Feature Articles

Singapore Biennale

By: markhsx on 15 Jun 2012
Organised by the Singapore Art Museum with support from the National Arts Council, the Singapore Biennale is Southeast Asia's leading and largest Biennale. Artists from around the world are invited to present audiences with a wide range of artistic experiences at the Biennale, which serves as a platform for international dialogue in contemporary art. This extensive event also provides significant opportunities for local visual artists and arts organisations, and is an occasion to cultivate deeper public engagement with the global field of contemporary art. Hence, the Biennale presents a great chance for visitors and tourists to get in touch with Singapore's local arts scene, and interact with renowned local and international artists.

Open to the public from 13 March to 15 May 2011, the third Singapore Biennale will feature 63 artists from 30 countries. More than half of the artists featured are creating new commissions or premiering new works on-site at the Biennale, and with nine Singaporean artists, Singapore Biennale 2011 features the largest proportion of local artists to date. This Biennale aims to be a rigourous and thoughtful international event with a distinctive Asian focus.

The Biennale's theme, 'Open House', is inspired by the Singaporean tradition of opening one's doors to visitors during traditional festivals such as Chinese New Year, Hari Raya, and Deepavali, which in turn relaxes boundaries between individuals and groups, and provides opportunities for reflection, negotiation, and exchange. The notion of 'Open House' keenly centres around daily transactions that take place between people, crossing the thresholds and blurring the distinction between public and private space. The 2011 Biennale is an an examination of how we cross borders, take on different perspectives, and connect with those around us.

Old Kallang AirportInstead of being concentrated in a single location, 'Open House' is presented across four exhibition venues, each with their own particular character, that draw upon emblematic spaces. Two of the biggest local museums feature works inspired or influenced by unique Singaporean spaces – Singapore's Housing Development Board's public housing apartment flats at the Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q, and shopping centres and night markets at the National Museum of Singapore.  Two venues will also admit visitors for free – the Old Kallang Airport, a military airbase during World War II, which will present works incorporating elements and ideas of international air and sea ports, and the majestic Marina Bay, where major artworks aim to amplify the individual's artistic experience.

The Merlion Hotel

A key commissioned piece for the Biennale is The Merlion Hotel, which is Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi's one-of-a-kind project, comprising a luxurious temporary hotel suite constructed around Singapore’s iconic landmark and mascot, The Merlion. This unique masterpiece will open in the day for public viewing and in the evening for guests to check in for an overnight stay; all 32 nights at the hotel were booked within an hour of the opening of the reservation line. By shifting the citizen's proximity to that of the sculpture itself, Nishi stages an uncanny encounter with a public landmark in the intimacy of a private hotel room.

Another featured presentation is Mexican-Canadian Lozano-Hemmer's Frequency and Volume (2003), a project that uses the shadows of gallery viewers to tune into different radio frequencies. By translating human bodies into antennae and providing a ephemeral, shifting audio-visual rendering of Singapore's radio spectrum, this work explores issues of intimacy and individual freedom and choice in the public realm.

Self-Portrait, Our Landscape, a local project developed by Matthew Ngui, the Biennale's first Singaporean artistic director, with the Biennale's Outreach team, involves 3000 students who have created self portraits without drawing what they look like. In doing so, the children take on new perspectives and consider how the environments they live, work, and play in have shaped them. Subsequently, basic sound and animation techniques are used to gradually present all their self portraits, which morph into one another to create a transition landscape of collective identities.

Bringing together both internationally renowned artists and up-and-coming talents from the local contemporary art scene, the Singapore Biennale is set to be an exciting event that will delight both Singaporeans and foreign visitors. We recommend the Singapore Biennale to anyone who has an interest in modern art, or are seeking a unique and refreshing experience in Singapore.

Paid entry: Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q, National Museum of Singapore
Free entry: Old Kallang Airport, Marina Bay

Opening Hours: 10am to 7pm daily (Last entry 6.15pm)

Admission: Adult $10, Student, $5, Senior citizen (60+ years) $5
Includes one-time entry to all venues, one complimentary Short Guide and one-time free audio guide rental at all venues. Tickets available at all venues except Marina Bay.

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