Yeo Siew Hua’s (b. 1985, Singapore) practice spans film directing and screenwriting. His last feature film, A Land Imagined (2018) was awarded the Golden Leopard at the 71st Locarno Film Festival, Switzerland (2019) and selected as Singapore’s entry to the 92nd Academy Awards’ Best International Feature Film category, United States (2020). Extending beyond conventional cinema festivals and networks, Yeo’s films have also been shown at contemporary art venues including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York, United States (2018), and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei, Taiwan (both 2018). He is co-founder of 13 Little Pictures, a vanguard film collective which organises experimental film labs around Southeast Asia.

Driven by first-hand experiences of migration and diaspora, the practice of Boedi Widjaja (b. 1975, Indonesia/Singapore) articulates subtle reflections on migration, memory, and spatial relations across a variety of mediums with an emphasis on process and bodily engagement. Recent solo presentations include Boedi Widjaja: Declaration of, Helwaser Gallery, New York, United States (2019) and Boedi Widjaja: Rivers and Lakes Tanah dan air ShanghART, Singapore (2018). His works have been included in international group exhibitions such as Singapore Biennale (2019); Media Art Globale, Jakarta, Indonesia (both 2019), and The 9 Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, Queensland, Australia (2018) amongst others.

Over the past five years, Việt Lê has been collecting film footage as well as sociological, historical, and archival materials for his experimental film trilogy Sonic Spiritualties. Interweaving the artist’s interest in popular culture and diaspora studies, the trilogy explores the impact of economic and environmental turbulences on music and various forms of spirituality in Southeast Asia. By framing situations where Buddhism meets pop music and violent displacement is translated into songs, the trilogy envisages sonic environments that challenge the borders of traditional and experimental music, the sacred and the mundane, the sublime and the banal. Halfway between documentary and music video, this hybrid production re-envisages the relationship between music and spiritual practices by working across dance, art history, ethnomusicology, and anthropology. Lê’s residency is dedicated to pursuing follow-up research and post-production editing for the final stages of this project.

Tangled with her own experience of migration, cultural collision, and displacement, the works of Sung Tieu often elicit a variety of sensorial engagements. During the residency, the artist plans to explore the sonic environment of Singapore guided by the following questions: What is the soundscape of a financial capital that trades mostly in abstract exchange rather than in material production? Who occupies public space and in what acoustic proportion? How do aural economies affect the multi-species inhabitants of the city on physical, psychological, and emotional levels? How does sound convey different political and environmental climates? Her investigation on the sounds of contemporary Singapore will also encompass instances of oral communication that operate in a multicultural context characterised by a large linguistic diversity. For this long-term project, Tieu intends to explore the acoustic ecology of several urban soundscapes, extending her research in Vietnam and, possibly, other Southeast Asian countries.

Haegue Yang will shift her attention to researching film histories in Southeast Asia. These film histories within the region intersect with her research on Korean filmmaker Shin Sangok who was kidnapped by North Korean in 1978 and produced 17 films after his prolific career in South Korea. Shin had co-produced films in partnership with the famed Shaw Brothers of Singapore before his abduction. While in residence Haegue Yang will also examine questions of home, destinies and narratives that are interwoven with migratory figures in a colonial history. Her research on the Southeast Asian Diaspora figures extends from an annual commission, Accommodating the Epic Dispersion – On Non-Cathartic Volume of Dispersion (2012) for Haus der Kunst in Munich. The length of this work’s title is deliberate, in response to the overlapping of diaspora history with the specific history of the work’s location — a large and voluminous hall once known as ‘Ehrenhalle’ under the Third Reich. By critically extending and dispersing a reconstruction of histories in an epic dimension, the work introduced issues of migration, diaspora, movement and thereby, colonialism, through questions such as, “is movement mental or physical? When we migrate, do we lose our sense of home? How do we maintain and accommodate our migratory destinies and narratives?”

Bui Cong Khanh is interested in studying historical flows of Chinese immigration across the Southeast Asian region, and Singapore in particular, by tracking down the movements of Chinese porcelain artifacts. His research intertwines the Chinese ancestry of the artist’s own family and traditional forms of Chinese cultural heritage, while concurrently addressing the complexities embedded in the construction of national identities. During his residency, he also plans to collaborate with local kilns and porcelain workshops.

Trinh T. Minh-ha is Professor of Gender & Women’s Studies and of Rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley, and an award-winning artist and filmmaker. She grew up in South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and pursued her education at the National Conservatory of Music and Theater in Ho Chi Minh City. In 1970, she migrated to the United States where she continued her studies in music composition, ethnomusicology, and French literature at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. She embarked on a career as an educator and has taught in diverse disciplines which brought her to the National Conservatory of Music in Dakar, Senegal, where she shot her first film, Reassemblage. Trinh’s cinematic oeuvre has been featured in numerous exhibitions and film festivals. She has participated in biennales across the globe including Documenta11, Kassel (2002), and most recently at Manifesta 13, Marseille (2020). A prolific writer, she has authored nine books. She is the author of several books including Lovecidal: Walking with the Disappeared (2016), D-Passage: The Digital Way (2013), and Elsewhere, Within Here: Immigration, Refugeeism and the Boundary Event (2011). Her film Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989) was presented as an installation within NTU CCA Singapore’s inaugural exhibition Paradise Lost (2014).

Non-Aligned in the press! Read Stephanie Bailey’s article in Ocula and Object Lessons Space‘s interview with Dr Karin Oen, the Centre’s Deputy Director of Curatorial Programmes.

The Unfinished Conversation (2012), John Akomfrah (United Kingdom), Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017), Naeem Mohaiemen (Bangladesh/United States), Nucleus of the Great Union (2017), The Otolith Group (United Kingdom)

The British Empire spanned from Asia to Australia to Africa to America to the Caribbean. The various colonial territories gained their sovereignty and independence at different times, in processes of decolonization that played out in the histories of nations, but also determined the lives of individuals. Non-Aligned brings together three moving-image works by artists, filmmakers, and writers that inquire into the challenging transition periods from colonial rule to the independence of nations.

The presented works apply archival material in different ways. The focus spans from the work and personal histories of intellectuals who experienced these unprecedented circumstances first-hand, including Jamaican-born British theorist Stuart Hall (1932-2014) and African American novelist Richard Wright (1908-1960), to the history of political organization around the Non-Aligned Movement. This process of examining the interconnected stories of place, identity, and the conscious assertion of difference from established Western narratives, is also embedded in the personal histories of the artists.

The Non-Aligned Movement was formally established in 1961 on principles such as world peace and cooperation, human rights, anti-racism, respect, disarmament, non-aggression, and justice. At the height of the Cold War, a large group of African, Asian, and Latin American countries navigating post-colonial constellations attempted a diversion from the two major powers—the United States and the Soviet Union—forming what is to date the largest grouping of states worldwide, after the United Nations. The non-aligned nations, which Singapore joined in 1970, wished to secure independence and territorial sovereignty, and fight against imperialism, domination, and foreign interference.

This history is at the core of Two Meetings and a Funeral (2017), a feature-length three-channel video installation by Naeem Mohaiemen. It explores Bangladesh’s historical pivot from the socialist perspective of the 1973 Non-Aligned Movement meeting in Algeria to the emergence of a petrodollar-funded Islamic perspective at the 1974 Organisation of Islamic Countries meeting in Lahore. Recounted by Algerian publisher Samia Zennadi, Bangladeshi politician Zonayed Saki, and Indian historian Vijay Prashad, Mohaiemen’s film considers the erosion of the idea of “Third World” as a political space that was to open the potential for decoloniality and socialism, while articulating the internal contradictions behind its unfortunate failure.

In the video essay Nucleus of the Great Union (2017), The Otolith Group traces Richard Wright on his first trip to Africa in 1953. Travelling the Gold Coast for 10 weeks, he witnessed political campaigns for independence in West Africa, yet feeling alienation at his first encounter with the continent. For this film, The Otolith Group reconciled excerpts from Wright’s book Black Power: A Record of Reactions in a Land of Pathos (1954) with a selection of the over 1,500 previously unpublished photographs the writer took on his journey. Wright’s initially intended book including both text and photos was inadequately published without images. Through this work, The Otolith Group finally honors Wright’s initial aim of seeing image and text as one single narration.

The Unfinished Conversation (2012) is an in-depth inquiry by filmmaker John Akomfrah into the personal archive of audio interviews and television recordings of the influential theorist and educator Stuart Hall. The multi-screen film installation unfolds as a layered journey through the paradigm-changing work of the late intellectual, regarded as a key founder of cultural studies, who triangulated gender, race, and class. Hall was particularly invested in black identity linked to the history of colonialism and slavery.

Amplifying and celebrating defining voices and intertwining personal lives with political movements, the featured works in Non-Aligned examine not only the new possibilities for progressive social and independence movements but also the inherent struggles that define the post-WWII period.

Non-Aligned is curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, NTU.

FILM PROGRAMME: THIRD WAY / AFTER BANDUNG
This programme features films that engage post-colonial processes covering different moments and geopolitical contexts. The Asian-African Conference in 1955, known as the Bandung Conference, amidst the complex processes of decolonization, established self-determination, non-aggression, and equality as part of the core values that then formed the Non-Aligned Movement. This history is unpacked and contextualised through this series of screenings.

Co-curated by writer and curator Mark Nash and film researcher Vladimir Seput.

READING CORNER
Accompanying this exhibition is a library of over 50 books on postcolonialism, decoloniality, the history of the Cold War, the Non-Aligned Movement, archiving, as well as theory of the moving image and publications on and by John Akomfrah, Naeem Mohaiemen, and The Otolith Group. Authors include Frantz Fanon, Stuart Hall, and Richard Wright, as well as Kodwo Eshun, Rosalind C. Morris, Bojana Piškur and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, among many others.

In light of COVID-19, we have removed the reading corner for the safety of our visitors.

We have selected texts on, or in conversation with, some of them to be used for online reading groups. These additional texts including articles by Vijay Prashad and Elspeth Probyn, and book chapters by Adil Johan and S.R. Joey Long.

ACTIVITY CARDS
Designed for young audiences aged 13 and above, the Non-Aligned activity cards explore several core themes of the exhibition through thoughtful reflection questions and engaging activities. While the Centre strongly encourages audiences to experience the artworks in person, the cards may also be used independently at home or in the classroom.

No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia is part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative which was launched in April 2012, a multi-year collaboration that charts contemporary art practice in three geographic regions—South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa—and encompasses curatorial residencies, international touring exhibitions, audience-driven education programming, and acquisitions for the Guggenheim’s permanent collection.

Curated by June Yap, No Country at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore brought the artworks back to the Southeast Asia region from which many of the artists hail and called for an even closer examination of regional cultural representations and relations. This return suggests the possibility of a renewed understanding through a process of mutual rediscovery that transcends physical and political borders. The exhibition in Singapore also marked the debut of two works from the Guggenheim UBS MAP Purchase Fund not previously shown as part of No Country: Loss by Sheela Gowda and Morning Glory by Sopheap Pich.

No country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia

The making of each film transforms the way I see myself and the world. Once I start engaging in the process of making a film or in any artistic excursion, I am also embarking upon a journey whose point of arrival is unknown to me.”

—Trinh T. Minh-ha

Trinh T. Minh-ha. Films. is the first institutional exhibition of filmmaker, music composer, writer, anthropologist, feminist and postcolonial theorist Trinh T. Minh-ha in Asia, presented in an exhibition format. Five of her films—Forgetting Vietnam (2015), Night Passage (2004), The Fourth Dimension (2001), A Tale of Love (1995) and Shoot for the Contents (1991), filmed over a quarter of a century, in different parts of Asia—are simultaneously on view in five small-scale movie theatres in The Exhibition Hall. As the viewer wanders from one theatre to the next, the proximity of the films enables their narratives to interrelate. This spatial configuration took its point of departure from Trinh’s exhibition at the Secession, Vienna, in 2001.

Trinh T. MInh-ha, Forgetting Vietnam, 2015. Courtesy the artist.

Forgetting Vietnam, framed by two ancient Vietnamese myths, was made in commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the end of the Vietnam war, touching on the memory of trauma. Night Passage, inspired by Miyazawa Kenji’s novel Milky Way Railroad (1927), narrates the spiritual journey of a young female immigrant and her two companions, into a world of in-between realities. Shot in Japan, The Fourth Dimension is Trinh’s first digital film. Using special video effects to composite images and sound in multiple layers, this film is an exploration of time through rituals of religion and culture, new technology and everyday reality. A Tale of Love is a retelling of 19th-century Vietnamese poem The Tale of Kiều (1820), through a modern-day Vietnamese immigrant in the United States. In this film, Trinh experiments with various cinematic techniques and elements. Shoot for the Contents, an excursion into allegories, explores cultural and political shifts in China, as refracted by the June Fourth incident in Beijing.

Presented in the Centre’s Single Screen from 31 October 2020 is Trinh’s newest cinematic work, What about China? (Part I of II, 2020–21). Initiated by NTU CCA Singapore, and co-commissioned with Rockbund Art Museum (RAM), Shanghai, the film takes the notion of harmony in China as a site of creative manifestation, and draws from footage shot in 1993 and 1994, in Eastern and Southern China, specifically from provinces Anhui, Hubei, Zhejiang, Fujian and Guangxi—linked to the remote origins of Chinese civilisation.

Trinh T. Minh-ha, What about China? (Part I of II), 2020–21, film still. Courtesy Moongift Films.

Through Trinh T. Minh-ha. Writings., a display of Trinh’s books on reading platforms along the passageway connecting the five theatres in The Exhibition Hall, as well as Why are they so afraid of a lotus?, presented in The Lab by CCA Wattis Institute for Contemporary Arts (Wattis), San Francisco, that showcases its year-long research season on her multifaceted practice, viewers are able to encounter her extensive writing that is core to her practice.

Trinh’s early films, Surname Viet Given Name Nam (1989), Naked Spaces—Living is Round (1985), and Reassemblage (1982), are part of an online film programme, Speaking / Thinking Nearby. Other films selected echo strands of discussions in Trinh’s layered practice, ranging from ethics of representation, to aspects of migration, global socio-politics, and feminism.

Besides the film programme Speaking/ Thinking Nearby, other public programmes include Mother Always Has a Mother, an online convening presented by the Centre, Wattis, and RAM, and “There is no such thing as documentary”, a conference that brings together filmmakers, film historians, and curators to question the politics embedded in presentation and representation, perception, context, and the spatial.

This is NTU CCA Singapore’s final presentation in its current exhibition space, its opening coinciding with the Centre’s seventh anniversary. By the end of this exhibition, the Centre would have hosted 55 exhibitions since its inception in 2013, inaugurated by the show Paradise Lost (2014), featuring works by Trinh T. Minh-ha alongside those of Zarina Bhimji and Fiona Tan.

Trinh T. Minh-ha. Films. is curated by Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore), Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, NTU ADM.

This project focuses on the multi-layered practice of Trinh T. Minh-ha as a filmmaker, writer, music composer and educator, generating a multi-year (2019–2022) research and programme partnership between NTU CCA Singapore, RAM, Wattis, and the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart.

Trinh T. Minh-ha. Films public programmes
Conference: There is no such thing as documentary