The “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball…”! – Singapore Biennale 2008 #3

November 6, 2008 at 10:30 am | Posted in itchy mouth | Leave a comment
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In any art exhibitions, especially modern contemporary arts, there would always be some works which are so abstract and experimental, maybe also too personal that no one except the artists themselves would understand….:p ( maybe their mums would try or pretend to understand also, to avoid hurting their children’s feeling..:p) Of course, there would always be some intellects or super arty-farty ones who would claim to understand and appreciate these works, and at the same time, able to ratter off some full page of interpretation for these works, perhaps just to appear a class higher than the ordinary viewers. Maybe its like the Emperor’s New Clothes…hahah…that only the smart people would see what the stupid people couldn’t see…:p But hor, Itchyfingers, being smart and art-farty at the same time :p, must say that we seriously, and really, dun appreciate and understand some of the works exhibited at the Singapore Biennale 2008. So I am going to be the child who shouted, “But he has nothing on!” in the Hans Christian Anderson‘s famous tale now. :p

Sometimes, when we view a seemingly simple artwork, we would hear people say, “Wow! Like that only?! I also can do wow!” Yes, you might be able to do it, but were you the first one to think about it? So these artwork still deserve some respect. But some artwork, when you view them, they really left you scratching your head so hard that it’s gonna bleed and still dun understand what the artists were trying to do. These works had certainly won themselves Itchyfingers‘ ultimate, super mouthful list of the “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball, See-Again-Still-Catch-No-Balls-WAT-THE-H*LL-IS-THAT!!??!!” (For the uninitiated, “Catch No Ball” is another Singaporean way of saying, “I don’t get it”) 8)

The “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball….” #1: Fei Zao by Paolo Tamburella (Performance and Installation @ South Beach Development)
Remember in our last post we mentioned about the musty and stale odor lingering in the air at South Beach Development? We didn’t realise then, that din all come from the old buildings and poor ventilation alone, until we went to the courtyard and saw this white pool of stain mark on the ground. On closer look, we realised these were washed from the many hundreds or thousands of soap bars lying on the ground. In the middle of the white sea of soaps were a red plastic pail and an orange plastic pail. Looking at the ‘rationale’, it was only then I remembered reading about this on the papers. It was supposed to be a “live” ‘performance’ of the artist washing himself in front of the many distinguished guests at the opening of the Biennale. As for how bathing oneself could get one into the category of “art” and why we needed to invite foreign talents to our homeland to bathe, I seriously dun understand…I only know that the bars of cheap smelling soap were certainly a pollution for the air…Dunnu the grass and tree would be killed by the soapy foam during rainy days or not hor? Perhaps a video clip of the actual ‘performance’ could be put up to help viewers understand or appreciate more?

See, Itchyfingers were not the only ones who “catch no ball”…

The “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball….” #2: Duba by Amankul Shaarbek (Video @ South Beach Development)
As mentioned in earlier post, the long corridor with many small rooms might give one an eerie feeling especially when you were alone. It didn’t help ease the anxiety one might experience when you past by this room. From far we heard one woman crying in pain, and when we went into the room, we only see a close up shot of this same old woman crying, shouting in pain…and she continued doing that as if she was being operated without anesthesia or maybe her legs or hand kena caught and crashed in some machineries…It was so irritating listening to her, but curious, we went out to read about it, only to realise that she was supposed to be a female shaman performing some ritual…Wow lao leh! I gotta use Chinese here…装神弄鬼 also can call art! :O

The “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball….” #3: The Yellow Mountain by Tse Su-Mei (Video @ City Hall)
We saw this video when it was playing half way through. The pace of the video was quite slow but I thought the music was quite nice so decided to wait for the clip to finish to view it from the beginning again. It showed a traditional chinese painting-style mountain range with a huge yellowish orange sun rising from behind….and then it suddenly stopped abruptly! Shocked, we stayed on to watch it from the beginning to see if we missed anything important in front. But it just showed the same mountain backdrop with the big egg yolk rising from behind…and then CUT! :O What was that??! We went outta the room to read about it…”The viewer might be led to believe that it is a protrayal of sunrise, but then it starts to morph into something totally unrelated. It is a humorous piece that disrupts one’s expectations…..” blah blah blah…was what was written. Very humorous
meh? Got morph into something else meh? Ok, we decided to give it one more chance and watch it ANOTHER time. Again, the same mountain, then slowly the egg yolk sun moved up…then suddenly…CUT! Wow lao! What the….?!? I think either there was a technical glitch or we seriously dun have a sense of humour to see what was so funny about this…If it was the former, the volunteer in charge of this exhibition (we din see any around) should really get it rectified immediately…Oh, or was there meant to be a hidden camera somewhere to catch the shocking looks of viewers? :O Ok, maybe that was funny….

Egg yolk rising from the yellow mountain….?

The “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball….” #4: Beauty and the Beast by Layla Juma A. Rahid (Photography @ South Beach Development)
If you have heard of the Chinese Idiom “望梅止渴”, you would understand how thoughtful the artist was in delivering us her macro photography of something that many Singaporeans were, once upon a time, so familiar with, but thanks to a law passed by our gahmen, made us a laughingstock among foreign visitors. So what was it that made us so “Uniquely Singapore” again? None other than the Chewing Gum. Since it is banned here and many fans of the gum were forced to give it up unless they were to bring them in from neighbouring countries “for personal consumption” and not for sale. So looking at these huge photographs of super close-ups of the gums that had been chewed might help to bring back some fond memories for some…or worse, horrific memories of gums sticking on shoes, bottom of hawker centres’ tables, lift doors, toilet seats…etc etc etc…If looking at just the photos won’t ease your pain of not being able to chew it legally here again, how about a carefully glass-encased precious blob of used gum?

Aiya, there were a couple more of those work which made it to Itchyfingers‘ honorable list of “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball, See-Again-Still-Catch-No-Balls-WAT-THE-H*LL-IS-THAT!!??!!” But since we were so confused looking and then pondering their significance and meaning, we forgotten to take photos of most of them to share with all. I would say some of them include a set of digitised household products which looked like some students’ work; an empty room that let you catch some breath after walking in from the interrogation look-alike area; a kitschy panel that looked as if it was stripped from our neighbouring country’s national day celebration banner that we din realised it was part of the biennale exhibit; a Matrix-inspired video of orange smoke using numerous cameras to shoot from 360 degrees; a book floating in a fish tank; photography of an animal’s bloodied severed head…and the many video installation which we din have the patience to finish watching. Personally I would only give a video installation at most five seconds to convey the message but most were either too long or simply couldn’t catch our immediate attention. I think it might be a better idea to showcase videos in some experimental film festivals, cos at least visitors could have proper seats to sit down comfortably to view the work from beginning to end, and these space could then be freed up for other exhibits.

Although there were many work who made it to Itchyfingers‘ “See-Liao-Catch-No-Ball…” list, for those of you who have not visited the Biennale, fret not, you are still strongly encouraged to do so as there are still many many other work worth seeing. Some of these had made it to another of Itchyfingers‘ list, which we would continue in the next post. 8) By the way, the above are just personal views and we welcome any comments or enlightenment.

I thought I just stepped into hell with the fires burning and uncomfortable

The floor pattern seemed to catch my attention more than the
landscape photography…

Also see related posts:
> The “Die-Die-Must-See”! – Singapore Biennale 2008 #2
> The “Die-Die-Must-See”! – Singapore Biennale 2008 #1


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