Co-produced by NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) for st_age
Single channel HD Video, colour, sound, 16 min, 16:9
Deep in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia, a series of incantations invoke the spirits of yore, including those of the nimble, tricksy Kancil (mouse-deer) and the ferocious Buaya (crocodile). The ancient animals enact their folkloric vendetta in a furious dance of dominance, yet long-overdue vengeance is shrouded in smoke. Meanwhile, an effigy of a tree is burning, summoning a whole other host of spectres and ancestors. Conceived during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival in 2019, while large-scale fires were consuming the forests of Indonesia, Yeo Siew Hua’s An Invocation to the Earth confronts climate collapse through the lens of pre-colonial folktales and animistic rituals. Through spoken spells and bodily entanglements, the video conjures up the fallen environmental defenders of a region ridden with ecological threats in the hope that their spirits will be reborn once again.
Text by Dan Koh, Producer
View the commission at The Single Screen or online here: http://www.stage.tba21.org/
Yeo Siew Hua is a Singaporean director and writer. His last feature film, A Land Imagined (2018), won the Golden Leopard at the 71st Locarno Film Festival (Switzerland) and was selected as Singapore’s entry to the 92nd Academy Awards’ Best International Feature Film category (United States). The film also won Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Music Score at the 56th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival (Taiwan) and received an Achievement in Cinematography prize at the 13th Asia Pacific Screen Awards (Australia). It is now internationally distributed on Netflix. Extending beyond conventional cinema networks, Yeo’s films have been shown at venues including the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York and the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei. He is co-founder of 13 Little Pictures, a vanguard film collective which organises experimental film labs around Southeast Asia, and part of the artist group soft/Wall/studs, where he programmes regional documentary films in conversation with contemporary art practice.
Dan Koh is a producer and writer of Southeast Asian independent films. He was associate producer and script consultant for Yeo Siew Hua’s award-winning thriller, A Land Imagined (2018). He also produced Yeo’s experimental music documentary, The Obs: A Singapore Story (2014) and Lei Yuan Bin’s observational documentary I Dream of Singapore (2019). He co-wrote and line-produced Virgile Fraisse’s film SEA-ME-WE 3 (2018) and was associate producer of Daniel Hui’s experimental horror Demons (2018). Koh is an alumnus of Talents Tokyo 2018 and of the Southeast Asia Fiction Film Lab (SEAFIC) × Produire au Sud 2016–17.
st_age is an online platform for new commissions initiated by Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) as a response to the COVID-19 crisis. It is a provocation to artists, institutions, practitioners, and activists to engage with the many issues that the pandemic has made even more visible in the precarious current moment.
As part of st_age’s inaugural season, NTU CCA Singapore was invited to co-produce two new works by Yeo Siew Hua (Singapore) and Dana Awartani (Saudi Arabia).
Image: Yeo Siew Hua, An Invocation to the Earth, 2020, photograph. Co-produced by NTU CCA Singapore and Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary (TBA21) for st_age. Photo by Mike Chang. Courtesy the artist.