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Symposium: The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: a structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, Part II

17 Jun 2016, Fri 7:00pm - 9:00pm
18 Jun 2016, Sat 9:30am - 6:00pm
National Gallery Singapore and NTU CCA Singapore

Friday, 17 June: 7.00 – 9.00pm
National Gallery Singapore, Auditorium, 1 St. Andrew’s Road
Saturday, 18 June: 9.30am – 6.00pm
NTU CCA Singapore, The Single Screen, Block 43 Malan Road

The NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA Singapore) presents The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: a structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, Part II, a symposium addressing the multiple notions of “Southeast Asia” and the various issues surrounding its borders, territories, dilemmas and anxieties. SEA STATE by artist Charles Lim Yi Yong, commissioned for the Singapore Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale, explores the biophysical, political and psychic contours of Singapore and served as a point of departure for the symposium. Part I of the symposium took place in Venice, Italy during the opening days of the Biennale, and this second iteration will continue and deepen the discussions on the occasion of SEA STATE’s presentation at NTU CCA Singapore.

Southeast Asia, as a geographical region and conceptual category, is a contested entity shaped by diverse cultures and communities. The possibilities and uncertainties in this region – such as urban development, geopolitical relations, and anxieties surrounding national and regional identities – continue to pose unique social and political challenges.

The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: a structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, Part II brings together an array of eminent speakers and respondents to address questions of contemporary art and culture through interdisciplinary approaches – considering bodies of water as cultural-territorial spaces in an exploration of rivers, land reclamation, sea ports, and nomadic communities. The conversations arising from this symposium offers insight into the Southeast Asian consciousness and how it informs the region’s evolving relationship with the wider world.

The symposium is organised by NTU CCA Singapore under its Research & Education programme, which aims to connect research based artistic practices with other forms of knowledge production. As a prelude to the symposium, NTU CCA Singapore will screen films by Thai artist and filmmaker Apichatpong Weerasethakul on 1 and 3 June 2016 to set up a “conversation” between two artist-filmmakers, Apichatpong and Charles Lim Yi Yong.


Screening of films by Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Day 1: Wednesday, 1 June 2016, 7.30 – 10.00pm | Cemetery of Splendour (2015)
Day 2: Friday, 3 June 2016, 7.30 – 10.00pm | Tropical Malady (2004)

NTU CCA Singapore, The Single Screen
Block 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, Singapore 109443

Symposium programme

Day 1: National Gallery Singapore, Friday 17 June 2016, 7.00 – 9.00pm

7.00 – 7.30pm
Registration & refreshments

7.30 – 7.45pm

Welcome address
Paul Tan (Singapore), Deputy CEO, National Arts Council
Professor Ute Meta Bauer (Germany/Singapore), Founding Director, NTU CCA Singapore, and Professor, School of Art, Design and Media, Nanyang Technological University (NTU)

7.45 – 9.00pm
Keynote Lecture
In a Time of Earthquakes: Contemporary Chinese Artists Shake the World
by Professor Aihwa Ong (Malaysia/United States), Robert H. Lowie Distinguished Chair in Anthropology and Chair of Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley)
Respondent: Professor C.J. Wee Wan-ling (Singapore), Division of English, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, NTU






Day 2: NTU CCA Singapore, Saturday 18 June 2016, 9.30am – 6.00pm

9.30 – 10.00am
Registration & refreshments

10.00 – 10.10am

Opening address by chairperson, Professor Ute Meta Bauer

10.10 – 11.20am
Keynote lecture
SEA STATE: Charles Lim’s Video-and Photo-graphic Eye
by Professor Michael M.J. Fischer (United States), Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities, and Professor of Anthropology and Science and Technology Studies, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Respondent: Dr Kristy H.A. Kang (United States/Singapore), Assistant Professor, School of Art, Design & Media, NTU







11.20am – 12.30pm

Session 1: The River and its Representations
Speaker: Gridthiya Gaweewong (Thailand), Artistic Director and Curator, Jim Thompson Art Center, Bangkok
Respondent: Dr David Teh (Australia/Singapore), Assistant Professor, Department of English Language and Literature, National University of Singapore (NUS)






12.30 – 1.30pm
Lunch Break

1.30 – 1.40pm

Opening address by chairperson, Dr David Teh

1.40 – 2.50pm
Session 2: The Land and its Reclamations
Speakers: Joshua Comaroff (United States/Singapore), design consultant, Lekker Architects; and Seth Denizen (United States), PhD candidate, Department of Geography, UC Berkeley
Respondent: Shabbir Hussain Mustafa (Singapore), curator, SEA STATE, and Senior Curator, National Gallery Singapore

2.50 – 4.20pm

Session 3: Of Nomads and Sea Ports
Speakers: Dr Donna Brunero (Australia/Singapore), Senior Lecturer, Department of History, Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences, NUS; Dr Wee Beng Geok (Singapore), Consultant, Nanyang Business School, NTU; and Dr Vivienne Wee (Singapore), independent anthropologist and researcher
Respondent: Dr Imran bin Tajudeen (Singapore), Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture, School of Design and Environment, NUS







4.20 – 4.40pm
Tea Break

4.40 – 6.00pm

Roundtable Discussion
Participants: Professor Michael M.J. Fischer, Charles Lim Yi Yong, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, and Professor Aihwa Ong.
Moderators: Professor Ute Meta Bauer and Dr David Teh.




For the full programme and speakers’ profiles, please refer to the symposium media release or download the symposium brochure.

For further information and RSVP, email

The programme is commissioned by the National Arts Council (NAC) and supported by the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), with additional support from U.S. Embassy Singapore and National Gallery Singapore.

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