NUS Museum presents an exhibition featuring encounters and exchanges between the arts and sciences, between practice and research, between the inquiring subject and the object inquired.
An interdisciplinary project, “When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” is a continued inquiry by the Migrant Ecologies Project into the human relationships to trees, forests and forest products in Southeast Asia – explored in terms of materials, metaphors, magic, ecological resources and historical agency. In 2008, artist Lucy Davis embarked on an endeavour to recast fragments of the form and the content of the mid twentieth-century Singapore modern woodcut movement in a contemporary macro-context of “cutting of wood” (deforestation). This process led to an investigation into the genetic origins of one particular item of “cut wood” (a teak bed found in Singapore). The following journey has taken Davis’ team across the region in search of the diverse “aborealities” – connections between the peoples, trees and wood. A disappearance of forests in Southeast Asia accompanies a similar disappearance of stories with their attendant memories and practices.
“When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” features several new woodprint works by Lucy Davis alongside works by photographers Shannon Lee Castleman and Kee Ya Ting. Tales from two “Islands after a Timber Boom” comprise an underlying structure to the exhibition. The islands are Muna Island, Southeast Sulawesi, where early DNA tests have suggested as the origins of the wood from the teak bed; and Singapore island where Davis has been researching stories of Singapore’s entrepot timber industry in and around the Sungei Kadut Industrial Estate. Finally in this exhibition, Davis is directly referencing for the first time the initial inspiration for this six-year research process: the Singapore modern woodcut movement. Fragments of iconic woodblock prints from NUS Museum collection are reconstructed in the show as animated shadows which weave in and out of the exhibition experience.
NUS Museum curator Kenneth Tay notes, “This project might be read as a proposition to rethink radically (radix – roots) the issues and problems of identity in the region, particularly in the context of ‘origins’, but also what sustains it and so on. Here, the inquiry towards the ‘origins’ of the teak bed throws up much more stories that only seem to both enrich but also obscure the question. We might then see the bed as the site of a primal scene unfolding, from bed to bedlam.”
Exhibition: “When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks”
Dates: Till November 2014
Venue: NUS Museum, University Cultural Centre, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent
Hours: 10am – 7.30pm (Tue – Fri), 10am – 6pm (Sat & Sun)