NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore presents the second-cycle exhibition of SEA AiR – Studio Residencies for Southeast Asian Artists in the European Union (SEA AiR), a programme developed by NTU CCA Singapore and funded by the European Union. Titled Passages, this exhibition features new works by artists Priyageetha Dia (Singapore), Ngoc Nau (Vietnam) and Saroot Supasuthivech (Thailand), inspired by their three-month-long residencies in Europe.
As part of the SEA AiR programme, Dia had undertaken her residency at Jan van Eyck Academie (Netherlands), Nau at Rupert (Lithuania) and Supasuthivech at Künstlerhaus Bethanien (Germany) through the summer. Bringing back their experiences from diverse contexts in the EU to Singapore for this exhibition, Passages speaks of the artists’ journeys across geographical and cultural boundaries from one continent to another; the cultural exchanges that take place during this time; and the continuous development of ideas as they return to their home countries to create new works for the exhibition.
Priyageetha Dia’s research interest lies in the plantations of Southeast Asia and their colonial histories, including those of migrant labour and structures of production and power. She explores gaps in historical records that are not only text-based, but also non-textual ones such as photographs, artefacts and oral interviews. Her four-channel sound installation Sap Sonic is a sonification of images from the photo album of the Sumatra Caoutchouc Company, a rubber planting company, from the archives of Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam. Beyond their visual representations, the images bear witness to the power dynamics between the coloniser and its labourers as well as the hierarchy between nature and machine. Reframing this landscape from a visual to a sonic one, Sap Sonic serves as an aural gateway to the plantations as it delves into the lived yet unspoken lives of those who work on and inhabit the plantations, both human and nonhuman. Accompanying the work, Sap Script is a text installation in white latex paint, referencing rubber sap, on a black, obsidian-like background. Its typeface echoes the slender and linear structure of rubber trees, distorted to resemble the waveform of sound waves. Through the intangible, unseen nature of sound, Sap Sonic probes aspects of the visual world; expanding the agentive possibilities of the uncounted and the underheard.
Upon her arrival in Vilnius, Lithuania, for her residency, Ngoc Nau was drawn to Soviet-era architectural elements in the city, such as the Soviet brutalist architecture of the Vilnius Palace of Concerts and Sports. She also became intrigued with the iconic image of a Lenin statue being removed, with its legs severed, from the city centre square in 1991. This imagery became a point of departure for her exploration into multifaceted aspects of post-Soviet realities in her own country. Portraying contemporary life amidst the remnants of socialist architecture and monuments using 3D animation and visual effects, Nau’s video installation, Virtual Reverie: Echoes of a Forgotten Utopia, demonstrates the transformative power of technology in reshaping our perceptions of reality. Central to the work is a constructed representation of the Vietnam-Soviet Friendship Palace of Culture and Labour in Hanoi, Vietnam, that serves as a stage for five hip-hop dancers embarking on a symbolic journey. As they interact with elements drawn from historical references in Vietnam and Lithuania, the dancers bridge the gap between historical artifacts and contemporary experiences. Echoing the ebb and flow of ideologies, their passage brings about new meanings when past memories evolve in the face of shifting landscapes.
Saroot Supasuthivech’s multimedia installation, Spirit-forward in G Major, charts the transformative journey experienced by Thai expatriates in Germany, told through a metaphoric cycle of life, death and rebirth. The work’s narrative unfolds in four parts. “New Beginnings” uses therapeutic dialogues to depict the initial migrant experience. “A Surreal Interlude”, based on interviews conducted with Thai monks and nuns in Berlin, transports viewers into a realm of magic and mortality inspired by Grimm’s fairy tales. The third segment focuses on a Thai music score Sai Samon, the oldest documented. Finally, “A Glimpse Beyond” dives into a poetic meditation on death and the afterlife, told from the viewpoint of the deceased. This poignant culmination is an exploration into a liminal reality between the familiar and the surreal, encapsulating the interplay of tradition, adaptation and preservation within an evolving cultural landscape.
Passages will be held through Singapore Art Week 2024, with a public programme taking place on 20 January 2024. Details of the public programme can be found here.
SEA AiR – Studio Residencies for Southeast Asian Artists in the European Union is made possible thanks to a generous grant of the European Union.
Download the exhibition guide here.
28 November 2023, 5–8pm
Refreshments will be served
20 January 2023, 4-5.30pm
1 December 2023 – 14 January 2024: Friday – Sunday, 1–7pm
Closed on 24, 25, 31 December 2023 and 1 January 2024
Singapore Art Week
19 – 28 January 2024: Monday – Sunday, 1–7pm
Late nights on 20 and 27 January 2024: Saturday, 1–9pm
NTU CCA Singapore Residencies Studios
Block 38 Malan Road