Asian Art

Got up at ten – met cleaning woman again – the friendly one. Packed my stuff – got outside to the Education Resource Center – my favourite place at U-Town. Text Linda – former CQT-Artist-in-Residence. Jenny brought us in touch. Linda suggested to join her for a talk of a famous Indonesian Artist at noon.

Various troubles to reach the station, Linda suggested. Had to find my way through bus-lines and various MRT-Stations. Unfortunately it took 1 ½ hour, when I finally arrived at “Bugis”, where Linda and I were supposed to meet. When I entered, it rained. Only one white person – lending at the railing and whatching the weather – Linda. We have a problem now, she says – we cannot leave the shelter without being soaked after a few seconds. The talk is about 5-10 min to walk from here – she explains. It starts in 5 minutes and we’ll probably miss it. Linda speaks German, since she grew up, somewhere at Schwäbische Alp, but doesn’t feel comfortable to speak it, so we continue in English.

She gives me an intense and introduction into the Singaporian Art-Scene. She is living here, for 2 ½ years now. Doing her ‘Master’ at LaSalle in Arts and Art-Management, in Melbourne, Australia, she got her ‘Bachelor’-degree. I guess she is a ‘Cosmopolitain’ – as many people I have met here. We are talking about recycling in Singapore and energy-policies. I say, that cooling down indoor-spaces via air-conditionings using electric power, doesn’t look like a very sustainable concept. Linda has also been in Taiwan and Vietnam. She say, that in Singapore, the temperature inside spaces is especially cold. There is a concept, that ‘cold’ is related to ‘comfort’ and therefore to ‘wealth’.

Space is rare in Singapore – since it is an island. That means that artists can maybe not effort to rent a studio here. Linda doesn’t have a studio-space either. The government is building a new Art-area on an old military site – Lonce spoke about this as well. She applies for a studio at this new space. The government subsidies the studios – also rents for people. Most of the inhabitants here live in these houses – about 80%, I have been told. We stood in the entrance ot the MRT, talking within the noise of rain, thunder and traffic – for I guess half an hour.

Linda does photography and installation. She is also works on the concept of smell within Zen-practices. While we are walking to LaSalle, she asks and I tried to explain my concept for ‘Cabinet for Curiosities’ by saying: ‘I hope to create an installation on quantum-levels’. Linda laughs – again, it might be, that I could properly translate my German approach into English: ‘Ich hoffe wir können eine Installation auf der Ebene von quanten-bezogenen Phänomenen entwickeln’. I am not sure, if the German sentence would be more precise or clear – but then, I would like to say: Under Construction”. If I would already know, what is going to happen, there would be no need to develop it and therefore it would not be participative any more. One step after another.

LaSalle is a fancy new (private ?) Art-School, from what I heard. With studios, stages and show-rooms. Since the talk started almost an hour ago – we only get a brief impression of the exhibition.

I invite Linda for a snack – we see Lindas favourite place for Indian food. We eat with our hands, that we washed before and after.

I have to leave for the next appointment at NUS Museum with Michelle. Linda and I say good-bye and Linda promises to send me some links to get the chance to involve more artists (-students) in the board. She suggests to take a cap from Buona Vista – to be at the NUS Museum in time. What I did – only that I wouldn’t know the adress and the driver didn’t as well. He has no idea, where it is. So I said, at first he may go to NUS-Campus … since I have been walking around, I recognize “Kent Ridge … something” – from now on, I navigate the driver. Finally we arrive, nearly in time. I think the driver – a Chinese – was also amused by our trip; He apologises many times, me too.

Entering ground-level of NUS Museum. Asking for Michelle at the desk. Michelle arrives by elevator. She gives me a very nice introduction on the history of NUS and the collection.

The building is brand-new. The whole collection had been in storage before. The basements displays Malayan and Chinese sculptures and ceramics – showing, that between both cultures, there has always been a relation. Companied by the artwork “Family intimacies” – contemporary photographer portrait his his global family – spread all over Asia. Containing photos from family albums and professional portraits.

Next level holds a ‘Cabinet of Curiosities’ from Singapore. A glass filled with formalin – showing a big frog carrying / eating / holding ? A big snake in it mouth. Michelle says, it is not clear, whether this is just ‘creation’ or ‘representation’ – found or made-up? They also show a selection of religious items. Magical objects, historic ones and ‘contemporaries’. Reminds me on Marcos work. Also a documentation of a former shrine – torn down for new urban development. Michelle seems divided between her regret of destruction of cultural heritage as art-historian (I guess) and the need of space and interest in as citizen. Shortage of space and the struggle, that comes with it seems everywhere the same. I disagree – actually: No. Especially in East Germany a lot of rural areas are shrinking continuously. In 2000 this was a big topic in European Urban Development and still is on a practical level. In East Germany it happened mainly because of the economic break-down after the end of GDR – this was a catalyst for processes, that takes about 20 years in other countries. Decrease of population is a challenge for smaller cities. Especially in the area where the foundation of modern architecture started e.g. with BAUHAUS – Dessau, Wolfen, Bitterfeld, Gera, Chemnitz, concepts of ‘Rückbau’ ‘and Stadtumbau’ nice words for demolition. Especially socialist blockhouses and factories turned into brownfields or parks. Hard for the older people, who built them with hope of a better future and tomorrow.

Upstairs an exhibition in progress/ set-up. A Singaporian Artist – mainly doing Public Art Sculptures. It reminds me very much on the style of some GDR-artists. I wonder how this can be? Is it the time or something else? Cultural background or interest? Amazing.

Michelle suggests to join a talk about violence and iconoclasm within Indonesian Art And the western view on it. “Companionable Objects, Companionable Conscience: Reflections on Sunaryo’s Titik Nadir” by Prof Kenneth M. George

Gosh, there are so many approaches to art, so many criteria, so many different cultural experiences. I wonder why so may people feel so secure to judge about art-works on a objective level! Again, the more I see, the more I know, the less I think I can truly judge. The only thing, what valuing with an objective claim does, is to apply power and suppression to other approaches and ‘framework’ such as non-western understanding and so on. It is just a question of power, not truth.

I will inform Till about the lecture, maybe it would be interesting for him. He is currently doing his PhD in Weimar on the topic of violence and its influence on art and society. He compares Afghan culture today with the time after Thirty-Years-War in Germany. Till and I are colleagues in the Artists Association in Dresden, trying to set up a series of lectures on Art and Science. We are currently waiting for a decision from an association, we applied at. Still hoping. After nearly one hour I had to leave – too cold! Michelle said, she would send me information about display cases.

At home, chatting with Konrad on skype, editing images of the board-meeting and uploading them. Check out options for the web-blog. Writing diary reading …

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