A must-see show currently at the Singapore Art Museum
This is the opportunity to see compelling contemporary artworks from Asia usually hidden behind closed doors. The show is tightly curated with only 23 works from 18 private collections around the theme of "weight of history."
Preoccupations on how the past is shaping our present seem to be one commonality shared by many Asian artists in their practice.
Xu Bing’s breath-taking installation The Living Room, which has taken an entire room of the museum, justifies a visit to the museum. The relationship of language to Chinese identity and history has long been at the core of the Chinese artist’s practice. This work dates back to 2001 when he was starting to explore the relationship between language and image in the historical development of the Chinese script. Centering on the Chinese character for ‘bird,’ the colorful installation of ascending characters traces the gradual transformation the simplified Chinese character that Mao Zedong institutionalized in the 1950s back to its older versions and a stylized bird in a flight back in time.
Another visually arresting large installation taking up another room is Jumaldi Alfi’s Life/Art #101: Never Ending Lesson, an installation of a fiber resin skeleton sitting in a full-sized wooden boat surrounded by a sea of chalk sticks (which the artist has been regularly using as a medium on chalkboard since 2009). The work by the Indonesian artist is a metaphor for all of his artistic meditations and ideological processes, the chalk being the residue of his endeavors.
More intimate works include Zhang Huan’s Ash Army No 2 which bring to mind the Terracotta Warriors of Xian, though the military figure now wears a Mao uniform and is made of incense ash, and Aisha Khalid’s Appear As You Are, Be As You Appear, a beautiful velvet and jacket that is lined with steel needles reflecting on the plight of workers in local cottage industries.
Singapore collective Vertical Submarine’s Sun Tzu’s Art of War (Part of Armchair Philosophy) is a witty commentary on the notion of the “armchair philosopher.” Here, arrows have penetrated the back of a comfortable Chesterfield armchair piercing a copy of Sun Tzu’s Art of War book, a historical Chinese military treatise regarded as the most definitive work on military strategies of its time and which has inspired all sort of political and business leaders since then. There are precisely 64 arrows in the chair – corresponding to the 64 permutations of the I-Ching – symbolizing different strategies that, according to the book, one can deploy against an enemy or opponent.
All in all, a must-see show to which visitors will enjoy returning. To see artworks from the exhibition click on the slideshow here