5 x 7, 5 invitations with 7 guests, is a series of public programmes taking place alongside A Luxury We Cannot Afford, an exhibition that uses art, popular culture, and architecture of the 1950s/60s and 2000s (two moments in which Singapore, currently celebrating its 50th year of independence, was at the brink of economic utopia) to reflect on the formation, development, and paradoxes of the country’s national ideology. The events feature lectures and discussions, which explore various trajectories within the exhibition such as public spaces, autonomy of artistic practice, and community politics, with artists and curators Ho Rui An, Qinyi Lim, Godwin Koay, Samson Young, Shirley Surya, Eunice Seng of SKEW Collaborative, Ming Wong, and Wong Hoy-Cheong.
On September 18, during the exhibition’s opening reception, Ho Rui An performed “Screen Green”, a newly commissioned lecture performance for “A Luxury We Cannot Afford”. Inspired by a screen capture of the current Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong’s National Day Rally speech in 2014, Ho tracks how green screens are speculative cinematic spaces used for the projection of possible futures (and as filtering devices to screen out futures undesirable by the State).
Ho Rui An is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance, and theory. He writes, talks, and thinks around images, investigating their sites of emergence, transmission, and disappearance. He currently lives and works between New York and Singapore.
Upcoming Events include:
Thursday, September 24, 7-9pm
Para Site Education Room
Qinyi Lim in conversation with Godwin Koay
in collaboration with Things That Can Happen
Qinyi Lim invites Godwin Koay, the first and current artist resident at the new independent art space Things That Can Happen, to discuss the permissibility of antagonism and defiance in a time of wealth and contentment in Singapore.
Godwin Koay’s works explore and test possibilities of artistic practice that intersect with anarchist ideas of social and political praxis, broadly engaging tensions between autonomy and authority while examining thematics of fiction, imagination, precarity, anxiety, urgency, and counterhegemony. He currently lives and works in Singapore.
Saturday, October 17, 6pm onwards
Launch of It will be a heaven over there, a podcast by Samson Young
Accessible through Para Site Website and Mixlr
Looking at the asymmetrical socio-economic competition between Singapore and Hong Kong, Samson Young’s podcast performance, newly commissioned for the exhibition, takes its point of reference from the 1991 advertising campaign that the Singapore government created to encourage the migration of Hong Kong residents to Singapore in light of the oncoming 1997 handover.
Samson Young is deeply influenced by his formal training of classical music composition, and investigates the auditory experience through means of visual and emerging technologies. Blending diverse techniques, his practice centers on a unique cross-media experience that defies labels of classical music and visual arts. He currently lives and works in Hong Kong.
Thursday, November 10, 7-9pm
Para Site Education Room
Qinyi Lim in conversation with Shirley Surya and Eunice Seng, SKEW Collaborative
This discussion will delve into the public spaces, public housing projects, and modes of utopias featured and referenced in the exhibition. These include looking at the Singapore Conference Hall and Trade Union Hall (1961-65) and other works by Malayan Architects Co-Partnership/Architects Team 3 (MACP/AT3) and one of its founding architects, Lim Chong Keat, and comparing Singapore to Disneyland through projects like Celebration, Florida and the district of Toa Payoh in Singapore.
Shirley Surya is Associate Curator (Design & Architecture) at M+, Hong Kong. She has contributed writings on graphic design and architecture to Design and Culture, Singapore Architect, and The Design Society Journal and co-curated exhibitions including Yung Ho Chang & FCJZ: Material-ism, Building M+: The Museum and Architecture Collection and NEONSIGNS.HK.
Eunice Seng is Associate Professor and Chair of the Departmental Postgraduate Program at the University of Hong Kong, and founding principal of SKEW Collaborative, Shanghai/Hong Kong. Her research interests include the histories and theories of modernity, housing, domesticity and the metropolis, politics of power and post-colonialism, utopias, as well as artefacts and their cultural representations.
Saturday, November 28, 5-7 pm
Para Site Education Room
“Sparrow with Bamboo Twigs”: A Conversation with Qinyi Lim, Wong Hoy Cheong, and Ming Wong
“Sparrow with Bamboo Twigs” takes its title from a song by eminent Singaporean songwriter Liang Wern Fu. Included in the Para Site exhibition and playing throughout the space, it was released in 1990 in the album “Singapore Style” where the title song was seen as a key example of the use of Mandarin in Singapore. However, due to the additional use of Cantonese, Hokkien, and Hakka within the song’s lyrics,”Sparrow with Bamboo Twigs” was banned from public broadcast, in light of Singapore government’s “Speak Mandarin” campaign (1979 – ongoing). This campaign has been a key instrument in creating a racialised common identity among the different Chinese groups, overcoming their cultural and language differences. The ban on”Sparrow with Bamboo Twigs” was finally lifted in 2013 in light of a growing interest in cultural heritage. As an unprecedented gesture to mark the occasion, Singapore’s three largest Mandarin radio stations broadcasted the song in full at the same time on 1 August, 2013, 23 years after the song’s initial release. The historical circumstances governing the banning and subsequent unbanning of”Sparrow with Bamboo Twigs” are seen as mirrors to the racial, language, and cultural politics in Singapore from the 1960s onwards.
In this conversation, both artists and curator will discuss the ramifications of the racialization of ethnic identities through national campaigns such as “Speak Mandarin” and the complex social positioning that those of Chinese ancestry have been negotiating in multiracial Singapore and Malaysia through the years.
- Ho Rui An, Screen Green, 2015. Performance lecture and green screen installation. Courtesy the artist