SINGAPORE: A new team will be behind Singaporean artist Zai Kuning when he makes his way to the Venice Biennale in May.
The National Arts Council (NAC) officially announced on Monday (Apr 3) the four members of the artistic production team behind the Singapore Pavilion at the 57th edition of the prestigious international art event.
They are: Tamares Goh, former head of The Esplanade’s visual arts team and a former curator for the 2013 Singapore Biennale; artists Hafiz Osman and Lin Shiyun; and Firusaffian Kamal.
The announcement comes after the controversial break-up of the initial team in December, when curator June Yap and project manager Neo Kim Seng withdrew from the project after what the NAC described as “differences in the operational approaches within the team”.
Goh and Lin - who take on the roles of producer and exhibition manager, respectively - were subsequently brought in to join Hafiz and Firusaffian, who were already part of the production team, said the NAC.
“Zai has been working alongside this team to ensure that the project is on schedule. The artwork was freighted and left for Venice in early March,” said Low Eng Teong, NAC’s director for sector development (visual arts).
The Singaporean artist will be presenting a multi-disciplinary work titled Dapunta Hyang: Transmission Of Knowledge, which will comprise a 17 metre-long ship made of rattan, beeswax and string as the exhibition’s centre piece. It will be exhibited at the Singapore Pavilion located at the Arsenale from May 13 to Nov 26.
The project - which has had various permutations exhibited at places such as the Esplanade, Ota Fine Arts and LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore and Palais de Tokyo in Paris – looks at unearthing the forgotten histories of the orang laut, or the sea gypies of the Riau Archipelago. It also touches on the history of the pre-Islamic Srivijaya empire and the story of Dapunta Hyang, the first Malay king.
The exhibition will also include a series of photographs of living performers of the traditional dance-theatre form of Mak Yong, in collaboration with Thai photographer Wichai Juntavaro.
“Relics or remains surviving from the Srivijayan world helped me imagine the old Malay world. My interpretations concerning Srivijaya are personal, inspired by my own dreams, life experiences and imagination, especially about how they may have lived in the seventh century. I am not a researcher, nor academic nor historian. I am an artist and a storyteller,” said Zai in a statement.
Paul Tan, NAC's deputy chief executive officer, added: “Dapunta Hyang: Transmission of Knowledge is a poignant installation that invites viewers to reflect on our region's identity and history."
An exhibition catalogue will also be launched during the official opening of the exhibition on May 10, which will be graced by Grace Fu, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth.
The publication will feature essays by art historian T K Sabapathy; National Universitiy of Singapore Museum head Ahmad Mashadi; and NUS Southeast Asian Studies professor Dr John Miksic.
Said Minister Fu in a statement: “I am happy to see Zai Kuning’s work being displayed at the Venice Biennale, which is widely regarded as one of the most established international platforms for contemporary art. It will raise our artists’ profile beyond our shores, and tap into a most important global network to reach new audiences for our Singapore art. Having worked closely with the orang laut community since 1999, Zai’s work infuses elements of the Malay archipelagic culture which he has mastered so well. It will be a masterpiece that will truly reflect our identity, and I have no doubt it will move the hearts of many visitors to the Singapore Pavilion.”