The Air Conditioned Recession: A Singapore Survey

Survey: to view or consider comprehensively

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As the nation celebrates independence day, if we consider ourselves Singaporean enough, 2 concurrent art exhibitions are worth catching just to provide another take on national identity.

It was announced in The Straits Times (The Sunday Times, “Economy better, but tests ahead, says PM”, Aug 9, 2009, page 1) that the economy will contract between 4-6%.  With the sombre image of a recession in mind, art or any celebration may not be on everyone’s minds. For many, August 9 is the reason to celebrate ‘being’ – ‘being grateful’ for the hard work and sacrifice of our forefathers. For others, August 9 a Sunday is another day and opportunity to work to earn a living, to survive. Buses and trains continue to run; eateries remain open. For some, it is a day of ‘being able to rest’, more than a festive celebration.

The Air Conditioned Recession: A Singapore Survey consists of an eclectic mix of artworks from a range of Singapore artists. More mixed than you can call rojak, they present diverse views, macro or microscopic on facets of Singaporean-ness. They come across as pretty, slightly sensational in their own ways, and pushed together in a visual display. These include Jing Quek‘s Food Porn close-up of food, near Jason Wee’s Christ is always RIGHT, a neon light tube in the truism style of Jenny Holzer.

Straddling in the adjacent gallery, a different Curating Lab: 100 Objects (Remixed) offers a more sophisticated rendition of art and artefacts that represent the Singapore identity, sprawling over time and genre, providing visual resonance and conceptual depth to notions of identity and culture. Part 1 of 2 exhibitions, An imprint of a William Farquhar water colour of a monkey hangs between a Chen Wen Hsi cubist-like painting of the Raffles Museum, and Chua Chye Teck’s matrix of extra-ordinary objects Wonderland. The concept of placing and considering artworks with historical documents represents an honest examination of visual culture, but may appear strange to many. While the idea of selecting 100 objects remind one of Theatreworks’ 120,  experimenting with ‘lasting impressions’ and to some extend, lasting art is engaging. As sparse as the display may look in comparison to The Air Conditioned Recession, it is less pretentious in the curation/arrangement of works. The former visually pleasing, diverse and well placed with several established names in the art scene. The latter, a curious mix unless one looks hard.

To some, the three gallery spaces are seamless, it was less important than it made curatorial sense. And for those who were there for the opening party, “all looked pretty Singaporean” was perhaps good enough. It could perhaps be compared to fireworks, where the first impression was more than impressive. For the discerning viewer, The survey is less comprehensive or cerebral than promised, but nonetheless sensational enough to warrant a visit.

The Air Conditioned Recession, 5 of 10 stars
Curating Lab: 100 Objects (Remixed), unrated as yet

Note: Click on the thumbnails below for more pictures.

The Air Conditioned Recession: A Singapore Survey
Curating Labs

The Air Conditioned Recession: A Singapore Survey

5 – 30 August, 2009 VWFA Singapore, ARTSPACE@HELUTRANS, 39 Keppel Road, Tg. Pagar Distrpark, #02-04, S(089065)

Curating Lab: 100 Objects (Remixed)

5 – 30 August Artspace @ Helutrans,

39 Keppel Road #02-04, Tanjong Pagar Distripark 9am – 6pm (Monday to Friday), 9am – 1pm (Saturday)

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