Naima Morelli

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Ruangsak

CoBo has just published one of my favourite interview from my reportage in Thailand, the one to Bangkok-based artist Ruangsak Anuwatwimon.

Ruangsak feels compelled to fight for environmental awareness. His poetic installations take on this cause, revealing the brutality of humans towards the Earth, buried under a beautiful surface.

Here is the link to the interview

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Pattana

Another article from my reportage in Thailand. This is an interview with artist and photographer Pattana Chuenmana, and has been just published by CoBo.

Here is the link to the interview

 

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Thanom

Culture360, the webmagazine of the Asia-Europe Foundation, has just published my interview with one of the most forward-thinking and controversial art critic, arts writer and artist in the Thai art scene, Thanom Chapakdee.

This article is part of the reportage Roberto D’Onorio and I conducted in Thailand at the beginning of 2019. We interviewed cultural practitioners in the Thai art scene and learned about the different practices and power structures of the Thai art system. Here is to you an authoritative voice telling his side of the story.

Here is the link to the interview

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Robert Zhao Renhui

A definition of ‘artist’ according to my arts writer friend Donato is a person that is obsessed with something. However, as soon as artists become famous, you see this obsession wearing out or being somehow forced into a structure. Whereas over the years Robert Zhao has developed a team of people collaborating with him, I’d say his obsession is always there. He’s a total nature nerd, and you can feel his genuine obsession with it, paired with a strong conceptual background, which makes him in my opinion and in that of many other art critics, an incredibly powerful artist. Where you’d expect a snobbish, intellectual figure, you meet a very nice and considerate man who is really interested in sharing his passion and his work.

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Torlarp
More from my reportage on Thai contemporary. This piece, just published by CoBo, is an interview to Chiang Mai artist Torlarp Larpjaroensook, owner of Seescape Gallery. I have really great admiration for this self-made-man, and of course self-made-artist, who is all about the community.

And as a side note, I started doing this job, arts writing, more than 10 years ago now. And yet, every time an article of mine is published, I’m still so thrilled and grateful. The interviews, the chance to ask questions, the artworks, the artists, the magazines I write for and my incredible editors, the people I met, the people I traveled with, the chance to explore the world, to learn about it through its artists, the impressions, the learning, the struggles and still being here to tell tale.

I feel incredible blessed to live this life, doing this job. Hopefully some glimmer of the bliss, both mine and the one of Torlarp’s, will transpire through the lines.

Here is the link of the interview

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Donna Ong

Part of the charm of the forest is that it is supposed to be dangerous and mysterious. In this way you can still appreciate it but in a safe way. It’s an interesting metaphor about what is happening in Singapore. In the first chapter we have already talked about the work of Donna Ong in respect to the idea of tropical nature. We looked at “The Forest Speaks Back” which explored the idea of the tropics, by conveying two different points of view: that of the colonisers, and those of natives. Donna is interested in how the narrative for nature in Singapore has changed and evolved: “I think previously there was a lot of emphasis on the Garden City, so we had tropical nature but made it into a garden. A tamed tropical garden rather than a forest.”

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Geraldine Kang

Earlier we have introduced the work of Singaporean artist and photographer Geraldine Kang. When I first came to Singapore for a month-long immersion of interviews and visits to art spaces, she was the first one among the artists I had planned to speak with. The intuition was good. Alongside allowing me to deepen my knowledge of her work, she also gave a good insight into the working conditions of the younger generation of Singaporean artists, their peculiar outlook and their experience in the art world. Geraldine was also teaching at LaSalle — we indeed meet in the school café — so she gave me a first hint of awareness of the conditions of the still-students, the yet-to-become-artists.

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Last Friday Roberto D’Onorio and I gave a talk at UNINT Speech – a new platform for talks of the Università degli Studi Internazionali di Roma.

It was an honour to speak at this University, which is preparing the interpreters and translators of the new generation. We tried to give our fair share of contribution in proving students with our own knowledge of today’s complex and interconnected world through contemporary art.

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Adeline Kueh

“What gets measured gets managed,” wrote Peter Drucker, the founder of modern management. And the struggle of measuring what is imponderable is one of the shapes that the contrast between bureaucracy and spirit takes shape. In this context, we have seen how there are those giving breath to a life in a country which is all about achievement and “getting there”. If this attitude of bringing home results has proved successful for the city state, artists are those who need to rebalance the machine with a ghost. To give humanity to the clog.

Artist Adeline Kueh belongs to those who are able to give shape to feelings that you can’t simply calculate on a spreadsheet. Her sensitivity is attuned to the appreciation of beauty, and she finds it in the memories, in the history of people, places and objects. I meet this pretty, tiny and brisk woman in the Lasalle cafè where she works as an art educator. Every project she starts comes from a personal place, and has memories and meaning attached to it. She looks with a romantic and poetic eye at themes which can be considered quite risqué (she loves to drop a French word here and there — perhaps from her living in Canada as a young student, perhaps from her wide-ranging readings).

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Nature in Singapore

The garden city utopia was conceived well before Singapore would reclaim this title for itself. The term was first created in 1898 by utopian thinker Ebenezer Howard. The concept of having housing outside the city, providing to each house its own garden, was made possible by the brand new railroad, which made transportation possible. Again, it was a way to go home, away from the industrial pollution. This idea was successfully implemented in Anglo-Saxon countries. In the US especially, this sort of nuclear family solution came to correspond with the American dream.

As we mentioned earlier, suburbia proved problematic not only on a social level. There are also other problems involving a shortage of horizontal space, and most importantly, the transportation which made possible the idea of garden city must today be reduced for environmental reasons. Today’s transportation calls for a different conception of the garden city, a garden city that is mainly vertical, and that is what has been implemented by Singapore. In its modern idea of the Garden City, Singapore wants to show that nature and business can be integrated. The western division between leisure and work doesn’t have to be so sharp. Business life doesn’t have to necessarily happen away from nature, and be balanced by it. This corresponds, on a wider scale, to the dismantling of the idea of work-life balance, as if work and life would be two separate entities. What is valid for the individual is valid also for the wider community. It is true that there is a place to sleep, a place to work, a place to relax, but we must keep in mind that in our mind and life the boundaries are not so strict as walls.

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Daylight dystopia

In our worse dystopian imagination, brought to fruition by filmmakers and artists, we imagine the cities of the future being an endless continuation of buildings and city lights, from the steamy Metropolis to – moving to the ‘80s – the cities of Ghost in The Shell, or Neon Tokyo from Akira. Asian mega-cities provided a good model in this respect. The urban landscape of Blade Runner for example was inspired by a particular part of Kwaloon, also known as the Walled City. This was an area of incredible density, a human anthill, picturesque and inhuman at the same time. In 1994, Kwaloon was demolished. Visitors eager to see the ruins of this mythical place will instead find a park with gardens, floral walks, ponds and pavilions. The future was not as we imagined, if not only for the lack of flying cars which many of us lamented, but also because it doesn’t look as evil as we thought. Then came the daylight dystopia. As a child, I remember approaching this slightly less suffocating concept in the Disney PK comics. This was a superhero series of Donald Duck set in a futuristic future. In a particular episode, PK travelled to the future to find that instead of the tower he operated from – the Ducklair tower created by a tech genius – there was a garden. Our beloved flying cars came in handy in that comic in order to reach the heights of that vertical city, whose buildings have gardens on top, another idea which is being implemented in the green architectural world. An idea that has been developed by many architectural firms reimagining the future of the urban landscape as we will see. The palaces of the old city will be pillars, or comprised into other buildings, and of course we have plenty of examples of this as well. The final look of this city is a green aspirational environment which will preserve history and won’t look as dingy and ugly as we imagined dystopian cities to be.

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The work of Geraldine Kang

For Geraldine Kang, art-making has the functions of helping her process her thoughts and feelings and to get herself out of her head. In the awarded series ‘In the Raw’, she depicted her family members in surreal situations dealing with nudity, aging and death. The artist defines In the Raw as a “shock treatment” to introduce her parents to her art practice, which in the beginning they didn’t understand. In an iconic picture of her series, she is in bed with her parents, just like a little child would do, but with a photographic book showing breasts. The photographs encapsulate the lack of intimacy and the difficulty of maturing and dealing with desire where you share the same living space with your family.

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