Before I move on to part 2, I invite you to take up the RGB Challenge set out by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM). You may also like to read part 1 here.
The RGB Challenge requires you to answer three questions on three pieces/sets of works in the exhibition of Still Moving – A Triple Bill on the Image. Send your answers to firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject title: THE RGB CHALLENGE, and you stand a chance to win brand-new, exclusive SAM merchandise at the end of the Challenge. SAM will be taking entries until 8th February 2015, which is also the last day to visit the exhibition at SAM@8Q.
Here are the questions and the “clues”:
In part 2, I will talk about two more works (level 2 gallery) as part of the Afterimage series. Photographer-artist Abednego Trianto makes use of visuals to tell the story and the history of a volcanic explosion involving not just one but a group of volcanoes in the Sunda Strait (the sea between Sumatra and Java) in the year 1883, the title of the work.
Apart from photographing old photographs related to the disaster that took more than 36,000 lives in 165 villages in the region, Trianto has applied other techniques and materials as well as added features to original images, so as to encompass unofficial tales passed down from survivors, and local beliefs.
For instance, one “testimony” was about a group of diamond mine workers fleeing the ordeal in hot air balloons, and the artist has drawn this imaginary hot air balloon made up of countless tiny balloons with a house attached to it instead of the conventional basket, on a photographic print.
Other than that, he has darkened another original image with volcanic sand, giving the surface of the photo more texture. Trianto has also picked a photograph of several European-looking men and women investigating the grounds during a scientific expedition after the eruption, which is a reflection of colonisation in those years.
The sky was bleak covered in ashes for weeks after the crisis, and the artist has replaced the sky in a photograph of people and a place affected by the calamity with Batik printing of serene-looking “clouds”. Not the common motifs we see in Batik sarong or shirts, but it’s that technique and I like it. One of the photographs in the set is a convenient solution to the “corner issue” in any room or space, you just cannot miss it. I appreciate the work in its entirety, and it has certainly fulfilled its purpose of telling and re-telling historical stories.
Just opposite 1883, we have a very experimental set of photographic works that look like X-ray images on glass sheets. They are actually photographs set in light boxes by Nge Lay, and named Imagination Sphere.
Firstly, I admire the artist’s courage in bringing home a piece of glass plate negative of a woman’s portrait found in an old chest at her in-laws’ in a Burmese village, when no one in the family could tell who the woman was. It was also a mystery that, how did this object end up in a place where the technology for developing photographs from glass plate negatives was not available?
Nge Lay began taking photographs of the image on the glass plate negative, just a certain part of the portrait at a time with different sources of light, including all sorts of torch lights given the recurring power outage in her neighbourhood. The outcome is surprisingly interesting and artistic in its own way.
Setting the photographs against light boxes serves as another form of “photo-developing”. The fragmented photographs of the original portrait seem to mimic our human memory, fragmented and limited, sometimes very blurry or even blacked out.