Friday, April 22, 2011

Noteworthy artworks to enjoy at Singapore Biennale 2011

The largest contemporary art exhibition held in Singapore, the Singapore Biennale 2011 brings visitors to see new works by leading contemporary artists from Southeast Asia, Asia and around the world. The third Singapore Biennale revolves around the theme of "Open House". Held from 13 Mar - 15 May 2011, "Open House" examines the artistic processes involved in exchanges and daily transactions. It also questions how people move across borders, view other perspectives and form connections with others.

In this post, I shall share with you my personal favourites from Singapore Biennale 2011 as well as highlight to you what I think are the noteworthy works that visitors could consider making time for.

My favourite venue of the Singapore Biennale 2011 is undoubtedly the Old Kallang Airport. I learnt that the Old Kallang Airport was opened in 1937 as Singapore's first civil airport. I was grateful for the rare opportunity to visit this space. The works exhibited at the Old Kallang Airport discusses the movement from one place or state to another. I have found many of the ideas and concepts behind the works at the Old Kallang Airport to be mind-stimulating.

These are my personal recommendations of the artworks to make time for at the Old Kallang Airport:

I was fascinated by Elmgreen and Dragset's German Barn (2011). In this work, the artists put a German barn in a Singaporean airport hangar. This created a mismatch and I like the idea how such a displacement forces me to see the familiar things anew.

Walk into the barn and if you are lucky, you may find some interesting surprises.

Old Kallang Airport airport hangar

On the side, I somehow enjoyed exploring the spaces of what had used to be an airport hangar of the Old Kallang airport.

Michael Lin's What a Difference Made lends an interesting take on how the entire contents of a hardware store could be transformed in unexpected and playful ways.

Now you see the hardware store, and if you do visit the Singapore Biennale 2011 at the Old Kallang Airport, you will see the hardwares and crates being assembled to form an art gallery showcasing everyday objects.

Arin Rungjang's installation inside the Old Kallang Airport has a clever concept to make exchanges come alive.

In this work, Thai migrant workers in Singapore are invited to exchange their old furniture for new Ikea furniture based on a certain system of exchange. It is interesting to realise how the installation would constantly be evolving over time.

Ming Wong's Devo partire. Domani. (2010) which is commissioned for the Singapore Biennale 2011 transforms Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1968 film Teorema by setting the film in contempoary Naples with Wong playing each of the male and female roles. I like Ming Wong's interesting techniques in exploring the shifting nature of identity though I admittedly still cannot fully appreciate comprehend the techniques. The entire five-channel video installation last about 13 minutes and parental guidance is recommended for young visitors.


At the National Museum of Singapore, watch how the works at Singapore Biennale 2011 discusses about the transactions and transformations that take place within an urban landscape.

Beautifully done, Sopheap Pich's Compound (2011) is a work that is a response to the rapid urban development and its environmental effects. According the the Singapore Biennale 2011 short guide, Pich had expressed "Throughout history there's this endless cycle of building and destruction. Can we build without destroying?".

I like it because of the beauty of its form and structure. It simply looked beautiful against the backdrop of the museum's spaces.


At the Singapore Art Museum and SAM@8Q, I very much enjoyed the treat to enter the private world of others. At these two venues, the works invited the visitors to look at private obsessions, personal histories and intimate experiences.

Many visitors may find it easy to relate to Roslisham Ismail's work titled Secret Affair. In this food installation whereby the perishables are replaced on a regular basis, the artist looks at the food in the refrigerators of six diverse Singaporean families to explore how we live and form connections with others.

I have had fun peeping into the fridges.

Koh Nguang How's Artists in the News (2011) is a must-see for all who are interested in the Singapore art scene. Koh has established the Singapore Art Archive Project in 2005 and has an extensive collection of art news.

In this art installation, Koh has set up within the gallery spaces an active archival laboratory that replicates the configuration of his apartment where he keeps his collection of art news. I felt deeply grateful that Koh Nguang How have been making time to be present on specific days of the exhibition.

Candice Breitz' Factum (2010) lends visitors a peep into the private worlds of identical twins. I like the way it attempts to contemplate how identifcal twins relate to one another, how they are similar yet so different from one another. I have yet to finish watching all the seven dual-channel and one three-channel installations. Hopefully I could still make time to watch all of them one day.


Last but not the least, you may wish to make time to visit Tatzu Nishi's The Merlion Hotel (2011). For the first and last time, watch how Singapore's iconic landmark, the Merlion, is being transformed to form part of a luxurious temporary hotel room.

Please be mindful that you may have to queue to visit The Merlion Hotel. The Merlion Hotel's opening hours for public viewing are from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. daily.

This blog author has written an excellent review on the Merlion Hotel that I have to share it here:

My disclaimer is that our preferences and tastes may differ. As such, please take note that my recommendations are merely for your consideration.

There are many other noteworthy artworks at the Singapore Biennale. For the sake of brevity, I have to narrow down to a selection of less than ten in this post. I do urge that you spend time to view the other artworks that are not mentioned in this post too.

There will be free admission to the Singapore Biennale 2011 every Sunday from 3 Apr - 15 May and on public holidays, i.e. 22 Apr and 2 May. The opening hours are from 10 a.m. - 7 p.m. (Last entry is at 6.15 p.m.). To further enrich your experience to the Singapore Biennale 2011, you may wish to either participate in one of the guided tours or hire an audio guide. I have found that these have given me a more indepth perspective to each of the artworks.

Do check out the Singapore Biennale's website before your visit:


pinkie said...

The Merlion hotel room seems interesting! Old Kallang Airport is so empty?

oceanskies79 said...

Hi Pinkie, there's a lot at the Old Kallang Airport. It is just that I decided to choose a select few to feature. Howver, it is quite a spacious space. I love it though.

Try going for the Merlion Hotel to look at the Merlion with a different eye. This ends 15 May 2011./

oceanskies79 said...

There's only one work inside the airport hangar. The rest of the works are either found in the gardens, or inside the various buildings of the Old Kallang Airport.

I hope it was just the spaciousness of the airport hangar that makes you think Old Kallang Airport looks empty? But it isn't. It's brimming with artworks.