More successful than the work in SB2006 “Living in a Dangerous World”

The singular installation that is part of Theatrework’s Creatives-in-Residencies (CIR) is definitely more developed stylistically, technically and symbolically than the work “Living in a Dangerous World” last seen at Tanglin Camp, in the Singapore Biennale. This one is less tacky, better executed. Set in a darken space, and interactive as one walked on a large triangular walk-way. The works came to life, with light, sound or visuals by stepping on the red squares, corresponding to each apex of the triangle. Each apex had a particular setup which loosely corresponds to its rather unconvincing title “Signs, Omens and relics of Faith”. It is unpersuasive because the title words are too heavily connotated to religion, while none is seen here. The artist has this to say in the booklet handout:

“The word SIGNS suggest a marker of something in the present, OMENS a marker of something in the future, and RELICS a marker of the past. So the element of time is very important, objects gain meaning, and somehow lose meaning as time progresses.”

Instead, we do see by stretching the one’s imagination, the complex personal symbolism involved, suggesting that everything in the exhibit meant something past, present and future – each and every object is considered and deliberate; every action and video edit is measured – and Brian is suggesting a futile cycle of urban anxiety and productivity (symbolised by the young woman in office wear, in the act of day dreaming in the video monitors), skyscrapers climbing higher (the triple projection screens), of life and death of culture and just about everything else (the platter of white ready-mades).

Brian Gothong Tan

Brian Gothong Tan

Brian Gothong Tan

The most fun work could possibly be the white on white platter of objects, offering no right answers for the symbolism behind the work. Ready-mades seem like the artist’s preferred material and a strength in this installation. The water and chrysanthemum could symbolise life and death, the eggs could symbolise wealth and fertility, the Mao Ze Dong statues could mean Chinese Culture, and the cubic Astroboy could signify the fragmenting ing cultures in general. The male and female hands, holding shards of glass could suggest the fragility of life, and meaning, in the cycle of all these.

I think Brian Gothong Tan is one of those constantly defining standards for multi-media visual arts in Singapore. His messages, propagated by an acute understanding of video images stands out from a lot of other works seen locally. If this is a sign of better things to expect from the young artist, I am glad that the omen is auspicious and that he has shed the relics of ‘over doing’ kitsch.


6 of 10 stars (Proudly said it’s worth the trip)

extended till Feb 7.

72-13, Mohamed Sultan Road (the same building as STPI)


One response to “SIGNS, OMENS AND RELICS OF FAITH by Brian Gothong Tan

  1. Brian Gothong Tan

    Thanks for the generous review! I’m glad someone is taking the time to document the local art scene here. I will refer my students to check this site out.


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