United by their common interests in the history and documentation of specific events in Singapore’s art scene, The Substation’s Associate Artists Loo Zihan and Tania De Rozario come together in March to present a joint exhibition titled Names, Trouble & Text. The exhibition presents the work to date for the artists’ projects for The Substation’s Associate Artist Research Programme.
For Zihan, this will mean delving into the history around The Artists’ General Assembly in 1994 where Josef Ng performed the controversial Brother Cane; for Tania, her research seeks to document the intersections between the visual arts and socio-cultural activism in Singapore since 2000.
Chelsea Chua: Both your areas of research deal with issues of history, documentation, and its impact on Singapore’s art scene. What inspired you to take on your projects?
Loo Zihan: Most people would have heard of Josef Ng’s Brother Cane performance. This research plans to site this seminal performance within a larger frame of what was happening politically in the volatile mid-90s. It seemed a necessary and natural development from my previous work surrounding the re-enactment of Brother Cane.
Tania De Rosario: There were two initial factors: First, I started noticing that many art-makers I know occupy space in both creative circles as well as in initiatives/organisations that work towards social change. I was interested in this overlap, in whether these individuals saw any innate relationship between art and activism, and whether any parallel themes would occur in my conversations with different artists. Second, there are many art initiatives/events/projects/spaces in Singapore that engage with issues of social change but are consistently omitted from the “grand narrative” of what we might like to think of as Singapore’s history/culture of art. I think it’s important to recognise and remember that there is more to Singapore Art than blockbuster festivals and gallery circuits.
CC: What has been the most challenging aspect of your research so far?
LZ: Since I was too young to have been involved in The Artists’ General Assembly, grappling with legitimacy and authenticity has been the toughest aspect of the project so far. I have also found it difficult to reopen old wounds and scars in individuals who would much prefer these wounds to heal and would like to move on. I have learnt through the process to prioritise an ethical approach to my research methodology, which is difficult at times.
TDR: Distilling such a huge issue into manageable portions and having to accept that I cannot tackle everything at once! That’s one of the reasons why I’ve chosen to focus on visual art from the year 2000 onwards, at least over the course of the AARP residency period.
CC: Any ideas on what the finished product will be in a year’s time?
LZ: It is still a little too early to say, but I hope it will consist of a moving-image component, provided as an alternative to the current dominant historical narrative.
TDR: I can’t really tell at this point. What I have now is data from interviews I’ve conducted. And I am working on an “alternative” historical timeline that members of the public can contribute to. But where that eventually ends-up next year is still anyone’s guess!
Names, Trouble & Text is on at The Substation Gallery from Fri 7 to Sun 16 March 2014. The Substation Gallery is open daily from 12pm to 9pm, and is closed on public holidays. Admission is free. The Substation is located at 45 Armenian Street, Singapore 179936. Do join us for the opening on Thursday 6 March, 7.30pm.