Singapore: Biennale 2013 at the National Art Museum

Next up on my list was to visit the Singapore Art Biennale 2013 at the National Art Museum, which is close to the Fort Canning.

National Museum of Singapore 1

The National Museum of Singapore is the oldest museum in Singapore. Its history dates back to 1849 when it was started as a section of a library at Singapore Institution. After several relocations, the Museum was relocated to its permanent site at Stamford Road at the Museum Planning Area in 1887. It was renovated and reopened in 2006.

It houses the Singapore History Gallery (with 11 national treasures including the 10th century Singapore Stone and the 14th century Majapahit gold ornaments) and the Singapore Living Galleries. Those are really fun, they celebrate the creativity of Singaporeans through the themes of food, fashion, film and photography.

National Museum of Singapore 2

The food section was very interesting, just a shame that there was no food tasting involved! Also lots of lovely dresses in the fashion section…

National Museum of Singapore 6 Perankan

… great film highlights from the past and interesting photos that uncovered a Singapore that I had not seen before.

Singapore Biennale 2013 - If the World Changed

But for this time, my visit was focused on the Biennale 2013.

First, when you entered the building there was a mixed installation with water and sunlight, which generated a rainbow! It is a work of unexpected contradictions and surprises, an outdoor natural spectacle inside a museum! Just a shame that it was not easy to take a picture of! But a great and fun work by Suzann Victor.

‘Chalk and Cheese’ were brooms and mops made out of soap and wood. This highlighted the overlooked aspect of labour – not often a topic that is found in part. Leroy Sofyan portrayed that labour underpins society and human life at its most basic, but it stays what it is: hard work!

Evelyn and her kids explored the ‘Wormhole’ that Eko Prawoto build outside – some great pics. Unfortunately we visited in the rain, so we had to quickly move on.

National Museum of Singapore 3 Biennale 2013

This is ‘2243: moving Forward’ by Siete Pesos. This is a hybrid vehicle that is a testament to the resourcefulness and wry humour of the residents of Cagayan de Oro in Mindanao. The number refers to the patent number for the motorola, which is still a common mode of public transport. Typhoon Sendong in 2011 destroyed parts of Mindanao, that’s why the motorela comes equipped with a boat and survival kits!

Also downstairs in the basement is a video installation by Nguyen Trinh Thi that features people eating a food they desire in front of the camera. That’s to demonstrate how a community under surveillance lives!

National Museum of Singapore 4 Biennale 2013

Finally the artwork at the National Museum of Singapore that impressed me the most is ‘Crystal Palace’. The work features 31 antique chandeliers that have been refitted with uranium glass and UV lighting. Once switched on the chandeliers shine in an eery green light. The 31 pieces signal the 31 nuclear nations of the world, and the size of each chandelier corresponds to the number of operating nuclear plants in that nation… it’s no surprise that the largest chandeliers symbolise the US, followed by France.

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