16 June – 2 Aug 2020

As I put it to someone not too long ago: locked down lor, what to do.


A quick few thoughts on this exhibition: this is a pretty flat show. There’s zero spectacle, most of the works are small-ish, contained, neatly put together. The protracted monotony and ennui and claustrophobia of the past two months in Singapore, and the underlying gloom and anxiety, went into its making, both for myself and – I’m sure – the artists. The trope of flatness is layered, from concept (deadened sentiments) to medium (the approximation of two-dimensionality) to layout (lines grids, squares) to experience (virtual space on a screen). It’s all pretty aseptic. There’s the nondescript palette, for one, mostly white and black and some grey and metallic tones; the predominance of repetition and linearity as motifs, from the serial nature of a number of works to the abstract language and modular format of others; the reduced scale of most pieces, with several drawings barely larger than a hand, the biggest object being a blank canvas. There’s an overwhelming sense of order, of similitude, of a system of things in their ordained place. I guess in a sense that’s what the cb was – most of us in our designated locales, an island of empty streets and people at home, a landscape of undisturbed lines and self-contained boxes.

Exhibitions don’t happen in a vacuum, and this one is nothing if not context-specific. That context, however, seems to have evolved quite drastically in the past weeks, with attention shifting from the battle against the virus and the effects of the lockdown, to the anguish and fury and violence and chaos that’s erupting at the moment. It was hard reading the headlines every day. In a world that’s breaking down, that brokenness seems to scream out to be addressed. If there was foresight about what was coming, would this show have been conceptualized differently, looked angrier? .. I’m not sure, probably not – just being honest. Realities in Singapore are, well, unique, and some things are possible or likely, and some things aren’t. Perhaps an honest show about unreality (the cb felt pretty unreal) is more convincing than an imagined one about other realities (let’s face it, most of us are pretty fortunate to be here and missing the worst of the turmoil elsewhere). Maybe tedium and “psychic death”, to borrow a term from Mangkhut a.k.a. Jeremy Sharma, is as genuine in this case as the lack of political anger and outrage.

This show was also something of an experiment. From the get-go I figured that working with younger, emerging, even unknown names was the desired direction; perhaps there’s no better opportunity than during a crisis, when most of us have that much less to lose. I’d collaborated with a couple of these artists before, knew a few casually, and the rest were familiar only from social media or were complete strangers, personally and professionally. (Thanks, K. An ee-pa on me soon.) I was slightly surprised by how much I enjoyed the process, especially the risk factor throwing the doors open, imaginatively and conceptually – or as open as doors get hereabouts anyways. Everyone’s already predicting the changes that will define the new normal in the age of the coronavirus, and maybe we can get a headstart on that … Hopefully the artists feel the same way.

In any case. There’s a large, lovely-looking middle finger at the end of the gallery, next to a bit of music that sounds like the a-melodic buzz of alien machines droning away in the vast big empty of the solar system. Enjoy.


Louis Ho, 2/6/2020