Singapore Biennale 2017

This is just a post to sum up on my experience of the Biennale. I went for the biennale twice, once when it first opened and the second time on the last day before the uninstallation.

The first time I went, I hated it. It was public unfriendly. The programme book was so thick. The works in 8Q were incredibly dry. The whole idea of dividing the exhibition into different subsections only served to upset me even more, being a fragmented strategy to keep me in the museum to boggle or bore my mind out. Jessica and I were so uninspired I swore to her I will get to the bottom of this and figure out this Biennale.

And so I did. I went back for the tour on the last day and I would say it did help a little bit. I enjoyed the works better because the tour guide was explaining the smaller details and giving a structure on how each artist saw their particular work to be a mirror or the world. For example, there was this work by Eddy Susanto using ink on canvas. From far, it just seemed to be an ordinary painting with Indian/Indonesian influences. But with the guide, we were encouraged to go closer and see the work. We later found out that the outlines are actually in Javanese script, and later the script changes to reflect other parts of the region that the Panji cycle had been circulated.

At the end of my tour, I felt that maybe the biennale was not that bad after all, as bored as I was. My initial questions still remain, who are the target audience of the biennale, what it wanted people to take away from, and how successful do they think they are at bringing their message across?

For one thing, I’m sure people my age are going there to just look at the works on face level and take photographs for their Instagram while Jessica and I break our heads trying to make sense of this exhibition to feed our hungry souls.

OH! Open House – Holland Village

I went as a tour guide on the 4 and 5 of March so this is finally recent!! On hindsight I enjoyed it, but preparing for it was a heck load of work and a lot of jitters I swear. For one thing, I was never great at public speaking because I know my written English standard isn’t great and my spoken English is a lot worse. The other was that we had to study content to share and that was like school. I had just submitted my assignment two days before the open house and then it was studying for this already. Everything was so rushed and I just wanted to give my best for the paying guests, so I definitely felt stressed compared to the other guides who seemed pretty chill about it.

One thing that I really liked about OH! was that the artists were so nice! They were so enthusiastic in sharing about their works with visitors and some stayed really long to interact with them even though they did not have to. As such, I was better able to understand their works and also their personalities. They are so humble and thankful towards the visitors, the volunteers and the management team. I got to meet Anthony Chin and Yen Phang, who were both really friendly and warm. I was especially inspired by how Chin knew so much about Holland Village, which probably meant he did indepth research before he did his artwork. His artwork is super poetic and I really like it.

Another thing I liked about OH! was that the volunteers are all pretty friendly despite coming from all over Singapore and from across all ages. I managed to interact with an alumnus of NAFA’s Arts Management, one guy from NAC, one teacher in TP, one girl working in NGS and made friends with a girl who graduated from NP and is going to be my junior next year. This interests me a lot because I feel like I’m finally looking at the people who I can get inspired by or be inspired with. Usually art events attract volunteers from a certain age group from the usual demographics – arts students from poly, NAFA or Lasalle. In OH!, I see adults and expats, which is a group I don’t interact with often, and as such I got to hear different perspectives and ask questions to people with jobs I’m interested in.

Lastly, I have always liked the concept of how we put art in houses and really bring art to the community. The works are exactly the type that I like – installations, interactive sculptures and attention grabbing. There is so MUCH work involved though, even just as a volunteer remembering facts about Holland Village, directions, the artwork, other adhoc things. Imagine the things that the management handles, to even source for all these information, liaise with vendors, the artists, residents, sponsors what not and relay all the information to the volunteers. So I think OH! is a job well done and they deserve support from the public to just go see what they do.

Learning about Holland Village was quite fun, and through bring a tour guide I had to trust myself and believe that I can somewhat deliver a good tour while facing my fears of angmors and small talk. It is always nice to be reminded that the kindness of strangers can go a long way, when they are happy with their tour and are grateful that you made an effort in personalising your tour for them.  

With that said, it would take me plenty of courage to do this again haha. We’ll see how it goes.

Little India Art Walk 2017

This happened in January with the Singapore Art Week but I only had like an hour there because of Art Stage and other commitments. As such, I only managed to catch the painted murals which I found out would be permanent afterwards. Nothing really caught my eye, I got pretty lost trying to find the artworks since it really wasn’t centralized and the website did not say where to go for information. 

To be fair, I went around 9pm when all the other events finished. It was very dark so I could not appreciate the artworks well (but the event happens at night, I assumed it was okay whatever time I went). It was hot and crowded with other people not going for the event. I got bombarded by the STB people trying to make me do their surveys and I pitied the first guy so I did his survey, also because I was trying to find my way to the festival and made him tell me afterwards. 

Otherwise, I did not meet anybody else who went to Little India for the sake of the murals and video installations. 

Singapore Contemporary 2017

This is a “on hindsight” post because it is beyond belated. I forgot I attended these events so now that I remember I shall add on.

I went for Singapore Contemporary on the second last day and there were not many interesting artworks left. Perhaps the fair was not catered to those who just wanted to appreciate and view the works without buying. I saw many Chinese paintings which I assume are from the mainland. And there was a stretch of galleries from Australia. Otherwise, the galleries were quite random but not as diverse as Art Stage. It was not as accessible as Art Stage in my opinion, where the works chosen were so (for the lack of a better word) boring to those who do not do art. It was not as colourful, as arresting or as inventive.  

Definitely the choice of venue – Suntec City Convention Hall was less impressive than Marina Bay Sands’ and it resulted in the lack of energy. The ushers hired did not add on to my experience. Some of them talked among themselves and ignored me while attending to this man who looked like he could afford art (compared to me, that is). I understood that these people were paid, whereas in Art Stage, most were volunteers and hence the difference in attitude? I also noticed that the dynamics it attracted was very different, since there was nobody else my age. Most were art-buyers, or adults at least. 

I ended up getting more bored than my sister who doesn’t even like such things.

The nicest thing that happened was this artist from Australia, Emma Hack, talked to everybody going into her gallery (including those who were just curious and not buying) and she shared snippets of her work. She was the lady who painted Gotye in his “Somebody I Used to Know” music video. Her works were one of the most colourful. You can check it out. 

Urban Arts Festival 2017 | Aliwal Arts Centre

I’m writing this belatedly because I wanted to archive all the arts stuff I do this year. I was working halfway on this post and apparently it did not save so I have to redo! So here’s a summarised version.

Urban Arts Festival was held on 14 Jan celebrating all urban arts, such as graffiti and rap. However, there wasn’t much of rap at the festival. Instead there was an artisanal market, a skateboarding competition, a dj stage, a barter market and music performances by local bands.

My personal favourite was the barter market because I like arts and craft. Looking at people being involved and sharing art inspired me to make my own rubber stamps at home.

I went as a volunteer, and I would say that my experience was good. The commitment level was low, the management was pretty good and everybody seemed to be having a good time. Welfare wise, the buffet dinner was really amazing I loved the chicken!! The other volunteers were happy and friendly as well.

I had to be the artist liason for Tomgirl and to be honest, I did not do much other than making sure the band comes on time. A reminder to myself not to be flustered, or outwardly show others that I’m flustered such that the bad energy gets transferred to others.

A shout out to Joeve and Kusala for making the night great for me!

Art Stage Singapore 2017

Art Stage this year was from 11 to 15 Jan. It is usually my favourite big scale art exhibition, next to the Affordable Art Fair. I helped out for three days, doing front-of-house, gallery sitting and patrolling.

The art works this year were noticeably less arresting. There weren’t big installations or controversial works that caught my attention unlike the black goldfishes last year, or even the many sculptures the year before. Nevertheless, I did enjoy my volunteering experience this year so much more because the management was great.

The biggest takeaway was learning the importance of crisis management, and also how important the first aid kit was.