On Rice, Rituals and Gaming:  Reflections from SAM Residencies On Rice, Rituals and Gaming:  Reflections from SAM Residencies

On Rice, Rituals and Gaming: Reflections from SAM Residencies

  • 03 Jan 2022

Artists Chu Hao Pei, Salty Xi Jie Ng and Johann Yamin marked the conclusion of their SAM Residencies by each producing a research essay. From reflecting on Singaporeans’ relationship with rice seeds to reframing traditional practices of ancestor worship, and rethinking gaming as a creative practice, discover the insights uncovered by each artist during this pilot programme and how these findings will pave the way for the development of more innovative artistic and curatorial practices.

Reading against the grain

Different varieties of rice grains.Different varieties of rice grains presented to participants at the workshop.
Image courtesy of Chu Hao Pei

It is a daily staple for many of us, but rarely do we think about where our rice originates from. As part of Hao Pei’s long-term inquiry into rice seed sovereignty, the artist held a workshop during his residency to learn how a non-agrarian society like Singapore understands rice production and consumption. He reflects on the conversations with participants and draws up a list of keywords to help us look at this everyday staple in new ways.

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“Can our ancestors really eat the food we offer?”

Food-inspired paper offerings designed by Xi Jie.
Xi Jie’s food-inspired reinterpretation of traditional paper offerings used in ancestor worship.
Image courtesy of Salty Xi Jie Ng

To make sense of her grandmother’s recent passing, Xi Jie spent her residency looking into traditional Chinese practices of ancestor worship. She interviewed various spiritual and religious experts and recorded her personal thoughts on the rituals. The artist has woven together her findings into an intimate piece of experimental writing, exploring the connections and contradictions of these traditional practices and rituals that have been passed down for generations.

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Don’t play play

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore learning to play Dota 2 at a community gaming event.
Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong learning to play Dota 2 at a community gaming event in 2019.
Image courtesy of Lee Hsien Loong’s Facebook

The entertaining worlds of video games are embedded in a “metagame” of broader social structures and political relations which Johann mapped out during his residency. Tracing its origins to the mathematical framework of “game theory”, he questions if the metagame’s associated concepts of “cheating, glitching, watching and playing with the world” can be of use in artistic and curatorial practices to critically engage with emerging digital technologies.

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Besides these essays, the trio have come up with Present Realms, a joint presentation of their ideas, works-in-progress and lines of research too. Visit the show at SAM’s new residences spaces in Tanjong Pagar Distripark. Find out more here!