Cultural Cacophony Part 3

27 november 2013 / art / words asih jenie

In the last part of our Singapore Biennale trilogy post we present to you some notable artworks from Laos, Cambodia, and Myanmar. Plus, two breathtaking installations from Japan and Australia.


“Untitled” by Marisa Darasavath, Laos



Marisa Darasavath’s paintings explore her fascination of female forms with exaggerated curves, organic lines  and vibrant colors rendered with patterns from traditional Lao textiles.  According to the artist, the application of the patterns is a mean to either blend or emphasize a certain part of the artwork.A collection of eight large-scaled paintings, “Untitled” depicts women as central figures in various scenes in everyday life, from intimate domestic chores the likes of cooking, bathing to more demanding tasks such as plowing the field and fishing. Darasavath draws the inspirations of the collection from her memory and the everyday routines of Hmong people – a major ethnic group in Laos.


“We Live” by BounpaulPhothyzan, Laos



Created in collaboration with the people of Phnonkham Village,BounpaulPhothyzan’s“We Live” is a site-specific mixed-media installation in Bolikhamxay Province, Laos. In recent years, the rich agriculture area ofPhnonkham has suffered from seasonal flood and drought – the side effect of timber exploitation. Together with the villagers, Phothyzan assembled a large scale fish skeleton – a visual iconography that has become familiar to the area – constructed from timber on the dried up riverbanks near the village. The collaboration is an alternative approach to inform the villagers of the environmental issues so that they would gain a deeper understanding of not only art, but also the consequences of their actions on the environment.


“Toy (Churning of the Sea of Milk)” by SvaySareth, Cambodia


SvaySareth’s fifteen-meter-long, five-meter-tall sculpture is technically a giant plush toy. Made from camouflage fabric stitched on cotton-filled iron and wood framework, “Toy (Churning of the Sea of Milk)” is a humorous recreation of The Churning of the Sea of Milk – the Hindu origin of the species storycarved on the bas-relief panels of Angkor Wat. The sculpture depicts the gods (led my monkey god Hanuman) and the demons (led by demon king Ravana) in a tug of war game using the celestial serpent Vasuki. The serpent coils around a giant “churning stick” in the middle of the procession, propped by the god Vishnu. The myth has it that as the serpent is yanked back and forth; it would twirl the stick to churn the Sea of Milk, in which all manners ofcosmic things – both good and bad –  are created. With the camouflage pattern, Svay has reframed this mythical power struggles as the game played by the exploitative military hierarchies.


“Untitled” by Khvay Samnang, Cambodia



Part a documentary and part a performance art;KhvaySamnang’s untitled five-channel video follows the unresolved stories of BoeungKak Lake in Phom Penh. Favoring property developments over the preservation of nature, Cambodian government has allowed the lake to be filled in with sand and offered for private sales. From 2010 to 2013, the artist entered the lake at different stages of its “development” to record what he calls a symbolic intervention on the site. Standing half submerged in the middle of the frame, he poured a bucket of sand on his head; a playful – if more than a bit absurd – act of environmental concerns.


“The Sick Classroom” by Nge Lay, Myanmar



A life-sized recreation of a first grade classroom in the village of Thuye’dan, Myanmar, “The Sick Classroom” features 27 wooden sculptures set in a seemingly tranquil educational environment. But on the political context of the country, the artwork calls to attention the social malady that plagues Myanmar. Since a violent demonstration led by university students broke out in 1988, General Ne Win’s government has imposed complete surveillance and censorship of education. To the artist, the age group of the first grade children is a threshold into formal education and social mobility and the installation expresses her concern and anxiety over their monitored future.


“Road to Nirvana” by Po Po, Myanmar



Po Po’s “Road to Nirvana” takes pedestrian walking along the path at Fort Canning Part through a visually stimulating journey. Tailored specifically to blend seamlessly with the site, the installation showcases delicate strings woven between trees. The phosphorescent coating of the strings illuminates the park’s pathways during evening hours while the ringing of their small bells adds a layer to the experience. With its multi-sensory approach, the artist hopes that visitors and passersby will be more appreciative of their journey and attain a sense of peace. And may this peace bring them one step closer to nirvana – a state of enlightenment.


“Crystal Palace: The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nuclear Nations” by Ken and Julia Yonetani, Australia



Conceived in response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster in Japan andnamed after the grandiose glass building designed for 1851 Great Exhibition in London, this installation is a collection of 31 antique chandeliers that have been refitted with uranium glass and UV lighting. The number of the artwork symbolizes the 31 nuclear nations in the world and the size of each chandelier corresponds to the number of operating nuclear plants in one of those 31 nations. Once switched on, the lighting bulbs cause the glass beads to glow a phosphorescent green, a haunting consequence of human ambition and technological development. 


“Peace Can Be Realized Even Without Order” by TeamLab, Japan



Formed in 2001, Tokyo-based teamLab is made of architects, CG animators, graphic designers, artists, editors, programmers and mathematicians. With their combined expertise, this ultra-technologists group aims to create works that blur the boundaries of various fields. Created with supports from Intel, Sony and Taisei Construction Company, “Peace Can Be Realized Even Without Order” is an interactive digital installation inspired by the transcendental experiences of primitive dance and indigenous festivals in Japan, where an entire symphony of music and dance can be orchestrated without a conductor. Various animated figures – spanning the gamut from ancient Japanese people to dancing animals, each emits a particular sound– are projected into transparent surfaces, set in a mirrored room which multiplies the visuals to infinity. Each projected character comes with a sensor that detects the movement of the visitors, creating an organic response that would ripple throughout the installations.


Singapore Biennale 2013 runs until 16 February 2014 at Singapore Art Museum, SAM at 8Q, National Museum of Singapore,Peranakan Museum. Exhibitions open from 10Am to 7PM daily (last admission at 6:15PM) Admission fees: Adult SGD10, student and seniors SGD5. Free admission for all visitors to Biennale artworks at Fort Canning Park, National Library Building, Waterloo Centre and Our Museum@TamanJurong.

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