Whenever Singaporean artist and art researcher Koh Nguang How’s name is mentioned, one cannot help thinking of the towering piles of art event collateral, newspapers clippings, fading photographs, and whatnot that he has amassed over the last three decades, and those are in addition to the photographs that he has personally taken during art programmes and activities, and digital safekeeping of records and reports of art happenings.
I don’t want to sound as if he is a walking art archive, but I have on several occasions benefitted from his human memory as well as his documentary memory when I needed some information or to clarify some doubt regarding the contemporary art scenes and artists in Singapore and the region.
In the late 1980s, the nascent contemporary art practice in Singapore went through an exploratory and experimental stage. It was a time when art began to move out of institutional and traditional spaces like museums and art galleries. Performance art (I assume you know this is different from performing art) came into shape, art got more interactive and thought-provoking, the public/audience were encouraged to respond and actively participate.
After a quarter of a century, the forms and functions of art have evolved and expanded by leaps and bounds, not more sophisticated though, because I believe that every phase of contemporary art practice is savvy in its own manner. Or rather, it cannot be placed into phases, it is fluid.
Instead of calling it Singapore’s contemporary art scene, perhaps it is more apt to call it Singaporeans’ contemporary art spaces. Koh’s current exhibition, Art Spaces, shares at least 100 precious photographs by him, from part of his Singapore Art Archive Project.
The exhibition is a collective memory for Singaporeans and artists (local and foreign alike), yet its role does not stop there, the images of trailblazing contemporary artists, inspired students, as well as the curious public in action together in shared spaces make wonderful cradles for the next flow of contemporary art practices.
Art Spaces is also a personal collection and recollection of Koh’s experiences with the many events, situations, artists, audiences, and so on.
Enough said, do pop into Jendela (visual arts space) (next to Recital Studio) on level 2 of Esplanade, 1 Esplanade Drive, Singapore 038981, to see for yourself. Opening hours: Monday to Friday, 11am-8.30pm; Saturday, Sunday, and public holidays, 10am-8.30pm.
The photographs are on view till 12th July 2015, they will tell you about Art at home; Off the walls, into the streets; Art in found spaces (go find out what are found places!); Art in nature; Taking over public squares; Art on the go; Art in the classroom; and Remnants (urban detritus salvaged as resources for artists, or the leftovers of society for investigation).
If you have always wondered how did the building that now houses Singapore Art Museum look like during its transition from St. Joseph’s Institution to the museum, take a look here.