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Change – for better or for worse?

Po Po


The world as we know it is constantly changing. Some changes bigger than others, some so gradually that we don’t notice it until we look back at the past and think – hey, things are different now. But what about the changes in the future?


The Singapore Biennale 2013 explores this very concept – the world we live in, and the world we want to live in. 82 artists from Southeast Asia responded to this, their responses heavily influenced by their respective cultures, histories and ancestries. The diversity of artists and curators gave an enthralling perspective of changes in the region.


Nikki Luna (2)


Many of the works depicted the political and social issues that the artists faced in their own countries, calling attention to the need for something to be done. Nikki Luna’s “Tiempos Muertos”, an installation of a thousand glittering diamonds cast from sugar and resin, sheds light on the declining sugar prices, and the back-breaking  work of the casual labourers who are paid as little as $1 a day. Tran Tuan’s “Forefinger”, made of exotic materials, highlights the need to reframe the negotiation with the past as many anti-war activists would cut off their index fingers to avoid military conscription. Meanwhile, Khvay Samnang offers a critical reflection on complex environmental, infrastructural and humanitarian concerns in his video “Untitled”, where he pours sand over his head in Phnom Penh’s public lakes that are offered for private sale.




The cultures of the various countries were also prominent. Toni Kanwa’s “Cosmology of Life” was a sight to behold – minute yet intricately carved sculptures arranged over a table, complete with a magnifying glass to view each talisman-like sculpture in detail. They are made following a special ritual informed by practices in Indonesia, where he dialogues with the material and medium before proceeding to sculpt. Walk over to SAM at 8Q, and you will be met with a small wooden shop selling all sorts of knick knacks. This is Anggun Priambodo’s “Toko Keperluan” (meaning “a shop for your needs” in Bahasa Indonesia), typical of the small shops found on street corners in Southeast Asia. The irony is prevalent in its name as it did not sell any necessities, offering a critique of consumerism.




This year’s biennale is a wondrous eye-opener. Whether you are an art enthusiast or not, the biennale is sure to intrigue you with the various perspectives on the same theme. All the works with their different messages made me look at the world around me differently. We are constantly changing, growing, evolving – for better or for worse?



Text by Arynah Aminuddin

Images by Arynah Aminuddin and courtesy of artists



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