The Biennale's title 'Every Step in the Right Direction' underscores the notion that each step or action that we take as individuals, as communities and as a society as a whole can be conceived as moving us forward in the continuous journey of discovery and progress. Here is a small selection of artworks responding to the Biennale's title from various perspectives.
Black—Hut, Black—Hut (2019) by Boedi WidjajaSingapore Art Museum
Boedi Widjaja’s conceptually charged practice engages deeply with his own lived experience of migration and diaspora, and reflects on the complexities of hybridity, travel and isolation.
The structure of this work, titled 'Black—Hut, Black—Hut' (2019), references the gap between ground and land in tropical and subtropical vernacular houses that are built on raised floors, such as the Javanese joglo, the Queenslander house and the Malay house, as well as the HDB void deck.
Key to the work is also its surface – rendered in concrete infused with salt, the salt will ‘bloom’ over time.
Time: Dust (2017/2019) by Min Thein SungSingapore Art Museum
Min Thein Sung infuses seemingly typical objects or scenes with the potent properties of magic or allegory.
For SB2019, Min Thein Sung presents ‘paintings’ titled 'Time: Dust' (2017).
These paintings have come together into a shape and form through the dust that has collected and coalesced over time.
Parallel Communes (Ongoing) by Temsüyanger LongkumerSingapore Art Museum
Temsüyanger Longkumer's practice deals with the concepts of history, memory, spirituality and ecology in relation to his Naga roots. The connection between culture and nature courses through his work, and he is keenly attuned to the decline of sensuality towards the environment and the lack of spiritual connection to nature today.
'Parallel Communes' is a series of terracotta sculptures.
Here, the artist conceives the human body as a microcosm of events in the universe by creating earthenware that takes an abstract shape, evoking human organs, flora or fauna.
A Study on Endless Archipelagos (2017/2019) by Hera BuyuktasiciyanSingapore Art Museum
'A Study on Endless Archipelagos' is an amalgamation of architectural elements from cities that Turkish artist Hera Büyüktaşcıyan lived and worked in over the years. For her, they represent particles of “restored memories.”
Anthropomorphised, the tiles have miniature bronze feet, suggesting a feeling of a burdened history moving in slow motion, floating on a sea of discrete memories, disconnected from time.
Busui Ajaw’s practice relates to her unique upbringing. The artist is an Akha, a nomadic ethnic group from the highlands of mainland Southeast Asia, and is from a family of artisans. Coming from an oral culture, the practice of image-making was initially foreign to her.
For SB2019, Busui Ajaw presents 'Ayaw Jaw Bah', a series of paintings and an installation. The paintings depict a tragic story of an intelligent Akha prince, stories of his son, as well as those of Amamata, the first mother.
Ayaw Jaw Bah (2019) by Busui AjawSingapore Art Museum
In the middle of the room stands a traditional spirit gate that the artist made to signify the boundary of the Akha village, to welcome the audience to the mythical world.
Intimate Apparitions (2019) by Khairullah RahimSingapore Art Museum
Intimate Apparitions' comprises commonplace objects that have been recomposed into something less familiar. Through these assemblages, Khairullah Rahim looks at a range of public and private spaces, such as the open field, gazebo, exercise corner and bedroom.
In doing so, he explores the adaptability and dual nature of these areas by the individuals or groups that use them. Concurrently, he considers how such spaces are imbued with powerful symbolic connotations when used by certain minority or non-mainstream communities.
The Map for the Soul to Return to the Body (2019) by Dusadee HantrakulSingapore Art Museum
Discovered in 1966, the Ban Chiang Archaeological Site in the Udon Thani province of Thailand is home to one of the earliest Bronze Age civilisations, dating approximately 2,000 BCE. Since its discovery, the archaeological site has become renowned for its distinctive red pottery bearing elaborate patterns.
Drawing from the rich heritage of the site, Dusadee Huntrakul has inscribed 16 reproductions of these ceramic pots with urgent concerns of today. Touching on issues ranging from climate change to universal basic income, his work seeks to resume a 4,000-year-old conversation and bridges cultures across thousands of years, posing the questions: what constitutes humanness and what is the meaning of being human?
In Maestro’s practice, materiality is central. A fascination with how things evoke presence, or how words concretise or become material in themselves, define her thoughtful and heartfelt projects.
sitsit sa kuliglig. (whatever circles from the center) (2019) by Lani MaestroSingapore Art Museum
For the Biennale, Maestro presents an installation consisting of a structure that holds over a hundred pieces of "capiz" (windowpane oyster) shells. The slightest breeze causes the capiz to rustle and move, resulting in a scope of sounds.
Nearby the structure are several white marble balls, with letters that spell “psst.” For Maestro, a dialogue arises from this moment of seeing, reading and imagining at the point of the mindful and sensitive encounter.
Singapore Biennale 2019 was organised by Singapore Art Museum and commissioned by the Singapore National Arts Council. All artwork photos featured in this story belong to Singapore Art Museum.