Deepening a long-standing involvement with the migrant experience, prominently manifested in the feature film A Land Imagined (2018), Yeo Siew Hua will use the residency to address the subject with the tools of cartography and music-making. Thinking in terms of borders and boundaries, either physical and symbolic, the artist intends to map out the lived experience of forced mobility and dispossession as well as its underlying power struggles and emotional trails. His research will revolve specifically on migrant songs, a cultural expression often characterized by melancholic melodies and sombre lyrics that speaks of longing, hard work, and perseverance. Conveying the experience of otherness and stirring emotions of communality, migrant songs haunts our times of unprecedented global mass migration and the contemporary debates surrounding exclusionary nationalist politics. Through participatory workshops aimed at lyric writing, music composition, and vocalisation, migrant songs will be created and disseminated in an effort to redraw boundaries of belonging.
The exhibition China. The Arts – The People, Photographs and Films from the 1980s and 1990s by acclaimed filmmaker Ulrike Ottinger (b. 1942 in Constance, Germany) is the first large-scale exhibition by the award-winning filmmaker and artist in Asia. The selection of works focuses on Ottinger’s research and travels in China and Mongolia during the 1980s and 1990s, comprising four films and more than one hundred photographs. The photographs, created largely in parallel with the production of her films, will be unfolded along the artist’s leitmotifs.
Starting with China. The Arts – The People (1985), the exhibition leads a journey through the cultures and geographies of China, while also exploring the relationship between moving image and still life. The three acts of the documentary are presented on a three-screen installation, documenting everyday life in Beijing (February 1985), Sichuan Province (March 1985), and Yunnan Province (March 1985). While meeting the film director Ling Zifeng in one chapter, a Bamboo factory is visited in another, and in parallel the Sani people, a minority group, show their habitat, the Stone Forest.
Taiga. A Journey to Northern Mongolia (1992), a documentary over eight hours long that will be presented on multiple monitors throughout the exhibition space, looks into the everyday life of nomadic peoples in Mongolia. Furthermore, on view in the cinematic space of the Centre, The Single Screen, will be Exile Shanghai (1997), a film telling the six life stories of German, Austrian, and Russian Jews intersecting in Shanghai after their escape from Nazi Germany, as well as Johanna d’Arc of Mongolia (1989), Ottinger’s only feature fiction film presenting a cast starring Badema, Lydia Billiet, Inés Sastre, and Delphine Seyrig.
From 1962 to 1968, Ulrike Ottinger was living as an independent artist in Paris, where at the University of Paris-Sorbonne she attended lectures on ethnography and religion of Claude Lévi-Strauss, Louis Althusser, and Pierre Bourdieu. Over the decades, she has created an extensive image archive, including films, photographs of her own as well as collections of postcards, magazine illustrations, and other iconographic documents from times and places worldwide. Driven by her curiosity for people and places, the artist’s images alternate between documentary insight and theatrical extravagance, presenting encounters with everyday realities at the intersection of the contemporary, the traditional, and the ritual.
The extraordinary filmic and photographic oeuvre from China and Mongolia of the 1980s and 1990s prove her outstanding practice and beyond. Fighting for permission to travel and film in communist China, Ottinger’s interest in Asia also broke with the Cold War stereotype of that time. Her inimitable universe of provinces and regions of China is filled with rich imagery of various provinces in China and nomadic societies in Northern Mongolia and their history, paying attention to the presence of local details and reaching far beyond its described territory.
The exhibition is accompanied by an intensive public programme, starting with a Behind the Scenes discussion with the artist on her practice as photographer and filmmaker. The programmed talks and screenings will reflect on the notion of the documentary, the intersection of documentary and fiction, and the potential that artistic production can have for anthropology, cultural studies, and history.
Initially a painter, Ottinger came to filmmaking in the early 1970s. She furthermore produced operas, several theatre plays, and radio dramas. Her films have received numerous awards and have been shown at the world’s most important film festivals, as well as appreciated in multiple retrospectives, including Rio de Janeiro International Film Festival (2013), Centre Pompidou, Paris (2010), Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid (2004), The Museum of Modern Art, New York (2000), and Cinémathèque française, Paris (1982). Her work has been featured in major international exhibitions such as Documenta (2017, 2002), Gwangju Biennale (2014), Berlin Biennale (2010, 2004), and Shanghai Biennale (2008). Recent solo shows include, among others, Johanna Breede Photokunst, Berlin (2015, 2013), Sammlung Goetz, Munich (2012), Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2011), Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin (2011), and Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2004). Major monographs include Ulrike Ottinger: World Images (2013), Ulrike Ottinger (2012), Ulrike Ottinger: N.B.K. Ausstellungen Band 11 (2011), Floating Food (2011), and Image Archive (2005). In 2011, she was awarded the Hannah Höch Prize for her creative work, and in 2010 honoured with the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Ulrike Ottinger: China. The Arts – The People, Photographs and Films from the 1980s and 1990s is curated by Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director, and Khim Ong, Deputy Director, Exhibitions, Residencies and Public Programmes.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
John Akomfrah is a highly respected artist and filmmaker of Ghanaian descent, living and working in London. His works are characterised by their investigations into memory, postcolonialism, temporality, and aesthetics, often exploring the experiences of migrant diasporas globally. He combines text, music, and archival documents to shift debates on politics, media, and conventional historic narratives. Akomfrah was a founding member of the influential Black Audio Film Collective, which started in London in 1982 alongside the artists David Lawson and Lina Gopaul, who he still collaborates with today. He has had numerous solo exhibitions including ICA Boston (2019); New Museum, New York (2018); Nasher Museum of Art, Duke University, Durham (2018); SFMOMA, San Francisco (2018); Barbican, London (2017); Nikolaj Kunsthal, Copenhagen (2016); and Tate Britain, London (2013-14). He has participated in the Ghana Pavilion, 58th and 56th Venice Biennale (2019 and 2015); Prospect 4, New Orleans (2017); La Triennale di Milano (2017); Museum of Modern Art, New York (2017); SeMA, Seoul (2014); Sharjah Biennial 11 (2013); Liverpool Biennial (2012); and Taipei Biennial (2012). He was awarded the Artes Mundi Prize in 2017.
Naeem Mohaiemen was born in London and grew up in Dhaka. In his works, he uses film, installation, and essays to research socialist utopias and incomplete decolonisation. Despite underscoring the left’s historic errors, a hope for a future global left is always a basis for the work. Mohaiemen is author of Midnight’s Third Child (Nokta, 2020) and Prisoners of Shothik Itihash (Kunsthalle Basel, 2014); co-editor (with Eszter Szakacs) of Solidarity Must be Defended (Tranzit, 2020); and co-editor (with Lorenzo Fusi) of System Error: War is a Force that Gives us Meaning (Sylvana, 2007). Solo exhibitions include Tripoli Banchal, Bengal Foundation, Dhaka (2020); There is no Last Man, Museum of Modern Art (PS1), New York (2017); and My Mobile Weighs a Ton, Gallery Chitrak, Dhaka (2008). Group exhibitions include Chobi Mela (2019, 2017, 2009); Lahore Biennial (2018); documenta 14 (2017); Venice Biennale (2015); and Kochi-Muziris Biennale (2014). Mohaiemen has worked in activist collectives in New York (Gulf Labor Coalition, Visible Collective, 3rd i South Asian Film, South Asia Solidarity Network) and Dhaka (Drishtipat, Alal O Dulal). He was nominated for the 2018 Turner Prize, London, and is a 2020-21 postdoctoral fellow at Columbia University, New York.
The Otolith Group is an award-winning artist-led collective founded by Anjalika Sagar and Kodwo Eshun in 2002. Their moving image, audio works, performances, and installations are characterised by an engagement with the legacies and potentialities of diasporic futurisms that explore modes of temporal anomalies, anthropic inversions, and synthetic alienation. Their work is driven by extensive research into the histories of science fiction and the legacies of transnationalism. Recent solo exhibitions include Xenogenesis, Van Abbe Museum, Eindhoven (2019); Reconstruction of Story 2, National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (2018); In the Year of the Quiet Sun, CASCO, Utrecht (2014); Novaya Zemlya, Museu Serralves, Porto (2014); and Medium Earth, REDCAT, Los Angeles (2013). They have participated in exhibitions at Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin (2019); Carnegie International, 57th Edition (2018); Kochi-Muziris Biennale, (2018); Rubin Museum of Art, New York (2018); Villa Empain – Fondation Boghossian, Brussels (2017); Sharjah Biennial 13, (2017); Gwangju Biennale (2016); and Institute of Contemporary Art, Philadelphia (2015).