GLASS magazine is proud to announce its position as the official media partner for DR/OP: Beyond Boundaries, an art show opening this August in Singapore. Japanese artist and curator Yutaka Inagawa leads the artists-run group ONLY CONNECT, through which the original DR/OP show was presented in Onomichi in 2016. In partnership with ONLY CONNECT and Artists Alliance SG, this year’s show sees its revival with additional artists and artworks. Boo Sze Yang, a Singaporean artist and guest curator, talks to Glass about the upcoming exhibition.

DR_OP 1Poster for the show by Studio Niji (Shoji Katsume)

 

Tell us about the work you’re presenting at the DR/OP: Beyond Boundaries show in Singapore this autumn.
I will be presenting a sculptural installation work titled “I love you”. It all started when I read the quote in [The Singapore Story,] the memoir by late Mr. Lee Kuan Yew  – “If you are a troublemaker… it’s our job to politically destroy you… Everybody knows that in my bag I have a hatchet, and a very sharp one. You take me on, I take my hatchet, we meet in the cul-de-sac.”

This was a powerful reminder of the brutal and manipulative nature of politics. I was also thinking about Mr. Lee’s red box (Throughout his life, former [Singapore] Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew had kept a red box close by. About 14 cm. wide, it contained all of the things he was working on at any one time). I imagined this red box might metaphorically contain a set of tools to “fix” the treacherous and demanding situations in the early years of building up a nation. I admired his courage, will power, and tenacity, and was grateful for what he has done for Singapore. I also believed he did what he thought must be done (including the injustices inflicted onto his opponents) to establish the foundation for a nation, though many may not agree with his methods.

He once quoted Niccolò Machiavelli, “It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.” And I thought this book, The Prince by Machiavelli, may be among the tools in his red box. Thus, [I recognized] the series of tools tied in bondage like the Japanese art of bondage, Kinbaku; [they’re both] all about power and submission. In Kinbaku, the “victims” are willing partners of the “powerful,” both deriving pleasures from being either controlled or in control. Most of us may not be aware that in the pursuit for personal fulfillment, we may have become willing slaves to the powerful.

You’re known for your transformation of banality to painterly, metaphoric descriptions of the human condition. How is this show a continuation of that reputed approach?
This exhibition provided an opportunity for me to develop new ideas and experiment with a different mode of art making. This piece is part of a larger body of sculptural installation works, which will be presented in my 16th solo exhibition in October of this year at the Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts galleries. In my paintings, I have always been interested in teasing out silent innuendos within a picture composition, and adopting similar strategies for the object-based works. For me, the key to the appreciation of an artist’s work is understanding the context in which the piece was created.

DR_OP Boo Sze

Boo Sze Yang (SG), “I love you.” 2017, hatchet, rope, mild steel, 90 x 60 x 45 cm

Tell us about your role in curating this upcoming show. What was it like guest directing amongst the ONLY CONNECT team, who has worked together on other OC shows in the past?
I was invited to participate in OC’s exhibition in Onomichi last year, where the concept of this exhibition originated. I liked the way Yutaka [Inagawa] and his team worked. They are more like “cultural arrangers,” a term I shared with Yutaka recently. We agreed that the term “curating” has been overused and abused in contemporary art. Everyone is curating something daily. Even one of our Ministers (in Singapore) mentioned roughly “that students today need to curate their studies.”

I think we sees ourselves firstly as artists, and coming together to present an exhibition is always exciting because, unlike curators, we do not specify the type of work we want and we have no idea how the exhibition will look. We proposed an idea and set simple parameters; we then work with whatever is presented to us. We prefer to call ourselves “directors” of an exhibition; like making a painting, I roughly know the parameters, and I may start to arrange marks on the canvas, and I accept and try to ‘collaborate’ with accidental processes, but I have no idea how the final work will turn out until I resolve the painting.

DR_OP 2

Yutaka Inagawa (JP): Capture a Module (Electrical/Paradoxical), 2017, 870x830mm. Collage on shaped pasteboard, coloured silver-leaf on cardboard tube, wooden stretcher, digital print on office paper, silkscreen print on cotton 

There is a quite diverse group of artists presenting in the exhibition you’ve curated, hailing from all over the world. How did you select the artists? 
Many of the artists were those who took part in the exhibition in Onomichi last year. I proposed to OC last year to bring the exhibition to Singapore and Yutaka suggested we include a few more artists from Singapore and Malaysia. The Singapore artists I invited have different practices. While many of the artists in the Onomichi exhibition were engaged in multi-media, photography and using modern technologies, I wanted to include artists who have been working with “traditional mediums” but with a contemporary outlook in their practice.

DR_OP 4Collin Crotty (UK): Assembly in the park ll, 2014, oil on linen, 28cm x 22cm

DR_OP5
Chiew Sien Kuan (SG): Build on the Duck, 2017, mixed media assemblage

DR_OP7

Martina Della Valle (IT): One flower, One Leaf, Martina della Valle, 2016, in collaboration with Rie Ono (backstage)

One of the veins of the show’s work is the inevitable presence of thematic modernity in the contemporary artworks, despite the influence or use of traditional crafts. What prompted this idea or approach? And how do you feel your own work contributes to this idea?
I think there has been an over-categorisation of things within our society. Putting things into neat boxes is a way for easy consumption. I think the problem today with art and culture is the ease of consumption. Many arts we see today do not require reflections or encourage questionings. The mentality that “customer is king” is prevalent in our [global] society. We are too inclined to play to the audience or to create for the audience. Central to this exhibition was the belief that viewers have the capacities to see and deliberate through a dichotomy of “certainties” and “uncertainties” and to arrive at a meaningful reading of the work encountered.

I think the challenge with traditional crafts for artists is how to break away from old-fashioned labels and preconceptions, and to produce work that is relevant to contemporary living. I also feel that audiences today are either too busy or too lazy to take time to look, reflect and ask questions. There are too many fast-food types of art and Hollywood-ish displays parading as art out there.

DR_OP 3Abdul Latiff Padzari (MY): Mimic Series (3). 2017, wire, nylon, glass, dimension variable

As an Asian artist who has been educated in Europe and shows across the world, how do you find these cultural intersections define or inform your work itself? 
As artists working in tiny Singapore, we walk an extremely thin line. The situation is ironic most of the time; to your local audiences you may appear too national, meaning your work may be difficult for viewers of [this certain] cultural background to understand, which is limiting in bringing your work to a larger audience overseas. To your global audiences, if you are too international in your art practice, you may have no distinctive edge amongst the millions of practicing artists. The strategy is to embrace these tensions and differences, and try to find the material within these in-between spaces that is relevant to you as a cultural producer.

The show is in part a response to “a global environment that is culturally diverse and multifaceted.” What sorts of expectations do you, as a curator and an artist, have for your audience’s response or reception?
“It’s a cliché, but as artists we believe that our artwork has a life of its own once it leaves the studio. Most of the time you would want viewers to like your work and appreciate your intentions for the work. But, many times those who misunderstand or misread your intentions may turn out to have the most rewarding of interpretations.”

DR-OP 6Glen Stoker (UK): Grow Our Own, 2017, print on archival Hahnemuhle photographic paper, 594mm x 420mm

 

DR_OP8Tamaki Ono (JP): Re-editing / Orderliness / Chaos, 2015, book and glue

 

by Emily Rae Pellerin

DR/OP: Beyond Boundaries opens with a reception on August 17, 6-8pm, and runs from August 18-27, 11am-7pm daily at the Goodman Arts Centre in Singapore.