Play it again, SAM

6 05 2011

It did take me a while to go beyond what was on offer at Old Kallang Airport to explore the other venues of the Singapore Biennale 2011. This perhaps, was motivated by a desire to get my fill of the what was Singapore’s first commercial airport before its character is altered by the plans the Urban Development Authority (URA) has for the buildings and the grounds. Having had my feel of the old airport and with a pass courtesy of the Singapore Biennale, I decided to head out to the other venues, which were the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Marina Bay and the National Museum of Singapore (NAS) recently.

It took me a while to explore what was on offer at the Singapore Biennale 2011 beyond that at the Old Kallang Airport venue.

My first stop was naturally at the SAM, being fond of visiting the magnificent building on Bras Basah Road that now hosts the museum. It was a building that holds many memories for me, having spent four years of the latter part of my schooling when St. Joseph’s Institution occupied the premises. My motivation was of course very different from my previous visits … choosing to have an encounter with what is perhaps some of the more eye-catching exhibits on display at the Singapore Biennale.

The building that now hosts the SAM was one that I have many fond memories of having gone to school there some three decades ago.

I suppose the most eye-catching of the exhibits for me would be a somewhat morbid display of work by Filipino artist Louie Cordero – a set of works entitled My We. This we are given to understand, was inspired by (in the artist’s own words) the “recent spate of murders of Frank Sinatra’s ‘My Way’ in Filipino karaoke bars. The works feature a set of figures, impaled by different objects and a videoke machine that repeatedly plays the song with images relating to reports of bar fights and murders supposedly over how the song should be sung.

Louie Cordero's 'My We' features gruesome cast human forms impaled with all kinds of objects.

... as well as a videoke machine, inspired by "the recent spate of murders of Frank Sinatra's My Way in Filipino Karaoke Bars".

Having a taste of the gruesome, the other exhibits seemed mild in comparison. Simon Fujiwara’s Welcome to the Hotel Mumber was disappointingly closed for reasons not stated, with two other exhibits to be found on the main SAM site which is Ryan Trecartin’s Re’Search Wait’S a four part video installation which as the guide would have it, “features a cast of manic characters, played by Trecartin and close friends, in a series of overlapping realities in which identity is endlessly fluid”. The videos feature subjects in frenetic speech that reflect the effect that “the mass media and new technologies” have on “how we imagine and express ourselves” – something that I can certainly identify with. The other exhibit at the SAM that I could see is German artist Julian Göthe’s Popcorn and Politics, afternoon, two sculptured objects that as the guide would have it “combine minimalist severity and baroque excess”, supplemented by rope drawings on the walls that “construct a theatrical environment for his sculptures”, that supposedly were to “evoke moods of glamour, erotism and danger”, something that I somehow didn’t all feel, feeling only a sense of danger that the angular sculptures and the all encompassing net somehow gave me.

Julian Göthe’s "Popcorn and Politics, afternoon", features two sculptured objects surrounded by rope drawings on the walls.

There was still some time after looking around to reminisce, walking down corridors that I walked some three decades in the past, it was certainly nice to be able to do that and I am grateful that the magnificent building, that despite the maybe somewhat abstract and gruesome installations that have made a short appearance for the Biennale, still welcomes us in the same way with its seemingly outstretched arms. Time then to head out to the next destination of the Biennale’s circuit – SAM at 8Q, on which I will devote another post to …

Walking down the corridors I spent four years of my life some thirty years ago always gives me a chance to reminisce ...

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