Morbid, but it sticks.
According to the Oxford online dictionary, the word grieve has two meanings. On one hand, it describes a feeling of intense sorrow; on the other hand, it describes an object or scenario that causes great distress to another person. In this light, the artists’ collective, Grieve Perspective, has been consistent to their group name in this deft exhibition; this time dealing with death, morbidity, memory, fiction and storytelling.
Like the dodgy taxidermy black Myna bird (Brace, 2012) that appears to have crashed through the exhibition wall, emerging comically on the other end, black humour can be read in the rest of the works. On one gallery wall, six curious newspaper clippings are immortalised as art. Like Joseph Kosuth’s VI Time (Art as Idea as Idea) (1969), the artist’s authorship is masked; just as the authority of the newspaper as carrier of factual truth is called into question here. On closer inspection, they contain obituaries (or ‘obits’ for short), written as a short story or commentary. While not to be taken at face value, they do question the memories left behind after one’s passing: what is re-membered, fictionalised and finally narrated could well be selective facts that form an entirely different story. Recalling British artist Damien Hirst’s famous shark, The Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living (1991), this series also illustrates our fascination with death. This series also breaks the taboo of talking about the death of someone living. While the characters are no doubt fictitious, as many people share the same names, they do bear uncanny resemblances to characters we might know – bringing out the worst of them – or worst of us.
On another wall, a video Singapored (2012) shows scenes of Singapore devastated by a projectile (meteorite or missile) but life simply goes on nonchalantly. In They Make Me Do It (2012), a forearm is cut from an anonymous body, presumably the artist’s, yet still holding a pen and trying to draw or write something. On one hand, read from a discourse theory perspective, the title suggests that the artist is a victim of sorts. A victim of the artworld (as opposed to the underworld), or art market. On the other hand, from a group perspective, the artist’s individual voice is (deliberately) lost in the collective.
The idea of an artist collective creates several interesting dilemmas: first, is there is a need to state an artwork’s authorship if claim is non-essential? Second, if a collective means having more ideas, and more working hands, does it necessarily result in a scenario where ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’? Third, in Danto’s concept of the artworld, an artwork relies on many individuals and institutions before it becomes meaningful and important. Where does the collaborative collective start and actually end? Fourth, relating to authorship, who is responsible for an artwork, especially if the work has a social commentary? Or does the shared or diminished responsibility allow the artists to make bolder new works?
7.0 of 10 stars.
Do remember to grab the Grieve Perspective manifesto.
23 Aug – 5 Sep 2012, Chan Hampe Gallery