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2019.06.04 Tue, by

SB2019 will feature site-responsive and new commissions which
explore the notion of the ‘festival-seminar’

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) announces the first roster of artists for Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction. One of Asia’s most exciting contemporary visual art exhibitions – the Singapore Biennale 2019 (SB2019) will explore curatorial and artistic threads common to our human conditions and the catalytic role ‘hope’ plays in pushing for change.

Under the artistic direction of Patrick Flores, SB2019 will explore the title with over 70 artists from Singapore, Southeast Asia and beyond, in a presentation of site-responsive and newly commissioned contemporary works never seen before on the biennale circuit. The highly anticipated four-month long international contemporary art exhibition is scheduled to take place from 22 November 2019 to 22 March 2020.

Let’s Walk, 2018 is a public participatory performance by Amanda Heng presented at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018: Let’s Walk. Image courtesy of the artist.

Let’s Walk, 2018 is a public participatory performance by Amanda Heng presented at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2018: Let’s Walk. Image courtesy of the artist.

SB2019: Every Step in the Right Direction Explorations
In the midst of a rapidly changing social and political climate, the notion of self and the world has significantly changed in recent years. Being mindful of such change, SB2019: Every Step in the Right Direction will draw on the importance of making choices and taking steps to consider current conditions and the human endeavour for change and betterment.

Every Step in the Right Direction invites the ethical gesture from both artist and public through the creative mediation of the artworks and projects on view, which will be gathered from sensitively selected geographies, to encourage the audience to reflect on right actions to take and decide on which activities to engage in, as an effort to offer possibilities for a more humane world.

With the artistic and curatorial direction anchored in regional history, SB2019 aims to reflect on pressing concerns relevant to the global cultural community through artworks presented. This is done through ‘festival-seminars’, where action and reflection are interwoven through the presentation of convivial, participatory, and community-responsive projects and reflective, archival, and research-oriented works.

The artists participating in SB2019 embody this worldliness through several conceptual threads in their works. This artist line-up features recognised names from Southeast Asia and beyond, along with younger artists, presenting an international stage to discover newly commissioned artworks.

SB2019 Artist Highlights
In addition to the five artists already announced at the end of last year, SB2019 will feature the following 14 artists: Busui Ajaw (Thailand), Raymundo Albano (Philippines), Kray Chen(Singapore), Amanda Heng (Singapore), Hu Yun, (China / Serbia), Soyung Lee (South Korea), Min Thein Sung (Myanmar), Okui Lala (Malaysia), Alfonso Ossorio (USA), Gary-RossPastrana (Philippines), Wu Tsang (USA), Marie Voignier (France); as well as the artist collective Phare, The Cambodian Circus (Cambodia), and the collaboration between Zakkubalan (USA) and Ryuichi Sakamoto (Japan).

The Starting Point
Every effort to transform begins with introspection, a reassessment of how self-consciousness through modernism has developed and come to constitute the present production of art. A revisiting of modernist works and their juxtaposition with the art of our time will be exemplified by the presentation of artworks by artist-collector Alfonso Ossorio. Providing further context of modernism and its relationship with what we now call the contemporary as a moment in the history of art is the practice of the Filipino artist Raymundo Albano, whose work as an interdisciplinary artist and a visionary curator will shed light on the constant translations of modernity.

Through the gathering of people, the public can make a step and decide on what could be the right direction with others in an atmosphere of warm encounters and possible solidarities. These works invite the audience – whether onlookers or participants – to affirm common aspirations as well as discuss differences. It is in this vein that Singaporean artist Amanda Heng will examine the relationship of humans to the outside world, and the inner emotional and psychological resources of the body. She will stage a new edition of and elaborate on her renowned Let’s Walk series, which speaks directly to the title of the 2019 edition Every Step in the Right Direction. Building on the participatory festival aspect of the Biennale, Phare, The Cambodia Circus will be commissioned to create a contact zone where people share space and create memories in a community experience.

Zakkubalan, in a collaboration with esteemed Japanese composer Ryuichi Sakamoto, will feature an adaptation of Sakamoto’s multimedia work that immerses audiences in a rich and ever-shifting ambient soundscape, while Gary-Ross Pastrana from the Philippines will look into the way objects and materials shape narratives and translate into different states, through the staging of a play which will be periodically activated by Singapore-based performers

Decisions on making the step in the right direction require thoughtfulness and attentiveness, reflecting the other aspect of the festival-seminar presentation. These works prompt the public to pause, take stock, and consider an array of options for the change that must happen. Malaysian artist Okui Lala will create a new work – Language Class (working title) – looking at the complexity of multi-ethnicity, and how language policy organises national and personal history; while French artist Marie Voignier explores intense migration and relocation, sensitive contact and precarious exchange through a film on African women traders.

Korean artist Soyung Lee’s video installation and artefacts will investigate the conditions of the post-human and inter-species relationships, which further broadens the scope of the biennale into the realm of environment and our position in the anthropocene; while Chinese artist Hu Yun discusses the form of the diorama in relation to craft and the cosmology of the future, revisiting and reimagining alternative histories. Singaporean artist Kray Chen’s work engages the experiences of viewers of matrimonial rites through Chinese wedding customs, while challenging cultural, social and collective norms.

New Commissions
SB2019 will present site-specific commissions for the audience to encounter new artists and register innovative experiments. Community and personal experience beyond the centre will be explored by self-taught Thai artist Busui Ajaw in her paintings. This showcase will mark the first time she will be presenting her work outside of Thailand. Min Thein Sung will deal with the complex environment of Myanmar in a philosophical and poetic artistic gesture that is sensitive to the interventions of the atmosphere. American filmmaker and performance artistWu Tsang will present a work that explores the enigmatic histories, intimate narratives, and the act of performing itself.

Announced earlier were artists Arnont NongyaoVandy Rattana, Dennis Tan, Zai Tang, and Boedi Widjaja. The full artist list and programme of SB2019 will be announced later this year.

Key Dates and Venues
Commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore and organised by SAM, the exhibition will take place in multiple nodes across a network of sites and will feature prominently at National Gallery Singapore and Gillman Barracks. Following the model of the 2016 edition, other cultural and heritage venues – including sites within the Bras Basah Bugis precinct – will also be explored to showcase SB2019 artworks.

The Singapore Biennale 2019 is an affiliate of the Singapore Bicentennial.