Wonder

The Singapore Biennale 2008 (SB2008), Singapore’s premier international contemporary visual arts event, will open to the public from 11 September to 16 November 2008. Organised by the National Arts Council, the Biennale will feature a total of more than 50 artists and art collectives from over 36 countries and regions including Singapore. Following the critical success of SB2006, this second edition will continue to be theof Singaporeans.

THEME

SB2008, through its theme WONDER, proposes to investigate the articulation and creation of marvels, riddles and illusions in our world today. Its conceptual scope issues a challenge to the contemporary world, a world that no longer questions choices, nor allows for things and events to awe us. Through contemporary art, Wonder calls on us to question and be curious; to reach beyond the surface, surpassing the apparent and to allow ourselves be surprised, awed, tantalised and challenged. All of which is an aperture to the World.

“The artworks selected or to be newly developed with the artists, will attempt to cut through the fabric of the politically and socially constructed and perceptual limits, of our world,” Artistic Director Fumio Nanjo remarks. “These call upon us to question and be curious, to punch through surfaces of what is apparent so that we can be surprised, tantalised and challenged at what is revealed or presented. Consequently, some of these works also engage our minds and our senses upon terrain that is unexplained, unfamiliar and, at times, seemingly consistent with trickery, or present things of unutterable beauty, that we are held at awe in their presence.”

ARTISTS, ARTIST COLLECTIVES AND ARTWORKS

This exhibition will showcase an illustrious list of established and emerging artists whose works engender wonder about the world we live in. The present artist list includes artists from Asia, Middle East, Europe and the Americas, such as Ilya and Emilia Kabakov, Deborah Kelly, Isak Berbic, Hans op de Beeck, Anthony McCall, Isaac Montoya, Faisal Samra, Fujiko Nakaya, Ki-bong Rhee, and Felice Varini, to Southeast Asia and Singapore, Alfredo and Isabel Aquilizan, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Heman Chong, Shubigi Rao, Tang Ling Nah and Willy Koh and Sherman Ong. All produce sharp, wonderful work that provide apertures and prisms of possibilities and hope, through which we can gaze at the world.

While Nakaya surprises with her appearing and disappearing fog, op de Beeck will immerse you in a meditative architectural scape of infinite beauty and solitude. Varini and Tang literally paint and draw in space, making marks that question, yet unquestionably engage our relationship with those spaces. Kelly develops works that allow us to critique yet contribute to the social and political structure that we call home. The Kabakovs, Aquilizans, Chong and Goh focus on the minutiae of our lives and present ironic statements that cause us to rethink what we often take for granted. Rhee and Rao poetically suggest re-considerations of what is presented in our faces. McCall and Samra in their keen knowledge of film, video and their tendency to be perceived in conventional ways, critique and re-present the moving image in exciting ways. Montoya, Berbic and Ong clearly present images that at the outset seem true but look deeper and other truths are liberated, often in contrast to what we are led to believe.

Skepticism, criticism and doubt are intrinsic to creative thinking and the methodology as the artist engages with a process filled with wonderment in the development and execution of the artwork. As such, and without boundaries, there are varied approaches and media, from drawing and sculpture, photography and video, to new and mixed-media installations, indicating yet again the breadth of contemporary art practice. Some of these will be of a site-specific manner occupying internal and outdoor spaces, developed for SB2008.

Individually, these works present unique visions as they question conventional ways of seeing and encourage us to entertain new or different ways in which we can link ourselves to the world. In the collective presentation of such artworks, SB2008 seeks to intelligently, yet intuitively, interrogate our belief and trust in theories, logic, science and technology, politics, and economics that consciously regulate and consume the world we live in.

More updates on the list of artists will be available at a later date.

EXHIBITION SITES

Key to the exhibition is also in the selection of the venues within walking distance that are best able to present, engage and inform the experience of the artworks. In contrast to the multi-venue presentation of the exhibition in 2006, SB2008 will squarely focus on creating the and a connecting outdoor area.

The historic City Hall, one of the key venues of the 2006 exhibition and South Beach, a cluster of Art Deco colonial buildings that is synonymous with the Singapore Volunteer Corps, bookend the entire exhibition. The ambience and environment of the two indoor locations are poles apart, providing very distinct colours to the experience and engagement of the artworks.

Linking the two indoor venues is the Marina Bay Area, a location that itself speaks of wonderous ambition as it gets ready to be the new hot spot come 2010, with the opening of the Integrated Resort, new Financial Centre and a heritage waterfront development. Featuring a number of large-scale interactive and engaging outdoor installations, the waterbody of the Marina Bay serves as a focal point in connecting these works as you journey from the recently opened Singapore Flyer to the Central Promontory Site.

OPENING EVENTS

Central to the vernissage week of the SB2008 exhibition will be an opening event on 9 September 2008 at the South Beach Development. This will feature a number of specially commissioned works and performance presentations related to the artworks showcased. Like in 2006, the public is invited to celebrate the launch of this iconic contemporary art event in Singapore.

EDUCATION AND OUTREACH PROGRAMMES

A major part of the Biennale programming involves cultivating a deeper public engagement with contemporary art. This will be conducted through the Encounters series of talks, workshops and events. These regular dialogue sessions provide a discursive platform for Singaporeans to voice issues and concerns pertinent to art and society. In addition, a series of education projects focusing on primary and secondary school children will accompany the Biennale. This culminates in a new platform called the Kids’ Biennale, presented by our partner Jet Airways. Comprising a series of exhibitions, art competitions and mass events opened to all children, the Kids’ Biennale engages the young ones in moments of wonder through the power of contemporary art.

PUBLICATIONS

Prior to the opening of SB2008, a free brochure will be made available, giving full details about the Biennale. A comprehensive shortguide listing all artists, exhibition venues and programmes will also be available at the opening of the Biennale. This will be followed by a full colour catalogue published after the opening, which will include installation photographs of the exhibition and documentation of all aspects of the Biennale. An updated version of the SB2008 website will also be launched today with a full listing of artists, sites and programmes, in addition to useful travel and press information. For the first time, we will also be including a community engagement section on the website for visitors and observers of the Biennale to blog and express their thoughts.

ACCOMPANYING PROGRAMME

In a strategic move to open the discussion on the place of contemporary art in the global context, Showcase:Singapore a premium boutique art fair will premier during the opening days of the SB2008. Featuring the top 25 galleries from around the world, this special by-invitation only art fair will showcase the current darlings of the art market, and will see a gathering of dealers, collectors and artists engage in intimate exchange and dialogue on the business of art collection. Located on Level 1 City Hall, Showcase:Singapore will have the professional and media previews on 9 to 10 September 2008 and will open to the public on 11 to 12 September 2008.

A series of exhibitions organised by the NUS Museum will be held during the period of SB2008. Bound for Glory: Wong Hoy Cheong 2002 – 2007 (12 September to 30 November 2008) presents Wong Hoy Cheong’s five recent works Re:Looking (2002-1003), Anthem (2006), Chronicles of Crime (2006), Suburbia: Bukit Beruntung, Subang Jaya (2006), and Oh Sulukule, Darling Sulukule (2007). Wong is one of Southeast Asia’s most influential contemporary artists, whose practice is conditioned by multiple and simultaneous contexts of history, memory, nation, globality, ethnicity, culture and political contingencies.

Ventura: Recent Works (5 September to 16 November 2008) will showcase Filipino artist Ronald Ventura who uses the human body to explore subjects such as commodification of humans, paranoia and religious consciousness. Born in 1973, Ventura studied painting in the Philippines College of Architecture and Fine Arts, University of Santo Tomas, Manila, where he now teaches.

Other aspects to keep a lookout for are the Permanent Public Commissions, an ongoing project in partnership with a number of property developers who share the vision of providing Singaporeans and visitors a vibrant artistic landscape through the enjoyment of unique artworks located in public areas.

ASIA-PACIFIC BIENNALE COLLABORATION

Continuing the joint promotional efforts started in 2006 with Gwangju and Shanghai Biennales, ArtCompass 2008 has grown to include the closing week of Biennale of Sydney and the Yokohama Triennale. Come September 2008, this Asia’s Grand Tour will offer visitors a specially designed travel itinerary for art lovers everywhere a chance to view all five exhibitions in one and a half weeks. Bookings for travel and hospitality arrangements begin end-April 2008. For more information, please visit www.artcompass2008.com.

SCHEDULE OF EVENTS

Media and Professional Previews 9 and 10 September 2008
Opening Party 9 September 2008, 7pm
Exhibition Period 11 September to 16 November 2008
Closing Event 15 November 2008

About the Singapore Biennale

Organised by the National Arts Council, Singapore, the Singapore Biennale aims to position Singapore prominently as an international centre and regional thought leader in the field of visual art. It encourages Singapore artists and Singapore to engage with the international art world, through the invitation of regional and international artists to exhibit with Singapore artists, and for Singapore to join the international community of art biennales whose language is mainly conducted through the medium of contemporary art. As a platform for collaborations with the global arts community, the Biennale provides new opportunities for local visual artists and arts businesses, and is a significant opportunity to cultivate deeper public engagement with the arts. It complements the achievements of other areas of the arts and cultural scene, collectively enhancing Singapore’s international image as a vibrant city to live, work, play.

About Art Compass 2008

Art Compass 2008 is a new initiative developed by the leading contemporary art events in the Asia-Pacific region; the Biennale of Sydney, Gwangju, Shanghai and Singapore Biennales and the Yokohama Triennale. Art Compass 2008 is a travel packaging device to encourage contemporary art lovers to visit the events in an organised itinerary. The proposed package tour will provide visitors with an unprecedented opportunity to experience five extraordinary and innovative contemporary art events from September 2008 through to November 2008. Art Compass 2008 will actively promote visitation to the Closing Week events of the Biennale of Sydney (30 August – 7 September 2008) and the Opening Previews of the Gwangju Biennale (5 September 2008), Shanghai Biennale (8 September 2008), Singapore Biennale (9 – 10 September 2008) and Yokohama Triennale (12 September 2008).

About the National Arts Council (Singapore)

The National Arts Council (NAC) was established in September 1991 to spearhead the development of the arts in Singapore. To realise its vision of developing Singapore into a distinctive global city for the arts, NAC provides total support to nurture artistic talent, promotes the practice and appreciation of the arts among Singaporeans, builds up capabilities and resources, facilitates internationalisation and advocates the value of the arts. Through its holistic range of programmes and initiatives to develop the entire arts value chain, the Council champions the growth of a vibrant arts sector where the arts is accessible to all, and the community of artists, arts groups and arts businesses can innovate, excel and achieve sustainability in the long term.

Profile of Artistic Director

Fumio Nanjo (b.1949 in Tokyo) is the Director of the Mori Art Museum, a position he assumed in November 2006.

Also an art critic and a lecturer at Keio University, Tokyo, Nanjo has organised numerous exhibitions in various capacities as: an officer of the Japan Foundation (1978-1986), Director of ICA Nagoya (19861990), Founder and Representative Director of Nanjo and Associates (1990-2002), and Deputy Director of Mori Art Museum (2002-October 2006).

His main achievements include being the commissioner of the Japan Pavilion at the 47th Venice Biennale (1997) and the 1st Taipei Biennale (1998). Nanjo was also a member of the jury committee for the Turner Prize (1998), co-curator of the 3rd AsiaPacific Triennial of Contemporary Art (1999), and member of the selection committee for the Sydney Biennale (2000).

His experience also extends to being the director for the Japan Pavilion at EXPO 2000 in Hanover, artistic co-director of the Yokohama Triennale (2001), selector of the Artes Mundi Prize in Wales (2004), being a jury member of the Golden Lion Prize for the 51st Venice Biennale (2005) as well as the artistic director of the inaugural Singapore Biennale (2006).

Having served as a consultant on several public art and corporate art projects including the Shinjuku I-Land Public Art Projects (Tokyo/1995), the Hakata Riverain Art Project (Fukuoka/1999), Art Project for Obayashi Corporation Head Office (Tokyo/1999) and VivoCity Public Artworks (Singapore/2006), Nanjo also holds advisory positions which include being a board member of Comité International des Musées d’Art Moderne et Contemporain (CIMAM) and member of the Association International des Critiques d’ Art (AICA).

He is also involved in the selection committees of several art awards and artist-inresidence programmes. In 1997, he published From Art to the City: A Record of 15 Years as An Independent Curator.

Profile of Curatorial Team

Joselina Cruz is an independent curator currently working between Manila and Singapore. She was formerly a curator at the Singapore Art Museum and at the Lopez Museum in Manila. She has curated numerous exhibitions and writes essays, reviews and criticism for catalogues, newspapers and magazines. She took Masteral Studies in Art History at the University of the Philippines and holds an MA in Curating and Commissioning Contemporary Art from the Royal College of Art (RCA), London, UK.

Matthew Ngui (b. 1962) is a visual artist working in the areas of installation, video, performance and sitespecific works. He has exhibited in Australia, Singapore and internationally in contemporary art spaces in cities such as Berlin, Bordeaux, Copenhagen, Graz, Hong Kong, London, Manila and Vienna. He participated in the Sao Paulo (1996), Venice (2001) and Gwanju Biennales (2002) and the tenth Documenta in 1997.

Ngui has taught at art schools at the Australian National University, Curtin University of Technology, Edith Cowan University and the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts and run workshops or attended residencies in Austria, Japan, Holland, Switzerland, and Venezuela. He is past Chairman of the Artists Regional Exchange in Perth, has served as a council member of the National Arts Council, Singapore and on the Board of the Singapore Art Museum and is now a member of the Public Art Appraisal Committee in Singapore. Ngui lives and works in Singapore and Australia. He is currently working on a public art commission for the New Performing Arts Venue in Perth, while a survey exhibition of his art practice over nearly two decades, which began at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, is currently on tour.

WONDER EXHIBITION

Wonder is the theme for SB2008. Its conceptual scope issues a challenge to the contemporary world, a world that no longer questions choices, nor allows for things and events to awe us. Through contemporary art, Wonder calls on us to question and be curious; to reach beyond the surface, surpassing the apparent and to allow ourselves be surprised, awed, tantalised and challenged. All of which is an aperture to the World.

Singapore Biennale 2008 (SB2008) highlights Singapore’s prominence as an international visual arts hub, not only providing new opportunities for Singapore artists, curators and arts businesses, but also as a key enabler of exchange and collaborations for the global arts community. The presence of SB2008 is also a significant opportunity for the Singaporean public to develop a stronger relationship with contemporary art.

More than 60% of the exhibition will showcase artists from across the Asia Pacific, with artists from Latin America, Africa, Middle East, Central Asia, Europe and North America completing the full list. These will be a mix of both emerging as well as established artists working across all art forms including architecture, biotechnology, drawing, installation, new media, painting, performance, photography, sculpture, sound projects and video.

ENCOUNTERS SERIES

As part of a larger community building program, the Singapore Biennale established a series of public platforms called Encounters. The Encounters series can range from dialogue sessions with the curatorial team, to artists’ talks, workshops and master classes, to press conferences, symposiums, forums, and other social events usually associated with other international Biennales. Encounters either take place in Singapore or at international art events including art fairs, biennales, forums, etc.

These Encounters sessions serve as feedback mechanisms for the Biennale as it is being organized, developing a sense of ownership from various segments of the local community for this large scale event.

EVENTS

The Singapore Biennale 2008 will also feature a number of key events such as the Opening Party. This is a major event to celebrate the start of the 2 month long event. This will take place at South Beach with historic military camp as the unique backdrop. Specially commissioned artworks will be a major attraction during this celebration. The Singapore public will be invited and together with the presence of the participating artists, the international art world and media, the Biennale will open with a bang.