & Design: Arabelle Zhuang, Kristine Tan

[See Full Transcript]