For the past decade, Zarina Muhammad has embarked on a multidisciplinary research that explores magico-religious belief systems, ritual practices, and sacred sites. The various embodiments of her work, which engage broader contexts of myth-making, ritual magic, gender-based archetypes, and spirits of resistance, frame the cultural biographies of objects and the region’s provisional relationship to mysticism and the immaterial against the dynamics of global modernity. Her research project for the residency takes the trans-local figures of the penunggu (tutelary spirit) and the tuan/puan tanah (Lord of the Land) as points of departure to reconsider notions of territoriality and spectrality against the social production of rationality. During the residency, she will focus on mapping old and new ways to tell stories of unresolved memories, fragmented cosmologies, shapeshifting translations, and haunted histories.

While in residence, anGie seah will investigate this ineffable expression into a series of expressive notions; creating moments in curious site-specific rituals and making instructional tools and activities for uplifting purposes. Her research will focus on reflecting upon existential questions on the meaning of fear, death, loss and being human. Fascinated by the splendour of the everyday and against all the depressing and chaotic evidence to the contrary, Seah will investigate intrinsic values of living.

Intrigued by the fundamental elements of mutual respect and equal status that underlie practices of hospitality, Alecia Neo seeks to experiment with “acts of radical hospitality” to push forward a critical engagement with the culture of our time. Today, hospitality is mostly associated with the tourism industry and private etiquette but it can also be understood as a political practice whereby a community negotiates its identity and its relationship with “the others.” Engaging with diverse rituals of hospitality practiced in the region, the artist aims to understand how communities draw boundaries and connect with outsiders. During the residency, she will reach out to several individuals and groups and she will invite them to perform acts of sharing and exchange as a form of empowerment. Through observing and experimenting with these rituals, Neo aims to gain a better understanding of how hospitality may serve as a resource to establish forms of connectedness across different communities.

Theatrical Fields introduces theatricality as a critical strategy in performance, film and video. This exhibition presents six video installations shown for the first time in Southeast Asia: Voice off by Judith Barry (USA), Suspiria by Stan Douglas (Canada), Lines in the Sand by Joan Jonas (USA), Vagabondia by Isaac Julien (UK), She Might Belong to You by Eva Meyer & Eran Schaerf (Germany / Israel), X Characters Re(hers)AL by Constanze Ruhm (Austria). Situated in juxtaposition, the works generate temporal spaces for experimental action, creating unfamiliar proximities and encounters.

Theatrical Fields was curated by Ute Meta Bauer (Founding Director) with Anca Rujoiu (Curator for Exhibitions), and was first presented and commissioned by the Bildmuseet, Umea in Sweden (2013).

As a collaboration, Bildmuseet Umea and NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore will publish a catalogue including keynotes from the symposium and additional commissioned essays.

Theatrical Fields public programmes

Zarina Muhammad (b. 1982, Singapore) is an artist, educator, and writer whose practice is deeply entwined with a critical re-examination of ethnographic literature and historiographic accounts about Southeast Asia. Recent exhibitions include the President‚ Young Talents 2018, Singapore Art Museum, and Stories We Tell to Scare Ourselves With, MOCA, Taipei, Taiwan (2019). Incarnations of her lecture performances have been presented at Indonesia Contemporary Art Network, Yogyakarta (2018); Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film (2017); and LASALLE‚ Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2018, 2016).