Reflection on Exhibitions

By Bianca Polak

6 November 2006

Shakthi versus Shiva – A Feminist Art Solo Exhibition by Vijayan Priamalar

There were a few exhibitions that I have visited during the months that this course was ongoing. The first one was an exhibition by Vijayan Priamalar on 10 October 2006 that we visited with the class. She combined elements from the Hindu religion with feminism to show the strength of the females in the Indian society. It was interesting how she used coconuts to represent this strength and versatility. The way she portrayed herself in her paintings was showing her resilience, a personality trait that I can personally very much relate to. The strongest image to me was the painting of the cosmic egg, the egg from which all life has started as opposed to the shiva lingam (phallus symbol) that normally is prevalent in the Hindu culture.

Figure  1 – Cosmic egg – by Vijayan Priamalar

Singapore Biennale

The other exhibition that I visited is the Singapore Biennale and I went to National Museum, Tanglin Camp and City Hall. The theme of Belief is very interesting as I’m always fascinated by religions, belief systems, etc. There were a few artworks that really captivated me. The first one was the video installation of Bigert & Bergström, a 58 min video art on death row prisoners’ last meal. The way the video was compiled and visualised was very powerful and I sat out the full length of the show.

Mariko Mori’s installation work with a glass pillar with lights inside that moved around (bit hard to explain) was interesting too. It’s supposed to portray signals received from outer space, but it seemed to respond to my own movement in the exhibition room. When I stopped for a while to look at it, the light went off, and continued again only when I moved again. And the concept of it is based on prehistoric Celtic stones. It somehow did remind me of the prehistoric monument at Newgrange, Ireland that I visited more than a decade ago. This is a burial monument, of 5000 years old with a special chamber where the light only enters on winter solstice day once a year. It’s a very mystical place and it has a big stone at the entrance showing a triple spiral pattern. This pattern is said to be representing the cycle of birth, death, rebirth. There are other explanations for it too, but this is the most common one. It’s interesting how a modern artwork can bring out a similar mystical feeling as the prehistoric monuments. Bringing history into the future.

At Tanglin Camp, the venue itself was worth looking around, and it gave an extra dimension to the artworks on display to be in an old army camp. The artwork by Com & Com with drawings of primary school children’s perception on Singapore and Switzerland. Apparently they did a workshop at some primary schools in Singapore with Mermer (Singapore’s merlion) and Mocmoc (representing Switzerland). I felt this was also quite relevant to our course, as it shows what Singaporean children think are important assets of Singapore. Most of the drawings showed Changi Airport, Singapore Airlines, the MRT. Other items that were showcased were of course food (chicken rice), and East Coast Park.

Juhász-Alvarado’s Escala (Stopover), a life sized table football through which you could walk around with the football players portraying war images. It was a very multi-dimensional artwork, with football players in all sizes and the visitors being able to interact with it and walk through.

In City Hall, the artworks displayed in the old court rooms gave an extra dimension too. Erika Tan’s work “becoming” that shows all sorts of power structures and pledge-taking. The pledge that is recited every morning by the Singaporean school children is something that has fascinated me since I came here and lived next to a school for the first few years. Every morning I listened to the pledge, followed by the Singapore national anthem. This is clearly a display of collectivism and nationalism.

Tang Da Wu workshop

Last but not least a short reflection on the workshop by Tang Da Wu on 13 October. The theme of the workshop was “Play and Myth”. This was displayed by Jantung Pisang (heart of the banana), as Da Wu explained, the banana plant is used in many aspects of our life in various cultures. In some places the newborns are kept warm in the banana leaf, in other places the deaths are buried with parts of the banana plants. Many myths and ghost stories are related to the banana plants.

We were given parts of the banana plant and a banana leaf each to create a table from which we could enjoy a meal later on. We first explored the various parts of the banana and looked at the textures of the stems, made cross sections, etc. We also explored the banana flowers. In a group of four (Luo Yong, Ruth, Charlene and myself) we started making up the table. It was a group work whereby our earlier explorations were put into practice. While we were building up the table we got creative in coming up with new ideas on how to make it more complete and we ended up even having bowls made of the banana flower petals.

To select our food, we went down to the canteen and chose food that was very contrasting in colour to make a nice make up of the table. The end result of our effort was a real communal rice table and the rest of the workshop participants (excepts the Muslims who were fasting) all joined us to eat the food. It was also interesting to see how the other groups had come up with quite different designs whereas we all had access to the same materials and given the same concept.