Makeshift cafe, enormous hand sculpture and more at this year’s Singapore Biennale

Makeshift cafe, enormous hand sculpture and more at this year’s Singapore Biennale

Titled Atlas Of Mirrors, the fifth edition of the art event features the works of 63 artists from Asia

SINGAPORE: Fancy engaging an artist in a discussion? This week, you can drop by Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) 8Q wing where Azizan Paiman will be more than willing to have a chat - he’ll even make coffee for you.

The Malaysian artist is presenting Putar Alam Café, a site-specific installation reminiscent of a cafe, at this year’s Singapore Biennale, which opened to the public on Oct 27.


Malaysian artist Azizan Paiman in his Putar Alam Cafe at the Singapore Art Museum. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

As part of a series of performances, he will be playing the role of a bartender and will serve food such as noodles and chips, as well as beverages such as “capitalist sodas” and “the sky kingdom juice”, or water. In exchange, visitors are encouraged to talk about any topic, which he will be recording and playing back during the duration of the biennale, which ends February next year.

“It’s a bit like that TV show Cheers, where the pub is like a public house, a democratic place to discuss issues,” he said.


Malaysian artist Azizan Aiman's Putar Alam Cafe. (Photo: Singapore Art Museum)

Putar Alam Café is one of 58 artworks featured at the Biennale, by 63 artists and collectives across 19 countries and territories in Southeast Asia, East Asia and South Asia.

The event is organised by SAM and spread across eight venues.

This is its fifth edition and it is called An Atlas Of Mirrors. Its wide-ranging works collectively tackle issues of space, time, memory and identities in this part of the world.

“Atlases and mirrors are instrumental to humankind’s explorations and we hope the evocative title would intrigue audiences as they wrestle with contemporary realities,” said Dr Susie Lingham, the biennale’s creative director, at the preview held on Oct 25.

“Contemporary art is (itself) an atlas of mirrors that open up many ways of seeing in terms of the way we think, feel and live in our times.”


Japanese artist Harumi Yukutake's Paracosmos at the Singapore Biennale 2016. (Photo: Singapore Art Museum)

The exhibited works range from paintings and sculptures to performances and video art. Among these is Singaporean artist Lim Soo Ngee’s Inscription Of The Island, an enormous copper sculpture of a hand pointing upwards that seemingly emerges from the front lawn of SAM.

According to Ms Joyce Toh, one of Biennale’s curators and a curatorial co-head at SAM, it was part of a long-lost civilisation that the artist had imagined - it’s supposedly part of a giant statue that once guided ships to Singapore.


Chinese artist Qiu Zhijie's One Has To Wander Through All The Outer Worlds To Reach The Innermost Shrine At The End at the Singapore Biennale 2016. (Photo: Singapore Art Museum)

Also revealed during the preview were the names of five artists who were shortlisted for the inaugural Benesse Prize in Asia. It is the first time the award will be presented in the region. Its past 10 editions were given at the prestigious Venice Biennale.

The shortlisted artists are Vietnam’s Bui Cong Khanh, the Philippines’ Martha Atienza, Indonesia’s Ade Darmawan, China’s Qiu Zhijie and Thailand’s Pannaphan Yodmanee.

The final winner, who will receive 3 million yen (S$40,000) and an opportunity to create a work at the Benesse Art Site in Naoshima, Japan, will be announced in January 2017, during Singapore Art Week.


Indonesian artist Eddy Susanto's The Journey Of Panji at the Singapore Biennale 2016 (Photo: Singapore Art Museum)

As for Mr Azizan, he’ll be getting ready for walk-in guests at his makeshift Putar Alam Café. “I’ll serve anything. It’s a chance to chat with my audience, my customers. Some will like to discuss politics, some like culture or economics.”

Source: CNA/mm