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Singapore Biennale 2016 Takes Regional Art to New Heights

Spread across eight venues, the Singapore Biennale 2016 invites visitors to experience the unique encounters of artists from Southeast, South and East Asia.

Singapore Biennale 2016 Takes Regional Art to New Heights

The Singapore Biennale 2016 (SB2016) opened on 27 October 2016, inviting visitors to explore the multiple facets and perspectives of contemporary life in Southeast, South and East Asia. Works by 63 Asian artists and art collectives are showcased across eight destinations in Singapore, including two anchor venues, the Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q.

Titled An Atlas of Mirrors, SB2016 comprises nine conceptual zones, exhibiting site-specific and never-seen-before biennale-commissioned works. “An Atlas of Mirrors references the atlases and mirrors that have been instrumental in humankind’s exploration of the world as we navigate and map our journeys into the unknown,” says Dr Susie Lingham, Creative Director of Singapore Biennale 2016.

More than 80 per cent of the 58 artworks on display are either newly commissioned or adapted to SB2016. The four-month long event will share the viewpoints of established and emerging artists and art collectives from 19 countries and territories in Asia. It seeks to foster a deeper understanding of the histories and cultures of Southeast Asia through contemporary art. This is the fifth installation of the Singapore Biennale since its inaugural programme in 2006.

Held at SAM AT 8Q, the work of homegrown artist Melissa Tan expresses the ever-expanding urban terrain of Singapore through hand-cut paper and laser-cut metal sculptures, underscored by soundscapes. Her work juxtaposes Bangladesh artist Munem Wasif’s photographs of a contested land that bears the burden of industrialisation and territorial disputes.

Dr Lingham adds that every artwork presented showcases the “imaginative and critical perspectives of artists from Southeast, South and East Asia, who are grappling with everyday contemporary realities, double-edged legacies, as well as the recurrent ‘big ideas’ and poetic metaphors that reflect the human condition.”

Examining the themes of space and place are new works by Eddy Susanto (Indonesia), Harumi Yukutake (Japan) and Zulkifle Mahmod (Singapore), among others. At the Singapore Art Museum, Eddy Susanto charts the movement of the Panji cycle from 14th century Java to modern-day Southeast Asia through calligraphic cartography, while Harumi Yukutake takes visitors into a parallel universe where hand-cut mirrors blur the distinction between foreground and background. Yukutake’s work is showcased at SAM’s circular stairwell, a central transitional space.

Zulkifle Mahmod’s sound sculpture consists of recordings taken from various Southeast Asian communities that have taken root in Singapore, highlighting “the otherwise overlooked auditory character” of these communities.

Over the years, the Singapore Biennale has cemented its position as a platform for established and emerging artists from Singapore, Southeast Asia and beyond to evolve their practice and realise new ambitious works, while enticing visitors to see the region through contemporary art.

The Singapore Biennale 2016 is organised by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and commissioned by the National Arts Council of Singapore (NAC). It will run until 26 February 2017. Tickets available at SISTIC and at Singapore Art Museum.

Featured artworks: Pannaphan Yodmanee, Aftermath, 2016; Qiu Zhijie, One Has to Wander through All the Outer Worlds to Reach the Innermost Shrine at the End, 2016; MAP Office, Desert Islands, 2009, 2016; Made Wianta, Treasure Islands, 2012; Harumi Yukutake, Paracosmos, 2016; Deng Guoyuan, Noah’s Garden II, 2016. All images courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.  

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