We reveal the dates, venue and theme of the Singapore Biennale, as well as our favourite artworks from the biennial festival at the Singapore Art Museum and other venues within the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct.
To our fellow art aficionados and the like, this much-anticipated event on the arts calendar has made its comeback on our sunny island! Organised by the Singapore Art Museum, the Singapore Biennale returns for its fifth edition with the title, “An Atlas of Mirrors”. Happening ’til 26 February 2017 at Singapore Art Museum and six other venues in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct, this biennial contemporary art event features 63 Asian artists and art collectives presenting various site-specific and never-before-seen artworks that reflect shared histories and current realities within and beyond the region. With countless artworks to choose from that will make your head spin, we’ve rummaged through the extensive list to present you this handy-dandy guide on getting the most outta the Singapore Biennale.
Reflections at the Singapore Art Museum
Commence your Biennale escapade with Zulkifle Mahmod’s SONICreflection located at the first floor of Singapore Art Museum. Through a “sound sculpture” made of wok lids that emanate recorded soundscapes from diasporas around Singapore, this installation attempts to unveil the nuances of a multicultural Singapore like never before.
Next, head over to Harumi Yukutake’s Paracosmos, a fascinating display of 1,600 hand-cut mirrors carefully lined at the museum’s 160-year-old stairwell. The explosion of mirror images of both floors and passers-by dissolve the definition between foreground and background – creating a space of otherness that is recognisable yet unfamiliar.
Move on to the second level of the museum to witness a mesmerising installation entitled Endless Hours at Sea by Martha Atienza, which offers a multi-sensory experience through its sound, water and light elements as it shares the Dutch-Filipina artist’s time spent on cargo vessels crossing many oceans and echoes the experiences of many of her countrymen.
Don’t miss Deng Guoyuan’s Noah’s Garden II – a kaleidoscopic glasshouse structure located within the beautiful museum chapel. Covered entirely with mirrors, and filled with neon-coloured rocks, live greenery and artificial flowers, this art installation presents you an intriguing experience as the infinitely multiplying mirror images blur the lines between the real and the artificial.
But before you exit the museum, be sure to loop around the museum’s Glass Porch, which is overtaken by Ryan Villamael’s Locus Amoenus. Hand-cut ‘greenery’ made of old and new maps of the Philippines are invading onto the façade of the museum (which is a colonial building), highlighting the country’s history of colonial rule.
More explorations at SAM at 8Q
The journey through An Atlas of Mirrors doesn’t stop there. Across the street at SAM at 8Q, you can catch a glimpse of a performance art piece by Chia Chuyia called Knitting the Future that recalls rituals of food preparation and is a response to environmental issues. Ongoing daily till 28 November (excluding Tuesdays), the artist fascinatingly knits a garment out of leeks.
At level 2 of SAM at 8Q, you’ll be greeted by Witness to Paradise 2016 – a poignant reflection by two artists, a filmmaker and an anthropologist from India (Nilima Sheikh, Praneet Soi, Abeer Gupta and Sanjay Kak), responding to the beauty and devastation of Kashmir through photography, paintings and garments.
Just a floor above, you’ll see Htein Lin’s Soap Blocked, where a map of Myanmar is made out of over 1,000 soap bars. A crouched figure trapped within four walls is carved into each soap bar, encapsulating the collective helplessness experienced by the nation during the socialist military regime.
Then, there’s Sugoroku – Anxiety of Falling from History by Nobuaki Takekawa – a brightly-coloured gallery space occupied by a glass rocket, maps, board games and prints filled with irreverent humour, elaborating on historical and current social issues in post-World War II Japan.
You also can’t miss these (free to view!) artworks…
More exciting Biennale adventure ensues at other venues in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct and other museums in the vicinity, including the National Museum of Singapore, the Peranakan Museum and the Asian Civilisations Museum. At Stamford Green (right next to National Museum of Singapore), there are two gigantic mirrors facing each other; each emblazoned with the text “There are those who stay” and “There are those who go”. This installation by Perception 3 alludes to the controversy of the demolition of the old National Library, questioning the notion of choice, attachment, separation and loss. Also, your Biennale experience is incomplete until you visit Singapore Management University (SMU) de Suantio Gallery for a silent film by Sakarin Krue-On called Kra-Tua Taeng Seua (A Tiger Hunt). The film retells a traditional Thai folklore, and the work includes a behind-the-scenes documentary of the artist’s collaboration with the Thai traditional theatre group, as well as performance artefacts – reflecting on life and the role of art in a megacity.
The largest contemporary art exhibition in Singapore and the only Biennale in the world that focuses on a myriad of art from Southeast Asia (as well as East and South Asia), the Singapore Biennale is definitely a must-go art event. Time to ring up your art-loving buddies and make plans!
Singapore Biennale, happening ’til 26 February 2017, takes place at Singapore Art Museum and other venues in the Bras Basah-Bugis precinct. Admission costs $20 for adults (with additional $3 for multiple entry pass); $10 for students and senior citizens (with additional $3 for multiple entry pass); free for children under 6; and $52 for families (comprising 2 adults & 2 kids). Singapore Biennale is open from 10am – 7pm daily except Fridays, when it closes at 9pm. For more information on Singapore Biennale, visit the website.
This article is sponsored by Singapore Art Museum.