As the closing of the Singapore Biennale is nigh, I wish to introduce this piece of work that I would describe as down-to-earth, both metaphorically as well as literally. You have until 16 February 2014 to visit the Biennale and good news is, you gain free admission to the Singapore Art Museum on 1st February 2014, Saturday, because it’s Lunar New Year open house!
Environmental activism is an uphill battle anywhere in the world, especially when cost-benefit evaluation is the priority of policy makers. It’s often an agony to see relatively untouched rural areas, that are blessed with natural resources and climates friendly to the agriculture, succumb to natural calamities like droughts and floods.
This is what Lao artist Bounpaul Phothyzan’s work is about. The emerging artist started off as a painter but later on felt the need to move farther into things in order to better put across his message regarding the environment and social changes.
He therefore now spends more time and effort engaging in performance and installation art, such as the one he has created for the Biennale. By involving the local people of Phnonkham Village in Lao, the artist created a site-specific land art installation by a dried up river bank in the village with the assistance of villagers, from whom he has earned the trust.
We Live, 2013
by Bounpaul Phothyzan
Mixed media installation
Singapore Art Museum, level 2, Special Exhibition Gallery
Collection of the artist
Singapore Biennale 2013 commision
Besides gaining a personal experience of helping to set up huge fish skeletons using logs from dead trees, the villagers also learnt about environmental issues and how their actions could affect the environment positively or negatively through sharing sessions and conversations with the artist.
A video documentation of the art-making process is available in the Biennale gallery to facilitate understanding and appreciation of Bounpaul’s work. As the different forms of contemporary art proliferate, we will gradually be more comfortable with not seeing the actual artwork at an exhibition venue itself.