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S.A.M Singapore Art Museum Review: Singapore Biennale 2016



The highly anticipated Singapore Biennale 2016 (27 October 2016 – 26 February) has been a series on ongoing contemporary art exhibitions at various venues since the end of October. The overarching theme of this year’s Biennale is ‘An Atlas of Mirrors’, which encapsulates the primary use of everyday objects like maps and mirrors to create aesthetic visual presentations that stimulate the mind and the senses. This year, the S.A.M has been appointed the sole organizer of the Biennale by the National Arts Council, so we decided to drop by S.A.M and peek around.

After walking into the main entrance, one of the first sights that caught my eye is Paracomos by Harumi Yukutake, an installation of probably a few hundred mirrors covering almost every inch of the wall along a rounded staircase. The way a myriad of light and colours danced off from mirrors to mirrors to create fragmented yet whole reflections was pretty mindblowing. One of the main highlights of Biennale 2016, this is a spot where many people struggle to find the best angle to capture the uncontainable sight. On the same floor, Desert Islands by Map Office is a well-lighted room with a single wall of uniform mirror tiles engraved with names of small but historically and globally significant islands: Santorini, Maldives, Venice, etc. Definitely a fun place to add imaginary or real island-hopping goals to your travel bucketlist.


Photo caption: Memory of the Blind Elephant by Phuong Linh Nguyen

My favourite was probably Growing by Hemuli Bhuta, an installation of what I estimated to be a million fragrant incense sticks strung together in a small, dimly-lit space. The concentrated whiff of a strong, musky and earthy aroma that elevates your senses could be caught, even from afar. The artist’s idea: humans are like the incense sticks, each striving to be exceptional with a unique scent, yet we are also part of this greater perfumed world, mixed with the many fragrances of others.


Photo caption: Locus Amoenus by Ryan Villamael

Arguably, Noah’s Garden II by Deng Guoyuan (located at the Chapel, S.A.M Level 2), is a top photography hotspot as an installation that felt like it came right out of Justin Timberlake’s ‘Mirrors’ music video. Another photography hotspot would be Ryan Villamael’s Locus Amoenus (located at the Glass Porch, S.A.M Level 2), a manufactured “greenhouse” where the creeper leaves are assembled from cutouts of old and new maps, creating a site of wild ambience in a man-made space. Not just a picturesque installation, Locus Amoenus also carries the artist’s historical intepretation of Philippines’ colonial past.

After touring S.A.M, we head over to S.A.M at 8Q across the street by following the simple arrow guides on the floor. S.A.M at 8Q houses a total of 4 storeys of exibitions for the Biennale. I would say that the exhibitions in S.A.M at 8Q are more historical and political in nature and general intepretation as compared to the works exhibited at the main S.A.M building. A few notable exhibitions kindled the ex-A-level history student in me. The Pheran by Abeer Gupta presents a collection of clothing garments and war photography that traces the timeline of the Indo-Pakistani war over Jammu and Kashmir. Nobuaki Takekawa’s Sugoroku – Anxiety of Falling from History is a quirky installation of kettle-pot-transformed-crabs and retro and vivid war propaganda materials that point to Japan’s fascist history in World War II. Apart from hopping from gallery to gallery, we got to take home memories with us by getting our very own #singaporebiennale photostrips taken at a photobooth, located right next to S.A.M at 8Q entrance, for only $2!


Caption: Black Forest 2016 by Han Sai Por

The projects featured in this year’s Biennale til February 2017 are categorized into nine conceptual zones, and presented across six venues: S.A.M, S.A.M at 8Q, National Museum of Singapore & Stamford Green, Asian Civilisations Museum, Peranakan Museum, and Singapore Management University. However, majority of “conceptual zones” or exhibitions are concentrated at S.A.M and S.A.M at 8Q. S.A.M houses 4 conceptual zones and S.A.M at 8Q houses 6 conceptual zones, as compared to the other venues that house up to only 1 or 2 conceptual zones. Therefore, I strongly encourage people who hope to experience the Biennale before it ends in February to simply visit S.A.M and S.A.M at 8Q. Lastly, remember to flash your student card to get entry tickets at $7.50 (Singaporeans/PR)!

#museum #lifestyle

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