Ever revisited a place that you had carefully tucked away in your memories for a long time? The place may not look and speak to you the same way, but you realize that the strong connection you had formed in the past with the space never really faded. In that moment, your sense of time and place start to become blurry and almost insignificant. That is what Native Revisions is about – the bond we as humans form with spaces and the strangely familiar feeling of returning to that bond.
Curated by Melanie Pocock at LASALLE Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (Gallery 1), the exhibit showcases photography and moving image works by “four artists from Asia who have returned to particular locations over a number of years”. The artists have dissimilar approaches towards the curatorial statement, from resurfacing forgotten histories to preserving the authenticity of a space, but each work is similar in creating a dialogue with nostalgia and time. The exhibit with its detailed yet distant captions and strategic placement, is successful in creating an experience for its audience wherein they can relate to the artist’s intention and contemplate their own interpretation at the same time.
Anup Mathew Thomas’ works explore, quite literally, the evolution of a space or setting over time and transience in all things. In showcasing the final matches of a regional sport in his large photographic prints, he not only manages to discuss the decline and revival of the sport but also brings to light the cyclical journey traditions take within a space. Thomas’ most interesting work, or rather visual narrative, was undoubtedly the Staging at Nedumbarakkadu, which is essentially the image of a man ‘posing’ for his death. However, in the layering, both contextual and within the medium (the photograph has been framed within a frame), the work creates a complex discourse about life and death – time and transience.
Noh Suntag’s strAnge ball on the other hand, is more political than philosophical. The works are set in a village in South Korea located near a U.S. military camp. The “strange ball” a symbol of the presence of the U.S. military is portrayed in several different ways, from mirroring the moon to glowing through fire.
Tomoko Yoneda, also creates a parallel discourse between politics, war and place with 15 gelatin silver miniature prints portraying spaces of spy encounters. The placement of the prints within glass cases in a triangular formation with a lone bulb hanging from the ceiling adds to the enigmatic aura of the works. Juxtaposed against this subtle work is Thomas’ bright jacquard curtain, a part of a narrative about Syrian Churches. The curtain, however, is more successful in providing a theatrical atmosphere for Tomoko Yoneda’s video work, than it is as an extension of the artist’s photographic work. Nonetheless, the strategic division of the exhibition space with the use of the curtain functions well.
One of the best features of the exhibition is the visible, and audible, dialogue created between and within the different works of art. The audio for Yoneda’s moving image artwork compliments the intense and intricate visuals of the Singaporean wilderness by Chua Chye Teck whose work is aimed at preserving and cherishing the memory and authenticity of a space. His black and white photographs are the kind of works that you could spend hours admiring and would find something new entwined in those wild, natural strands each time you look at them.
Native Revisions is an exhibition about the journeys embarked on by these four artists through time to construct new memories, for themselves as well as for the viewers, while maintaining the essence of the old ones. The question posed at the end of the curatorial statement – in representing these places, do the artists create new memories of them or preserve them? – is perhaps the best way to sum up the exhibition.
Native Revisions opened on the February 10, 2017 and will remain on view until 12 April, 2017.
Tanya Singh is currently pursuing her Masters’ in Asian Art Histories at the Lasalle College of the Arts. A practitioner as well as a writer, she has been producing writings on art and art history for over three years now. She has worked with a number of organisations – NDTV-Mojarto (India), Agora Gallery (New York), Asian Art Platform (Singapore) and Distinguished Magazine (India Chapter, United Kingdom) – both as a content provider and an editor.