Monthly Archives: January 2007

Valbelle, Myth or Fiction? Part 2: The Dream

less serious, perhaps?

Gilles Massot

Gilles Massot has out done himself, with an interactive installation or 4 projected screens in gallery 1 of PKW, and an array display of light-painted alphabets in gallery 2.

gilles.jpg

The installation here ditches the serious critique of the site of Valbelle, or Museum as institution of collective (constructed) memory, and opts for a fun and bizarre semi-virtual interaction with the projected images.Turning the aperture dial on the Bronica camera on the tripod, seems to advance the projected image, which in turn is viewable through the camera’s view finder.The interaction seems to mess with the element of time, reversing burning, or presenting a mini-stop motion clip of the artist and his doppleganger, presumably from the weaved fiction of two of him, but from different times – 2007 (the person photographing), and presumably from the past (in costumeand wig) and 2248 (in white overalls or clean suit). In a Chris Marker “La jatte” kind of way, the artist seems to be offering time travel holiday snapshots, in the town of Valbelle.

gilles_3.jpg

As with most sweet dreams, the exhibition is delightful and fresh, compared to the usual commercial offerings by art galleries. It is worth the travelling time.

gilles_21.jpg

7 of 10 stars

PKW Gallery, till Feb 16 (no link provided as there are hardly updates to PKW’s website at the time of writing)

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“Athlete” by Jeremy Sharma and Toh Hun Ping

Hypnotic poetry of visuals

Athlete

The recent collaboration by Jeremy Sharma and Toh Hun Ping is a stunning and moving splice of Francis Bacon-esque aesthetics – of bodies in motion – accompanied with a hypnotic drone of sound-mix. The simple installation, consisted of a looped video projection in the depth of the Sculpture Square Chapel, flanked by 2 speakers on stands. The 3 video works will be mentioned here, to different degrees and affect. Athletics, often termed the mother of all sports, seem to bear the energy of artistic expression here.

Athlete – 12 min + video splice, images by both artist, and sound by Jeremy Sharma.

This piece was the anchor piece in the installation, mixing repetition in visuals and sound, linking them to one’s imagination of the artists mechanically at work, splicing and scratching the bits together. Parts of a figure in some action appear and go. The image of a hammer throwing athlete is perhaps the most obvious figure, masked by swirls and squiggles, in a proud display of energy.

That energy seemed to be what the artists were interested in, reproducing the movement and immortalising the moments with equally expressive lines. With repetition key to the work, we are reminded that athletes train with repetition, either doing laps, or repetitive throws, etching those plural complicated movements into every ounce of their muscle. They live for their sport, and their sport bears the determination of individuals and nations. Perhaps this is why people watch sports, rather than do sports. Their dreams are lived through these remarkable better individuals we call ‘athletes’. Some say artists are similar to athletes in that respect, especially if one believes art forms a basis for defining Civilisation and Culture; Art is a result of a collective lived experiences and output of creative individuals that felt the need to mark their lives with artistic creation, repeatedly.

I am inclined to quote Bacon at length, to explain why the work sticks:

Francis Bacon: Explanation doesn’t seem necessary to me, either of painting or other artistic fields, such as poetry. I don’t believe thatit’s possible to give explanation of a poem or a painting. Picasso, for example, spoke very well about painting. He said all sort of intelligent things about it. But he never succeeded in explaining his own genius. It seems to me that explanations inevitably fall short. At any rate, I have no need of them myself, not even in the case of something that I don’t understand at all. Take music, for example. That’s somethingwe’ve often talked about together. Well, I don’t understand music, even though it affects me very much, and yet I have no need of explanations. I know that people often look for explanations; if they need the then it’s always possible to find other people who can provide them, but that seems odd to me… The most important thing is to look at the painting, to read the poetry or to listen to the music. Not in order to understand or to know it, but to feel something.

(Francis Bacon, In conversation with Michel Archimbaud, London: Phaidon, 1993, pp.75-77)

Athlete

Another interesting repeated scene in the video looks like a stream of sand, like those in an hour glass. Perhaps a hint at mortality? The similarities to a moving image of Bacon’s paintings stop here. It is unlikely the artists shared Bacon’s dark visions, twisted, distorted and screaming heads. The scratch-like filmic qualities of Athlete pulls itself to be an experimental effect in the traditions of Stan Brakhage, an experimental film maker.

Persistence, 2 min + video, by Jeremy Sharma

Athlete

A visually static point of view of a lonesome tree. The projection was compromised, as the bright projection revealed the sore canvas that covered the back door to the chapel gallery. The illusion of a window to another world was disrupted by the very same canvas. The canvas was persistently annoying. As a result, the deliberate out-of-focus failed to deliver any grounds for contemplation. One suspects this clip was inserted to separate the other two video works.

Scarscape, 2 min +, images by Toh Hun Ping.

A continuous film strip glides effortlessly and hypnotically, revealing images that are formed with intricate expressive white lines, against the dark kodak 35mm photographic negative. One moment a landscape of flowing grass, the next a storm brews. In the meticulous effect, seen previously in Paul Bush‘s short film “The Albatross” (1998), these images are time-consumingly scratched on gelatin film and digitally scanned. Unaccompanied by sound, the images stood on their own. The results are dazzling. This acts as a wonderful balance to the ‘Athlete’ piece, tossing imagination in the wind, and letting the viewer take inner flight.

7 of 10 stars

Sculpture Square, til Jan 28

A DVD compilation of the works available at S$10.

Valbelle, Myth or Fiction? Part 1: The Museum

as confusing as it seems, a photographic play of an artist investigating a ruin castle called “Valbelle”

Part 1, Museum
The role of photography today, and indeed the past, rests betweens myth and fiction.

The works on display is part of a clever play with deconstructed definitions of photography and concepts of ‘framing’ – ideologically and physical frames. The exhibit mimics a ‘museum’ explaining how the artist researched on ‘Valbelle’ a ruined castle, and how he seeked to restore its meaning through manipulated photographs, and image-making. The result is a sleek cohort of pictures, framed-within-frames, piecing together fragments of the castle’s history, it’s occupants and artefacts that survived the dawn of the French Republic. The artist obviously sees himself as playing a crucial role – as time-traveller, articulator, historian and discoverer (traditional roles of photography) through fabricated objects and cleverly ‘photoshoped’ images.

If part 1 is any gauge to go by, Part 2 is definitely worth catching.

8 of 10 stars


 Part 1, Museum
SG Private Banking Gallery, Alliance Francaise (1 Sarkies Rd)
till 22 Jan

STILL SMALL VOICE

a tiny voice indeed

Works by Shirley Ho Kar Hui

The postcard reads:

Still Small Voice reflects the days of our times. God let the Old Testament prophet Elijah witness a powerful wind, an earthquake and a fire, but he found God not in any of these calamities, but in a still small voice that followed them. Similarly we may expect God to avert disasters and perform miracles for us, and He can, but He also wants to relate to us in the daily events of our life. Still Small Voice speaks of those experiences, in the little things that we encounter each day or take very much for granted. When we take the time to notice them however, they speak loudly and clearly.”

The exhibition is really eclectic – the works are really visually and conceptually widely cast nets – with the purpose, at least it seems, to proclaim their passion (not in a extreme Mel Gibson manner) for Christianity and art. The artists on show each have a strong distinct style and statement, and special mention should be made about Wong Shih Yaw’s illustrations in portfolios, the hidden gem by the door that had nothing to do with the show. The result is an oddly placed exhibition, that ran for only 6 days. Much then is needed to decode from the title of the individual works, which are all technically accomplished, and relate them somewhat to Christianity. The works are intentionally codified, from the simplest things that almost seem Surrealistic. They are not the typical Renaissance religious paintings you will find in churches in Florence; they bear the contemporary symbolism of modern living, especially in Samuel and Shirley’s work. Shirley for example, sees visual similarities between the Christian Passover, and Chinese Lunar New Year red couplets placed on doors as decorations.

I think the exhibition tries too hard to speak of something beyond the works on the walls could communicate. They really are whispers, placed against the background of floods in Malaysia, droughts somewhere and hurricanes off the coasts of Europe, trying to explain divine hope for all. The specificity of the works are ill-placed, and perhaps too personal and incomplete without the viewer understanding where the artists are coming from, their previous works and so forth. The works seem lost, if we consider the contemporaneity of art making practices, installations, video art that provoke, remind, and reassure.

The casual setting of the gallery space doesn’t help, even though some of us are let to believe that the Museum and white walls are temples of art. The 2 Dimensional works in such a white wall, ‘holy setting’ would usually be contemplative but not in a commercial art space. It is perhaps suited elsewhere like a private home, church or a mobile church. This exhibition is thus tiny with reference and reverence to what the title speaks and implies.

Utterly Art, Jan 21.

4 of 10 stars

Utterly Art

till 21 Jan.

Visable by Larry Dunstan

vis a vis disability

Larry Dunstan

The Singapore Fringe Website had this to describe the work:

Larry Dunstan’s photography centres on notions of beauty and perceptions of what are stereotypically seen as ‘normal’. Of the various pictures, some are photographs of disabled people and some are of able-bodied people that have been made to look as if they may be disabled. By juxtaposing these pictures, Larry questions prejudices by forcing viewers to ask themselves how they view people. Larry also seeks to explore how disabled people are represented in popular culture media such as advertising and fashion. His works mimic fashion photography in his layout, styling and poses.

The large inklet prints, mounted on compressed foam are pretty much in your face. The uneven lighting doesn’t do the photographs justice, was my first thought as I’d walked from picture to picture, identifying the ‘disability’. It then occured to me that the word ‘disability’ needed different reference points.

To most Singaporeans, being abled as opposed to being disabled is usually defined by insurance policies and its contraries, and MINDEF Physical Employment Standards (PES) status. It is often taken for granted and any converses mis-understood.

I thought the treatment of the pictures taken were quite fashionable, like what you will find in lifestyle magazines. Aren’t they?

Fashion. Able.

By dissecting the word ‘fashionable’, we can understand an inherent discomfort when we view the work. We are used to seeing pretty, usually skinny models for advertisements, but not those seen here. The artist has chosen to parade their appearances, celebrating their physical disability. Or are the models being made use of?

The only criticism I have is the power play between the photographer and model. A good reference will be Diana Arbus, famous for her mental or physically handicapped series of photographs. Did the photographed have a say in the composition and mood of the image? Did Arbus understand the shock, sensational value of her work that draws her audience? Can the idea of ‘freak’ and ‘beauty’ ever be reconciled? When and where can one look beyond the disability and find other abilities, like what Singapore’s Very Special Arts tries to engage with?

I think this work really provokes the audience to consider their own position and views of disability. Coincidental enough, the Straits Time feature story on January 20, 2007 Saturday is about social workers in Singapore, professionals that help Singaporeans cope with living and moving on, disability or limited ability. Disability comes in many forms, not just what is on exhibit. Prejudice runs deeper when we examine ourselves. Not contributing to the community, even in littlest ways, and being uncaring is perhaps a disability we should face and do something about.

Larry Dunstan

7 of 10 stars

Esplanade Tunnel

http://www.larrydunstan.com

http://www.singaporefringe.com/