Compound by Sopheap Pich

With the Singapore Biennale now underway we come to the works that reside at the National Museum of Singapore. I visited the exhibited on the day of the ‘Supermoon’ and by the end of my visit, I realized that these pieces juxtapose against each other, provided very contrasting aspects of life.

As you enter the foyer of NMS, you can catch the strong whiff of rattan from Sopheap Pich’s, Compound. This structure, made up of contrasting modular forms is reminiscent of the varied architectural shapes that are dominant in the east and west. Sopheap Pich, a Cambodian who trained in England and France was inspired by rapid urban development and its effect on the environment around us.

His piece questions the futility of a civilisation that repeats cycles of endless building and destruction. A sentiment echoed in the abstraction and repetition in his work, which looks like giant building blocks to me. Especially poignant as I glanced down at the foyer from my vantage point. Watching people walk through, some with itchy hands pausing to fiddle with the structure. It would be quite interesting to see people actually attempting to reshape the structure, if they were allowed to.

The other works in the Biennale are located at the basement of the building. As you exit the escalator you will see ‘Singapura Fiction a work by members of the Ruangrupa group in Singapore. Ruangrupa who also participated in the Singapore Night Festival in 2010 is an artists’ initiative established in 2000 by a group of artists in Jakarta.

It is a not-for-profit organization that strives to support the progress of art ideas within the urban context and the larger scope of the culture, by means of exhibitions, festivals, art labs, workshops, research, and journal publication. Ruangrupa’s collaborative projects revolve around cultural and political issues, ultimately seeking to build understanding, encourage critical thinking, and through art, generate freedom of information in an increasingly complex world.


Singapura Fiction by Ruangrupa

At first glance it may seem like the work of secondary school students with the somewhat haphazard display and sometimes hard to read handwriting. However I implore you to give this exhibit a walk through.


‘Godzilla cancel attack on Singapura’


‘The Merlion Conspiracy’

It would a shame to miss out on the stories about ‘The Dragon Club’ and ‘Candy Chan’, the hilarious ‘Project Spitting – You can’t seal our mouths’, ‘Godzilla cancel attack on Singapura’, ‘The Merlion Conspiracy’, ‘Is Angel Kho a Secret Agent?’, ‘The Yesterday’ (pun on the ‘Today’ Paper), ‘The Row Incident’, ‘The Haunting Melody’, ‘Papa Princess The Rayols’ and lots more. Amidst the stories are memorabilia with playful puns on Singaporeans’ preference for ‘3D’ movies,  the asian culture of bargaining and an especially humorous ‘audio in, never out’ (up to your interpretation) sign.

Hong Rub Khaek by Navin Rawanchaiku

Next up is a Navin Rawanchaikul’s work, ‘Hong Rub Khaek ‘. Navin Rawanchaikul is a thai artist with roots in the Hindu-Punjabi communities of Pakistan. He is known for his penchant for site specific works that include social commentary and community participation. The film he presents features seven elderly Non-resident Indians (NRI) and People of Indian origin (PIO) who part of the Indian community that reside in Chiang Mai. The 17 min video is a recount of their feelings and experiences of both India and Thailand. Screened in a black room labelled with the sign “Hong Rub Khaek” (meaning visitor in Thai) at the entrance and flanked by a beautiful painting of the multiracial community that resides in Chiang Mai, it is where his interviewees share their notions of belonging, immersion and acceptance. “Khaek” in Thai means ‘visitor’ but also implies people of Indian origin as outsiders.

‘Hong Rub Khaek’ painting by Navin Rawanchaikul

Detail of ‘Hong Rub Khaek’ painting by Navin Rawanchaikul

A self-portrait of the artist in his student uniform displaying his name and the origin of his Indian surname in Thai as “Rawal” is displayed on the wall that faces his old sofa set. There is also a personal handwritten letter from the artist to his daughter describing his somewhat humorous wrestle of emotions as he contemplates buying her a nintendo console and loading it with pirated game. He also recounts his childhood confusion over his racial and national identity in an attempt to help her find her place as an Indian-Japanese girl living in Japan.

‘Flooded Mcdonald’s’ by Superflex

In contrast to the works mentioned above, the film ‘Flooded Mcdonald’s’ by Superflex, which consists of Jakob Fenger, Rasmus Nielsen and Bjornstjerne Christiansen presents the effects of consumerism in a ‘ceremonial’ flooding of a fake Mcdonald’s restaurant. The theme of Mcdonalds has been rather ‘overused’ as of late. Peppering works from graffiti to paintings and this film. The approach behind it however is something that pertains very much to the nature of our generation; where at the height of consumerism, community and culture often fall by the wayside. It makes one question how this new generation establishes bonds and support systems.

screenshot from OMG BFF LOL

Another film that echoes this reality is ‘OMG BFF LOL’ by Charlie White. Anyone from the ‘text generation’ could appreciate the apt titling of this piece. Based on a two-year behavioral study of an American teenage girl, the animation is part of a larger project called ‘The Girl Studies’. It is a project that examines the desires and social anxieties of teenage girls, providing insight into their lives and the importance they attach to the decisions they make on a daily basis. The artist meant for it to serve as a viable cartoon for young girls, whilst simultaneously providing a platform from which viewers can critique them. A social satire disguised as an innocent ‘Sweet Valley High‘ type cartoon.

Of course there are other works but too much to cover in just one post. So for now, the Biennale is here so please do visit and enjoy!

Artitute Art - View my 'Singapore Biennale 2011 - National Museum of Singapore' set on Flickriver