NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA Singapore) presents the two-part research presentation Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss. First unfolding at TBA21–Academy’s Ocean Space in Venice, Italy, the research inquiry later materialises in another configuration at ADM Gallery, a university gallery under the School of Art, Design, and Media (NTU ADM) at Nanyang Technological University Singapore. 

This twofold exhibition marks the conclusion of the eponymous research project led by Principal Investigator Ute Meta Bauer at NTU ADM. The inquiry started by asking: how has the slow erosion of diverse, multicultural, and more-than-human ways of living over time impacted the environments in which we live, and what are the longer-term consequences on habitats? Can we begin again with culture, to induce a necessary paradigm shift in the way we think about and respond to the climate crisis? Extending connections and conversations seeded during the inaugural cycle of TBA21–Academy’s The Current fellowship programme led by Bauer from 2015 to 2018, Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss continues to build archipelagic networks across the Alliance of Small Island Developing States, deepening existing collaborations with Oceania Centre for Arts, Culture and Pacific Studies in Fiji, and developing new ones further in the South Pacific Ocean, through the art and media non-profit organisation Further Arts in Vanuatu. 

Bridging conversations from the Pacific to Singapore in the Riau Archipelago, former fellows of TBA21–Academy’s The Current and current research collaborators artist Nabil Ahmed, social anthropologist Guigone Camus, artist Kristy H.A. Kang, legal scholar Hervé Raimana Lallemant-Moe, and artists Armin Linke and Lisa Rave, join Singapore-based researchers Co-Investigator Sang-Ho Yun and Denny Chee of the Earth Observatory of Singapore – Remote Sensing Lab (EOS–RS) and the Asian School of the EnvironmentNTU ADM research staff Soh Kay Min and Ng Mei Jia, historian Jonathan Galka, and community organiser Firdaus Sani, as they explore the impacts of extreme weather, rising seas, climate displacement, ocean resource extraction, and the disappearance of material cultural traditions, occurring across what the visionary Pacific thinker Epeli Hau’ofa has termed “our sea of islands.” Featuring interviews, data visualisations, documentation, writings, and artisanal crafts made in collaboration with or generously gifted to the research team by knowledge bearers, community leaders, scientists, scholars, and artists, including writer and curator Frances Vaka’uta, masi artist Igatolo Latu,human rights defender Anne Pakoa and anthropologist Cynthia Chou, the exhibitions present the rich, complex, and multi-layered research findings accumulated over three years, since the Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss project first started in 2021. 

At TBA21–Academy’s Ocean Space, the Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss research inquiry sits adjacent to the exhibition Restor(y)ing Oceania, comprising two new site-specific commissions by Latai Taumoepeau and Elisapeta Hinemoa Heta. Curated by Bougainville-born artist Taloi Havini, whose curatorial vision is guided by an ancestral call-and-response method, the exhibition materialises as a search for solidarity and kinship in uncertain times, in order to slow down the clock on extraction and counter it with reverence for the life of the Ocean. 

At ADM Gallery, Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss is presented alongside the companion show Sensing Nature, curated by Gallery Director Michelle Ho. The exhibition showcases artists representing diverse disciplines, each offering their interpretation of the natural world and its intersection with urban life. Through reflection and experimentation, these works invite viewers to reassess our perceptions and behaviors toward the environment and phenomena beyond human influence. They advocate for a renewed understanding of society’s connection to nature and the land. 

Climate Crisis and Cultural Loss is supported by the Ministry of Education, Singapore, under its Academic Research Fund Tier 2 grant. The research presentation at Ocean Space coincides with the 60th International Art Biennale in Venice, Italy, with public programmes taking place through the exhibition durations in both Venice and Singapore. 

Opening Dates
Ocean Space exhibition preview: 
March 22, 6pm 
Ocean Space, Venice, Chiesa di San Lorenzo Castello

Opening hours
March 23 – October 13, 2024: Wednesday to Sunday, 11am–6pm
Ocean Space 
Chiesa di San Lorenzo Castello 5069, Venice

April 12 – May 24, 2024: Monday to Friday, 10am–5pm
ADM Gallery 
81 Nanyang Drive, Singapore 637458 

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. 

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.

Environmental knowledge and the ways it is communicated through visual arts have been at the core of Wang Ruobing’s practice for the past twenty years. With rising water temperatures and the expansion of the Tropical Warm Pool—a large mass of ocean water that features water temperature above 28 degree within which maritime Southeast Asia is situated—the coastal ecosystems in the region have become a crucial field for environmental research and climate change studies. Drawing equal inspiration from scientific knowledge and from Donna J. Haraway’s theories of ‘sympoiesis’ (making-with), the artist hopes to develop new artworks that reconfigure more sustainable relations to the Earth and all its inhabitants.

In this episode, we hand over the microphone to curator Tamares Goh to interview our Artist-in-Residence Wang Ruobing. Ruobing and Tamares share a long history of working together throughout their careers, one that goes back to 2004 and will continue on in the years to come. This conversation between peers shines a spotlight on Ruobing’s practice rooted in materiality, the importance of found objects in her art-making process, as well as her ongoing research into the symbiotic relationship between environmental sciences and visual arts. They also touch upon the collaborations Ruobing has activated with deep-sea divers and marine scientists, and how these collaborations continue to shape the trajectory of her artistic practice.

Committed to exploring new ways of seeing and methods of knowledge production, the artistic practice of Dr Wang Ruobing stretches from drawing to photography, sculpture, kinetic art, and installation. With a diverse range of methodological approaches to present her ideas, her body of work addresses environmental issues and transcultural discourses on identity and hybridity.

Tamares Goh is the deputy director of Audience Engagement at National Gallery Singapore, overseeing festivals like Light To Night, Painting With Light and the Gallery’s Childrens Biennale. She was the former head of Visual Arts at Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, and co-headed the Programming department overseeing festivals and programmes. In 2017, she was the Producer for the Singapore Pavilion at the 57th Venice Biennale.

Contributors: Wang Ruobing, Tamares Goh
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]

Committed to exploring new ways of seeing and methods of knowledge production, the artistic practice of Dr Wang Ruobing (b. 1975, China) stretches from drawing to photography, sculpture, kinetic art, and installation. With a diverse range of methodological approaches to present her ideas, her body of work addresses environmental issues and transcultural discourses on identity and hybridity. Her work has been presented in venues such as Yuan Contemporary Art Museum, Chongqing, China (2019), The Esplanade– Theatres on the Bay, Singapore (2021, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2011, 2004), The Substation, Singapore (2019, 2004, 2003, 1999), and EVA International, Ireland’s Biennial of Contemporary Art, Limerick, (2010) among other venues. Ruobing is also an educator, independent curator, and the co-founder of Comma Space (逗号空间), an artist-run experimental platform that ‘creates thinking spaces between commas’. She holds a Ph.D. in Fine Art from Oxford University, United Kingdom.

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]