A combined presentation by Artist-in-Residence Ho Rui An and artist Tan Biyun, Future Trees and the Pulp of History explores the artists’ shared interests in participatory democracies, historical archives, and speculative futures. Their works engage various strategies to rearrange existing narrative structures and activate new forms of political imagination.
For the first time in Singapore, Ho exhibits the documentation of Screen Green (2015-16), a lecture performance that examines the politics of screening and greening in the city-state. Screen Green has been produced for the exhibition Public Spirits, currently running at the Centre for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, Poland. Beginning with an observation of the lush greenery often seen as backdrop of political discourse in Singapore, the lecture addresses this botanical green in relation to the “green screen” normally used in cinema, using this uncanny connection to examine the politics of screening and greening in the city-state. Central to the work is the contention that the numerous green spaces in Singapore act as giant green screen studios designed to solicit the participation and imagination of the masses in order to limit and modulate their articulations.
Against the “horticultural futurism” discussed in Ho’s lecture, Tan posits a speculative near-future where the history of Singapore faces the fate of being pulped. Tan conjures a scenario where students, sick of the propaganda purveyed in their textbooks, have abandoned the study of History altogether, prompting the Ministry to recall and destroy all textbooks in circulation. Conceived as a “protest against forgetting” (Eric Hobsbawn), Tan’s The Unforgetting Space seeks a more inclusive understanding of the past and triggers the process of reclaiming the writing of history from the authorities. This participatory project features several textbooks dating from the 1970s and two old typewriters on which audiences are invited to retype historical episodes selected from the books. They are also encouraged to contribute a text based on their own sources should a historical episode be found to be missing or misrepresented.
Launched on occasion of Gillman Barracks’ Art Day Out!, Future Trees and the Pulp of History is open to the public from 12 November 2016 to January 2017, every Saturday and Sunday, 12.00 to 7.00pm.
Ho Rui An (Singapore) is an artist and writer working in the intersections of contemporary art, cinema, performance, and theory. His work investigates the emergence, transmission and disappearance of images within contexts of globalism and governance. His recent research considers questions surrounding liberal hospitality, participatory democracy and speculative futures. He has gained international attention for his discursively compelling performances that sift through historical archives and contemporary visual culture to probe into the shifting relations between image and power. Ho has presented work at Queensland University of Technology Art Museum, Australia (2016); Hessel Museum of Art and CCS Bard Galleries, United States (2015); LUMA/Westbau, Switzerland (2015); Para Site, Hong Kong (2015); Witte de With, The Netherlands (2014); Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India (2014); and Serpentine Galleries, United Kingdom (2013), among others.
Tan Biyun (Singapore) makes work on issues concerning community life, human rights and social justice. Her recent performance, Waiting for Butterflies (2015-6), at the GUYU ACTION Contemporary Performance Art Festival in Shenzhen, China, was response against the environment destruction caused by overdevelopment.
Image credit: Ho Rui An, Green Screen Studio, Medan, c. 1898, 2016, digital print.