This symposium builds on the Biennale’s title Every Step in the Right Direction to explore ways of confronting and re-working the world through contemporary art. Art has long provided a condition to investigate the circumstances of our times. However, its ability to bring people together has become more uncertain in the face of changing global politics, especially as different interests appropriate art as a means to advance ideological interests. Evermore, art is a common, though contested, space to discover opportunities and address predicaments.
This symposium takes shape as a streaming platform consisting of filmed lectures, written texts and live-audience panels allowing for real-time audience engagement. It brings together artists, curators, critics, historians, advocates and cultural workers who have sought more active roles in engaging with urgent social conditions, and whose work cannot be narrowly framed within systems of presentation, validation and circulation in the art world. With the ethical imperatives of art and action in mind, this symposium will examine how action and rightfulness can enable us to move in the right direction, together.
- Singapore Biennale Online Symposium | Right Here, Right Now: Constellating Worlds in the Contemporary
The Singapore Biennale 2019 has always been partly imagined as an ongoing seminar. The exhibition programmes and the projects reflect the concerted effort to discursively activate whatever material the public encountered and experienced. Curatorially, this was made possible through the art itself, which opened up to interaction upon contact. That said, this organic emergence of relationality between art and agency still needs a supplement in the form of a discussion platform that enhances the potential of discursive activation.
The symposium programme, therefore, enhances the desire of Singapore Biennale 2019 to further flesh out the ethical and geopoetic premise embodied in its title Every Step in the Right Direction. Speaking to the vision of contemplating what is right for the place, this series of discussions clusters around the prompt “Right Here, Right Now: Constellating Worlds in the Contemporary.” It seeks to harness the impulse of the assembly by way of the biennale and the symposium. The Biennale invests in the capacity of the biennale modality to convene a situation of reflection and investigation as the necessary beginning of the ethical resolve of taking a step in the right direction, as decided upon by a collective of interlocutors.
The symposium opens with a keynote address that responds to the concern of “Recovering Geography Aesthetically.” In the spirit of Singapore Biennale’s vision of proposing another world for Southeast Asia instead of only remapping the existing Cold War psychogeography, the keynote summons a worldly community that cannot be conveniently reduced to the international or the global. It figures through the region laterally, adjacently, even circuitously. Through the intelligence of creative form and critical inquiry, the keynote offers a context that is highly mediated by forms of decisiveness as they may materialize in art, collaboration, reciprocal learning, intimacy with an inter-species ecology, and so on.
Following the keynote, the symposium comprises two sections: “The Geopoetic and the Ethical” and “The Promise of Action and Rightfulness.”
In “The Geopoetic and the Ethical,” in keeping with the Biennale’s aspiration to re-world through form and to inspire thoughtful and generous sympathy for urgent action, speakers engage a wide range of anxieties that touch on how places give rise to specific propositions for the project of transformation—propositions that are deemed right for the place. Central here is the analysis of how power organises social formation, but also how sensible form can disrupt this hegemonic rhythm. This notion of what is right for the place historicises action as well as creates conditions for its sustained insistence on a future.
“The Promise of Action and Rightfulness” builds on the Biennale’s faith in both agency and patience, thus evoking the promise of whatever gesture is thought to be right. Such rightfulness may come in the form of initiations that are animated by particular gains in another time or experiments in the present, or both. The notion of promise is cast in light of memory of previous forays as well as the anticipation of imminent opportunity.
Cognisant of the situation brought about by the spread of COVID-19 all over the world, the Biennale has decided to explore the acumen of a digital method to channel various modes of interactivity, from live panel discussions to recorded lectures and uploaded texts. Because the times are viral, we will transmit virtually, right here, right now.
Patrick Flores is Professor at the Department of Art Studies at the University of the Philippines and Curator of the Vargas Museum in Manila. Among his publications are Painting History: Revisions in Philippine Colonial Art (1999); Remarkable Collection: Art, History and the National Museum (2006); and Past Peripheral: Curation in Southeast Asia (2008). He was a curator (‘Position Papers’) at the 2008 Gwangju Biennale and a Guest Scholar of the Getty Research Institute in Los Angeles in 2014. He curated the Philippine Pavilion at the Venice Biennale in 2015 and organised the ‘South by Southeast’ exhibitions on Southeast Asia, Southeast Europe, South Africa, and the Caribbean in 2015 and 2019.Collapse
Latipa (née Michelle Dizon) is a visual artist, theorist, and Associate Professor of Media and Cultural Studies at the University of California, Riverside. Her work summons sites of memory and resistance in the wake of historical dispossession, migration, and diaspora. Latipa's recent projects include The Archive's Fold, a multi-image slide installation that explores the violence of the US colonial archive by reading its images through past and future ancestors, and White Gaze (with Viet Le), an artist's book and photographic installation that poses a decolonial counterpoint to National Geographic and its legacy of imperialist visuality. Past projects of note include Perpetual Peace a multichannel video installation about extractivism and ecological disaster in the Philippines and Basing Landscapes a single-channel video installation about the gendered violence of neocolonial occupation. She has lectured and exhibited across the Americas, Europe, and Asia in significant cultural and educational institutions such as the Center for Feminist Studies in Zagreb, Croatia and School of Oriental and African Studies, London, United Kingdom. She has also founded and developed grassroots initiatives to build and nurture community such as at land's edge (2015−2018) an autonomous pedagogical platform based in South and East Los Angeles and the Memory and Resistance Laboratory (2019−present) which partners with grassroots organization to create media based in social movements. Latipa earned an MFA in Art with a specialization in Interdisciplinary Studio from the University of California, Los Angeles, and a Ph.D. in Rhetoric with designated emphases in Film and Women, Gender, and Sexuality from the University of California, Berkeley.Collapse
Commissioned for the Singapore Biennale 2019 Online Symposium, Radical Closure gathers thinker and artist Jalal Toufic’s texts on his concept of radical closure (a “topical” subject in the time of COVID-19-induced quarantines). The online publication is complemented by two audio files.Jalal Toufic, “Second Variation on Radical Closure (in a Radical Closure?)”
The publication is available for download.Download Radical ClosureJalal Toufic, “Fourth Variation on a Q&A to an Undelivered Lecture on Radical Closure in the Time of COVID-19-induced Quarantines”Courtesy of Jalal Toufic
Jalal Toufic is a thinker and a mortal to death. He was born in 1962 in Beirut or Baghdad and died before dying in 1989 in Evanston, Illinois. His books, a number of which were published by Forthcoming Books, are available for download, free of charge, at his website: www.jalaltoufic.com. Most of his videos are available for viewing on Vimeo. He was a participant in the Sharjah Biennials 6, 10, and 11; the 9th Shanghai Biennale; the 1st Asia Biennial & 5th Guangzhou Triennial; and “A History: Art, Architecture, and Design, from the 1980s Until Today” (Centre Pompidou), among others. He was a guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program in 2011. He was the Director of the School of Visual Arts at the Lebanese Academy of Fine Arts (Alba) from September 2015 to August 2018, and he is currently a Professor at the Department of Humanities and Creative Writing at Hong Kong Baptist University.Collapse
Prompted by the Biennale’s aspiration to re-world through form and to inspire thoughtful sympathy for urgent action, speakers engage with the potential of places to give rise to transformation within and beyond themselves. More crucially, this panel will examine how these transformations become a form of resistance against hegemonic social formation.Panel 1
Bart De Baere
Bart De Baere became director of the Museum of Contemporary Art in Antwerp (M HKA) in 2002. Since its merger with the Centre for Visual Culture in 2003, the M HKA has a film component and is co-publisher of Afterall Journal. With a background in archeology and art history De Baere’s experience is broad. He is a member of the board of directors of CIMAM - International Committee for Museums and Collections of Modern and Contemporary Art. Between 2003 and 2008 he served as chairman of the Flemish Council for Culture, which advises the government on cultural policy, and from 1999 to 2001, he was advisor for cultural heritage and contemporary art to the Flemish Minister of Culture. From 1986 to 2001 he was curator at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Ghent (now S.M.A.K.), during which time he organised various exhibitions including This is the Show and the Show is Many Things. He organised and curated events for many venues abroad including Documenta IX in Kassel where he was member of the curatorial team, and the 6th Moscow Biennale, where he was the curator. His writing, theoretical texts and interviews have been featured in a variety of publications.
Franciska Zólyom is an art historian and curator, and has been the director of the GfZK (Museum of Contemporary Art) Leipzig since 2012. From 1997 to 1999, she worked as a curator at the Ludwig Museum of Contemporary Art in Budapest. After an internship at the Hamburger Bahnhof – Museum für Gegenwart in Berlin (2001 and 2003/04), she became the director of the Institute of Contemporary Art – Dunaújváros, Hungary. Here she worked with international artists such as Gilbert Hage, Tamás Kaszás, Tilo Schulz, Sean Snyder and Technika Schweiz, initiating numerous site- specific and context-related exhibitions and research projects. The projects City Without a Center and Stalking Utopia reflect her interest in the spatialisation of ideologies. As a freelance curator she curated the exhibitions Agents and Provocateurs (with Beáta Hock) on the subject of artistic expressions of protest, and Lajos Kassák. Botschafter der Avantgarde (with Edit Sasvári). At the GfZK she has curated the following exhibitions, among others: Little Warsaw: Battle of the Inner Truthand Dainius Liskevicius: Museum (2012); James Langdon: School for Design Fiction (2013); Creativity Exercises (with Dóra Hegyi and Zsuzsa László) (2014); Experimental Jetset: Provo Station (2016); Céline Condorelli: Wall to Wall (2017); Gaudiopolis. Attempts at a Joyful Society (in cooperation with the OFF Biennale Budapest) (2018). In addition to holding various honorary positions, she is committed to the development of educational and cultural policies. She was curator of the German Pavillion at the Venice Biennale 2019
Mi You is a lecturer at the Academy of Media Arts Cologne and Aalto University, Helsinki. Her long-term research and curatorial projects spin between the two extremes of the ancient and futuristic. She works with the Silk Road as a figuration for nomadic imageries and old and new networks/ technologies. She has curated programs at Asian Culture Center in Gwangju, South Korea; the Ulaanbaatar International Media Art Festival, Mongolia (2016); and with Binna Choi, she is co-steering the research/curatorial project Unmapping Eurasia. At the same time, her interests in politics around technology and futures led her to work on “actionable speculations,” articulated in the exhibition, workshops and sci-fi-a-thon Sci-(no)-fi at the Academy of the Arts of the World, Cologne (2019), as well as in her function as chair of committee on Media Arts and Technology for the transnational political NGO Common Action Forum.
Serubiri Moses is a writer and curator who lives in New York. He is co-curator of Greater New York 2020, MoMA PS1’s survey of contemporary art, and was part of the curatorial team for the Berlin Biennale X (2017−2018). Moses has traveled extensively to participate in curatorial residencies, conferences and juries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe. In 2015, Moses held the position of Stadtschreiber at the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies.In 2014, he co-curated Unmapped for KLA ART 014, the second public art biennial in Kampala, and organized a four-volume public programme at the Goethe Zentrum Kampala. With interests ranging from historical narration, African feminist theory, indigeneity and iconography, Moses is currently an associate researcher in “African Art History and the Formation of a Modern Aesthetic,” a long-term project founded by the Bayreuth Academy of Advanced African Studies in Germany. Recent texts and conference talks include: “Counter-Imaginaries: ‘Women Artists on the Move’, ‘Second to None’, and ‘Like a Virgin…’” in Afterall 47 (2019); FESTAC ’77: Second World Black and African Festival of Arts and Culture (2019);“The Hiss and Steam of a Pot of Blood,” commissioned by Haus der Kulturen der Welt as part of Hubert Fichte: Love and Ethnology (2018); and The Use and Abuse of History, organized by the School of Oriental and African Studies (2015). Moses completed his Masters of Arts in Curatorial Studies at Bard College, and is Adjunct Assistant Professor in the Art Department at Hunter College.
June Yap (Moderator)
Dr. June Yap is Director of Curatorial, Collections and Programmes at the Singapore Art Museum, where she oversees content creation and museum programming. Her prior roles include Guggenheim UBS MAP Curator (South and Southeast Asia), Deputy Director and Curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore, and curator at the Singapore Art Museum. Amongst exhibitions she has curated are No Country: Contemporary Art for South and Southeast Asia as part of the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, The Cloud of Unknowing at the 54th Venice Biennale with artist Ho Tzu Nyen, The Future of Exhibition: It Feels Like I’ve Been Here Before at the Institute of Contemporary Arts (Singapore), Paradise is Elsewhere at Institut für Auslandsbeziehungen (Germany), media art exhibitions Interrupt and Twilight Tomorrow at the Singapore Art Museum. She is the author of Retrospective: A Historiographical Aesthetic in Contemporary Singapore and Malaysia (2016).Collapse
With the Biennale’s faith in patience and action, speakers explore the notion of rightfulness through their work, where rightfulness is animated by time as well as agency both individual and communal. Across various disciplines, the speakers address the assurance of action in relation to their work on history, cultural memory and present anxieties.Panel 2
Bojana Piškur graduated in art history from the University of Ljubljana and received her Ph.D. at the Institute for Art History at the Charles University in Prague, the Czech Republic. She is a senior curator at the Moderna galerija / Museum of Modern Art in Ljubljana. Her professional interest is in political issues as they relate to or are manifested in the field of art, with special emphasis on the region of (former) Yugoslavia. She has curated many events, written for numerous publications, and lectured in many parts of the world on topics such as post-avant-gardes in Yugoslavia, radical education, socialist cultural politics, and the Non-Aligned Movement. Her most recent exhibition that dealt with the topic of the non-alignment was Southern Constellations: The Poetics of the Non-Aligned (2019) at the Moderna galerija Ljubljana.
Elia Nurvista was born in Yogyakarta and obtained her BFA from Indonesia Institute of Fine-Art (2010). She is interested in exploring a wide range of art mediums with an interdisciplinary approach and focus on the discourse of food. Through food, she intends to scrutinize power, social and economic inequality in this world.
In 2015, she initiated The Bakudapan Food Study Group, an interdisciplinary study group focusing on food, with colleagues and students from the Department of Anthropology in Gadjah Mada University. The name Bakudapan originated from the Manadonese words “bakudapa” (to meet) and “kudapan” (meals). Therefore, Bakudapan means “to meet while snacking.” The group believes food can be an instrument to understand the social, political, cultural, and economic issues of a society. Their projects explore ingredients, cooking and food history, and use food as an instrument for discussing broad issues, including politics, gender, economics, philosophy, art and culture. Members live and work in Yogyakarta, Indonesia.
Khairullah Rahim is a multimedia artist who works primarily in assemblage and installation. He creates work that responds to the psychogeography of commons and forms contextual analogies in relation to narratives from marginalised communities whose lives do not subscribe to the prescribed ‘norms’ in society. Khairullah has shown his works both locally and abroad, and has participated in several artist residency programs, namely Youkobo Artist Residency (Tokyo, Japan), Taipei Artist Village (Taipei, Taiwan), Hubei Institute of Fine Arts (China), Facebook (Singapore) and Salzburger Kunstverein (Salzburg, Austria). His works are within the collections of the Singapore Art Museum and SUNPRIDE Foundation, Hong Kong.
Siddharta Perez is a curator at the NUS Museum focusing on programming potentials in curatorial practice. Mainly working with contemporary artists, she relies on these relationships to make issues of modernity in South East Asia legible in exhibition-making, publications and other forms of activations. Along with Lian Ladia, she founded Planting Rice in 2011 as an interdependent platform that made sense of the cross-pollination of ideas, resources, and archives that happen between artistic individuals and communities.
Goh Sze Ying (Moderator)
Goh Sze Ying is a Curator at National Gallery Singapore. At the Gallery, she has worked on the exhibitions Minimalism: Space. Light. Object. (2018), Lim Cheng Hoe: Painting Singapore(2018) and Listening to Architecture: The Gallery’s Histories and Transformation(2017). Her research interests lie primarily in photography, time- and archive-based practice, in particular, how these modalities think against and outside of normative structures of power, time and borders. Formerly based in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, she has worked on exhibitions and public programmes with a focus on urban interventions in public spaces. She graduated with an MA in urban sociology from Goldsmiths, University of London, UK.Collapse