Discover new dimensions in Singapore art through the inaugural presentation of SAM Contemporaries, featuring six Singapore-based artists whose works explore the intersections between historical narratives and contemporary experience.
SAM Contemporaries is a biennial project focusing on emerging practices and generative trends in Singapore art. Fueled by collective research, SAM Contemporaries is a platform for experimentation, built upon sustained conversations and close collaboration between artists and curators.
The inaugural edition titled Residues & Remixes considers the impact of historical remnants on the present as well as the influence of new technologies on how we see, experience and understand the world. Migration and cultural flows have defined the region's history, its landscape, memories and economies. In this exhibition, artists adopt new methods and approaches rooted in de- and post-colonial perspectives to engage with residues of time and place, excavate hidden histories and uncover forgotten stories. With an eye on the impact of digital technologies on contemporary experiences, the artists unveil intersections between the past and the present.
From everyday experiences to everyday materials, the works presented in Residues & Remixes highlight the ways in which the artists are remixing and reimagining these residues of time, creating new narratives and reinterpreting the past and present with a broadened lens.
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Yeyonn Ann Avis is a multimedia artist who reconsiders systems of artistic production. Her practice extends beyond the limits of visual art and includes music, design and branding. As an artist, she often draws inspiration from digital culture and her personal experiences.
Avis has participated in group exhibitions such as Sugar pills for a bitter world (2022) at Objectifs; Not for Sale (2022) during Singapore Art Week; Time Passes (2021) at the National Gallery Singapore; Objects in the Mirror (2019) at Supernormal and held a solo exhibition n Entities (2018) in Jeju Island, South Korea. Avis also performed her live video Lick (2021) at the Esplanade—Theatres on the Bay, Singapore.
Anthony Chin creates site-specific and responsive artworks that poetically and conceptually respond to a given site’s architectural presence and history. He is drawn to issues of power that challenge our collective existence, in part as a response to living on a tiny island city state. His works, which emerge from extensive research, transform common materials to draw attention to unacknowledged structures of power in the colonial and post-colonial eras.
Chin has participated in various local and overseas art shows and venues, including Beijing’s 798 art district where he held his first solo exhibition, as well as residencies and exhibitions at the Taipei International Artists Village and the Metropolitan Museum of Manila. He has also participated in four programmes by local arts organisation OH! Open House.
Priyageetha Dia works with time-based media and installation. Her artworks offer speculative narratives on Southeast Asian plantations, which she views as sites for recovering stories of resistance. Her research interests also include building nonlinear narratives through digital semiotics, migrant histories and our relationship with the non-human.
Her recent exhibitions have been held at the Kochi-Muziris Biennale, Kerala (2022–2023); La Trobe Art Institute, Australia (2022); National Gallery Singapore (2020) and ArtScience Museum, Singapore (2019). She was the recipient of the IMPART award by Art Outreach in 2019. Dia was an Artist-in-Residence at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore in 2022 and was selected for the upcoming cycle by SEA AiR—Studio Residencies at the Jan van Eyck Academie in the Netherlands from April to July 2023.
Fyerool Darma draws inspiration from popular culture, archival material, literary references, the Internet and his own lived experiences. In his work, Fyerool actively experiments with different objects, materials and mediums, including photography, sculpture and digital media.
His projects have been presented in notable group exhibitions including Living Pictures: Photography in Southeast Asia, National Gallery Singapore (2022–2023); Afro-Southeast Asia Project, ASEAN Culture House, Busan (2022), Vargas Museum, Philippines (2022), Nanyang Technological University, Art, Design and Media Gallery, Singapore (2021); As the West Slept, World Trade Centre, New York (2019), part of Performa 2019; and An Atlas of Mirrors, Singapore Biennale 2016. Fyerool was an Artist-in-Residence at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2019–2020).
Khairulddin Wahab’s paintings weave narratives from cultural geography, environmental history and post-colonialism in Singapore and Southeast Asia. Working with archival materials and found images, Khairulddin creates visual tableaus that allude to our historical and political encounters with the natural world.
He graduated with a BA in Fine Arts from LASALLE College of the Arts in 2014. He has exhibited at local and international events and venues including Cuturi Gallery with two solo exhibitions, The Shape of Land (2023) and The Word for World is Forest (2021); Biennale Jogja XV—Equator 5 (2019) and State of Motion: Sejarah-ku (2018). He was the recipient of the National Library Creative Residency in 2021 and winner of the 2018 UOB Painting of the Year.
Moses Tan is a Singapore-based artist whose work explores histories that intersect with queer theory and politics while looking at melancholia and shame as points of departure. Working with sculpture, found objects, drawing, video and installation, he employs subtle messaging and codes to form narratives. He graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts with a BA (Hons) in Fine Arts and a BA (Hons) in Chemistry and Biological Chemistry from Nanyang Technological University.
He was awarded the Noise Singapore Award for Art and Design in 2014, Winston Oh Travel Research Grant in 2016 and the LASALLE Award for Academic Excellence in 2016. His works have been exhibited in Yavuz Gallery and Grey Projects, Singapore; Hidden Space and 1A Space, Hong Kong; Indiana University, United States; Sabanci University, Turkey; Kunst im Dialog, Germany and at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art, Australia. He also completed a residency in Santa Fe Art Institute, United States.
Expanding on ideas explored by the artworks in the exhibition, the SAM Contemporaries: Residues & Remixes publication contextualises the show’s curatorial approach and the featured artistic practices through documentation, field notes, scholarly essays, speculations and conversations of various forms (and formalities) between artists and curators.
Contributors: Dr June Yap (Foreword), Dr Shanthini Pillai, artists Yeyoon Avis Ann, Anthony Chin, Priyageetha Dia, Fyerool Darma, Khairulddin Wahab and Moses Tan, with curators Joella Kiu, Ong Puay Khim, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, Syaheedah Iskandar, Kenneth Tay and Teng Yen Hui.
The publication is available for sale on ALKEM: here
SAM Contemporaries: Residues & Remixes
A Collisional Accelerator of Everydays (A.C.A.E.) is an installation that resembles particles colliding in a large accelerator, with objects such as cups, toothbrushes and chairs exploding from a central core of light. Some of these objects are stretched or compressed to demonstrate the strength of the blast. As viewers walk around the installation, they may also hear snippets of field recordings—sounds that are somewhat familiar but not entirely identifiable.
A.C.A.E. may be likened to Quantizer, an initiative that translated the Large Hadron Collider's data into sound. Where Quantizer’s sonic reinterpretation of particle collisions unveiled new means of accessing scientific data, A.C.A.E. encourages viewers to draw new associations and consider how objects and environments are entangled by making minute adjustments to our presumptive reality.
The comics in A.C.A.E. depict a person’s daily routine and features the items that are represented in A.C.A.E., expanding on the possibilities of each object—how they may be seen, used, arranged or understood. Far from being uneventful or insignificant, A.C.A.E. presents everyday experiences as opportunities for random but meaningful encounters with other beings, the environment and our own selves.
The artist also presents Trees Upside-down on the SAM Hoardings along Queen Street, on view till 29 October 2023. Avis presents graphics of tree shadows in relation to the ever-changing shadows of actual trees on the street.
Landscape Palimpsest points to the historical shifts in our relationship with the land, from a terraqueous surface to the production of territory. Through these layered and suspended paintings, the work questions the conception of our land as a total, unified and stable “terra firma.”
Central to these paintings are the topographical backgrounds that the artist creates by layering paint over canvases left on the ground. As the paint dries over time, sedimentation occurs and leaves traces of the ground’s topology, which inform the artist’s compositions. Through this approach, the work also proposes an understanding of landscapes as a process of writing and co-creation.
a caveat, a score comprises found objects and furniture, photographic prints, drawings, video and polymer clay sculptures fashioned after botanical and zoological forms, which come together as an installation reminiscent of a set design.
In this artwork, Moses Tan explores the concepts of duality and fluidity by employing words and ideas with multiple meanings as analogies for queerness, failure and affect, including “caveat” and “tidalectics.” The word “caveat” is an explanation or cautionary detail meant to prevent misinterpretation and symbolises the challenges queer individuals often face when navigating their identities and visibility in unloving environments. The word “tidalectics” refers to an oceanic worldview and suggests new methods and pathways for existence that are defined by movement and flux. Tan translates the ebb and flow of waves into a dance score for humans, creating performative gestures that evoke emotional responses such as folding inwards as a protective act or opening up towards gestures of care. These movements and forms are explored by the performers in the video as well as in other components of the work, such as the vinyl graphics and polymer sculptures.
Multi-layered and tongue-in-cheek, a caveat, a score invites viewers to explore the complexities of identity and queerness through a wide dis-array of references and symbols.
From Silver to Steel examines the complex history of iron ore mining in British Malaya and its entanglements with Imperial Japan in the early 20th century. Beginning in 1921, Malaya supplied Japan’s Imperial Steel Works with iron through 11 iron ore mines located throughout the peninsula. This raw material was crucial for producing steel items that fueled Japan’s rapid industrialisation and modernisation. Yet, the same steel that originated from Malaya ironically ended up returning there in the form of an invader’s weapon—the shin guntō (or new military sword)—during World War II.
The installation features 11 shin guntō replicas that have been altered by the artist: each sword handle has been replaced by a stack of replicated Straits Settlement coins, and each tsuba (or guard) has been substituted with steel plates meticulously shaped to represent the 11 Japanese-owned Malayan mines. By subverting the image of the military sword wielded by the Japanese during the war, From Silver to Steel reflects on the exploitation and weaponisation of this raw material, providing an opportunity for lesser-known histories to be newly considered.
The artist's presentation continues at Level 3 of Block 39, along the corridor facing the Tanjong Pagar port. To access the artwork, please use the staircase on the side of the building facing Block 37. Visitors using mobility aids may approach the Front Desk for assistance.
South Sea Ore is an augmented reality sequence that depicts a monumental black block, built gradually from a single rock, spinning and bobbing in a disquieting way above the Tanjong Pagar port. Once completed, the block disintegrates into smaller rocks that rain down onto its surroundings and eventually turns the viewer’s screen black.
The artwork refers to Japan’s exploitation of British Malaya’s iron resource during the early 20th century, which was facilitated by the establishment of the mining company Nanyo Kogyo Koshi in Singapore in 1921. The Japanese-owned mining companies and steel mills that subsequently sprouted across Malaya played a pivotal role in fulfilling Imperial Japan’s modernisation and military ambitions. Between 1921 and 1945, a total of 19.72 million metric tons of iron were shipped from Malaya to Japan, with the colonial British administration and local Malaya states—including Singapore—indirectly playing a role in this process.
South Sea Ore acknowledges the historical passage of iron ore through Singapore’s ports. Subverting the ancient Japanese philosophy of shakkei (borrowed scenery), Chin offers a visualisation of the scale of its exploitation and movement against a backdrop of port operations.
LAMENT H.E.A.T is a multimedia installation primarily composed of rubberwood and latex, which showcases the significance of rubber. Rubberwood, also known as parawood, is a type of hardwood that comes from the rubber tree or hevea brasiliensis. The pattern on the exterior of the installation imitates the markings carved onto rubber trees when they are tapped for latex with the herring-bone method. Rubber, a sought-after raw material in various industries, led to the establishment of rubber plantations across British Malaya (today, Singapore and Malaysia) as part of the British colonial regime in the 19th century.
The softness and tactility of rubber beckons viewers to enter the enclosed room in LAMENT H.E.A.T. A site for gathering and contemplation, this inner sanctuary features experimental sounds from folkloric rhythmic percussion, a projection of computer-generated imagery augmented with an oppari (lamentation) generated by artificial intelligence. An Oppari is a mourning song sung by Tamil women, who were brought to Malaya as indentured labourers from South India, to grieve and honour their dead. In LAMENT H.E.A.T, the artificial intelligence–generated oppari seeks to establish a bridge into the non-human world while honouring the indentured labourers whose oppression on rubber plantations should not be forgotten.
An ongoing research project, LAMENT H.E.A.T asks: Can memories of subjugation in Malaya’s colonial past be reconciled with through rituals of listening mediated by technology? Can contemporary art hosted within the museum become that remarkable place for reconciliation?
Total Output is an exercise in remixing visual materials drawn from archives, including patterns and recognised motifs in culture and industry, sourced and collected from archives, the Internet and daily life. Fyerool Darma invites a group of artists and designers to work on the same set of sources. Together, they experiment with these materials, each engaging in their own process of extracting fragments and creating their own reinterpretation of the patterns. Through their collaboration, a new visual vocabulary is produced, one which draws on glitching and repetition as methods for abstracting culture and life.
Formally, the work resembles modular LED panels in the process of being composed, alluding to grid technologies as a system of digital organisation and distribution. Within this fixed framework, the visual remixes and glitches foreground discordances between the digital and analogue.
The work’s title refers to the measure of productivity in an economy, which quantifies labour output without attribution to individuals. Total Output manifests the sum of creative energies amassed in the artist’s studio and foregrounds the individual, repetitive manual labour behind its production.
The artist also presents L4NDf33lzz featuring Aleezon, Lé Luhur, Manni Wang, mr. jalee, rawanXberdenyut and Taufiq Rahman on the SAM Hoardings along Bras Basah Road, on view till 29 October 2023. Fyerool extends his approach of sampling from archived sources, paying homage to the site and the original creators of the patterns he references.
Location: SAM Hoardings along Bras Basah Road and Queen Street
L4NDf33lz references patterns designed and manufactured in Singapore from the 1950s to 1970s around the time when the city-state pivoted towards export-led industrialisation. Many of these patterns were produced for textiles and generated by unnamed craftsmen. Fyerool Darma sampled from these patterns and modified them digitally, integrating them with archival and stock images of Bras Basah, to produce graphics that pay homage to the site and the original creators of these patterns. The artwork underscores the human labour and knowledges embedded in the industry’s materials and processes, which have persisted despite vast changes in industrial technology.
Between June and August, the artist and his collaborators will engage in a visual dialogue with the patterns. Portions of the vinyl will be cut manually and new visual elements will be introduced. Pushing the boundaries of the hoarding as a static display, Fyerool explores its potential as an urban canvas that transforms over time. As the graphics undergo both analogue and digital manipulation, the artwork becomes a visual testimony of its makers, both past and present. L4NDf33lzz changes continuously, mirroring the progressive nature of the cosmopolitan landscape where the only constant is the passing of time.
This artwork is an extension of Fyerool’s Total Output (2023), part of SAM Contemporaries: Residues & Remixes, presented at the Singapore Art Museum at Tanjong Pagar Distripark from 19 May–24 Sep 2023.
Location: SAM Hoardings along Bras Basah Road and Queen Street
Trees Upside-down features a simple image of tree shadows, which has been flipped, inverted and enlarged. Harmonising with the environment of Queen Street, the trees planted along the pavement cast their shadows onto the mural. Real, ever-changing shadows blend in with their inanimate graphic counterparts. As the branches and leaves of these trees shift in response to the changing lighting and weather conditions, their shadows shift in tandem, lending movement and ephemerality to the hoardings, which are often approached as a two-dimensional, static format.
By establishing a relationship between Trees Upside-down and its surrounding environment here on Queen Street, Yeyoon Avis Ann asserts that the artwork does not exist in an isolated cocoon and, more broadly, that all things are interconnected. The artist turns a common, everyday sight on its head, urging viewers to look at our world differently. Avis calls this new perspective a form of “breeziness.” Much like viewing an image through a pinhole camera, Trees Upside-down beckons viewers to rekindle their sensitivity towards our environment and the nonhuman inhabitants with whom we share our spaces.
This artwork may be seen in relation to Avis’ A Collisional Accelerator of Everydays(A.C.A.E.) (2023), which is part of SAM Contemporaries: Residues & Remixes, presented at the Singapore Art Museum at Tanjong Pagar Distripark from 19 May–24 Sep 2023.