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“镜像”之外 ——关于策划新加坡当代艺术展

 

·之外

——关于策划新加坡当代艺术展

冯博一

        隶属于中国苏州工业园区的金鸡湖美术馆之所以主办,并由董蕾馆长、朱强执行馆长发起,我和陆新策划的这次新加坡当代艺术展,是缘于1994年5月中国与新加坡两国合资,共同营造了苏州工业园区。中、新两国在苏州工业园区经过十九年的经贸合作,构成了举办这次展览的背景与理由,也是一种契机与庆贺。尤为重要的是希望在中、新两国广泛经贸合作的基础上,通过策划、展示新加坡当代艺术作品,以增进苏州观众和文化艺术界的专业人士对新加坡当代文化艺术的了解、对话与沟通,以呈现出多维度地合作,并由此开始建立两国在文化艺术上广泛的交流方式与机制,甚至超越某种政治、意识形态的,在文化艺术之间的象征性关系。

        这次展览立足于“交流”的概念,以中国策展人“隔海相望”的“目光所及”于新加坡当代艺术的认知,强调的是从“在地”的文化、学术背景,以及策展经验,获得对“异地”当代艺术生态的考察、选择和判断,并提出策展理念和挑选参展艺术家和作品,使其成为一个艺术展览。这种方式,可能会延续或接受一些简单现成的“罐装思维”定式,但“自我”与“他者”所带来的距离感,反而对新加坡当代艺术的识别会产生另外的观感。所以,我们将这一交流项目的主题规定在“镜像”之外的“境象”之中的考虑和关键词。

       “交流”意味着沟通与了解。国际之间平等的艺术交流,不是坚守自己的地盘,坚持自己的理念并施加影响。交流意味着是对她国的艺术抱有学习、理解和宽容的态度。因为“他者”不可能象我们看自己那样来看我们,反之亦然。当然,我们不可能彼此相同。最好的情况和效果是把“交流”用来描绘、补偿这个不足或缺陷的词语,而不是试图打破你、我的界限。交流的快乐,不在于超越、克服彼此的障碍和隔阂,而是在于交流本身的现存差异、限制,以及在过程中出现的情况、感受。而正是在这一企图交流或难以交流的过程中,自然会深化彼此的相识与相知。对于中国的观众和艺术家来说,可以借此鉴赏新加坡的当代艺术,透过新加坡当代艺术的“镜、像”,让苏州的观众直接感知新加坡当代社会文化的处境与生态现象;对于新加坡艺术家来说,可能是第一次参加由中国的美术馆、中国的策展人主办、策划的展览,或许还是第一次到中国的苏州,感受其中的异域文化和当下日常的市井生活。从而,具有更广泛的视域和交流的多种可能性。抑或也是我们对国际性文化艺术交流,有一个带有乌托邦式的初衷和期盼。

       在我的印象里,新加坡的社会体制是一种民主与专制的混合体,本身承载着说不尽的争议。作为亚洲经济最发达的国家之一,其现代化的过程形成了一种所谓的“新加坡模式”。她像是一座“塑料的城市国家”,安全、整洁、秩序。同时,言论表达和自由在新加坡受到一定的限制。其中,法治社会的严格较为闻名。相对于中国来说,新加坡没有更多的社会转型所导致的社会动荡、混杂。所以,新加坡也是中国在改革开放,社会转型发展中的主要参照和借鉴之一,甚至受到很多中国政府官员的热捧。新加坡对部分中国人产生吸引力,大概出于两个原因。第一,新加坡是个以华人为主体,并发展成功的亚洲国家,中国人难免对其产生“同文同种”的一厢情愿认同,所能提供的希望和诱惑也就不言而喻了。第二,新加坡的成功是基于一种“威权发展模式”,但又行之有效地在政府主导下实现的,这给中国人一种多少有点期待,以及存在着不少认知上的 “美丽误解”。中国在改革开放30年中的快速发展与崛起,也相应形成和获得了一种新的发展模式,她既不是西方的,也不是中国传统的,与原来认定的社会主义也发生了相当程度的变异。当然,这与中国社会复杂性和文化的多层次有关,与中国所谓的经济发展后的现行政治体制的制约有着直接的关系。

        因此,这种我以为的共性、差异或特殊性,指涉的是现代化的进程中的处境、身份与归属等问题。那么,在新加坡模式下,是否也存有处于东、西方之间的夹缝中所导致的社会矛盾与冲突,而使新加坡当代艺术产生了一些现实的对立与迷乱。对这些问题的认识,其实多少代表了一些共同的境遇。如果过去不再存在——这对新加坡这样的地方是一个常见的比附——那么它需要被重新创造藉此与过去建立的新的联结。从这种特殊性角度来看,新加坡当代艺术以怎样的生态存在?或者说艺术创作是如何体现出这种特殊性关系?由此,我们策展的思路是试图针对新加坡在历史、记忆、现状之中,寻求一种新加坡艺术家与现实的依存关系,提示出具有新加坡当代艺术生态的代表性、特殊性的艺术家和参展作品。通过这次考察、策展的过程,我以为新加坡的当代艺术创作有两条基本线索:一条是以自身生存经验和生活处境中,寻求创作的构想和媒介依据,即从本土文化出发,或者是将母文化的资源予以利用,如杨子强(YeoCheeKiong)、潘家定(Ben Puah)、廖芳炎(Vincent Leow)等;另一条是他们生存与创作空间,在于不断地往来于国内、国外,一年中许多时间是在各国之间的在驻或流动,在非本土的文化环境中创作,并与所在地发生某种联系的作品。这既保持了一定的对外在或之间空间的向往,同时又延续了其本土文化和以往作品的脉络,而这种创作、展示已经不能简单地评价说他们的创作是从某种传统的现实的文化中派生出来的某种现代性,而是文化全球化的一种再现形式,也是生存空间位移后的一种本土与全球碰撞、磨合的结果。比较而言,这种“边界创作”代表着在全球化时代背景之下艺术话语发生了转换,“混合”与批判性的“协调”已成为主要的方式,抑或也预示着由“多元”与“混合”组合而成的一种艺术方式的生成。如何子彦(Ho Tzu Nyen)、王良吟(Amanda Heng)、李鸿辉( Michael Lee)、Sai Hua Kuan等。当然,或许因人而异,复杂而已,但绝不是简单的二元对立和相对的狭隘视角。因为,历史、现实,乃至于跨境域的艺术交流,往往比我们想象的更为复杂和微妙。文化乃一整体,是“平常事”,人们通过文化所提供的工具来表达自己,描述他们日常生活的经验,由此出发获得重建“自我叙述”的动力,并在努力建立本土文化诠释空间方面焕发出前所未有的创作活力。因此,基于特定的历史环境与政治因素,讨论新加坡的艺术,都会很有意识地追寻,甚至标榜这个研究对象的独特性、本土性的特殊风格,尽管这种“本土性“其实可以是由想像建构出来的。因为本土性并不是一个自足自存的实物,而是意识形态与视觉形象的客体。本土性的产生,不是追求日常性经验的认同与结合,或寻求两者的统一,而是有意识地对当下的日常经验的距离性反思,透过理解日常经验的殊异性来了解自身的处境。

        跨国文化交流总是不期然地去发现对方的特异之处。作为中国的策展人,尽管难以身临其境,但以这些新加坡艺术家通过个人化的艺术创作方式,转化为对现实生存状态的一种镜像折射,并附置于中国观众对新加坡社会历史、现实的了解,却反而构成了观看后对新加坡的多重想象。虽然或许会有所侧目、扭曲、变异,但在意向上是如此地接近。因为,有关“境、象”的“镜、像”,与真实的实在之间,也许能够形成我们与他们一样想看看镜像背面的境象,只不过我们需要“绕”着观看,而他们已经直接“穿”过去了,恰如这次展览作品所“成像、装置、行为”的这样、那样或其它一样。

 

 

Out of “Mirror,Image”

—— About the Singapore Contemporary Art Exhibition

Feng Boyi

 

THE Singapore Contemporary Art Exhibitionhosted by Suzhou Jinji Lake Art Museum, initiated by Leslie Dong,the director of the museum and Zhu Qiang, the executivedirector, and curated by Luxin and myself, has come about thanks to the joint venture between China and Singapore in May of 1994 to establish Suzhou Industrial Park. The 19-year-long economic and trade cooperation between the two countries in the Suzhou Industrial Park is the reason why the exhibition is being held and it is an opportunity to celebrate the success of this cooperation. Most significantly, on the basis of the wide range of bilateral economic and trade cooperation between China and Singapore, the exhibition aims to enhance the understanding of contemporary culture and the arts in Singaporein relation to the Suzhou audience and art professionals, and to create a room for dialogue and communication witheach other. In this way, we hope that this exhibition can contribute to deeper and more extensive exchanges between the two countries in the realm of the arts and culture, going beyond mere exchanges of political, ideological, or symbolic nature.

The exhibition is rooted in ideas of communication, exchange and dialogue. The Chinese curators “crossed the seas” to Singapore, used their “in-site” or existing cultural, academic backgrounds and curatorial experience to observe “off-site” contemporary art, to judge and to select art works and artists for the exhibition. It is entirely possible that this approach could produce some simplistic assumptions some “boxed” thinking; Still, the sense of ‘distance’ drawn out through this viewing of “ourselves” and “the other” ironically generates an alternative perception and recognition of what Singapore contemporary art means . It is for these reasons that, we have made the “realm “in the “mirror; the vision out of image” as the central theme.

"Communication" means exchange and understanding. The international dialogue among different nations arts should have a kind ofequality or parity, which means that we should ideally, hold an attitude of learning, tolerance and understanding towards another nation’s art. It is not about stubbornly persisting with our own ideas, being territorial,  exertingour influence onor assimilating the other, since"the other" cannotpossibly perceive us in the way we perceive ourselves, and vice versa. What is more, we can never be  identical tothe other. It is for this that we needcommunicationto express our differences and to compensate for these deficiencies, gaps or defects, - rather thanto continually speak in clichésof“breakingdown boundaries or barriers”. The joy that genuinecommunication brings us does not derive from overcomingor totally leveling all obstacles and barriers, but really springs fromrecognizing and responding to existing differences, limitations, and experiencing authentic feelings in the process. It is in the very process of attempting to communicate or experiencing the challenges and tensions of communicating that a kind of organic ‘deepening’ occurs so that we attain the most profound, and mutual, knowledge and revelation of the other. Chinese audiences and artists, through thiscommunication, have an opportunityto appreciate contemporary art in Singapore. Through the “mirror”and the “image”, they have a perception of the contemporary social and cultural situationsandand conditions in Singapore. For some of the Singaporean artists, it is their first time participating in an exhibition hosted by anart museum of China and curated by a curator based in China. Perhaps, it is also the first time that they have come to Suzhou , to experience a foreign culture and the current, daily pace of life. Thus, we acquire a more extensive range of sight and a diversity of communication possibilities from each other.  We, perhaps also carrycertain“utopian” or idealistic expectations  in such cross-border cultural and artistic communications.

Iam under the impression that the social system in Singapore is a blend of what some may consider “democratic” and “autocratic”elementsand this model has brought about much debate and discussions. As one of the most economically developed countries in Asia, Singapore has developed her modern process into a so-called "Singapore model”. She is like a "plastic” city-state, one that issafe, clean and orderly. At the same time, Singaporeis particularly reputed for its strict rule of lawand the approach it takes towards balancingindividual liberty vis-à-vis society’s interests at large.Compared to China, Singapore has not experienced as much social transformation resulting from social unrest, confusion, or even crisis.Singaporehas thus become the main reference point and paradigmin China’s reformssince it openeditself up to the world.It has also garnered much attention vis-à-vis many Chinese people, mainly for two reasons.Firstly, Singapore is a rapidly developing country in Asia with a majority population comprising ethnic Chinese. This inevitably leads Chinese people to develop a feeling of commonality since they share “the same language and same ancestral roots” with Singaporeans. Secondly, Singapore's success has been achieved through implementing a strong rule of law, and this was done effectively under the government’s leadership. This somehow gives Chinese people much to look forward to and the perpetuation of a ‘beautiful mis-perception’ . China's 30-year-long rapid development in the reform and opening-up, has brought fortha new model of development which is neither the Western model, nor is the traditional Chinese model.  This new model hasin fact veered considerably away from the original socialist model of development.  Such significant change can be attributed to thecomplexities and multi-layered nature of Chinese society and culture, as well as the so-called economic development constraints of the existing political system.

It appears to me that there are similarities, differencesand certain particularitiesin how the process of modernization in both countries hasaffected an individual’s ’s socio-political environment,identity and sense of belonging. This leads me to wonder whether, like China, the developmentalmodel of Singaporehas been similarly hemmed in between opposing Western and Eastern influences, and consequently whether it has had to grapple withresulting contradictions and conflicts not only at the socio-cultural level, but also withinthe Singapore contemporary art scene.  Responding to  these issuescan be said to be a shared predicament for both countries.  If the past no longer existed  -  a common rumination for Singapore –then reconstruction of a history is needed in order to  establishnew ways of linking with the past.Fromthis particularperspective, how does contemporary art of Singapore prevail?  Or alternatively, how does contemporary art creationin Singapore embody  this particular?dilemma? As a result, our curatorial methodology was to identify, from the frameworks of history, collective memory and the status quo, a sense ofthe Singaporean artist and to discern a kind of sensibilityandrepresentative qualities that would exemplify some aspects ofcontemporary art in Singapore.In the course of organizing this exhibition, I found  two principal strains in contemporary art creation in Singapore: one strain extractsfrom theartist’s own  experiences andthe realities of their situation, drawing fromlocal culture, or utilizing resources from a“mother culture”The artists in this strain, create allegories, their own imaginary reality-realm and constructs. The artists of this kind are Yeo Chee Kiong, Ben Puah, Vincent Leow and etc.; The otherstrain are works from artists who constantly have residencies at home and abroad. Their survival and creative space, emerge from the tensions and between the domestic and foreign. Their art creation is based on non-native cultural environments and somehow maintains  a link with the places where they have residencies.In this regard, their art conveysit’s a yearning for an ‘outer’, outlying space while inheriting local culture and contexts. We can no longer make simplisticpronouncements that their contemporary art production hassequentially evolved from aclear lineage of local art traditions and practices. a. Their art production, is in factmarked by the consequences ofcultural globalizationand emerges from the contestations between the local and the global. In fact”Boundary creations”of this kind haverepresented artistic discourse in the age of globalization. The "hybrid" and critical "negotiation" have become a major  strategy, which may indicatea new art form that combines themultimedia and the “hybrid”. The represented artists are Ho Tzu Nyen,Amanda Heng, Michael Lee and Sai Hua Kuan. Of course, this may vary from person to person, because history, reality, and even cross-border artistic exchanges, may be more complex and subtle than we can imagine. Culture is seen as  an entirety, "the ordinary things" that people can use to express themselves, and to describe the experiences in their daily lives, thus to gain the impetusto reconstruct the "self-described". Therefore, in discussing  Singapore art, based on the specific historical circumstances and political factors, we consciously seek out the unique, the“local” elementsof its art, although this "local" element may actuallybe an imaginaryconstruct.The “Local” isnot a self-sufficient, objective phenomena, it is the manifestation of ideology and shaped by the visual image. To be local, is toreflect upon and integrate the day-to-day experiences of that localitywith self-consciousness. . By understanding the uniqueness and particularities of these daily experiences, people gain a deeper insight of their locality..

Cross-cultural exchangeinvariably involves discovering the uniqueness oftheother.  Although it is difficult for the Chinese curators to be fullyimmersedin Singapore art, these Singaporean artists have evolved a highly personalized creation that offers us a mirror,which is a refraction of their reality and their conditions of survival and existence. With the Chinese audience’s understanding of Singapore’s social history and the reality of their conditions, we are able to arrive atmultiple imaginings, projections and constructs of Singapore through this exhibition. There are inevitably some“twists”mutations, some variances but the intentionsget progressively  closer and truer. Both sides share the common yearning to see the reality or realm that lies beyond the mirror..It is just that in ourcase, we continue to observe from the periphery whereas, for them, they have penetratedthesurface plane into the realm in the mirror, as apparent in,“the image, the installation, the performance” in this exhibition.

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