November 8, 2019 - National Gallery Singapore - Suddenly Turning Visible
November 8, 2019

National Gallery Singapore

David Medalla, Kumbum.

Suddenly Turning Visible
Art and Architecture in Southeast Asia (1969–1989)
November 19, 2019–March 15, 2020

National Gallery Singapore
1 St. Andrew's Rd
Singapore 178957
Hours: Monday–Sunday 10am–7pm,
Friday–Saturday 10am–10pm

T +65 6271 7000
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In 1981, the Filipino artist and curator Raymundo R. Albano coined the expression "suddenly turning visible" to describe the rapid transformation of Manila's urban landscape. The visibility that Albano was evoking was an aspirational one as the Philippines, along with much of Southeast Asia, had embarked on their most ambitious infrastructural projects so far. The driving force behind this rapid modernisation was the logic of developmentalism⁠—a desire for economic growth, in which art had a critical role. Artists and architects advanced varying perspectives towards this new vision, which will be explored in National Gallery Singapore's latest exhibition: Suddenly Turning Visible: Art and Architecture in Southeast Asia (19691989)

A first for the Gallery in unfolding the relationship between art and architecture in the region, Suddenly Turning Visible is a comparative survey of three influential art institutions: the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP, established 1969, Manila); the Alpha Gallery (1971–1988, Singapore); and the Bhirasri Institute of Modern Art (BIMA, 1974–1988, Bangkok). These institutions were sites of intersection between art and architecture while advancing interdisciplinary, experimental and collective practices. Across the three cities, artists came together to exchange ideas, freely engaging with international artistic movements such as abstraction and conceptual art, melding folk and vernacular traditions across the region into their work. In doing so, they aimed to shock, scare, surprise, or seduce the public into rethinking art and its role in society.

The primary method of analysis is by unravelling the fast-paced momentum of exhibitions and programmes propelled by these three institutions. A critical reappraisal of this sociocultural shift today involves considering a range of figures who operated in relation to the visual arts but not necessarily within its formal confines, including architects, cultural managers, futurists and poets. Suddenly Turning Visible also spotlights three pivotal architects from the region: Leandro V. Locsin, architect of the CCP; Mom Luang Tridhosyuth Devakul, who designed BIMA; and Lim Chong Keat, who⁠—alongside being an ardent supporter of Alpha Gallery⁠—was architect of the Singapore Conference Hall and Trade Union House. Besides providing a vital platform for artistic expression and discourse, they also married art and architecture as local artists were invited to incorporate their works into the buildings themselves. 

Suddenly Turning Visible operates within an expanded field of cultural studies, presenting about 50 artworks from the period alongside archives gathered from personal and institutional archives, restaged performances and newly commissioned works. Interviews conducted by the curators with individuals affiliated with each institution as well as detailed listings of events and happenings included in a reader that accompanies the exhibition augment the visual corpus. The publication functions as a reader of primary documents. It seeks to foster discussions on the lesser-known links between the cultural avant-garde and the role of institutions that aspire to be sites for artistic experimentation in Southeast Asia. 

In conjunction with the exhibition, a one-time-only restaging of ethnomusicologist José Maceda's Cassettes 100 (1971), a large-scale multimedia performance involving 100 participants. The performance was first presented at the CCP in 1971 and will make its Singapore premiere as part of the exhibition. The exhibition provides a deeply insightful look at  how artists in Southeast Asia attempted to complicate models of art born in the West, developed a structural commitment towards incorporating indigenous forms and techniques, and engaged actively with the social concerns that had emerged in the face of developmentalist thinking.

Curated by: Cheng Jia Yun, Joleen Loh, Seng Yu Jin and Shabbir Hussain Mustafa.

Suddenly Turning Visible: Art and Architecture in Southeast Asia (19691989) will be on show at National Gallery Singapore from November 19, 2019 to March 15, 2020.

National Gallery Singapore
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