Furthering her long-term research on bioacoustics, botanical histories, and interspecies communication, Tini Aliman intends to approach tree stumps as a sonic archive of the environment and engage them with various sensorial modalities. 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. 

Continuing to expand The Migrant Ecologies Project , Lucy Davis will focus on Railtrack Songmaps, the first iteration of which was launched as a multimedia installation at Gillman Barracks in 2016. A three-year research project conducted in conjunction with Nature Society of Singapore and National University of Singapore, Railtrack Songmaps features recordings of birds along the Tanglin Halt rail tracks, collecting the fleeting voices of nature to explore interspecies communication and the entanglements of animal life and urban development. Due to its wide-ranging interdisciplinary approach, the project unfolds through collaborations with several artists, scientists, designers, and photographers based in Singapore.

Shooshie Sulaiman is researching and creating a symbolic gesture of a rubber plantation through nine rubber trees. The trees are from Malaysia and the amount represents the number of the first nine seedlings that made their way from Singapore to Malaysia in 1870s. Today Malaysia is one of the leading countries that supplies rubber to the world, and hence contributing to the the boom in local economic growth.

The ephemeral element of the whole idea and process of the project is to investigate Southeast Asia’s ancestors and technologies in a cultural pattern that can bring hope and understanding to a new legacy. This project also attempts to pursue questions of property, public space and ecology and to understand more about the authority that claim the land and the sky.

In Hawaiian, the native word “au” combines notions of space, time, and flow into a single term suggesting the existence of an ecologically fluid worldview. Challenging the supremacy of Western science as well as the entrenched perceptions of the Pacific Islands and their people as fatefully remote and “scattered,” Sean Connelly has embarked on a long-term project titled Hydraulic Islands, comprising a multi-part anthology and a new-media atlas, that revolves around the pivotal role Hawa’i plays in the history and future of human settlements across Oceania and beyond. During the residency, the artist will work on the graphic atlas which results from a combination of geographic information system (GIS) technologies, counter-mapping techniques, and extensive fieldwork across Hawai’i. By delving deep into aboriginal ecologies, planetary systems, and network economies, he aims to recover indigenous knowledge and practices that can advance more sustainable oceanic systems of urbanism, energy, economy, and time as they relate to cities and natural resources.

Sean Connelly (b.1984, United States) is an artist, urban ecologist, and architect. His research addresses the role of innovative design in recovering ahupua’a, a traditional Hawaiian spatial configuration. Connelly operates both independently and collaboratively out of his studio practice After Oceanic which pursues projects in the realms of architecture, landscape, and infrastructure. He is also the author and producer of Hawai‚Äòi Futures, a virtual intervention and educational tool for island urbanism. His work has been shown across the United States at the Honolulu Biennale (2017); Honolulu Museum of Art (2015) and Santa Fe Art Institute (2016).

Research interests:

– Techno-environmental models for decolonisation
– Intimate strategies for interspecies communication
– Soil culture, ecological systems, and indoor gardening
– Open-source interaction systems and cryptic dispersal networks
– Global logistics and remote collaborations

Inspired by terra preta (black soil) — the anthropogenic production of a type of dark, fertile soil by Amazonian farming communities in ancient and contemporary times — Nolan Oswald Dennis’ research project Black Earth Study Club braids “Black Earth” and “Black Studies” in a speculative disciplinary twist. This project pursues the cultivation of mutual knowledge through practices of solidarity and soil-making with an interest in the potentialities of telepresence, redistribution, and remote collaboration. The project involves developing “black earth readers”: digital micro/mesocosmic systems for producing anthropogenic soils; collaborative reading (strategies for reading with soil microbes); and hacking global logistics networks for material redistribution. Adopting the form of a “study club” as social assemblage and research method, the project will involve exchanges among practitioners from South America, Europe, South Africa and Singapore to cultivate an ‘other’ possibility of solidarity on a planetary scale.

The residency of Nolan Oswald Dennis 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: Kin Chui

Engaged with modes of resistance and emancipatory struggles, the artistic practice of Kin Chui scrutinises the imprints of colonial past on the present through a socially-oriented and collaborative approach.

CITIES FOR PEOPLE is the pilot edition of the annual NTU CCA Ideas Fest, a platform to catalyse critical exchange of ideas and encourage thinking “out of the box”. It is a bottom-up approach linking the artistic and academic community with grassroots initiatives. This pilot edition expands artistic interventions and engages contemporary issues such as air, water, food, environment, and social interaction in connection to artistic and cultural fields, academic research, and design applications.

The 10-day programme, coinciding with Singapore Art Week 2017 and Art After Dark at Gillman Barracks, comprises a conglomerate of performances, public installations, participatory projects and social experiment, urban farming initiatives, public dialogues, and a variety of workshops. It cumulates in a three-day summit that brings together a prominent group of architects, theorists, researchers, curators, and community groups to discuss and exchange ideas about urbanism, modes of exchange, critical spatial practice, and to envision a future city. CITIES FOR PEOPLE offers a platform to contemplate the possibilities for our shared space, reformulate our demands accordingly, and project solutions and desires for the future.

CITIES FOR PEOPLE, borrowing the title from a book by eminent Singapore architect William S. W. Lim published in 1990, expands on some of the ideas Lim developed, particularly in relation to tropical environments and recycling, as well as his call for a humanistic architecture. Organised on the occasion of the exhibition Incomplete Urbanism: Attempts at Critical Spatial Practice, this event is an invitation to share and engage in cooperative projects and collective experiences that critically reflect on current challenges in urban and social development.

Zac Langdon-Pole’s work is underpinned by questions of belonging, translation, and identification. He has worked in a variety of media, including sculpture, performance, photography, film, textiles, poetry, installation, and using the work of other artists, to explore processes of montage, transposition, travelling, reinterpretation, collaboration, and appropriation. He is the latest recipient of the BMW Art Journey Prize (2018), was awarded the Ars Viva Prize for Visual Arts in Germany (2017), and received the Charlotte Prinz Stipendium in Darmstadt (2016). Langdon-Pole completed a BFA (Hons) at Elam School of Fine Arts, Auckland (2010) and at the Städelschule, Staatliche Hochschule für Bildende Künste, Frankfurt (2016). Recent exhibitions include scions, Kunsthalle Darmstadt (2018); Ars Viva, S.M.A.K., Ghent (2018), and Kunstverein Munich (2017–18); Discoveries, Art Basel Hong Kong 2018 (presented by Michael Lett Gallery); emic etic, Between Bridges, Berlin (2018); Trappings, Station Gallery, Melbourne (2017); La Biennale de Montréal (2016–17); and Oratory Index, Michael Lett Gallery, Auckland (2016). Between March and April 2016, Langdon-Pole was Artist-in-Residence at NTU CCA Singapore, where he developed further his work My body … (Brendan Pole) (2015), a text based upon the memory of a poem that was only ever conveyed orally to the artist’s mother by her brother shortly before he died of AIDS complications.

This ongoing research project is inspired by Amar Kanwar’s The Sovereign Forest. Referencing Kanwar’s artistic approach, The Haze: An Inquiry brought together people from different disciplines in a focus group that takes the haze situation in Southeast Asia as the main topic for investigation.

How do we bridge the gap from the banal to the sensual, the tactical and visceral? What steps of inquiry leads us from the scientific to the notion of immediacy? How do we define abstract terms such as “crime” – Is the haze a crime? What is a crime against society? Different perspectives are offered in this process by participants from diverse backgrounds, including a research scientist, theatre director, community leader, writer, tech consultant, co-founder of a hackerspace, activist, designer and curator, geographer, architect, and postgraduate student.

A core group of specialists from varied fields of law, natural and social sciences, literature, art and architecture, media and theatre, is brought together in a series of workshops and discussions to explore the haze situation as an environmental, human, and legal challenge, given its transnational impact. The aim is to create a collection of “evidence” and to investigate the potential of the haze to be considered a “crime”. This collecting which include factual information and data, compilation of ancestral knowledge, media clippings, commentaries, unrecorded oral knowledge, as well as writings, photographs, and films will be gathered in the space amidst working notes of the core group. Using these “evidences”, participants will uncover social and environmental impacts beyond the haze, and deliberate on questions of social justice, corporate environmental responsibilities, agronomy cultures in industrial developments, amongst others. Each participant brings to the discussion individual responses that stem from their respective interests and disciplines. This research platform aims to assemble a diversity of viewpoints to provoke alternative ways of looking at and talking with a wider public about contemporary situations of urgency.

In addition to the series of closed and public workshops, discussions, and presentations participants in the core group is engaged in, they are also encouraged to invite guests who will make further inquiries into the “evidences” in The Lab and to look into collaborative working methods of shared agency.

Currently, more than half of the world’s human population lives in urban areas. Urban growth poses challenges to the various city dwellers, and creates material demands that cause lasting damage to the wider environment. The climate crisis is already announcing threatening scenarios particularly for coastal regions and megacities located at coastlines. Global urbanisation and the exploitation of resources happen on the expense of human and other species alike. The Posthuman City features artists who propose a shift in perspective.

Taking NTU CCA Singapore’s overarching research topic Climates.Habitats.Environments. as point of departure, the exhibition The Posthuman City considers the possibilities of a conscious sharing of resources, and a respectful and mindful coexistence between humans and other species. Through imaginative propositions at the intersection of art, design, and architecture, the selected artists engage questions addressing issues of sustainability, water scarcity, invisible communities, nature as a form of culture, and suggest the implementation of lived indigenous knowledges. Examining the urban fabric in its condition as a habitat for a diversity of life forms, the featured works range from installations to time-based media.

Lucy + Jorge Orta, OrtaWater – Portable Water Fountain, 2005. Courtesy the artists.

Stressing the vital importance of clean water and the challenges of its scarcity around the world, the artist and design duo Lucy + Jorge Orta have developed a long-term project on water collection, purification, and distribution. OrtaWater focuses on the general issues surrounding clean water and the privatisation and corporate control effecting access to it. Starting from a rigorous analysis of this crucial resource through visual and textual research and collaborative workshops with engineers, Lucy + Jorge Orta create sculptures, large-scale installations, and public artworks, that are both artefacts and functional design. One angle of their research—low-cost water purification devices enabling filthy water to be pumped and filtered directly from local sources—is translated into Portable Water Fountain (2005) and Mobile Intervention Unit (2007). These devices have been used to purify and distribute water from the Venice’s Canal Grande (2005) and the Huang Pu River in Shanghai (2012), among others, and now from the creek that runs through Gillman Barracks.

Similarly combating water pollution, Irene Agrivina’s Soya C(o)u(l)ture is a mixed media installation that demonstrates how to transform wastewater from tofu and tempeh production into usable biomaterials, such as fuel, fertiliser, and leather-like fabrics. Soya C(o)u(l)ture was developed in collaboration with XXLab, an all-female transdisciplinary collective that Agrivina co-founded. Usually, large amounts of wastewater pollute the water in the rivers surrounding the plants, which in turn causes cholera and skin and bowel diseases in humans. Soya C(o)u(l)ture intends to divert this wastewater from tofu factories and put it in a homegrown starter culture medium to create useful products. A biological process using various bacteria and cell cultures, for instance Acetobacter xylinum, generates alternative energy sources, foodstuffs, and biological material. This process creates cellulose sheets that can either be used for consumption—nata de coco, a variant made of coconut water, is a popular snack food—or further processed (pressed, dried, enhanced with colouring and coating) to make clothing and craft materials. This biological procedure can be reproduced in any household using normal kitchen utensils in combination with open-source software and simple hardware. In this way, the project could provide women in poverty-stricken regions with opportunities to increase their income.

Pierre Huyghe, Untitled (Human Mask) (film still), 2014. Courtesy the artist; Marian Goodman Gallery, New York; Hauser & Wirth, London; Esther Schipper, Berlin; and Anna Lena Films, Paris.

Indigenous peoples of various territories around the world, with deep historical and cultural ties to their land, have preserved sustainable ways of living that respect the limits of the planet’s resources. The artist and architect Marjetica Potrč’s Earth Drawings refer to these unique indigenous cosmogonies and their essential knowledges, based on research done over the past 15 years, centred on indigenous communities, such as the Asháninkas (in the Brazilian state of Acre in Amazonia), the Aboriginal (in Australian), and the Sami (in northern Norway), The Earth Drawings, a series on paper, point to the growing alliances between indigenous groups and bottom-up initiatives in the effort to ensure a more resilient future, beyond the social and economic agreement of the neoliberal order. Potrč stresses that the world’s diverse societies, taken together, form an intelligent organism: when necessary, they self-generate new models of existence and coexistence—a precondition for human resilience on Earth. Sharing life experiences is, after all, a basic human condition. Coexistence on Earth requires new foundations that foreground collective ownership of the land and a socially-conscious individualism.

Animali Domestici, Bangkok Opportunistic Ecologies (detail), 2019. Courtesy the artists.

Planetary coexistence of species acknowledges the presence and agency of diverse forms of intelligence. The artist Nicholas Mangan is inspired by termites and their capacity to build sophisticated and dynamic architectures that provide a model for decentralised social and economic organisation. The starting point of Termite Economies (Phase 1) was the anecdote that Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researched termite behaviour in the hope that the insects might one day lead humans to gold deposits; a proposal to exploit the natural activity of termite colonies for economic gain. Mangan, on the contrary, proposes that the termites’ way of living in colonies might suggest other complex and global-scale systems for people to live and work together, better regulating and metabolising human consumption, production, and digestion. Termite Economies combines footage Mangan filmed on locations in Western Australia, alongside archival video and table-mounted sculptures, to speculate on the use of termites as miners and ruminating on how capitalism puts nature to work. The 3D-printed models reference existing infrastructures, for instance an underground tunnelling system for Tindals Mining Centre, a gold mine in Western Australia. The idea was to produce a 1:100 scale model to train termites.

In Bangkok Opportunistic Ecologies, the design practice Animali Domestici studied the urbanity of Bangkok from a non-anthropocentric perspective, focusing on the presence of pythons. Mapping the city through a snake’s experience, the resulting tapestry puts multiple beings of different species at the centre, displacing the human from its exceptionalism. The graphic realisation is freely inspired by the representation techniques, colour palettes, and composition of Thai traditional mural paintings. Their work process translates research and statistics on the Thai capital into multiple encapsulated narratives, including such elements as sewerage, canals, water swamps, and rain water “cracked” pipes—typical spots used by snakes, according to fire department experts—, as well as folkloric cultural practices like the numerology and superstitions connected to the shape and location of the animals.

In Untitled (Human Mask), the artist Pierre Huyghe films a monkey, Fuku-chan, who in real life has a work permit as a “waitress” in a traditional sake house in Tokyo. In the film, the animal is wearing a dress and a wig, as well as a white, human-like mask created by Huyghe. Made of resin, the mask is inspired by traditional Japanese Noh theatre masks, where only the main actor wears a mask, meant to show the essential traits of the character. The film’s first images are drone shots of a devastated landscape, that of Fukushima in 2011, after the earthquake-triggered tsunami caused the meltdown of three nuclear plant reactors. It then shifts to an empty restaurant and house, where we follow Fuku-chan moving around in the dark. Fuku-chan is seen acting, and seems to be waiting, shaking her leg, looking at her nails, playing with her hair. A cat appears, and we see close-ups of insects and cockroaches. Raising questions about the essence of human nature and of non-human forms of intelligence and communication, the work points at the prevailing relationship of domination between humans and other species.

Ines Doujak, Ghostpopulations, 2016–19. Courtesy the artist.

Ghostpopulations, a series of collages by the artist Ines Doujak, combines ill human bodies with flora and fauna, transforming drawings from 19th-century medical textbooks into provocative assemblages that investigate desperation as an economic force. Doujak points out that entire populations uproot and flee in the direction of the faintest glimmer of hope, only to find themselves in the worst of predicaments: abandoned and deported, sold, abused or stigmatised forever, circulating as extremely cheap and disposable commodities. While she is giving visibility to such marginalised, abused, and displaced populations, these collages draw a dystopian mirage, reminding us of the pending threat of pandemic illnesses.

Death, from a post-humanist perspective, is not only inevitable and part of life, but is an event that is already in our past. The artist and entrepreneur Jae Rhim Lee developed a burial suit as an environmentally-conscious alternative to conventional funerary processes, shifting the negative narratives around death. The presented Infinity Burial Suit, a handcrafted garment that is worn by the deceased, is completely biodegradable, and co-created with zero waste fashion designer Daniel Silverstein. In addition, the Forever Spot Pet Shroud is featured, also consisting of a built in bio­mix of mushrooms and other microorganisms that together do three things: aid in decomposition, work to neutralise toxins found in dead bodies, and transfer nutrients to plant life, enriching the earth and fostering new life. Highlighting the importance of decompiculture—the cultivation of waste-decomposing organisms—, this project also suggests a strong link between human resistance to mortality and climate change denial. She advocates for a post-mortem responsibility towards the natural world and a direct engagement with our own mortality, making funerals new beginnings instead of endpoints, becoming more emotionally and socially accessible.

A parable on economic crashes, financial trading, mixed martial arts, and general contemporary culture, artist and writer Hito Steyerl’s large-scale architectural environment features Liquidity Inc., a single-screen projection that uses water and liquidity as guiding tropes. Opening with the quote “be water, my friend” by martial arts legend and actor Bruce Lee, the film comments on the circulation of digital images, big data, information, financial assets, labour, and weather systems. The installation consists of a double-sided projection screen in front of a blue, wave-like ramp, where the viewers find themselves in “troubled water.” Steyerl merges CGI and green screen scenes with an assortment of embedded videos, swipes, clips, scrolls, and pop-up windows, that include the story of Jacob Wood, a former financial analyst who lost his job during the 2008 economic recession and decided to turn his mixed martial arts hobby into a new career. The intricate mesh of late capitalism structures needs to be hijacked in order to allow space for new ecological and sustainable policies that value people and life over profit.

The Posthuman City, through artistic propositions, intends to open a discussion about the imbalanced relationship between an anthropocentric thinking that puts the human at the centre, and the fact that the urban environment is a habitat for many life forms. In her book The Posthuman (2013), Rosi Braidotti calls for resilience, stating that “sustainability does assume faith in a future, and also a sense of responsibility for ‘passing on’ to future generations a world that is liveable and worth living in. A present that endures is a sustainable model of the future.”

Curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Professor, NTU ADM, and Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Laura Miotto, Associate Professor, NTU ADM

The accompanying public programmes include seminars addressing techno-optimism and eco-hacktivism on 23 November 2019, and biodiver-city and urban futurism on 18 January 2020, deepening the discussion around posthumanism and the urban condition.