Saturday, January 24, 2015

'I'm A Ghost in My Own House'

At the beginning of her 12-hour cycle grinding charcoal into fine powder.
Melati Suryodarmo's 'I'm A Ghost in My Own House'.
At the Glass Porch, Level 2 of the Singapore Art Museum.

I'm a fan of artist Melati Suryodarmo. Her dedication to her craft is mind-boggling because it involves all sorts of pain and discomfort. In her submission for the Asia Pacific Breweries (APB) Foundation Signature Art Prize, titled 'I'm A Ghost in My Own House', she explains that this is based on her interest of the philosophy of charcoal. "From the tree to wood, from wood to charcoal, from charcoal to ash." 

Activated charcoal to prevent poisoning, but the process of obtaining life-sustaining coal adversely impacts the environmental and the health of coal miners. Coal dust and carbon. Pneumoconiosis. Black lung disease. What's amazing is that Melati Suryodarmo was present (yes, she was a student of Marina Abramović) for 12 hours in a performance space at the Singapore Art Museum where she crunched and ground a ton of charcoal briquettes. I stood in awe, silently watching. Saw her again in the evening. She looked utterly exhausted. Glad the Museum allocated a sun-lit performance space to her. This piece of performance art is as intense as it's also about sending a powerful message.

Choe U-Ram's (South Korea) 'Custos Cavum (Guardian of the Hole)'.  

There're 15 finalists from 13 countries shortlisted for the Signature Art Prize. Since 2008, the Prize aims to showcase the best of Asia-Pacific contemporary ideas "visually and metaphorically". Artworks are presented at the Singapore Art Museum. Wandered around the galleries. I was mesmerized by Choe U-Ram's 'Custos Cavum (Guardian of the Hole)', pictured above. His kinetic biomorphic sculpture moves and whirrs. Like it's breathing. Like "the ghost in the machine." Giggled at Arin Rungjang's 'Golden Teardrop'. It tells of the bloody history behind the traditional super-sweet egg-yolk dessert of the Thailand, derived from the Portuguese ovos moles, now known as thong yod (ทองหยอด). Of "scattered transboundary fragments."

Arin Rungjang's (Thailand) 'Golden Teardrop'.
A spherical sculpture of almost 6000 brass teardrops suspended from a timber and steel frame.

It's a mammoth task to even shortlist these 15 finalists who submitted artworks across mixed mediums. It was pretty cool seeing these artworks before the winning works of Signature Art Prize were selected. Reading about the winners in the news is all right, but it was more exciting to attend the Awards ceremony just to have a guess and hear it first. :)

The Grand Prize (S$60,000) was awarded to Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore) for multimedia 4-channel HD video and light installation 'Pythagoras' where a disembodied voice speaks to the audience. Jurors' Choice Awards (S$15,000 each) went to Liu Jianhua (China) for 'Trace'- porcelain inky calligraphic marks on a swathe of rice paper as a sculptural installation on the wall (called 屋漏痕, wu1lou4hen2, or literally 'water stains on the wall') and Melati Suryodarmo (Indonesia) for 'I'm A Ghost in My Own House', and the People's Choice Award (S$10,000) went to Yao Jui-Chung (Taiwan) and Lost Society Document for his team's research of disused public buildings in Taiwan, a socio-political commentary comprising a lengthy-video of their records and documentation at each venue and 124 photographs.

What powerful visual art created by the artists. Hearty congratulations all.

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