Asian Public Art News
Art and similar interventions in public space. Coverage moves outwards from Singapore through Asia to the rest of the world. Like nothing else, the idea of "public art" exposes the contradiction inherent in our ideas of "the public" and of "art".
Saturday, October 17, 2009
Have you ever wondered what Singapore would be like, if positive thinking and encouragement were part of the national psyche?
Read Common People's fascinating interview with low-profile, legal graffiti public artist and national cheerer-upper JJ. A wonderful intervention into Singapore's public space, whether its taxi interiors or lift-lobbies. The project is a bit like Bookcrossing, in that people receiving these post-it messages can go to JJ's blog to report on their impact. Well spotted CommonPeople (as usual).
Finally decided to upgrade the nusantara.com/pasta database of Singapore public art over to its next generation version, at www.publicart.sg. The new site, still a-building, is much more interactive, allowing for comments, voting on works, and group authoring. Also lots of fun integration with Facebook, Google Maps, Flickr and the like. All enabled by the super open-source community/content management system Drupal.
Please come have a look. I really want to make the database less of trainspotter's strange personal hobby and more of an enabler of conversations about Singapore's public art and landscape.
Lovely public art intervention as part of the Singapore Night Festival. Inspired by the banyan tree just nearby, with dangling microphones substituting for aerial roots. It responds quietly to the ambient sounds. This is a slightly "drama" capture by Draken413o. The Tree is created by FARM, the art/design collective that runs the ROJAK series of events.
Other interventions as part of the Night Festival were also successful and popular, including Sun Yu Li's LED piece and Donna Ong's Crystal City inside the Museum. Attended the first part of Substation's entry, Amanda Heng's Let's Walk Some More, which paid attention to the lost and missing as well as the spectacular.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
Intriguing project announcement - (on the invaluable Farm.sg)
"Are you bold enough to challenge the official strategy? Are you humble enough to listen to your surroundings and cooperate with the general public in shaping your art project?
Window for dialogue want to open up familiar sites in Singapore and develop tactical responses to exclusive city planing, commercialization of everyday life and public exclusion in decision making. Concerned with the shifting notions of site-specific art, and the emerging informal public sphere, it is the objective of Window for dialogue to experiment with public participation in the constructive process of public space and initiate a dialogue about how the public sphere is utilized. This will be achieved by inviting the general public, in corporation with artists, academics and the authorities to partake in the creation of public site-specific artworks."
Last Tuesday I walked across Raffles Place for a meeting nearby. I purposely chose a route that would allow me to walk through the area, one of the more important (and usually quite pleasant) public spaces in Singapore. My mood was spoiled very quickly.
I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite as disturbing as these "Fashionista Horseshoe" things placed around Raffles Place. This amalgam of hindquarters, high-heeled shoe and horsehead pressed to the ground is simply spooky. As I read in the Sunday Times of May 10, the sculptures, commissioned by the Singapore Turf Club, are shown "perched atop giant shoeboxes". (But not giant enough to actually be capable of holding the horseshoes I can't help but note.)
From the Sunday Times I also learned that these "Fashionista Horseshoes" were placed at Junction8, Plaza Singapura and Clarke Quay by CapitaLand, in addition to Raffles Place.
I guess this blog's (fading) commitment to cover public art means I have to look at stuff like this an comment, but really it's too depressing.
Asian Public Art News welcomes good advertising in public spaces. We're not like the Mayor of Sao Paolo, Brazil, who banned billboards.
A recent self-promotional foray by Singapore outdoor ad co, Moove Media, an arm of public transport giant Comfort Delgro, raises questions. Today's Sunday Times had the news that more than 200 of the 600 CNY-themed cut-out cows placed in public spaces had been stolen, despite the presence of "cows under surveillance" signs. So, the natural question, in law-abiding Singapore: why did so many people steal the cows? 1) Because they loved them so much and wanted to take them home? 2) because they hated them and thought they were a blight on the urban landscape, and wanted to remove them?
Purely aesthetic motives don't begin to capture it -- this sort of "theft" is all about authority. My guess is that the cow-eye-lash surveillance signs and the ease with which the cows could be removed together constitute something just short of an invitation to vandalize... (it wouldn't be vandalism if you were overtly invited to "steal this cow"). You are invited to transgress in a safe and relatively wholesome way that will give the advertising company lots of free publicity. And this almost-invitation to transgress is probably quite powerful, especially in law-abiding Singapore. I'm guessing that "number of cows stolen" was a KPI for this particular campaign - how else to get this sort of publicity (well timed for a slow news day)?
What was the ostensible reason for placing the cows in public spots around the island? Says Moove Media CEO Jayne Kwek, "to bring cheer and hope to Singaporeans". (Makes me a bit depressed, really. ) When asked whether the cow campaigns have a commercial point: "Even if the benefit is intangible, it doesn't matter as that's not the point. To me, the landscape is my canvas and this is art..."
Well, I think outdoor advertising execs should try and be just a little more humble or thoughtful about the public space which is "your canvas". As for your art, we thought the white elephants of Buangkok were actually a lot more interesting and cheerful than your cows. They were also the victim of some sanctioned vandalism...
Maybe they were not stolen and it was made up to get media attention?
By ARDT, at
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Creative Home - an interview with founder of Social Creatives
Today's Agatha Koh Brazil interviews Faris Basharahil, 20-year old founder of Social Creatives. We like what he has to say about images of home in Singapore:
“If you ask a Singaporean to draw a house, a typical interpretation would be a square-shaped building with a triangular roof. Perhaps there is a chimney while on the front there are two windows and a door.
“But where can you find a house like that in Singapore?
“Surprisingly not many people draw HDB flats with poles hanging out by the many windows ... This exercise shows how there is a misalignment to what we see and how we feel for our home.”
Faris was behind the recent project to paint public dustbins along Orchard Rd. For more pix, go here. While it didn't excite us as much as Farm.sg's Stamp project, it still shows some very useful thinking about urban landscape. Good luck Social Creatives... keep it coming!
Image is found on the Social Creatives homepage... to think - what a nice fantasy of the relationship between young people and their urban environment.
Warmest regards Faris Basharahil Faris@socialcreatives.com
By Anonymous, at
Monday, September 08, 2008
Singapore Biennale in the public art biz - a win-win?
In 2006, Singapore's Biennale organizers used the pulpit of Singapore's first Biennale to secure a series of public art commissions for VivoCity - major shopping center development. This approach continues, as an article in Friday's Business Times reveals. Relevant bits below:
"In fact, the Singapore Biennale committee is banking on the event to boost the city's public art scene in a way that people can still enjoy the works of some of the Biennale artists long after the event is over. That is why they are working to match artists with prospective 'clients' such as property developers to commission artworks for new buildings that the public can enjoy.
'Part of the Biennale is to secure public commissions so that the (public art) landscape will change quite dramatically with each edition (of the Biennale),' explains Low Kee Hong, assistant director (visual arts) of the National Arts Council and general manager for the Singapore Biennale.
'Working with developers is a natural fit, since that enables artists to work closely with architects for new buildings. The advantage is that the artwork can interact intimately with the architecture,' he adds.
The win-win situation is that the Biennale gives developers access to different artists, local and international, most of whom are up-and-coming if not already established. These public sculptures and installations will act as landmarks and navigation points for malls, says Mr Low, likening it to Tokyo's Roppongi Hills where one can rely on public art to navigate the area.
'For the commissioned work this year, we're working with two developers: Sino Land which is developing Fullerton Heritage and its sister company Far East Organization, which is building Orchard Central mall,' says Mr Low.
Orchard Central will have the biggest commission to date, budgeting $10 million for 12 artists to come up with at least 12 works. Fullerton Heritage has commissioned two artists for the first phase of its development.
For this Biennale though, only the two works at Fullerton Heritage - by Frenchman Daniel Buren and Danish Jeppe Hein - will be ready for viewing. The pieces for Orchard Central will only be unveiled next April when the mall opens.
In 2006, Mapletree Investments commissioned a collection of 13 art pieces for VivoCity, at a cost of $1.5 million."
Anything to educate property developers on the possibilities of public art would seem like a very good idea. However several questions come to mind.
How does this activity, of matching developers and artists, work with (or against) the curatorial project of the Biennale?
Is this activity meant to make money for the Biennale?
Is the Biennale now competing with the small group of curators and gallerists who work to secure public art commissions in Singapore currently?
And my hobby horse, what is the Biennale's approach to the process of commissioning public works?
Melisa Teo is a book editor who's also a very happening photographer. (Just follow the link to her photostream to see what I mean). Here's a shot she did in Singapore. So tagging could be very cool, if we all had Melisa's eyes to see it... Or at least there's one tag out there that in the right light looks just perfect. I'm guessing this is back of Ann Siang Hill.
With all the press hype over the appearance of Singapore films at the Cannes Film Festival, it's a bit disappointing that a Singapore-related entry at the Cans Festival didn't merit a mention in the Straits Times. But here it is... nothing subtle about this!
Hey Ivan, I liked the tune, and I especially liked the "minus lead" version to invite collaboration. A bit of a shameless transition from "what is public art" though ;-)...
I think cyberspace is a kind of public space, and my early work on the web is one reason I became interested in "real" public space.
But for the blog I'm still most focused on what's happening in our physical cityspace.
By Katong, at
Thanks for listening. OK, I promise no more shameless plugs from me. Er, this year. LOL. Take care!
By Ivan Chew, at
Saturday, April 19, 2008
Public sculpture in the way of retail experience? Off with their heads!
Look what they've done to my sculpture, ma!
How to react to these latest images from Orchard Rd (by MMS from Lucy Davis)? Can they just speak for themselves? (Maybe not, as the figures appear to have been muzzled). Shall I get all pedantic on you and write an entry on the conflict between the needs of privatized retail space and real old-fashioned public space? If I did I could have the pleasure of quoting Daisy Loo, (a fiction writer would get in trouble for giving a character who is the Head of Retail for Jones Lang LaSalle in Singapore a name like that): "Retail is a living system which needs to be constantly refreshed."
No, I shall just sit back and present the pix, and let you enjoy the latest absurdity of Singapore's urban environment...(But I might just email Sun Yuli and ask him what he's going to do... surely this is a violation of his moral rights of authorship (as they call them in the UK)).
Stumbled across this portrait of Thomas Woolner. He's the artist who created the Raffles sculpture that now sits in front of the Victoria Concert Hall in Singapore. This image is in the collection of the National Library of Australia. Follow the link for more info on the image.
Monday, December 24, 2007
The 'mysterious tower' of CBD
The unveiling of Momentumis beginning ... "Singapore's tallest sculpture" is being revealed, progressively, with the piece being completely unveiled on New Year's Even, "illuminated for the first time by a state-of-the-art lighting system". Says the commissioner:
"We hope the Singapore public will embrace this distinctive sculpture and in the fullness of time we believe it could become as iconic for Singapore's business and financial district as the 'Charging Bull' sculpture is for New York's Wall Street,"
A quick surf turns up no images of the first bits of unveiling...
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
an upward spiral? Singapore's "Tallest Sculpture" set for prominent intersection
On National Day, Keppel Land issued a press release announcing their funding of a major new public art work in the traffic island formed at the meeting point of Raffles Quay, Collyer Quay and Marina Boulevard. The work by artist David Gerstein is said to be 18.35 metres tall, to have been a technical challenge, and to have cost the developers of the adjacent One Raffles Place some two million Singapore dollars.
The patron's description of the work will have a familiar ring to students of Singapore's public sculpture. Says Mr David Martin, General Manager, One Raffles Quay Pte Ltd, "The sculpture will depict an upward spiral of progress and capture the energy and momentum of the district, Singapore and its people." As Tay Kheng Soon would say, we're getting another "screw-up" sculpture... (For more such "upward spirals" see here, here and, only half a block away from the site of the Gerstein, here.)
No image of the work was included in the press release. I'm going to resist prejudging the piece from what's available on the Internet of Mr Gerstein's work. Most of his work is colorful caricature, certainly populist.
Actually Jonathan Borofksy'smonumental Walking to the Sky sculpture was originally proposed to Mr David Martin. Apparently the patrons and the artist of Spiral Upwards were so inspired by this important monumental piece that they not only sought something similar but decided to play semantics with the title of the artwork as well.
In anycase Jonathan Borofksy very tall Walking to the Sky which was to epitomize the energy and progress of Singapore and the BFC is now located in Carnegie Mellon University. See http://www.cmu.edu/PR/releases06/060510_borofsky.html
So much for integrity and originality.
By Anonymous, at
There have been other proposals to bring Borofsky's work to Singapore, including at least one proposal to bring "Walking to the Sky" to Singapore in the mid-90s. I think the first "Walking to the Sky" was shown at Kassel. (See www.borofsky.com for more.)
By Katong, at
Sunday, April 01, 2007
Europe - Singapore graf collaboration at *scape
Singapore continues to promote a domesticated street art as part of its official youth outreach. The skatepark near the *scape headquarters saw a recent Euro-Singaporean collaboration by some of our most established "street" artists, ie Antz, The Killer Gerbil, Zero, etc, working with the London Police, Pez, and Flying Fortress out of Germany.
Sorry guys, I have to use the quotemarks when "real" graffiti carries a mandatory sentence of caning .
I'm not saying I don't support what you are doing, I just think we have to keep some perspective.
For more on the stamp project, see http://stamp.sg/. Meanwhile here's a particularly nice painted postbox. The artists is Mr Yap Kheng Kin, but I must confess I'm having a little trouble knowing how to interpret his artist's statement:
«This design should fit one of the postboxes at the site of the Integrated Resort or at the Esplanade. It reflects the growing anticipation of the upcoming casino.
The slot machine was an innovation in the U.S. as a marketing and entertainment strategy. I am trying to stay that the area has its potential in its well-heeled locality and development value without being too complicated or overcrowded like other parts of the city. The principle of the slot machine has not changed much since its early inception but it has gone through a lot of permutational evolution. The area should take pride in this and its history, being as ingenious as a slot machine.»
hi, i'm the artist. Thanks for putting up the work. To clarify the statement, the work is a site-specific installation to reflect on the mood of the people and the place as the first NATIONALLY-conceived and approved Integrated (gambling and entertainment) resort in Singapore has its initial foundation stone laid. There was a lot of controversy at that time about the resort and I wanted to show that the slot machine like the idea of the resort is really not a bad thing, depending on one's perspective.
By Yap, at
Saturday, February 24, 2007
The good people at the Farm Singapore artists collective have been impressing me with their use of web stuff to create an infrastructure for the Singapore art scene. Totally the right idea, and a great use of resources. It's not just web stuff, they do an event series (Rojak), with a particular sensitivity to Singapore's built environment - events are held in a variety of venues, people's flats, empty spaces, artist's spaces, etc. But enough praise - though they deserve more - this is to point to a public program they launched with the URA and SingPost, the privatized version of the Post Office. Called STAMP, the project is an open contest to paint a number of post boxes all over the city. Example here by Tang Ling Nah, who is best known for her large charcoal portrayals of Singapore's urban spaces. Of course I've been too idle to promote this in advance, much less create my own entry, but the winners will be announced on March 2, 2007. A terrific way to brighten up the urban landscape, and kudos to all involved.
Wow! This stencil has been part of Singapore's urban landscape for decades, on hoardings all over the city. But only now has someone decided to put it on a t-shirt. Way to go White Dog Bobby. (more cool stuff at their online shop).
Did you know that Google Maps has a pretty good database of Singapore streets in it? Recently added. I've taken the liberty of adding some of Singapore's public art into an overlay onto Google Maps. Click here to have a look. I'm overlaying a kml file generated from Google Earth, into Google Maps.
Of course the Google Earth version is nicer - for one thing the Google Maps version arbitrarily cuts off the number of artworks included, not sure why. And those of you who are Google Earth fans (you know who you are), Google Earth comes with all that extra fun zooming and panning and tilting and etc. If you are in google Earth, download http://www.nusantara.com/maps/pas.kmz
See the quick screenshot above. I do intend to keep improving this - cleaning up some of the entries, adding colorcoded icons, probably coded for how old the piece is, or how long it's been in place.
Fine pix by Ampulets of Matthew Ngui's superb "the Building Remembers, Remembering the Building", a screen embedded into the wall of the National Museum of Singapore. It is technically pioneering, and artistically very finely judged - playing with time delays and ideas of the past, displaying images that are minutes, seconds or nearly a century old. Matthew will be presenting his work in a public lecture sometime in January - can't wait. Meanwhile there are plenty of pix on Flickr, it is proving very popular with visitors to the museum. But this by Ampulets is my favorite so far.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
the pedagogical in performance
Maybe I am more influenced by my upbringing than I realize: a child of teachers, I've become infatuated with pedagogy as a performative experience. Adam Gopnik, writing about what makes public art successful, mentions as one common factor a "weakness for didacticism [that] becomes compellingly poetic". Well, I'm not sure if these recent performances in Singapore displayed a weakness for didacticism, but they used it in ways I found compelling and poetic both.
The first was first Spell7's National Language Class, which succeeded in making an audience into students, casting them into a field of school days power relations and language games. There was real pleasure to be in the classroom again (and to know the answers), but also to feel the legacy of Ionesco, to remember the absurdity and violence that lies in the pedagogical impulse. (To this day I hear the words "cou""teau" echoing menacingly whenever someone tries to teach me something.) Class nodded in that direction, but moved mainly to confront us with more subtle stuff of cultural politics, historical allusion and play with intertwining the textures of performance, language teaching and art historical exegesis.
Then it was National Language Class' doublebill partner, Ho Tzu-Nyen's Utama lecture, with its cheesy ppt, and its twinning of didacticism and personal narrative. In this and its use of images it had something of the quality of a Sebald novel. In Utama we also had a more direct confrontation with two authorities, the founder and the teacher, both first persons, both disintegrating.
The fascination grew then, in the performance of communicative reason in Jérôme Bel and Pichet Klunchun's Pichet Klunchun and Myself, at the Theatreworks space in Robertson Quay. This was a sort of dancing My Dinner with Andre, with intersubjective exchange providing the dramatic rationale, and dance just a form of anti-spectacle demonstration. "At least we've learned something" said the well-known academic critic sitting next to me. "It's like reading an article in Critical Review." He was pleased, I think, at getting a performance, a clearly presented idea of the contemporary performance impulse, and a lesson in Thai dance all in one. It possessed irony too -- while denying its possibility in cross-cultural dialog, it allowed irony in measured doses. Irony, for Pichet and Jérôme in this dialog, was enjoyed in the form of theatrical asides, shrugs and grins, for them alone, and for those of the audience who chose to follow. Irony registered mostly as resignation at the compromises and necessary distortions, the shortcomings of communicative rationality, the practical and personal limits of the urge to explain, to teach. Irony was theraupeutic to the communicators, and the audience, but did not derail the communication.
The idea is different from the act, Jérôme reminds Pichet, as he reaches to demonstrate the techniques of manipulation of the naked body which he used in his performance Jérôme Bel. Pichet demurs, hastily, "it's not my culture to see you naked". As unmoored and dessicated as a description of nakedness is compared to the real thing, we don't always need the full Monty.
So the pedagogical forms a key motif across some of the most pleasing performances I've seen in some time. There's a lesson for me in here somewhere.
This banner near from the Singapore Youth Centre reminds us of Singapore's program to co-opt the street art sensibility. (Real graffiti is punishable by caning.) This effort has reached a new (three-storey) height, as seen by today's story in, well, Today.
Below the article from Today. Canvas for our youth
Graffiti wall marks the start of developments for youth at *scape Youth Centre Monday • October 9, 2006 Grace Yap firstname.lastname@example.org
If IT was a movie, they could call it Singaporean Graffiti.
In a first for the city-state, the exterior of *scape Youth Centre was designated recently as a canvas for youth to unleash their creativity. After inviting proposals as to what shape the finished artwork would take, *scape's programming committee chose nine artists belonging to two separate graffiti crews, ZNC and Project Burnez, to collaborate on a gigantic piece of art.
On Saturday, the fruits of their labour were unveiled: A three-storey high work built around the image of a graffiti artist practicing his craft. "We tried to push the limits by actually rendering a person on the wall with only the use of spray paint," said Shah Rizzal Wan Hussain, 21, the leader of Project Burnez.
The two groups' technique of mimicking the appearance of an actual photograph in a graffiti artwork is something that had not been explored previously in Singapore, he said.
Rozaimie Sahbi, 26, who heads ZNC, added: "It was experimental for us. We had a photo to refer to, but much of the rendering was done on the spot. We were just going with the flow."
Grace Ng — the Project Officer for this latest initiative by Youthop!a, a unit of the National Youth Council — estimated that about 800 cans of spray paint were used in the work's creation, which took about a month to complete.
The short time they were given to create the work and the new methods they used meant the group had to quickly adapt to their artistic space. "There were two boom lifts, so it could only take two people at a time, while another two had to wait. We also had quite a hard time rendering the images, because when you're so high up, you have to keep leaning back to see if the tone is right," said Rozaimie.
Ng said the graffiti showcase is only the beginning of new developments at the youth centre. "We are encouraging youth to use the walls as a canvas and hopefully every year, different graffiti crews can come in to refresh the artwork".
She added that young people can soon look forward to a black box theatre-cum-exhibition space at the venue that will allow youth to explore their interests in creative art forms and to showcase their abilities.
Wednesday, September 13, 2006
Dali's in Singapore - "complementing the Biennale"
Singapore's tony Opera Gallery has brought in an exhibition and sale of European masterworks, to coincide with the Singapore Biennale 2006. The exhibition includes a number of public sculptures, which are being displayed near the existing Homage to Newton on Boat Quay. It also looks like the Alice in Wonderland piece that will be part of the Wheelock Holding's new property on Scott's Rd is already ensconced outside of Wheelock Place. See pix:
Personally, one Dali sculpture goes a long way (I don't think he had his heart in this 3D work...), but I can't complain about having a bit more to look at these days. I wonder how they match with the Yayoi Kusuma wrapped trees down Orchard Rd (!!!). Pix and commentary to come when I get a chance to actually look at some art.
Tuesday, September 05, 2006
Singapore Biennale up and running
The Singapore Biennale launched over the weekend. Mainstream media coverage has been weak so far, but the Flick community has responded well. In particular see Eng Kiat's coverage of Usman Haque's Open Burble, which opened the event.
Also ex-arts administrator chubby Hubby's moblog (using his new Nokia N73), and a great shot of the Sugimoto installation by Ah Bob Lee. See also FlutedGlass's documentation of Jason Wee's 1987.
I've been to the parties, which were fun and very strange, but only one real venue so far, Simryn Gill's event around her artist's book, "Guide to the Murals at Tanjong Pagar Railway Station, Singapore".
Monday, August 07, 2006
Wheelock Properties first to benefit from public art grant scheme
Singapore's doesn't have a percent-for-arts plan whereby developers must allocate a sum of money to artworks in their developments. The Singapore version of such schemes is that
«building owners of new developments within key activity and commercial areas in the city centre will be granted up to an additional 2 per cent GFA [gross floor area] over and above the maximum allowable under the Master Plan 2003, when art works are integrated into the overall design of the development.»
Wheelock Properties, a S$ 1-billion listed developer (formerly Marco Polo Group) is spending some 6.5 million S$ on four works to be integrated into its redevelopment of Scotts Shopping Centre (very near the corner of Scotts and Orchard). The works are:
# “Three Indeterminate Lines 1994” by Bernar Venet (see this article in Sculpture magazine)
Now isn't Wheelock ever so "original' in its choice of art! The Dali is not the first , the Moore the second and the Dale C...well Ritz Carlton 's wall decorations proliferate organically.Putting their lone ceiling bauble to shame!
With a dedicated art department surely Wheelock could do better? Very safe very bland and very uninspiring...
By Anonymous, at
Not the most daring set of choices, I agree... On principle I am particularly skeptical of the Dali - that figure looks great in Dali's original prints (part of set of illustrations of Alice in Wonderland), but I think it's pretty dull translated to 3d.
Still, let's reserve final judgement until we see the works and how they are displayed in their settings. The Moore in particular will need a lot of space around it to be appreciated properly...
By Katong, at
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
the fine art of adorning public sculpture
Has an anonymous installation artist adoptedthe man in front of the (now closed for renovation) Armenian St Museum? Yesterday.sg has an entire category ("public sculptures") dedicated to such "interventions". Ok, there are only two to date, but it is a fine start.
This figurine was created by Aw Pottery on a commission from the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, in the very early 1970s, at a time when Singapore was searching restlessly for icons of itself. I picked one up on a recent trip to Malaysia - it is around seven inches high.
We managed to find Aw Pottery off the North-South Highway, south of Ayer Hitam. The restaurant is closed: I remember it well from the days before the Highway. The tilework bathrooms remain, unused and run down. The pottery works is still functioning, though the dragon kiln, I read, was closed around 1980. This is around the time the family emigrated to the US, settling around Berkeley, and later shifting the pottery works to Seattle.
Aw Pottery was once an important place for Singapore's sculpture and ceramic arts. Aw Eng Kwang showed in the first sculpture show of the Singapore Art Society, and his guardians still stand outside the Hilton Hotel, the most iconic figures on Orchard Rd. I'm linking here to a picture dated 1960 of Aw Pottery US proprietor Albert Aw as a young boy, with a sculpture created by his father. It is posted on the Aw Pottery USA website.
Nice frame from David Wells... see also his other contributions to the Singapore Public Art Pool. Eng Teng's Mother and Child is certainly one of the most iconic of sculptures in Singapore, and one of the few remaining markers of continuity in Orchard Rd.
Wednesday, June 21, 2006
Singapore: "Graffiti gaining acceptance as art form"
Err, not really... graffiti is still punishable by mandatory strokes of the rotan, which is not a theatrical performance but the real thing. Still "gaining acceptance" were the words in a a recent headline in the Channel News Asia website. But there is a bit of a story - graffiti-styled work is now popular in Singapore among official arts commissioners, as a indicator of an aspiration to be relevant to concerns of "youth". The story interviews one Zack Kazak, who has "moved on" from the adrenaline-rush of bombing to create works under Arts Council grants and programs.
But as usual, my favorite part of the story is the vox pop. Two unnamed members of the public are asked if graffiti is art and reply:
"I think it is art in a way. Sometimes it depends on how they express themselves, basically into the pictures they create on the wall," one person said.
"I don't understand what they're drawing, so I can't say whether I like them or not," another said.
From understanding, all else follows... a common theme in Singapore art reception.
Saturday, June 17, 2006
Vernon Chan on the white elephants
Disclaimer: You really have to follow Singapore events pretty carefully to understand this story. But the short lived public display of the "white elephants of Buangkok" was definitely a milestone moment. Vernon Chan posts a thoughtful article on the Substation's online magazine. Among other things he sees the white elephants as demonstrating some principles of good Singapore public art:
1. Site specific art that speaks directly to the public 2. Relevant to area residents 3. Strong, clear social and political commentary 4. Controversial, yet humorous and cheeky 5. Safe and almost legal
He says that the police could find no grounds to prosecute the people who put up the elephants, but we should remember how certain members of the press were egging the police on to do so! Also, at least according to one newspaper report, it was not an "outraged citizen" who filed a police report, but the SMRTC themselves. I'm glad Vernon takes the discussion a bit further, and shows how considering the white elephants as art production helps to better frame Singapore's existing art production, which he describes (tentatively) as:
«Conceptual, aesthetic, avowedly non-confrontational, even to the point of avoiding biting socio-political commentary. Interred in formalised spaces within galleries; if public, curiously uninterrogative of public discourse. Perhaps the public are not that naïve when they ask: "How do (can) artists here operate, given the restrictions of the state?" The internalisation of legal and political strictures creates a commonsensical second nature of the artist to instinctively reject certain tropes as beyond artistic markers, while maintaining protestations of his unsullied creativity.»
Friday, June 02, 2006
Singapore Art Museum graffitoed
Well not really graffitoed of course. More like painted in a studied art school manner with some pop culture street art inspiration, in an attempt to be hip or relevant or something. Not as much fun as Tzay Chuen's pink ladder, but hey, it's all right.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
aspirational names for art works
Singapore's President S.R. Nathan presented the ASEAN Secretariat with a bronze sculpture, by Singapore artist Sun Yuli. From the report in Channel News Asia:
«President Nathan presented a bronze sculpture, aptly entitled "Harmony", to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.
Mr Nathan's association with the regional grouping of Southeast Asian nations dates back some 40 years, when he was a senior officer in Singapore's Foreign Service helping to set up ASEAN in 1967.
In recent weeks, ASEAN's role in the region has been underscored by several leaders visiting Jakarta.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice drove home the point during her visit here.
President Nathan and President Yudhoyono also stressed the importance of ASEAN to collectively face the emerging challenges in Asia.
The Singapore head of state spent an hour at the secretariat which was built during the Suharto-era.
Mr Nathan and Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono had earlier discussed ways to strengthen the role of ASEAN.
"There is an impression that ASEAN is doing reasonably well and therefore outsiders are interested in engaging ASEAN. And on our own part, we believe that to compete globally, ASEAN has to integrate economically," said Ong Keng Yong, ASEAN's Secretary-General.»
No pix of the artwork online yet, not even on Sun's own website. So we don't know if it is the same design as Sun's "Harmony" which was set up recently in Jinji Lakeside near Suzhou, China, and featured on a Singapore-issued commemorative coin.
A lovely photo essay put together by BeeSee...uploaded in September but I just spotted it flicking through Flickr. Where is this work exactly? Near the Supreme Court? Hey BeeSee, please join the Singaproe Public Art pool and add this series!
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
Your bridge, what does it mean?
If you are an artist or architect in Singapore, pitching for a public work, above all you need to know what your design symbolizes. Not its associations, resonances, poetic implications, or references, but its one true symbolic meaning. Full stop.
Take for example the new pedestrian and road bridge meant to join the new attractions around Marina Bay, the "Singapore Eye", the new integrated resort, and etc. This bridge shares a double-helix design, courtesy of the partnership of Australian duo COX Group and Arup and local firm Architects 61. Said the Minister for National Development, upon announcing the bridge to Parliament:
Its unique double helix design, two spiralling steel forms meant to resemble a DNA structure, symbolises "life and continuity, renewal and growth".
The URA's presentation of the visuals can be downloaded here. And the URA has dedicated a full website to the bridge and the public art contest for young people which is associated with the bridge. More on that later.
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Toa Payoh Town Centre updates
Three new sculptures have been added to the database (bringing our public list to 124). These are works by Ng Eng Teng, Chong Fah Cheong and Anthony Poon, all within spitting distance of the new, massive, HDB Hub, in the remodeled Toa Payoh Town Centre.
Cory's only photo set on Flickr is a wonderful series of images of Singapore's Tiger Balm Gardens. My post here is not very timely since Cory posted this shortly after his visit to Singapore in September for the Singapore Writers Festival.
I particularly like this image - It could be a scene from Some Come to Town...
Tiger Balm Gardens, built in the 1930s, is one kind of precursor of the contemporary themepark - a didactic public attraction - in this case meant to inculcate a heady SouthSeas Chinese mix of Confucian moral education and fear of spirits...
Saturday, January 14, 2006
in Singapore's Business Times
Blogging was the subject of a piece in the Business Times yesterday. The journalist, Cheah Ui-Hoon, certainly bit off a bit much with this piece, which ranges across corporate blogs, food blogs, and nusantara.com as the only example of a local art blog. I'd link to the story, but SPH newspapers are online for subscribers only...
Here's what she said about nusantara.com:
«Art blogs might not garner the same public notice as food blogs do, but they also speak to a specific audience. Peter Schoppert's personal weblog 'highlights art and similar interventions in public space', focusing on Singapore but covers the rest of the world.
The former managing director of Singapore University Press, and director of NUS Publishing's nusantara.com site has links to his blog which started off first as a database for some research he was doing on public art.
'Traffic's not too heavy, about 100 hits a week or so, with a lot more people visiting the database rather than the blog,' he says. He has been quite net-savvy since the 90s, and attributes the explosion in blogging to the tools made available two, three years ago which make the whole process much easier. 'Since I've done the research anyway, why not make it available,' he says, adding that it's not a 'personal expression' platform and also purely non-commercial.»
I'll send her a note to correct the statement there that NUS Publishing has anything to do with nusantara.com... Also the blog traffic is about 100 a week, but the database gets about five times as much. I tried my best not to be quotable (sorry Ui-Hoon!) but managed to be drawn in to say something about blogging in general: «Blogs are great if you want to find the buzz about something, as they're fast, furious, and less guarded...»
Saturday, January 07, 2006
Ultimate in home Christmas decorations
Singapore is no slouch when it comes to the "Christmas light-up", never without its critics of course. But check out this home setup - animating the whole house light-up to music (which broadcasts over a local radio frequency, so that neighbours aren't disturbed ((too much!))). In fact the house became so famous that the road infront was completely blocked by traffic, and the homeowner had to agree to switch the whole thing off. (Courtesy of urban screens - see their rss feed at http://culturebase.org/home/urbanscreens/screensblog/atom.xml).
«Ms. Stich is the sort of guide who can tell you how to find a James Turrell neon light installation in Barcelona and the optimal time to view it. "If you can't find this work, don't despair; it's not always turned on," she warns, and then gives directions to someone who assist you.»
«Artists from Finland, Mexico, Germany, Zimbabwe, Austria, Japan, Egypt and China are joining four from the Twin Cities and two from northern Minnesota after answering a worldwide call for stone carvers. They will chisel and carve in public view, and organizers will install the finished pieces at permanent sites to be determined throughout St. Paul.»
Saturday, December 03, 2005
public art in Singapore: more trouble than it is worth?
Just decided to post this 561kb pdf file of an essay I wrote for a conference organized in early 2004. Sorry that it has taken so long to put it up on this website. it may appear in a collection of essays on art reception in Asia that John Clark is putting together.
The essay looks at certain ideals of public art, and traces a kind of history of "the public" in Singapore based on Singapore's art works. I bring in Habermas in a big way for this discussion. Not everyone likes that!
Friday, December 02, 2005
Sarong Party Girl in Today - on public space
Missy Izzy, until recently the Sarong Party Girl, is best-known for her blog - lots of sexuality and political incorrectness. She's recently started writing a column for the blogger-friendly daily tabloid Today, and well, today, she hits the subject of nasty commercial Christmas decorations, not just complaining, but connecting the subject to concepts of public space in the city. Excerpts:
«With the country's conservative stand towards graffiti and busking, you'd think such rampant disregard for public space wouldn't be tolerated. »
«I find it terribly unfair that the public spaces of my country are being sold off the multinationals' causes — of which there is only one: Profit. And in so doing, locals are deprived of a space they can truly call their own.»
Saturday, October 22, 2005
Public art in Singapore's new downtown campus
This story on the Channel News Asia website gets some voxpop on the recent installation of public art in the campus of Singapore Management University. Says Swee Lin of Sculpture Square, we want people to touch the art, but some actually moved one piece some 50 metres... Others get scolded (by security guards, by academic staff?) for touching the most touchable pieces "We should be able to touch them, kiss them, or something..."
Sunday, September 18, 2005
more on the elephants: Call it any fancy name but breaking a law is still breaking a law
A response, sort of, to the white elephant question, in the Review pages of the Straits Times (here reposted on TheLittleRedDot. The article quotes a couple of people on how prosecuting the white elephant people would really be overkill, but then it falls back on the "law is a law" line.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
"White elephants today, hammer and sickle tomorrow?"
In what is surely an unhelpful and misguided bizarre and darkly humorous article, Chua Lee Hoong of the Straits Times writes about the case of the white elephant street signs, saying that "Laws become meaningless if too many remain unenforced." Surely Lee Hoong the opposite is also certainly true - laws become meaningless if they are enforced to the point of absurdity. The point of her article is that while the elephant protest may seem charming, fun, and harmless, it is an "unwanted precedent" that will lead to chaos and danger. She actually uses the phrase "white elephants today, hammer and sickle tomorrow".
Let's be a bit pragmatic shall we? This is a normal run-of-the-mill municipal dispute, with a public protest of grace and humor. If the SMRTC is unhappy about the white elephant signs stuck in the ground in front of its premises, it's solution is a simple one. Take them out of the ground! Since they were put in the ground without a permit, no one can stop SMRTC from doing so.
Friday, September 09, 2005
more on the white elephants of Singapore - police rush to justify their actions
See this article in Today. The police statement says "the Police must be fair and transparent at all times and not investigate cases selectively". Since someone complained, they must investigate. But their statement is a bit misleading, as the Police must always be making choices of what resources to put into what investigations. As Charles Chong, MP for the district in question said, surely there are more important cases out there?
UPDATE Sept 9: Others are questioning this logic too. See this letter to Today. And Lianhe Zaobao reports that it was SMRT Corporation that filed the complaint. Boo hiss!!
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
more on the URA's public art scheme
The URA's circular can be found here. After all, "Provision of public art that is well integrated with the development can complement the built environment and enliven visitor experience."
Interesting to note the definition of public ("The art work must be located within a publicly accessible non-paid area or publicly visible part of a private development from the adjacent street level.") and some thoughts on the definition of art for these purposes ("Art works which can be easily removed (e.g. paintings, topiary) will not be considered under this scheme.")
Singapore planner-speak hasn't really loosened up much!
Sunday, September 04, 2005
new public art scheme - not percent for art - but gross floor area incentives
The "arts incentive scheme" for Singapore was just announced last night. Here is the Channel News Asia story, and it looks like the official press release will wait till Monday. Civil service is on a five-day week you know... Developers who incorporate art into their work will get more space to work with...
Friday, September 02, 2005
white elephants in Singapore
In a pointed and charming protest over a local issue - an MRT station which remains unopened - residents of Buangkok put up eight white elephant cutouts around the outside of the MRT station. They were put up to coincide with the visit of MP and Minister Vivian Balakrishnan to the constituency. As quoted, the minister sounded ruefully amused, saying that the station opening "was just a matter of time". However in today's Straits Times we read of an ongoing police investigation under the Public Entertainment and Meetings Act... Buzz 0, Police State 2
Sunday, July 31, 2005
more graffiti in Singapore - anti-death penalty
More graffiti in Singapore - well actually just a few stencils in the housing estate known as Jurong West: "Abolish the Death Penalty: We are Not Murderers". Even though the stencils were erased quickly the images have been making their way across the internet. I received them by email from friends. The graffiti was also mentioned in tomorrow.sg, who have created a tag "death" to follow discussions of the subject. Follow this link from the singaporeist blog.
What would be commonplace in most cities is front-page news in Singapore. Commentators on the internet bulletin boards are calling this grafitti artist a hero - though certainly I wouldn't give him or her marks for artistry: it is an angry violent sort of graffiti.
See the thread at hardwarezone.com, one of the most popular online forums in Singapore. or come here to read the article in the New Paper, which hews more to the graffiti is bad and "be rational" perspectives. The last sentence in the article, in case anyone forgets, is "Those found guilty of vandalism will be fined up to $2,000 or jailed up to three years and will receive between three and eight strokes of the cane."