Naima Morelli

Archive
March, 2019 Monthly archive

Godalisation

 

I reviewed for Cobo Teng Jee Hum’s second book on collecting, focused on history of Singapore. The book offers insight into the history of contemporary art in the city-state.

Here is the link to the review

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Zihan Loo

At the end of 2015, I was wandering around SAM8Q looking for the proverbial exit through the gift shop — as Banksy would put it. I wanted to buy some books to bring back home with me. At the ground floor of the building there was something that appeared to be what I was looking for. Shelves of interesting books, and a few on exhibition. I was thrilled. When I walked in, something was not quite right. I asked the person at the desk: “I’m sorry, this is not the museum bookshop, it is an artwork.”

Damn! This is precisely what I’m talking about when I speak of the problem with contemporary art. The work, he explained, was done by artist Zihan Loo, and was called “Of Public Interest: The Singapore Art Museum Resource Room”. The artist moved 4,500 volumes from the Singapore Art Museum’s resource room — currently not available to public — into the space of a gallery. The public were invited to shape the collection for the duration of the exhibition from August 2015 to March 2016. The conditions were that each visitor was allowed to withdraw one book from the collection, restricting the public access to this book for the duration of the exhibition. These books were shrink-wrapped and placed in a separate area of the installation.

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Funding Shaping the Work of Artists

Let’s go back to The Substation for a second. We mentioned that when the space started in 1990, it was the very first art space in Singapore, before SAM, before the Esplanade and much earlier than the National Gallery. In the narrative of the local art world, the existence of this place encouraged many people to gather to appreciate and make art, music or writing in a way that couldn’t be found anywhere else in Singapore. This was a sign for the government, who acknowledged the situation, observed a spontaneous surge of creativity and cultural momentum, and decided it was high time to open up an art museum five years later. “We were actually forcing to government to shape policies in some way last time,” said Alan Oei during our conversation: “But once they shaped the policies, we kind of have been sucked into their policies and we haven’t made them change anything for a long time.”

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KaminLertchaiprasert
The first article of my Thailand reportage is out on CoBo Social. This is an interview with the incredible Chiang-Mai based artist Kamin Lertchaiprasert.

I had encountered Kamin around the world many times before actually meeting him. The first time in the form of a hyper-realistic statue with eyes closed in a meditative position. This was part of his work “No Past, No Present, No Future”, a resin-cast sculpture with human hair exhibited at the Palais the Tokyo in Paris. I stumbled into the same work at Art Stage Singapore 2018 and just a few days before driving to his studio, I saw a young version of him in some early self portraits at MAIIAM. It was still difficult to know what to expect from a conversation with him.

Here is the link to the interview

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Brother Cane and the Josef Ng Affair

Given the big scandal his case provoked, you would imagine Josef Ng holding resentment to his country Singapore in one way or another. This is not at all the case. After two decades of auto-exile, working as a curator in Bangkok and Shanghai as gallery director, in December 2015 the artist and curator went back to Singapore, hired by the gallery Pearl Lam. As a young man, Josef was part of the Artist Village. It was a time when, as we saw earlier, there was almost no funding for art, and artists were making art for their own pleasure, with a particular focus on performance. Over time, the performers started carving some space for self-expression, and became bolder and bolder, eliciting some reactions. A pioneer of subversion in Singapore was Vincent Leow, who made an operation à la Manzoni, without even knowing of the precent, bottling his urine.
However strange all of those performances looked for the Singaporean public at the time (and I suspect even today), the real deal happened during the performance “Brother Cane” by Josef Ng in 1994, at Parkway Parade. The performance was conceived as a protest against the arrest and caning of twelve homosexual men, and consisted of caning slabs of tofu. Then the artist turned his back to the audience and snipped off some pubic hair. Here is the recollection of Professor of Live Art and Performance Studies Ray Langenbach:

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