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2016.08.10 Wed, by
Singapore Art Archive Project at SA SA BASSAC | 31 July – 8October, 2016

We are pleased to announce the exhibition and programs of Singapore Art Archive Project at SA SA BASSAC: Koh Nguang How and Shui Tit Sing with curators Vera Mey and Mélanie Mermod, which positions Cambodia and the archive of Shui Tit Sing of the Ten Men Art Group as a focal point to unfold the multidirectionality of modern artistic movements in the region we have come to know as Southeast Asia.

Artist Koh Nguang How is one of the foremost chroniclers of contemporary art in Singapore, and initiated the Singapore Art Archive Project (SAAP) in 2005. The SAAP contains a treasury of photographs taken by Koh himself, video and audio documentation of performances and conversations as well as slides, brochures, catalogues, many relating to The Artists Village, a seminal contemporary art collective founded in 1988 by artist Tang Da Wu, of which Koh was a member. The wide range of Koh’s materials collectively date between 1920s until now.

At SA SA BASSAC, Koh unfolds a cross-section of SAAP dating between 1963-1980, which focuses on the work of artist Shui Tit Sing (1914-1997). Shui was part of the Ten Men Art Group, a collective of men and women who were primarily Chinese émigrés to Malaya and Singapore. Active between the years 1961 to 1970, they went in search of inspiration for a Southeast Asian aesthetic. The collectives’ efforts and resulting pictorial styles were to merge largely with what was underway thirty years prior with the Nanyang School of Arts, and what would later become defined as “Nanyang Style.” While the Ten Men Art Group was independent to the school, in principle they shared an East-East or self-Orientalizing view of a multicultural, southern tropical paradise to which they sought both inspiration from and belonging to.

The Ten Men Art Group travelled together, initiated exhibitions in Singapore, and held Sunday meetings to discuss and encourage artistic practice. Their travels took them to Indonesia, Borneo, Thailand, Cambodia and eventually India. Their 1970 trip to Sumatra was their last formal journey before forming as the Southeast Asian Art Association. The impact of the groups’ field trips was visible through shifts in artistic practice, and they become especially known for their scenes of village life painted within a Beaux-Arts academic formation (via China) and through the context and influence of their relationship to location. Shui Tit Sing was especially impacted by his time in Cambodia and the temples within Angkor Archaeological Park, particularly the bas-reliefs of Bayon. He was inspired by ideas of synchronic time represented in the reliefs, and his monoscenic painting transformed into multi-register scenes. His sculpture, carved in teak wood, celebrated the common citizen as the modern regional hero.

The work on display at SA SA BASSAC is a combination of original and reproduced artworks from Shui Tit Sing’s visit to Cambodia in 1963, and his subsequent inspiration through 1980. Alongside this will be ephemera selected from an extensive archive of Shui’s and Ten Men’s visit to Cambodia including newspaper articles from Singapore media outlets, original slides and photographs, hand drawn maps, drawings and notebooks. Marco Hsu’s book Journal of Thailand and Cambodia Trip (1966) will also feature as an example of an art critic documenting the artistic styles in close proximity to Shui. Complementing this material is the role of artist Koh Nguang How. Through his presence as SA SA BASSAC artist-in-residence (July 25-August 25, 2016), Koh will weave in his own research and practice dating from 1989 onwards, including actions of (re)tracing and “looking regionally” today. His interventions remind us that the archive is accessible to us through the present tense to provoke points of connection and contradiction.

The rich slice of Koh’s Singapore Art Archive Project at SA SA BASSAC, as well as its entirety, can be considered from multiple vantage points. Although around 50 years apart – the efforts of Shui Tit Sing and Koh Nguang How mirror each other in a mutual effort to discover and document as a tool for rewriting history through art. SAAP was firstly from the artist’s view an attempt to assert the value of primary materials closest to the artists’ practices within the framework of an archive. Further, by inviting Koh and the Shui archive to Cambodia, the curators and SA SA BASSAC encourage an embedded criticality around notions of isolated, singular/national art histories as well as formations of regional ones at a time when institutions and canons in both Singapore and Cambodia are simultaneously being formed and contested. While the SAAP/Shui Tit Sing archive highlights the position of Singapore as both a seeker and instigator of regionalism through art, in turn, these materials extend art histories, notions of collectivity and exchange in and relating to Cambodia.

Exhibition: Singapore Art Archive Project at SA SA BASSAC: Koh Nguang How and Shui Tit Sing
Curators: Vera Mey and Mélanie Mermod
Opening: Saturday 30 July, 2016, 6:00-8:00PM
Dates: 31 July – 8 October, 2016
Location: SA SA BASSAC #18 2E Sothearos Boulevard, Phnom Penh
Web: www.sasabassac.com
Contact: Chum ChanVeasna, Acting Manager, veasna@sasabassac.com

Koh Nguang How’s artistic practice began in 1988 and encompasses photography, collage, assemblage, installation, performance art, documentation, archiving, curating and research. He worked in the National Museum Art Gallery as a Museum Assistant from October 1985 to December 1991. He forfeited this position to develop an artistic practice through working the archive and working on artists’ artworks and documents that the museum couldn’t collect. He joined The Artists Village and photo-documented their activities (1989-1999). He was a researcher in the pilot Fukuoka Asian Art Museum Researcher/Curator in Residence Program 1999 and initiated the Singapore Art Archive Project (2005 – ongoing) which actively documents and archives materials relating to the Singapore art scene.

Shui Tit Sing (1914 – 1997) was an educator, journalist, and artist who commenced his artistic training in 1935 at the Hangzhou National Fine Art College in Western painting and Chinese ink painting. An avid photographer, painter and sculptor, Shui remained active within exhibitions from 1946 to early 1990s, including at the National Museum Art Gallery in Singapore. Shui spent the 1960s and 1970s travelling through Southeast Asia and was a member of The Ten Men Art Group and the Southeast Asian Art Association.

Vera Mey is an independent curator and has been awarded a studentship to undertake a PhD at SOAS, University of London commencing in September 2016. Prior to this she was Curator, Residencies as part of the founding team of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore led by Ute Meta Bauer. For 2015-2016 she was a Getty Foundation scholar as part of Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art and is on the founding editorial committee of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art. She is co curator of SEA Project (working title) due to open at the Mori Art Museum and National Art Centre Tokyo in July 2017.

Mélanie Mermod is an independent curator and researcher based in Paris. She graduated in art history at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. In parallel to her activities as Research Manager on exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, Centre Pompidou–Metz or Generali Fondation, Mermod developed curatorial projects such as Experimental Workshop / Jikken kōbō ( Bétonsalon, Paris, 2011), EFVJ (AP News, Zurich, 2012), APN Research あぷん (Kunsthalle Bern, 2012), 41° Beyond Reason (Ensba, Résonance Biennale de Lyon, 2013) and Louvain Biennal (Belgium, 2014). She participated in the Young Curator Program, Berlin Biennale (2014). She is currently Head of Programs at Betonsalon– Center for Art and Research in Paris.

Margaux Bonopera works between Paris and London. She holds a BA, Art History, École du Louvre, Paris, and is currently undertaking the MA Curating program, Royal College of Art, London. She was the main assistant of Grazia Quaroni, Cartier Foundation, Paris for Bruce Nauman exhibition and archive, and in charge of the exhibition of Andréa Vamos, Cocteau’s house in Milly-la-Forêt, France (2015). Bonopera is curator for the Kogan Gallery, Paris. She is SA SA BASSAC intern in July-August, 2016.

(Khmer and English)
August 6-7
In collaboration with Bétonsalon, Paris, and Sa Sa Art Projects/SSAP, Phnom Penh, Theater of Movements is an intensive workshop facilitated by artist and SAAP Director Vuth Lyno and SAAP curators Vera Mey and Mélanie Mermod. It gathers artists and young participants based in Phnom Penh’s White Building neighbourhood to call for a collective enquiry on transcultural movements mainly related to archive and documents based in France. Traces of the workshop will resurface in the Bétonsalon exhibition Anywhere But Here (September 13 – October 31, 2016) which brings together artworks that seek out subtle movements of objects, figures or gestures in relation to Cambodia, and more broadly within the geopolitical context of Southeast Asia.

(English with Khmer translation)
Thursday, 11 August, 6:00-7:30PM @ SA SA BASSAC
“The Apsara as the Symbol of the Region: Shui Tit Sing and the Ten Men Art Group in Cambodia” by Vera Mey / In collaboration with “Vetika Brovoat Selapak: Art History Forum”, this lecture focuses on the recurring figure of the apsara in Shui Tit Sing’s practice. For Shui and the Ten Men Art Group, the apsara functioned as a pan-regional symbol, which could link diverse Southeast Asian aesthetics and experiences.

Walkthrough with the artist*
Saturday, 16 August @ SA SA BASSAC
2.30 – 3.30PM (English with Khmer translation)
4.30 – 5.30PM (French)
Join an intimate walkthrough of select materials in the archive and exhibition with artist Koh Nguang How. * Throughout the duration of the project, we invite schools and interested audiences to contact us for a private walkthrough by appointment.

Thursday, August 25, 6:30PM @ Bophana, #64 St 200 Oknha Men, PP
The Ten Men Art Group visited Cambodia in 1963, four years before the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established to promote regional stability and economic development, and during the height of what is widely considered Cambodia’s “Golden Age.” The region was undergoing pivotal moments of flux – Cambodia constantly renegotiating its non-aligned status amidst national and regional manifestations of Cold War conflict, while the Federation of Malaya, North Borneo, Sarawak and Singapore formed Malaysia in 1963, with Singapore expelled and thus independent by 1965. Drawing on Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre’s exceptional documentary database, which holds over 700 hours of video relating to Cambodia’s histories, the program curator Margaux Bonopera collates a 90-minute screening dedicated to highlighting and complicating the socio-political dimensions of the Singapore Art Archive Project.

Asia New Zealand Foundation / Singapore Art Archive Project @ SA SA BASSAC: Koh Nguang How and Shui Tit Sing is possible with support in part from Asia New Zealand Foundation. http://www.asianz.org.nz

Bétonsalon – Center for Art and Research strives to develop a space of reflection and confrontation at the confluence of art and university research by giving form to discourses in the aesthetic, cultural, political, social and economic realms. Bétonsalon aims to ally theory and practice, with the objective of rearticulating the position of research and artistic creation in society. In February 2016, Bétonsalon opened Villa Vassilieff in the 15th arrondissement of Paris, a space for art, residencies and research. www.betonsalon.net http://www.villavassilieff.net/

Bophana Audiovisual Resource Centre is an audiovisual resource center in Phnom Penh founded in 2006 by Rithy Panh and is dedicated to restoring, protecting and enhancing of audiovisual heritage related to Cambodia’s histories through a freely accessible database of archives, multimedia training and education, film production, exhibition space, screening rooms, a public program and more. www.bophana.org

Sa Sa Art Projects (SSAP) is a non-profit artist-run initiative dedicated to experimental art practices. Founded by Stiev Selapak collective in 2010 and based in the historic Phnom Penh’s White Building, SSAP focuses on Pisaot experimental art residency, classes and workshops, and collaborative projects, through engagement with Cambodian and visiting artists, creative individuals and groups, students, and the White Building’s residents. www.sasaart.info

Vetika Brovoat Selapak: Art History Forum is a platform for meeting and talking about Cambodian and other art histories. It presents an ongoing series of educational and scholarly events, in the form of lectures, discussions, workshops, or symposia. The aim is to facilitate the discussion of Cambodian and other art histories with a primarily Cambodian audience in Phnom Penh. www.facebook.com/arthistoryforum

SA SA BASSAC is a gallery, reading room and resource center dedicated to Cambodian contemporary visual culture and its histories. Our program in Phnom Penh focuses on singular exhibitions of new work by Cambodian artists and guest-curated collaborative projects, all of which inspire multivocal educational programs. We partner with local, regional and international institutions, residencies, museums, and galleries to expand networks and knowledge for artists and audiences alike. SA SA BASSAC was co-founded in 2011 by Stiev Selapak artist collective and curator Erin Gleeson.