Residencies Studio #01-03, Block 37 Malan Road
Future Trees and the Pulp of History (2) is a combined presentation by Artist-in-Residence Ho Rui An and artist Tan Biyun that 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.
As a consolidation of the research undertaken during his residency with NTU CCA, Ho presents a selection of material relating to the history of foresight, both globally and within the Singapore public sector. This includes a set of images extracted from a CD-ROM produced on the occasion of an exhibition organised in celebration of Public Service 21 (PS21), an initiative that can be regarded as a precursor to the current Smart Nation programme. Together, these materials variously project forms of millennial optimism or anxiety—the former exemplified by Peter Schwartz and Peter Leyden’s seminal essay “The Long Boom”, the latter by two national scenarios created by the Scenario Planning Office in Singapore describing the city-state in states of crisis.
Against this history of the future presented in Ho’s collection, 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.
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: Residencies OPEN:Art Day Out!, 12 November 2016. Future Trees and the Pulp of History by Ho RuiAn, Artist-in-Residence and Tan Biyun, artist. Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore.