A Presence of Pasts, Singapore Biennale 2016

Retrospection reveals the present as a thoroughfare where all realms coincide and are mirrored – where the personal nudges collective memory, the seen implies the unseen, and legacy evokes loss and forgetting.

Melampaui Batas (Beyond Boundaries) (2016) by Made Djirna
Within his installation of found objects is an antique ironwood boat, symbolic of journeying between the Nusantara (the Indonesian archipelago) and the larger world, as well as between the worlds of the living and the dead (in Balinese belief, the boat carries the soul to its ancestral abode after death).

Hundreds of terracotta figurines, symbolising humanity, exhibit individual expressions, even as their numbers suggest a community, and the clay, their frailty.

The Covenant (2016) by Sharmiza Abu Hassan
Sharmiza rereads and re-enacts two stories from the Malay Annals, a keystone of Malay literature, to re-examine some of the Malays’ traditional values and practices.

The episode of the covenant highlights the solemn oath made between Malay rulers and their subjects, while the tale of the swordfish attacks revolves around Hang Nadim, who saved Singapore from the attacks but was unjustly murdered by his king.

Gate (2003) by Do Ho Suh
This artwork is modelled on a gate at the artist’s family home in Korea, itself constructed after a traditional scholar’s house built in the nineteenth century, and made with discarded wood from demolished palaces and other historical buildings.

Mardijker Photo Studio (2015) by Agan Harahap
Harahap reworks archival photographs to present fictive portraits of the Mardijkers, a community of descendants of freed slaves found in major cities in the East Indies (present-day Indonesia).

The superimposition of European faces on ‘native’ bodies, and vice versa, captures the fluidity and instability of identities within this community, a situation which the artist views as analogous to contemporary Indonesia’s negotiation with ‘global’ culture.

The Name (2008 – 2017) by Tun Win Aung & Wah Nu
The husband-and-wife artist duo have resurrected figures from the nineteenth-century Anglo-Burmese Wars and beyond, recuperating an autochthonous historical voice against what they perceive as a colonial narrative.

The Most Mild Mannered Men (2016) by Fyerool Darma
Driven by his concern about a growing historical amnesia, Fyerool Darma departs from his characteristic painting practice to present sculptures of two key figures in Singapore history: an appropriated bust of Sir Stamford Raffles by Sir Francis Legatt Chantrey, and a bustless pedestal inscribed with the name, birth and death dates of Sultan Hussein Mua’zzam Shah.

Memory of the Blind Elephant (2016) by Phuong Linh Nguyen
Fascinated by colonial rubber plantations and the role they have played and continue to play in Vietnam, Phuong Linh explores the materiality of rubber and investigates the historical significance of the country’s rubber trees and plantations.

Singapore Biennale 2016: An Atlas of Mirrors
Exploring shared histories and current realities within and beyond the region, Singapore Biennale 2016 presents a constellation of artistic perspectives that provide unexpected ways of seeing the world and ourselves.

Titled An Atlas of Mirrors, the international contemporary art exhibition features site-specific and never seen before contemporary artworks by more than 60 artists across Southeast Asia, and East and South Asia.

Singapore Biennale 2016 is organised by the Singapore Art Museum, commissioned by National Arts Council and and supported by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth of Singapore.

Singapore Art Museum
The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) focuses on international contemporary art practices, specialising in Singapore and Southeast Asia.

Housed in a restored 19th-century mission school, Singapore Art Museum opened its doors in 1996 as the first art museum in Singapore. Also known as SAM, the museum is now a contemporary art museum.

SAM has built one of the world’s most important public collections of Southeast Asian contemporary artworks, with a growing component in international contemporary art. SAM draws from its collection and collaborates with international contemporary art museums to co-curate and present contemporary art exhibitions. Contemporary art of the region is also given international exposure through SAM’s travelling exhibition programme and collection loans.