Naima Morelli

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Reportage

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Migration

Geographically small and without local resources, Singapore has historically based its entire survival on the presence of the sea as a strategic location to commerce. A city port and a global trading hot spot since the beginning, creating a good relationship with the region and projecting a reliable image has always been key. In shaping their identity, the Singaporeans couldn’t afford to be purely preoccupied by the way they perceive themselves, but also in the relationship they have with the outside world.

These two narratives are not parallel, but blend into each other. Singapore is a city in constant and rapid flux; his port is bustling with activity and the airport is almost a mandatory stop for fights to and from Asia. You would expect that in such a mobile space, “the local” and “the other” won’t look that different. However, those who aspire to become locals learn quickly that the papers granting Singaporean citizenship can’t really grant a inner sense of belonging to the individual and they don’t make the community accept you.

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 Writing history


When we were studying history in school as kids, we perceived it to be a fixed, unchangeable entity. “Only history will tell”, is still a common saying, which identifies history as the ultimate judge, operating with the fairest of methods. We see that mentality in art history as well. Van Gogh is your typical case in point of the neglected artist in his lifetime who History then recognised as one of the major artists of the 20th century. At the Accademia di Belle Arti in Rome my professors used to see art history as a force opposed to the art market. Market success was described to us students as kind of a cheat. Conversely, history couldn’t care less about money and other such vileness. Apparently what history remembers are the true masterpieces of real artists, not certainly what’s up on the stock market. Good art is what will stand the test of time.
While I subscribe this view, I’m also aware that along the winds shaping the rocks of history, market forces are in the picture as well. Today more than ever. History is a re-reading of the past according to what the present values important and useful. The retelling of every story necessarily implies highlighting some elements and hiding others. It does that in a functional way. In this sense, we can consider the old saying, “History is written by the winners” has been true until the ‘80s came along and postmodernism challenged this notion.

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Hello dear readers. I’m glad to announce that from today on this blog and on the platform MEDIUM I am starting the publication of my reportage on the Singaporean contemporary art system. I have been working on this for more than three years, and I’m proud to finally share it with you!

You will read a new essay each Monday for about six months, and this will culminate in a final publication. After considering different options to get this material out there, I very much liked this idea of publishing a new episode each week. It reminds me of those writers like Salgari or Jack London who used to publish their books “in episodes” on newspaper, making it into almost an appointment with their readers.

This is the index, comprising of the interviews that you will read in the next few months:

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KhiangHei
Sometimes when I start an art exploration in a new country of Southeast Asia, I can be lucky enough to meet a figure which becomes a guide of sorts. This person usually helps me entangle the key mechanisms of the art system, and understand the psychology of local artists.

In Cambodia, this figure was Khiang Hei. In this interview published on CoBo, we tackled the most pressing issues together in the emerging Cambodian art scene. With an understanding of the local hardships, as well as a very pragmatic spirit, Khiang suggested possible solutions, some of which he has implemented himself over the years.

The piece is part of my reportage on Cambodian contemporary art.

Here is the link to the interview

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SophalNeak
In the third installment of CoBo’s series on Cambodian photographers, I spoke with artist Sophal Neak, a rising talent in the Cambodian scene. This piece is part of my reportage on Cambodian contemporary art.

Here is the link to the interview

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SopheapPich

At the beginning of the year I visited Cambodian artist Sopheap Pich in his Phnom Penh studio. He explained his view of contemporary art in Cambodia and what young artists need in order to grow the local art scene. The article is part of my reportage on Cambodian contemporary art.

Here is the link to the interview

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KanithaTith
Another interview with a super-interesting Khmer artist has been published on CoBo, as part of my reportage on contemporary art in Cambodia. For this piece I spoke with Kanitha Tith, one of the young, emerging voices in the artistic landscape, who is gaining more and more recognition internationally.

In the article she tell about her creative process and what it means to be a multi-passionate creative in Phnom Penh.

Here is the link to the interview

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I’m honored and humbled to have had the chance of writing about the work of an extraordinary artist and human being such as Cambodian painter Vann Nath. The piece is out in the new issue of Art Republik and is part of the Cambodia reportage I realized in February. This is the fifth piece about Cambodian art I did for the magazine, and I’m so happy to have these beautiful pages as an outlet for the research.

In the article, which I wrote in conjunction of the publication in Italy of Vann Nath’s memoir by ADD Editore “Il pittore dei khmer rossi”, I traced the legacy of this artist on Cambodian contemporary art, and how his example and practice influenced the new generations of artists in the Kingdom.

Here is the link to the pdf version of the piece

 

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SreyBandol
I can’t be more happy and grateful when I see a new article of mine on the homepage of CoBo Social. It still gives me the same buzz of 10 years ago, when I was just starting out writing for online magazines.

This interview with Srey Bandol, co-founder of the art school Phare Ponleu Selapak in Battambang, Cambodia, is particularly rewarding because it is a part of the reportage on Cambodian contemporary art I did at the beginning of the year. I really hope that through these articles CoBo and I will be able to give a more complete picture of the art scene in this fascinating country.

Here is the link to the interview

 

 

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stephaniefong
To Stephanie Fong, founder and director of FOST Gallery in Singapore, the job of a gallerist is not just about selling the art, but rather providing an experience. With an uncontainable passion for culture, as well as an eye for the evolving trends worldwide, Stephanie has become a point of reference in the Lion City’s art scene.

I had the pleasure of talking with Stephanie for CoBo Social during my last visit to Singapore a couple of months ago, and I found he combination of strenght and grace – in both her personality and in the way she runs her business – incredibly inspiring:

“Why are you doing this?” She laughed and replied almost immediately: “I think at the core of it it’s what I’m meant to do. Now looking back at my journey, it all made sense, even though I hadn’t really planned it that way. Maybe it has been all about faith.”

Here is the link to the interview

 

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stievselapak

Little by little parts of my Cambodia research/reportage are coming out in the press: here is a piece on the Phnom Penh-based supergroup Stiev Selapak which has just been published on the Singapore-based art magazine Art Republik. Can’t wait to have the physical copy in my hands!

Here is the link to the article

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What a nice evening at Kon Len Khnhom, the contemporary art space run in Phnom Penh, Cambodia by art manager Meta Moeng! It was great to finally see the space in person after hearing so much about it; this is a traditional Khmer house tucked in a small alley right in the city center, where they held residences, events and do projects with students.

Yesterday night I held a talk talking about my experience researching emerging art scenes, from Indonesia to Singapore, and I discussed with the audience about the features of the Cambodian contemporary art scene and the local art market. The atmosphere was so nice and cozy and elicited reflections; really my jam! Below some pictures from the night.

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