Magazine article Artforum International

Singapore Biennale 2011: Various Venues

Magazine article Artforum International

Singapore Biennale 2011: Various Venues

Article excerpt

The Third Singapore Biennale, titled "Open House" and organized by curators Trevor Smith and Russell Storer under the creative direction of Matthew Ngui, attempted to delineate concepts of home and process within artistic practice. As an exhibition, it evinced a decidedly populist bent: Much of the work installed at the biennial's five venues--the Singapore Art Museum and its satellite SAM at 8Q, the National Museum of Singapore, the Old Kallang Airport, and Marina Bay--felt familiar, purportedly attempting to offer a broad view of global art for local audiences, with catalogue texts and press materials making reference to a pervasive but nebulous "fear" of contemporary art. Predictably, projects responding directly to these ideas were given prime placement; unfortunately, these also constituted some of the flatter statements. Tatzu Nishi opened The Merlion Hotel, 2011, repurposing the harborside concrete statue of the mythical half-lion and half-fish that serves as a national icon and enclosing it within a hotel room, in a repeat of what has become the artist's trademark intervention. Michael Beutler fabricated massive pillars of metal wire and paper in the front lobby of the airport terminal building for Steamed buns (working title), 2011, welcoming visitors with a boldly explicit interpretation of process. Elmgreen & Dragset constructed a sizable and passably realistic Deutsche Scheune (German Barn), 2011, within an empty airplane hangar, using the sheer absurdity of the global circulation of such traditional icons to comment on the impossibility of cultural sensitivity. These brash and highly accessible gestures did little to inspire critical reception of the ideas they presented.

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Despite a suitably balanced roster of international artists, it was nonetheless the Singaporean participants who provided the conceptual and aesthetic skeleton of the exhibition. Ming Wong largely stole the show with Devo partire. Domani. (I Must Go. Tomorrow.), 2010, a reinterpretation of Pier Paolo Pasolini's 1968 film Teorema (Theory), in which the artist plays all five lead characters, reveling in the structural nature of the original film by segmenting the video and showing it in five rooms, with a projection for each character. …

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