From where we are, how do we see the world? That is the question that Singapore Biennale’s curatorial team has asked themselves this year. The result is “An Atlas of Mirrors”, a major showcase of 58 artworks by 63 artists and art collectives from 19 countries and territories across Southeast Asia, East and South Asia.
The title is a reference to “the atlases and mirrors that have been instrumental in humankind’s exploration of the world as we navigate and map our journeys into the unknown,” explains Dr Susie Lingham, creative director of Singapore Biennale 2016. “It is hoped that the evocative title, which guided its curatorial direction, would intrigue and inspire audiences to explore and experience the many ways of seeing the world and ourselves.”
Over 80 percent of the 58 artworks are specially commissioned or adapted for the fifth edition of the Singapore Biennale. These artworks of various media present different artistic viewpoints of their makers, as they reflect on their shared histories and current realities within the beyond the region.
There are nine ‘conceptual zones’ or sub-themes – namely space, time, memory, nature, boundaries, agency, identity, displacement and absence – and each zone comprises individual artworks in dialogue with each other to present a final piece. Ahead, we highlight five must-sees:
Deng Guoyuan’s Noah’s Garden II
Constructured with panels after panels of mirrors and filled with neon-coloured artificial flora inspired by the plants of classical Song Dynasty, Chinese artist Deng Guoyan’s trippy glasshouse assault the senses and blur the lines between the real and the artificial. The colour scheme of the installation is taken from colour-coded maps, and the kaleidoscopic effect signifies a hope for the integration of richness and diversity of the world, as well as a resolution of conflicts.
Harumi Yukutake’s Paracosmos
Lining Singapore Art Museum’s circular staircase with what seems like thousands of hand-cut mirrors, Japanese artist Harumi Yukutake has created a space of simultaneity and liminal. A nod to Michel Foucault’s concept of the heterotopia, the installation presents a paradoxical zone that is everywhere by being nowhere at the same time.
Lim Soo Ngee’s Inscription of the Island
Situated on the lawn of Singapore Art Museum is a massive sculpture of a left hand, imagined by Singaporean artist Lim Soo Ngee to be part of a colossal statue that guided the ships of an ancient, mythical civilisation. The statue evenutally collapsed and left to nature. In proposing new myths, Lim questions and extends our history beyond historical records as we wonder what lies beneath the earth.
Qiu Zhijie’s One Has to Wander through All the Outer Worlds to Reach the Innermost Shrine at the End
In this massive cartographic work by Qiu Zhijie, the Chinese artist fuses history, philosophy, mythology and science conjure a world of mystery and spark your wild imagination as an adventurer. Embark on a fantastic voyage to legendary lands with names like “Island of Self-Loathing”, “Fictional Geography” and “Phantom Islands”, as you move along the massive wall-to-ceiling map installation. Of course, there is danger at every turn, represented by a series of handblown glass bestiary of monsters.
Zulkifle Mahmod’s SONICreflection
Singaporean artist Zulkifle’s sound sculpture is an aural exploration of the disaporas of Southeast Asian communities in Singapore, through recordings collected from around the city. These sounds, which range from snippets of dialogue to ambient noises, are transmitted from multiple tweeters mounted on a wall lined with wok lids, with pencil microphones used to amplify the resultant cacophony.
Singapore Biennale 2016, now ‘til 26 February 2017, Singapore Art Museum and other venues. Admission is priced at $20 for adults (additional $3 for multiple entry pass); $10 for students and senior citizens (additional $3 for multiple entry pass); free for children under 6; and $52 for families (comprising 2 adults & 2 kids). Open from 10am to 7pm daily except Fridays, when it closes at 9pm. For more information, visit Singapore Biennale’s website.