Singapore Biennale ~ Ai Loon’s pick for the week ~ 6 November

Before I talk about my pick for the week, I wish to tell you about the daily guided tours available at the singapore art museum. These tours are free with your Biennale admission ticket and are not available on public holidays and selected Open House days, but Open House means admission is free! Please refer to the poster below for the timings and languages available.

There will also be a parallel event by Singapore Writers Festival making its round to certain Biennale sites. If you are keen on joining performers on a poetic journey as they dialogue with Biennale installations on Saturday, 9th November, check here for details and to sign up.


My pick this week is not one piece of work but rather one gallery. When singapore art museum (SAM) is mentioned, it refers to SAM the main building and SAM at 8Q, which is just a stone’s throw away diagonally behind the main building.

Go up to level 2 of SAM at 8Q and head to the gallery on your right from the stairs landing. Another entrance greets you immediately after entering the gallery, go on into the dimly-lit room and stand in the middle of the room, look to your left and then your right, and repeat.

That’s The Rise and Fall of 1°17′N 103°50′E, 1°5′0″S 75°55′0″W – A Circular Journey by Singaporean artist Sai Hua Kuan. You may be quick to recognise that one of the screens shows Singapore. What about the other screen then? Let me ask you, have you ever wondered where is Singapore’s “twin sibling”? Not the Singapore in Michigan, but nice try. Do you know the farthest place away from and directly “back-to-back” with Singapore on the globe?

As a child, I used to always imagine or guess what a stranger in some place in another part of the world was doing and thinking about. Sometimes even to the extent of painting his or her looks and dressing in my mind. I still have such fleeting thoughts nowadays but much less frequent. Hence this piece of work bridges me and my younger old self. And I was not a weird kid okay.

The Rise and Fall of 1°17′N 103°50′E, 1°5′0″S 75°55′0″W – A Circular Journey, 2013

by Sai Hua Kuan

2-channel video installation

singapore art museum at 8Q, level 2

Collection of the artist

Singapore Biennale 2013 commision

051113_2_1After you return from exactly the other side of the world, move on farther into the gallery by threading carefully. At first sight, it may look like a large flat piece of black formica set on the floor. Go as close as you can and look down into the black surface that resembles a three-legged table. Test your willpower by challenging the hypnotic effect of the black surface, which seems to be pulling you into its dark pool.051113_1

051113_2_2Hailed as The Great Puddle, this work by Hanoi-based artist Nguyen Huy An gives me two sides of stories. The key words to one of them are calligraphy, righteousness and morality, studious as well as scholarly. The other set of key words are under table, dirty and corrupt, smelly as well as vile.

051113_2_3The four images shown here come from the same photo rotated to the four directions. See which one looks the most like a table to you. I urge you to see the entire work personally. Please, please, please do not cause any damage to the work or any mishap to yourself, lest other visitors after you may not be able to get up close with the work, because the museum may cordon it off, thanks to your weak willpower.

The Great Puddle, 2009

by Nguyen Huy An

Installation with Chinese ink and plywood

singapore art museum at 8Q, level 2

Collection of the artist