This Exhibition Is Being Recorded
It ended the way it started: with an empty white cube. On facebook were photos of the deinstallation. The first was an empty corner that provided no clue of what was there before. But succeeding photos, initially showing mere remnants then snippets of the actual process, provided glimpses to an exhibition as a temporal thing—a black trash bag filled with strips of mirror tapes sliced from Chihiro Kabata’s paintings; dismantled PVC pipes from an installation by Yen Phang stacked at the building entrance; Urich Lau rolling the wires from his tentacle creature of mixers, cameras and microphones; Justin Lee holding a deflated campy cartoon sword; and Yuuri Kabata dismantling her frames and painted vinyl sheets. There is something inexplicable about the process by which an exhibition ceases to exist, especially when it inhabited not only almost fully but also organically the space it was in.
The exhibition was never static. At the tail end of the second day, I entered an exhibition that was two-part installation-in-progress and one-part artists studio. Yuuri was delicately bent over a table, dipping a brush into a tube of metallic grey paint and applying it on a vinyl sheet—dot by dot a constellation emerged. Behind her came the heavy arrhythmical sound of a staple gun as Chihiro purposefully layered and positioned strips of mirror tape on the second of three stretchers.
Elsewhere, an installation was either taking place or having a momentary pause. Yen’s embryonic-like structure of plastic sheets and PVC pipes stood near the gallery entrance in slow steady development; Urich’s workstation included a tv screen leaning against the wall and balancing haphazardly on a trolley while a base stand was on its way; and Ezzam Rahman’s two clothes rack and Andy Yang’s red mattress and forsaken bridal dress seemed crammed in and were waiting patiently next to Justin’s homage to childhood toys and imagination. Despite a leaflet containing a rudimentary layout in which all the artists and their artworks were neatly mapped out in grids, in actual fact, the exhibition was a being that breathed—it gathered its composite parts as it inhaled and stretched across liberally as it exhaled. I returned on the fourth day to find the red mattress and the clothes racks outside the designated rectangular cube, holding court instead in the extensive lobby area, while in the gallery Yeo Shih Yun’s scrolls are now floating from the ceiling and Yeoh Wee Hwee’s The In:Visible Robe (2020) hangs above on the central wall. The black vinyl letterings spelling the artists’ names have been fixed on the floor near their respective artworks, marking some extent of certitude.
This period of stasis, however, was just an interlude. The opening party that night saw three artworks activated by performances—Justin’s We are what we pretend to be (2020), Ezzam’s can’t you see there’s nothing left for me (2020), and Andy’s UNSPOKEN (2020)—, which, like the exhibition, were porous as one performance seamlessly flowed into the other, with Andy and Urich providing and improvising sound throughout. I found on the fifth day—the day after the opening party—the wedding dress cut up, the white pants and t-shirts on the clothes racks a little creased, and bb pellets littered on the gallery floor.
The exhibition as this constant shifting terrain was highlighted that day in two activations. Chihiro and Yuuri, dressed in protective suits, moved through the dark exhibition space slowly, as though navigating an unfamiliar and wondrous yet potentially hostile environment, shining a torchlight first at one spot then another, changing the texture of the artworks as the light fell on it. After, Shih Yun set a blank scroll on the floor, and one by one, released 11 robots loose as ink trailed after them. Some rotated in circular motions, others became entangled and moved in unison. Yet, even as I watched these seemingly random actions, slowly a painting emerged from below, altered here and there by movements and interactions. I found in these two activations parallels to how the exhibition emerged and evolved over its seven days as it was shaped and reshaped by the collective energy of the nine artists making connections with and to each other.
I walked in on the sixth day as Yen was leaving, his face looking rapturous. Love in Cold Sweats (2020) laid half-collapsed, plastic sheets soiled by charcoal crumped into sinewy folds. He had earlier unearthed a performance, about which he wrote: “Had a breakthrough. Because of these guys, the DE:VOTED gang. Managed to find the performance that was hidden, with the help of Andy Yang’s improvised sound. Truly, thank you guys, the time spent working with you led to this happening, and new lines of artistic inquiry for me.”
Kamiliah Bahdar, February 2020
Performative activation piece for DE:VOTED for Singapore Art Week 2020
Venue: ArtSpace@Helutrans for Late Night At Tanjong Pagar Distripark
Thursday, 16th January 2020.
About the Work:
Title – Unspoken
Dimension – Performance Art, Variable
Medium – Latex mattress, wedding dress, red cloth, scissors, wax heart, bronze heart
Year – 2020
Performed by Kara Inez
Soundtrack performed by Andy Yang
Creative direction by Andy Yang
The idea came from my ongoing observation about human relationships, and a curiosity about how it works and the journeys that relationships go through – the fragility and strengths each experience for all parties.
For DE:VOTED, I decided to delve into the topic of marriage: the union between two souls with an equally complex set of personalities and emotions; the union of two people as partners in a personal relationship.
The journey begins at the entrance, akin to a bride walking into a church for a wedding-the beginning of a perilous journey laced with hints of joy in between.
The bride starts walking in and stops at various points to fall while dragging the distressed mattress like a burden-a love/hate relationship with it; dependent on each other very much, sharing precious moments but at times hostile towards each other; ignoring the audience or the environment like they are trapped in a world of their own.
After numerous falls that represent the trials of the relationship, losing almost all hope of carrying on, she contemplates suicide. She picks up a pair of scissors. Feeling confused and half-hearted about taking her life, she starts to cut up her bridal gown, a former symbol of pride and happiness that has become a burden. She hands over to people around her as if seeking help from others to share her burdens. On the verge of ending it all, she stops.
Instead, she cuts the red cloth tied to the mattress and reveals a wax heart – a representation of the union, a trophy. She holds the heart and looks at it before taking the plunge, and the journey continues.