Everyday life · Photography

Singapore Biennale 2013 – If the World Changed

Where I stay in London, I’m spoilt for choice when it comes to brunch places. Just 5 min away, there’s (IMO) the best brunch in London, Lantana, which is featured on TimeOut London as well. Take a short stroll down to Wardour street and there’s the delicious Ham-so-eggscited from The Breakfast Club. Want somewhere with a nice ambience for chilling out? Riding House Cafe has plush red theatre seats that are made for sitting for hours. If not, Kaffeine is just across the street.

Unfortunately, here in Singapore, I don’t live in the city centre, and hence do not have easy access to the multitude of brunch places popping out like flowers in Spring. Besides, none of those that I’ve tried have really impressed me. Nevertheless, brunch remains the ‘in’ thing to do on a weekend morning and since I really know where else to go for food in the city centre in the morning, I thought I’ll give Kith cafe a try. It is located at Park Mall, facing Penang Road, but there’s sufficient set-back that you don’t feel drowned out by the traffic on the road. If the place is full, just write your name and mobile number on the board, and someone will call you when it is your turn to be seated. Oh, and they provided chairs for those waiting as well.

I was quite tempted by the museli, but eventually settled on Green Eggs, which consisted of 2 slices of toast of your choice, (they had Multi-grain, which is super yummy, sourdough, which is okay and something else), eggs with pesto (fabulous) and salad which is tomatoes and spinach with balsamic vinegar dressing (Price: $15). Food was fabulous and I would actually consider coming back here again. I had a skinny flat-white which was pretty good as well.

Green eggs at kith cafe
Green eggs at kith cafe

After a very full brunch, we headed off to National Museum of Singapore to view the Biennale exhibit. Incidentally, Mediacorp was celebrating its 50 years of television at the National Museum of Singapore, so there were loads of people around. We even caught a glimpse of two ‘Wong celebrities’ — artiste Bryan Wong and politician Lawrence Wong.

We stepped into the Gallery “A Changed World: Singapore Art 1950s – 1970s”, thinking it was part of the Biennale. It was pretty nice though. I loved the bright colours and strong solid lines that characterised many of the artwork. Looking at the paintings, I felt as if I was having a history lesson, peering in at Singapore in the past.

Especially like this quote at the beginning of the exhibit. Having lived abroad for several years, I’ve started questioning these artificial constructs that define national boundaries.

A changed world: Singapore Art 1950s - 1970s
A changed world: Singapore Art 1950s – 1970s

There’s a section of the gallery that shows pictures relating to the building of Singapore. Looking at these pictures, I can’t help but ponder on the contrast between the people building then and now. Today, the people building Singapore are no longer people who call this place home. That made me a little sad.

A changed world: Singapore Art 1950s - 1970s
A changed world: Singapore Art 1950s – 1970s

The actual biennale exhibition in the basement of the National Museum was super cool. Ken and Julia Yonetani refitted antique chandeliers with uranium glass and UV bulbs, causing the chandeliers to glow with a haunting florescent green and purple. Each chandelier represents each of the nation that dabbles with nuclear power.

Crystal Palace nuclear power
Crystal Palace nuclear power

In the same dark room, there were video projections of people on wooden cut-outs. These people were all eating something (with the exception of an old man who was smoking) and so the room was filled with sounds of people chewing, and tearing wrappers. It was scary, disturbing but very mesmerising.

Eating by Nguyen Trinh Thi
Eating by Nguyen Trinh Thi

The other exhibit I really liked was the installation right at the entrance of the museum (where the ticketing counter is). As water poured down from the ceiling, a metal panel in the courtyard of the museum reflected the sun’s rays in, and on the mesh behind the curtain of water, a rainbow is formed. It was cloudy when we initially looked at the cascading water, wondering how the rainbow would be formed, but then the clouds parted and the blinding rays reflected onto the water created the sight below.

Rainbow Circle
Rainbow Circle

We took the shuttle bus to Singapore Art Museum (yes, there is a shuttle bus for people who can’t walk more than 400m), and went to check out the exhibits at SAM at 8Q. I’ve never been to this building before, but I loved it. The street outside is one-lane, and there’s a zebra crossing to facilitate crossing the road. The pavement is wide with benches placed strategically. Unfortunately, there isn’t much of a shade, but if there is, it would be an excellent public space. Brightly coloured, the building blended in well with the older buildings surrounding it.

We spent some time looking at the videos surrounding the theme of public space on the first floor. Some of them were really quite funny. On the second floor, there was an installation made of Chinese ink that really reminded me of Richard Wilson’s 20:50 at Saatchi Gallery. Both smelt equally bad.

I thought Waiting Room was also pretty cool. Especially the quote on one of the walls. It’s about how society views transgender persons, but I thought it was applicable to everyone in general–how we are always being judged by people.

Waiting Room
Waiting Room
Waiting Room
Waiting Room

 

The video installation featuring Chan Mari Chan was also super hilarious. I loved it. Even as we visited the other exhibits, you could hear the cheerful music echoing in the background.

The other video that really left a deep impression was Into the Sea by Le Brothers. In 2 of the 3 videos, one of the twin brothers was being wrapped up in red plastic/cloth by his other twin brother, and dragged through the landscape. In the third video, they were on a boat, drifting, and then they started wrestling. The music was haunting and sad, and the two brothers were expressionless and emotionless, carrying out the actions as if they were wooden dolls.

I must say, I really enjoyed the biennale thus far! Even if I had to pay $20 because I lost my first ticket. Well, it is all to support the art scene in Singapore. Apparently there is free entry to SAM on Friday evenings. Might go back to SAM to see the exhibits some Friday.

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