Tropical Lab Archive

Tropical Lab Archive

LASALLE College of the Arts

December 9, 2021
Tropical Lab Archive

Since 2005, art students from universities in Bandung, Belgrade, Jakarta, Los Angeles, New York, Plymouth, Tokyo, among others, meet each other, work and live together in Singapore as part of the Tropical Lab. An experiment in art education and artistic exchanges, Tropical Lab was initiated by Milenko Prvački, former Dean of LASALLE’s Faculty of Fine Arts and current Senior Fellow in the Office of the President.

Although embedded in an art school, Tropical Lab is the result of “a continuous preoccupation with the creation of a different type of art school studio and subversion of the traditional curriculum,” said Prvački. In the span of two weeks, interspersed with field trips, seminars, studio work and a group exhibition, Tropical Lab participants are encouraged to step outside their comfort zone, embrace experimentation with ideas, materials and techniques, and immerse themselves into a collective journey of learning situated within the cultural context of Singapore.

More than 500 art students have taken part in Tropical Lab, the result of an expansive network of partner institutions across the world, including California Institute of the Arts, Central Academy of Fine Arts, Columbia University, Jakarta Institute of Arts, Nagoya University of Arts and Sciences, Silpakorn Institute, University of Arts (Belgrade), Massey University, University of Plymouth, RMIT and University of Washington.

An archive tracing the development of this international art camp and documenting its past 15 editions is now available online. This resource includes photographic documentation, video recordings of past editions, interviews that highlight the artistic development of key participants since their visit to Tropical Lab, impressions from academic representatives of participating universities, as well as the views of the Tropical Lab exhibitions’ former curators. The consolidation of this digital archive is part of a broader process of surveying Tropical Lab’s past activities and reflecting on the role of such an initiative in art education and developments in contemporary art. This year, the 15th edition of Tropical Lab took place in an exhibition format at LASALLE’s Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore bringing together a selection of 25 former Tropical Lab participants. Entitled Interdependencies, the exhibition captured the spirit of togetherness, cross-pollinations, contestations and frictions inherent in artistic exchanges such as Tropical Lab. 

Another key component of Tropical Lab is the annual peer-reviewed art journal ISSUE edited by Dr Venka Purushothaman, LASALLE’s Deputy President and Provost, in collaboration with the artist Susie Wong. Since its inaugural edition in 2012, ISSUE aligns thematically with Tropical Lab’s yearly research topics such as the politics of land, the poetics of translation and citation, and acts of erasure, to name a few. Interweaving commissioned essays, interviews, artistic interventions and a special exhibition section created by a guest curator, ISSUE provides a robust theoretical and artistic resource to Tropical Lab participants.    

“As Tropical Lab is a site of new discoveries, creative collaborations and participatory practices, ISSUE 10 is dedicated to unlocking the potency of Tropical Lab through reflections by individuals who intimately and critically evaluate its place in arts pedagogy and practice,” says Dr. Purushothaman. Previous editions of ISSUE can be accessed online.

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December 9, 2021

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