Singapore Art Museum’s Latest Show Examiner Exchanges

The act of giving transforms an ordinary object into something much more meaningful and emotional; become the embodiment of a relationship, a social act, even an obligation towards others.

These perspectives set the stage for Singapore Art Museum (SAM) ‘s latest exhibition The Gift, which runs August 20 to November 7, 2021 at the Ngee Ann Kongsi Concourse Gallery at National Gallery Singapore.

Featured as one of four related exhibitions in an ongoing transnational project titled Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories initiated by the Goethe-Institut, The Gift builds on the project’s broader themes of intertwined stories, interpreted narratives and ‘incarnation.

Illustrated by Korean-American artist Nam June Paik’s first encounter with German artist Joseph Beuys and the powerful sense of being deeply moved by one another, SAM’s exhibition focuses on the nature of relationships, affinities and influences, where history, geography and identity are seen as manifestations of such entanglement.

Image source: Singapore Art Museum

“Through the concept of the gift, the exhibition examines the tangible and intangible between and around objects, works of art and stories, as well as how these are entangled. In curatorial dialogue and collaboration with partner institutions across Europe and Asia, we have the opportunity to expand our understanding and scope of creating meaning through the works we present and exchange, which allows us to consider new readings in the company of others and find ways to be more connected. With The Gift, and more broadly, Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories, we hope to bring these new perspectives on ideas of exchange and influences to our audience, ”said Dr June Yap, Director of Curatorial, Collections and programs at SAM and curator of The Gift.

Explore historical exchanges beyond geographic borders

Showcasing works of art and historical materials from the collections of SAM and partner institutions such as the Nasional Indonesia Gallery, the MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum and the Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, The Gift invites visitors to consider a view multidimensional works of art and materials from all geographic areas. and their relationship to each other.

Taking visitors through a complex journey, the exhibits are presented as intertwined through narratives, agencies and stories, inspiring new meanings and perspectives.

Joseph Beuys’ Energiestab (Energy Staff) (1974) embodies key aspects of the artist’s influential practice, particularly his ideal of Eurasia as a larger framework that challenges the boundaries that demarcate cultures and aesthetics.

Born out of Fire (1993) by Salleh Japar draws inspiration from Japar’s travels to Australia and draws on universal symbols that are familiar across cultures and belief systems, but personal when read in context. everyday.

Tang Da Wu’s Monument for Seub Nakhasathien (1991) extends its support to Thai conservationist Seub Nakhasathien and his cause, continuing Tang’s explorations of environmental and ecological issues.

Singapore's latest art museum exhibit examines the act of giving Image source: Singapore Art Museum

The Gift also studies the nature of exchanges – their gesture, value, expectations and reciprocity – and how the status and interpretation of the exchange can also change over time. Donna Ong’s The Caretaker (2008), for example, extends the story of the 1927 Friendship Doll Project, an exchange of dolls between Japan and the United States as a symbol of goodwill and their close relationship.

Many dolls were destroyed when tensions between the two countries escalated during World War II. Ong’s work returns to this historic moment by creating a fictional setting where a guardian seems to watch over the memory of the dolls and testify to their friendly reunion.

Unpacking the complex definition of territories in Southeast Asia, Ho Tzu Nyen presents The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia: F for Fold (2021), from an ongoing project which is one of the works commissioned for Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories, where he presents an amorphous interpretation of the subject of historical narratives through an endless physical book.

Offer an introspection on the subject of interrelationships

Beyond the examination of landscapes and historical symbols, The Gift also engages visitors in an introspective reflection on oneself, through works that reflect personal expressions of interrelationships between bodies and spaces, sensibilities and l ‘other.

A key example is Korperdruck (Body Pressure) by Bruce Nauman (1980), which invites the audience to present their body to the unyielding surface of a wall, to meet and become aware of its resistance. Through this participatory work, Nauman encourages an examination of oneself and of one’s relationship with one’s own body.

In Holly Zausner’s video work Second Breath (2004-2005), her staged performance using large human forms in latex against a backdrop of Berlin architecture reflects her response to these historic structures, their narratives and the place of the individual in them.

The Gift is presented as part of Collecting Entanglements and Embodied Histories, a dialogue between the collections of SAM, Galeri Nasional Indonesia, MAIIAM Contemporary Art Museum and Nationalgalerie – Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, initiated by the Goethe-Institut.

The exhibitions are curated by June Yap, Grace Samboh, Gridthiya Gaweewong and Anna-Catharina Gebbers.

Main image source from the Singapore Art Museum.

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