In its 2016 edition, Art Stage Singapore will introduce the Southeast Asia Forum, which aims to emphasise the balance between art, commerce and content. An extension of the Southeast Asia Platform exhibitions at the Fair from 2014 to 2015, the Forum is a thematic programme that takes a more focused and deeper view into broad global issues that also affect our immediate region and lives.
This initiative draws attention to contemporary art’s significant place in the development of modern society and the central role the artist plays in the context of Southeast Asia. Moving beyond artistic discussions, the Forum will take a broader approach towards contemporary art by situating it outside the community of the art world and connecting it to the larger society, thus growing the range of contemporary art by involving individuals from other fields.
Comprising two symbiotic parts – an exhibition and a talk series, the inaugural Southeast Asia Forum is titled “Seismograph:- Sensing the City –- Art in the Urban Age” and is centred on the theme of urbanisation. Cities not only shape our environments, spaces and interactions; they also shape our roles, functions, ideas, beliefs and identities, on different levels and in different spheres – as individuals, communities and ‘cityzens’. The Southeast Asia Forum makes the case for art to be regarded as part of the urban DNA. In the same vein that designers and planners build and shape cities, art explores visceral depths of human existence and civilisation by making the invisible visible. Contemporary art is a reflection of our time, and artists are instrumental to how we sense, measure and interpret perceived reality. The Forum will explore the role of artists as seismographs of society’s pulses and will cast light on Southeast Asia’s rapidly urbanising landscape.
The Forum’s exhibition component will survey the role of artists in the evolution of contemporary societies across Southeast Asia. The 10 projects to be presented in the exhibition will focus on artists who relate to issues and sentiments of extremely rapid urbanisation in their own countries. Among the featured artists will be Aliansyah Caniago from Indonesia, Norberto Roldan from the Philippines and Sherman Ong from Singapore.
Roldan’s “100-Altars” pays tribute to a bygone era and pays homage to a rich history of simple and peaceful community life after the Second World War ended in the Philippines. Aliansyah Caniago will present “Titik Balik” (“Point- of- Return”), an ongoing art project started in 2012 in response to environmental damage caused by factory waste, to Situ Ciburuy lake in Bandung and resulting in the decline of the village’s fishing trade and tradition. Sherman Ong will feature selected video works from his ongoing project “Nusantara”, which mingles fables of the Nusantara – an Indonesian word meaning “archipelago” – with contemporary dilemmas concerning migration and diaspora.
The Forum’s talk series will bring together architects, urbanists, social scientists, men and women of letters and artists to examine, through their different perspectives, the challenges of urbanisation and how cities can be re-imagined through different ways of seeing, learning and cooperation. In creating encounters between observers, thinkers and planners in these different fields, the Forum seeks to bring about more inter-disciplinary understanding and collaboration in shaping the underpinnings of cities as they continue to evolve, parallel to shared global conditions.