Against the developmental emphasis on order, cleanliness, and control, weeds are often singled out as plants that grow in the wrong place where they can flourish in spite of being unwanted. In their resistance against human impulses to control and manicure nature, weeds are regarded by the artist as a manifestation of the beauty and resilience of wilderness and chaos. By observing both the physiology and formal qualities of weeds, Chua plans to experiment with a variety of light-sensitive and other photographic techniques to capture their intricate beauty and frame their value for nature and society.

The evocative and subtly layered works of Chua Chye Teck (b. 1974, Singapore) result from prolonged visual and experiential quests. His body of work draws attention to the discarded and the overlooked articulating a reflection on the multiple processes of disappearing that result from the impact of progress and development on the natural environment. His works have been exhibited in venues such as at Singapore Art Museum (2021), Tai Kwun Contemporary, Hong Kong (2020), Jendela Esplanade, Singapore (2018, 2015), Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore (2017), Chiang Mai University Art Centre, Thailand (2015), and Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany (2010).

Within the framework of this project, tree stumps are regarded as witnesses to the ecological and anthropogenic changes resulting from land development, extractive capitalism, and climate change. Despite being seemingly devoid of life, felled trees and their stumps are in fact connected to underground forest ecologies and are part of sprawling fungal and bacterial networks through which plants communicate and send out signals that are not immediately graspable by the human ear. Shifting the acoustic experience of listening to one that is attuned to the sonic manifestation of non-human organisms, the artist will attempt to translate these signals into audible frequencies that merge deep listening and site-specificity. Furthermore, drawing parallels between the organic plant networks and the structure of printed circuit board (PCB), she will also map various sonic and spatial trajectories of plant sensing, survival, and communication. 

In the first episode of AiRCAST, NTU CCA Singapore curator Dr Anna Lovecchio speaks to Artist-in-Residence Tini Aliman about how her sonic practice revolves around a close listening of the natural environment. Tini shares about the experience of growing up in a fast-developing city, her encounters with nature, the human and other-than-human sources of inspiration for her work, and the sonification of tree stumps she is experimenting with during the residency. As a special treat to our ears, the conversation is punctuated with excerpts from her recordings.

Working at the intersection of film, sound, theatre, and installation and often through collaborative projects, the sonic and spatial experiments of Tini Aliman (b. 1980, Singapore) focus on forest networks and plant consciousness, bioacoustics and biodata sonification. Her recent projects and collaborations have been presented at Free Jazz III: Sound. Walks., NTU CCA Singapore (2021); An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season, National Gallery Singapore (2020); Sound Kite Orchestra, Biennale Urbana, Venice, Italy and Stories We Tell to Scare Ourselves With, Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Taiwan (both 2019). 

Contributor: Tini Aliman
Conducted by: Anna Lovecchio
Programme Manager: Kristine Tan
Sound Engineer: Rudi Osman
Intro & Outro Music: Tini Aliman
Cover Image & Design: Arabelle Zhuang, Kristine Tan

Credits:
9:11: Recording of plants in Fort Canning Park, Aug 2018. Courtesy the artist.
17: 20: Audio excerpt from Plants emit sound when stressed, ILTV Israel News, Dec 11, 2018, https://youtu.be/5YHnVdA2ZG8
24:01: Audio excerpt from Zarina Muhammad, Flowers of our Bloodlines, lecture performance, NTU CCA Singapore, 2017. Courtesy the artist.
26:35: Audio excerpt from Tini Aliman, Pokoknya, performance, 17 January 2020, NTU CCA Singapore. Courtesy the artist.
30:37: Audio excerpt from Tini Aliman, Pokoknya: Organic Cancellation, 2020, mixed media installation. Courtesy the artist.
36:08: Sounds from Tini Aliman’s studio. Courtesy the artist.
44:54: Underground sounds from the forest at Gillman Barracks captured by Tini Aliman with a geophone, August 2021. Courtesy the artist.
49:06: Field recordings of a walk through the forest at Gillman Barracks, December 2020. Courtesy the artist.

[See Full Transcript]

Dirk Snauwaert is Artist Director of WIELS Contemporary Art Centre, Brussels, and was involved in its creation since July 2004. At WIELS, Snauwaert has curated exhibitions of Tauba Auerbach (2013) and Mike Kelley (2008). Prior, Snauwaert was Co-Director of the Institut d’art contemporain Villeurbanne/Rhône-Alps where he was in charge of the exhibition programme and the development of the FRAC Rhône-Alpes collection. He was Director of the Kunstverein Munich from 1996 to 2001, where he curated solo shows by Rita McBride (1999), William Kentridge (1998), David Lamelas (1997), and Fareed Armaly (1997). He was also the curator of Jef Geys at the Pavilion of Belgium, 53rd Venice Biennale International Art Exhibition. Snauwaert was an NTU CCA Singapore Curator-in-Residence in 2015.

Research interests:

– Botanical studies and urban planning
– Regional folklore, ghost myths, animistic practices
– Alternative historiographies

Inspired by the recent felling of Khaya senegalensis (a tree species native to West Africa) in one of Ho Chi Minh City’s oldest streets for urban development purposes, Lêna Bùi’s project revolves around widespread regional beliefs about hungry and unresolved spirits residing in trees. The artist plans to delve deeper into the intersections between botanical studies, colonial histories, and urban planning in Indochina, framing them against the backdrop of ancestral wisdom and haunting presences. The research will eventually lead to an articulation of unspoken stories from times gone by.

The residency of Lêna Bùi was scheduled for April – June 2020, but the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak rendered international travel impossible. In order to continue to support artistic research and foster collaborations beyond borders, the NTU CCA Residencies Programme initiated Residencies Rewired, a project that trailblazes new pathways to collaboration.


Research Liaison: Elizabeth Ang

Elizabeth Ang is a freelance creative and writer who holds a BA in International History from the London School of Economics and Political Science. Her research interests include Cold War historiography as well as social, cultural, and religious histories of Southeast Asia.

Sourcing oral histories and female accounts, delving into archives, and mapping sites associated with different forms of mining, exploitation, and confinement, Rossella Biscotti will deepen her research interest into colonial structures of power and management at the turn of the 20th century and the way in which these structures are interwoven with contemporary practices of production and distribution. Expanding on a recently produced body of works that explore the physical and aesthetic properties of rubber—notably its resistance and its resemblance to human skin—the artist aims to research its production process on site. She will conduct archival research on colonial trade, botanical imports, and intensive cultivations in preparation for her field trips to rubber and oil palm plantations in the region.

Premised upon the methodologies of ethnographic fieldwork, Matthias Sohr’s (b. 1980, Germany) artistic practice results in sculptures and installations that draw from technology and social sciences to reflect a wide range of research interests, from medical anthropology to “Bureaucracy Studies”. He is currently pursuing a PhD in the History of Medicine, University of Lausanne, Switzerland.

Matthias Sohr obtained a Master of Visual Arts from the University of Art and Design Lausanne, Switzerland in 2013. He has been a visiting lecturer at the University of Arts and Industrial Design Linz, Austria (2011-2012); Berlin University of the Arts, Institute of Spatial Experiments, Germany (2010). His work has been exhibited at Museum of Contemporary Art Tokyo (MOT), Japan (2011) and Neue Nationalgalerie, Berlin, Germany (2014), among others.

The Colony (2017 – ongoing) is the title of Marvin Tang’s long-term research project which examines the impact of botanical institutions on the movement of seeds, plants, and people in the colonial era. For the next iteration of the project, the artist intends to focus on the history and evolution of the Wardian case, a glass container for growing and transporting flora devised by British physician Nathaniel Bagshaw Ward in 1833. The direct precursor of the modern terrarium, this transportable receptacle proved instrumental in allowing the circulation of plants across the globe in the 19th century. Here, it is framed as a point of departure to excavate the social, economic, and environmental implications of planetary plant movements and the displacement of labour forces required to sustain booming plantation economies. During the residency, the studio will be used to conduct durational experiments with natural substances and photographic materials and try out different modes of display.

Working at the intersection of film, sound, theatre, and installation and often through collaborative projects, the sonic and spatial experiments of Tini Aliman (b. 1980, Singapore) focus on forest networks, plant consciousness, bioacoustics, and data translations via biodata sonification. Her recent projects and collaborations have been presented at Free Jazz III: Sound. Walks. NTU CCA Singapore (2021); An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season, National Gallery Singapore (2020); Sound Kite Orchestra, Biennale Urbana, Venice, Italy and Stories We Tell to Scare Ourselves With, Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, Taiwan (both 2019). 

Interested in the contiguities and frictions between the natural and urban environment, Izat Arif has conducted experiential and erratic fieldwork in various landscapes in Singapore observing plants, soil, insects, and traces of human presence. This investigation is presented in The Vitrine as a form of a provisional “cabinet of essential items,” which contains a selection of the artist’s notes and drawings, research tools, and findings.