Raised, a unique art exhibition occupied a plot of land opposite 24hr Mustafa Centre on Serangoon Road, raised not just eyebrows, but erected a temporary statue, ran mini-art carnivals for 6 consecutive weeks.
The art display and the carnival it ran, under the auspices of the Singapore Art Show 2007, drew thousands. It seems only too appropriate to dedicate an exhibition to our migrant workers, and unbelievable that a tiny community of visual artists in little India had not done so before. The works exhibited, excuted with great economy were interactive and carnival like, and seem to embrace the view that “art is for everyone”. It almost seemed that art traded spaces with the intended viewer, climbing down from it’s plinth and replacing itself with a concrete figure, holding a shovel. I think the exhibition questions the value of art, along with a temporary idolised image of a foreign worker. As cliche as it sounds, it puts money where the mouth is, challenging perceptions of viewership dollar per head, effectiveness and ‘quality’ of art. As the title “raised” suggest, standards are questioned, perceptions of migrant workers’ rights, and freedom to appreciate some kind of art – to view art at their convenience, a few hours only once a week.
Besides choosing a carnival time suiting the bulk of Little India’s visitors, the issues of “greater consideration for migrant workers, in Singapore and promoting good employee- employer relations” are probably not directly addressed. Nor are issues of globalisation, colonial-lord-supremacy attitude that Singaporeans might have, are not clearly and explicitly announced here. The exhibition seemed to be a ‘social sculpture’, in the Joseph Beuys Utopian tradition, championing the social, cultural and political function and potential of art – reducing the prejudice migrant workers face. The people who need to pay attention probably would not find themselves in the middle of Little India on a busy Sunday evening when the art carnivals when held. while utopian ideals are targets and barely achievable, judging from the crowds, the exhibition must still be a roaring successful, and a fine example of public art engagement.
(artwork by Amanda Heng, printed vinyl banner)
The photo essay featuring photographs of and photographs by migrant workers. http://www.thephotoessay.com/ (accessed Oct 2, 2007)
Migrant Voices, http://www.migrantvoices.org/ (accessed Oct 2, 2007)
Transient Workers Count too, http://twc2.org.sg/site/ (accessed Oct 2, 2007)