If you think bringing in a sculpture exhibition to Singapore means importing huge and heavy blobs of bronze or marble – think again. A group of contemporary Filipino artists, including Cecilia Avancena, Gerardo Tan, Katya Guerrero, Sid Hildawa and After Liwayway Recapping Co., prove that sculpture can be conceived and practised otherwise – creating art works that are small and light, but capable of expanding once installed in the designated space. When the exhibition is over, these works can then be packed and shipped again in a small container 110cm x 110cm x 92cm to the next destination.
According to curators Judy Freya Sibayan and Matt Price, the idea and title for the exhibition came out of a very practical concern – how to transport works of art from on country to another at low cost. General Manager of Sculpture Square, Tay Swee Lin, set one basic restriction for the artists: that they should find their own funding to ship the works from Manila to Singapore and then back again. "Working within these logistical and financial constraints, artists are challenged to come up with creative solutions without contradicting or compromising their practice," Tay notes.
The result? Art that though visually small, embodies complex ideas. Sibayan elaborates: "Each of these pieces questions the system of production, circulation, distribution and reception of art, and ultimately, expands the boundaries of art and the imagination."
Take for instance, how Katya Guerrero transforms four items - a cheque worth 90,000 pesos, a wishbone, and two video tapes – into Interest and Token, two works of art exploring the concept of value. Guerrero will send over the cheque, which will be cashed into Singaporean one-cent coins, and assemble the coins into a pyramid. Throughout the exhibition, a video projection of the artist, sphinx-like, watches over her "precious" work. Her second piece documents a meal with friends. In addition to a video recording, she will display a wishbone salvaged from the meal. Coated in semi-precious metal, the object now becomes a token of their friendship and time shared.
Inspired by the Egyptian myth in which Osiris is killed by his brother Seth, and his corpse scattered all over Egypt, Sid Hildawa will send a painting of his own body that is cut into many pieces. When it arrives, the various parts of the painting are to be scattered all over the gallery. Hildawa will also link up many chokers in his Expanding Choker Project, reversing the idea of chokers constricting the neck by letting them "expand" around Sculpture Square.
As part of his ongoing dust painting series, Gerardo Tan has been working with Manila-based art restorer Helmuth Zotter in collecting dust removed from the works of renowned Filipino artist Juan Luna and Italian painter Canalletto. For this exhibition, Tan will also work with dust collected from Sculpture Square’s gallery. In these dust paintings, the physical evidence of the passing of time itself assumes the status of a work of art.
Cecilia Avancena’s Gypsy Mood Thermometer draws on the tradition of the Cale communities in France and Spain in which elders would give an empty glass jar to engaged couples. Depending on his or her mood, either of the couple would place a different-coloured bean, grain or pulse into the jar. At the end of the engagement, the jar would be examined to determine the success or failure of the marriage. Through her interactive piece, the artist likewise invites visitors to express their emotions as they experience the exhibition.
After Liwayway Recapping Co., newly-formed anonymous artist group committed to revisiting and responding to contemporary works, will install three works. One of them – Imagine Pieces: Homage to John, Yoko, and John - fuses Yoko Ono’s instruction book, Grapefruit, with the lyric structure of John Lennon’s song Imagine, while infusing this new work with each artist’s sentiments.
Price remarks: "This project is a great opportunity to continue to develop links and strengthen the friendship between the Philippines and Singapore." Closely following this exhibition is Manila’s first Children’s Sculpture Carnival, co-organised by ArtPostAsia (Philippines) and Sculpture Square. Later, Sculpture Square and University of Philippines will respectively host a Filipino and Singaporean artist as part of their Artist Residency Programme.
xs XL, Expanding Art also marks the launch of Sculpture Square’s global touring initiative. After its run in August, the exhibition will continue to tour various international venues. Sculpture Square is in negotiation with various arts venues on the tour itinerary for the exhibition. This move represents Sculpture Square’s development as an international arts space and its commitment to spreading the word.
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