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Committed to supporting artists, curators, and researchers by offering them time and space to pursue their research without the pressure of deadlines and production commitments, the Residencies Programme values the open-ended nature of artistic research and embraces multiform expressions of creative enquiry. Aiming to facilitate the production of knowledge, this studio-based programme is dedicated to established and emerging artists and serves as platform for critical exchange in Southeast Asia. The Residencies Programme offers a wide spectrum of programmes aimed at sharing the process of artistic research with the public - Residencies OPEN / Studio Sessions / Insights, which range from open studios, artists’ talks, conversations, performances, and screenings. The Residencies Programme unfolds through annual cycles and runs by nomination only. Every year, a rotating pool of curators and arts professionals from all over the world is invited to nominate two artists for the residency. The nominated artists are subsequently invited to submit a research proposal along with their portfolio and CV. Ultimately, the Residencies Committee, an international panel of experts, reviews the submitted materials and designates the artists who are awarded the residency.


Zarina Muhammad

Residency period

1 April – 27 September 2019


Zarina Muhammad (b. 1982, Singapore) is an artist, educator, and writer whose practice is deeply entwined with a critical re-examination of ethnographic literature and historiographic accounts about Southeast Asia. Recent exhibitions include the President’s Young Talents 2018, Singapore Art Museum, and Stories We Tell to Scare Ourselves With, MOCA, Taipei, Taiwan (2019). Incarnations of her lecture performances have been presented at Indonesia Contemporary Art Network, Yogyakarta (2018); Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film (2017); and LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore (2018, 2016).


For the past decade, Zarina Muhammad has embarked on a multidisciplinary research that explores magico-religious belief systems, ritual practices, and sacred sites. The various embodiments of her work, which engage broader contexts of myth-making, ritual magic, gender-based archetypes, and spirits of resistance, frame the cultural biographies of objects and the region’s provisional relationship to mysticism and the immaterial against the dynamics of global modernity. Her research project for the residency takes the trans-local figures of the penunggu (tutelary spirit) and the tuan/puan tanah (Lord of the Land) as points of departure to reconsider notions of territoriality and spectrality against the social production of rationality. During the residency, she will focus on mapping old and new ways to tell stories of unresolved memories, fragmented cosmologies, shapeshifting translations, and haunted histories.

Residencies brochure (July – September 2019)
Residencies brochure (April – June 2019)

Public programmes

Residencies Studio Sessions: Revisiting the Penunggu* and the Demon Naga at the Threshold, Artist talk by Zarina Muhammad (Singapore), Artist-in-Residence
5 Sep 2019, Thu 07:00 PM - 08:30 PM

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Claiming the role of the artist as “cultural ventriloquist” who lends multiple voices to spectral matters and speculative histories, for this talk Zarina Muhammad will weave together research threads and aesthetic strategies that underpin the main projects she developed in the past year: Talismans for Peculiar Habitats, Pharmacopeias for Accredited Agents of Poisoning and Apotropaic Texts, and Pragmatic Prayers for the Kala at the Threshold. The artist will unpack the polyphonic narratives embedded in her installations and expand upon her long-term engagement with Austronesian cosmologies, guardian spirits, non-conforming bodies, and memory lapses occurring in the cultural shifts from pre-colonial to post-colonial times. 


The talk will take place in the artist’s studio.


Penunggu refers to the spirit that guards, supervises, or protects a particular place, region, nation, age group, country, culture, or occupation. It is believed that it can be protective, benign or malevolent. Though not entirely synonymous with the Kala, the gate guardian in sacred architectures, the penunggu is also a guardian of spaces. The root word of ʻpenungguʼ is derived from the Malay word ʻtungguʼ, which means ʻto waitʼ.


Image: Studio of Zarina Muhammad, Residencies OPEN, 29 June 2019. Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore.

Residencies OPEN (in conjunction with Art After Dark)
20 Sep 2019, Fri 07:00 PM - 11:00 PM

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Residencies OPEN offers a rare insight into the often-introverted sphere of the artist studios. Through showcasing discussions, performances, installations, and works-in-progress, Residencies OPEN profiles the diversity of contemporary art practice from around the globe and the divergent ways artists conceive an artwork with the studio as a constant space for experimentation and research.

Featuring Artists-in-Residence: Irene Agrivina (Indonesia), Chang Wen-Hsuan (Taiwan), Bridget Reweti (Aotearoa New Zealand), Tan Kai Syng (Singapore/United Kingdom), Wei Leng Tay (Singapore), Zarina Muhammad (Singapore).


Image: Studio of Zarina Muhammad, Residencies OPEN, 29 June 2019. Courtesy NTU CCA Singapore.