Lost in the City

Lost and Found

Lost In the City

This exhibition is considered a mini-blockbuster. As part of the Singapore Art Show, it spans nearly 3 months, featuring Joo Choon Lin & Chun Kai Qun, Justin Lee, Michael Lee, Genevieve Chua. Expounding various ‘losses’ the result of living in the city, the artists had lamented the lack of pockets of green space to roam and play, Justin’s Kitsch in the city, Michael Lee’s research and invention of buildings by-gone, Genevieve Chua’s gender bender Twilight-like, frolic in the forest. Taken half-seriously, the works are enjoyable to ponder; taken too seriously, only Michael Lee’s work stood out as a critique of the Singapore City, while the rest pitched concepts that were more universal.

From Green to Brown to Black to Brown to Green (2009) by Joo Choon Lin and Chun Kai Qun is tucked between levels on the staircase landing. The space is transformed appropriately by adding plywood floor boards and covering up some of the walls and pillars. This work has three parts – an animation featuring a tree-elf creature defending the forest against another evil creature and fighting rapid urbanisation of natural habitats; a diorama which was used as the set for the stopmotion, a construction site cast in a wheel barrel; two large posters featuring the tree elfs against the backdrop of real construction sites in Singapore. Whimsical in the Charlie and the Chocolate factory manner, the animation doesn’t present an ending, but a loop, suggesting our procrastination towards a verdict of environmental resolution and action. To some, the inconvenient truth remains inconvenient; we still want to drive to work, print paper and work the way we work, consuming vast amounts of natural resources.  Affected by the light from the stair well, part of the animation lacked contrast and attributed to a poorer viewing experience. Perhaps the work might have benefited more if it were embedded in the main exhibition hall of the National Museum, with controlled lighting and darkened space.

Justin Lee’s East and West Series: Globalisation (2008-9) cast aerated concrete sculptures of Chinese classical terracottas/sculptures suggest two main messages. The crane with discarded coca cola drink cans suggest context of globalisation eroding Chinese culture, or littering as an environmental issue. The second, globalisation represented through computer/internet, music are signified as objects placed unsettlingly on the classical sculptures. Headphones garb 12 petrified soldiers’ ears, as if just turning them into concrete, hardening them against their own roots and culture. The arrangement of the sculptures are peculiar. The work would have benefited more if they were placed strategically around the entire museum. Putting them together seems more convenient that contextually emphatic.

Kitsch, overtly simplification of the complexity of cultures of the East and West, failed to press us any further to critique our own identities. The message of Globalisation here, is over generalised, and didn’t touch any raw nerves, or send us into spiralling vertigo confusion of ourselves.

Michael Lee’s National Columbarium of Singapore (2009) documents 100 real and ‘inserted’ national monuments, unbuilt, destroyed ideologically and physically as the result of urban redevelopment. In all seriousness, some of the buildings presented are political satires, self-deprecating of our apathy towards local architecture and national identity.  These hung, marvelous paper sculptures resemble clouds, imagination bubbles materialised, but still unreal places to touch or approach, least inhabit. As an investigation of places as landscape narratives, the work reveals and reviews our own pysche towards buildings – as spaces not places, as memories more than simply places, as identity not just memories.

Genevieve Chua’s ambitious photographs pull together elements of narration, music and installation. The images are ambiguous and seductive because we are story lovers by nature. The 3 projected screens tried their best to link not always successfully aesthetically and formally; as an installation, they lack punch, leaving more to be desired given the complexity of what the artist was trying to express – forlorn,  gender issues that embroil adolescence and adulthood.

In a different interpretation of the title of the exhibition, this review too is ‘lost and found’ in the city.  After much procrastination, inhibitation, this review is posted nearly 1 year after the exhibition, and embedded in the troves of this wordpress archive, on Nov 7, 2010.

7.0 of 10 stars

21 Aug 2009 – 3 Jan 2010
National Museum of Singapore


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