25 March 2011

Save Singapore Art History by Visiting an Exhibition 参观艺术展览--救救我们的新加坡美术史


http://blogs.todayonline.com/forartssake/2011/03/23/we-rat-on-koh-nguang-how-and-his-newspaper-collection/
We RAT on Koh Nguang How and his newspaper collection!
Posted at 10:40 am under Singapore,Uncategorized

(Photo courtesy of SB2011)

Artists In The News, Koh Nguang How’s work for the Singapore Biennale, is an explosion of newspapers, of words and images, of facts and opinions. It’s, as everyone knows by now, three decades worth of art reportage (mainly visual arts) in the English and Chinese newspapers.

It is a kind of spectacle in itself. You feel a sense of awe stepping inside the space at SAM 8Q and being confronted by that much material. The ubiquity of newspapers is heightened and concentrated into sheer visual force.

But of course, that’s only part of it. It is also a quiet, unassuming work. One that urges you to linger. And then you notice just how well your experience is framed – on one side, the archivist’s “office”, the other, a newspaper report on Tang Da Wu’s Earthworks, an installation at the National Museum Art Gallery in 1980 that was prematurely taken down because the museum director had some issues with the contemporary work. Between these two points, an entire, free-flowing discussion on Singapore’s contemporary art scene occurs within this place where time and space are compressed.

Standing in the middle of this maelstrom of words is Koh as performer, witness, and guide.

Last week we had a chat with the 47-year-old curator/artist/archivist. Read on.


***




How do you feel looking at your archive exhibition and seeing the reactions of people?

Of course I’m quite surprised too to see so many news (reports) up on the wall. They are not like that in my flat. The audience keeps asking me if I have them all pinned up in my house. The Biennale allowed me the opportunity to spread them out and group them physically, instead of just in the computer or in my head.

And of course, so many news don’t make it to the wall. It’s not practical or possible. Some artists ask me how come I don’t put up the news about them. Of course I just laugh.

I have my own criteria, and it’s quite random, too. A piece of news comes up, and then the next piece, which is related, goes up next to it. A third one, if it’s not related, goes to another wall. In the end, I have several groupings. The audience would see the relationship if they look at the news next to one another. I don’t have to put captions here and there.

Audience-wise, it’s from art students to old artists who I’ve not met for many years since I left the museum. They all remember me as a museum staff. But it’s good to see them again. Students are very important for me. One of the purposes of having this archive is also learning and sharing, especially since I’m from the privileged background of having worked for a museum doing art archiving. Not many materials are available to the schools.

Is there a kind of catharsis?

I’m happy that it’s like a real archive – and I’m the unpaid archivist. There’s a lot of satisfaction talking about the past with old artists and the young ones who are getting into the art world and telling them there’s a lot of things in the news that they can rely on.

So do you trust the news?

No. I don’t trust them completely. I notice mistakes made in names, dates, misquotes – I personally sometimes avoid certain journalists whom I do not trust or have proven to be not a reliable writer.

But then, ironically, the fact that you’re putting all these up on display on the walls – it’s a kind of stamp of approval in a way.

Well the title is Artists In The News, but I’ve added another line, which is Artists Not In The News? I try to balance the so-called imperfections. Journalists have also admitted that the press cannot cover every event that happens.

And yet, I noticed, you see the certain artists appearing once or twice…?

I have consciously removed or reduced – if one particular artist has 10 articles, I don’t put the 10 articles up. I just choose one, which I think is important that the public sees. Not how a certain artist wins an award but maybe like how he started or things like that.

In a way you’re also “editing” Singapore’s art history.

Yah, I’m like an editor. I have the privilege of selecting what goes up on the wall, can make some people even more famous. That’s what the press does sometimes. This is an exhibition, actually of the press, how they report, how they write, how they photograph even.

Has much changed?

Of course, through the years there have been so many different writers and actually I wanted to list out all the writers on my blackboard but I ran out of space so I erased all the names. Instead of listing the names of the artists, I had wanted to list the names of the writers. Through the years, some were very important, like TK Sabapathy, T Sasitharan, Susie Wong.

Has the press’ attitudes toward art changed through the years?

The popular type of question is Is It Art? It’s still the same. Of course if it’s the same editor, you get to see the same headlines. But maybe, during the last decade or so, (you saw) less controversial headlines appear about “crimes” committed by artists or artists in trouble with the arts council or the police. Previously if you go back to the `50s, `60s, `70s, artists were arrested. In the `80s, `90s, maybe it’s nudity or even urine. (laughs) Of course gay artists come out and have exhibitions and they’re reported in the media too. This was only in the `90s.

Do you now find that the fact that there’s less of that kind of controversial writing is a sign that local media has finally “got it” or understood?

Well, if you look at the change in the media, the people in the media, they’re probably younger too? Well, the older ones are probably retired already. And of course the level of understanding of art internationally. When Singapore gets into the international art arena and sends artists to international art events isn’t it that we have to be more open? And when you invite artists here for your own Biennale, shouldn’t you also not try to censor? That much? (laughs)

Any other observations?

It would seem like we don’t have to wait for one article per week, which used to be the way. Now you may get two, three articles. Like the Chinese papers sometimes have four articles in one day. They’ve increased the coverage.

Your show is very “analogue”. But you’re also on Facebook. There has been much talk about the future of the physical newspaper. What are your thoughts on new and online media? There’s a bit of irony there that here you are with three decades worth of print – and counting — and art writing has exploded online.

Firstly, on my Facebook account, when the show officially opened, I only posted a photo of the entrance, the sign board. I never showed the inside. I want people to come and experience this.

Can we rewind a bit and give us a mini-refresher course on your ongoing Singapore Art Archive Project and its connection to Artists In The News?

This selection of newspapers for the Biennale is part of my SAAP, which of course is part of my collection since 30 years ago. Besides newspapers, I have art catalogues, books, posters, relics, objects found in exhibitions. Here in the show I have three relics. I also have photographs that document mostly performance art and installation events for arts festivals, I also do some audio recordings of artists interviews.

Are they here?

No. That will be for the full SAAP collection for maybe four times this space. I did Errata (Errata: Page 71, Plate 47. Image caption. Change Year: 1950 to Year: 1959; Reported September 2004 by Koh Nguang How) in p-10. That was only catalogues and books.

In the Chinese coverage it was mentioned that I did that six years ago, and this is the so-called “part two” with newspapers. What’s the “errata” this time around? Tang Da Wu’s Earthworks.

It’s not a print mistake but a mistake in (not) acknowledging it as art. It has to be put back in history as art. That was a work that was not accepted 30 years ago by the museum director. After 30 years, we have gone through all these new art policies, promotions, artists emerging and dying, 30 years of art news – and we go back to Da Wu’s work again. Is his work still valid or not valid in today’s mindset about contemporary art?

And this “office” of yours in this space –

It is to me a real archive. I’m the manager, the archivist, the designer. I allow the audience to come in and if they have a request or question, I will try to solve it. Some audience don’t read Chinese. So for example I have a Chinese article of (Ng) Eng Teng, that person can’t identify it easily. Then I’ll point it out to him or her.

At the same time, there’s a performative element to what you’re doing.

Yeah, well, it’s live art for two months. (laughs) The audience and me will create the energy, but it’s only seen by the camera – the surveillance camera (he points to CCTV camera in the room)

Were you conscious of that?

I don’t care.

I mean it’s also another kind of “survey”. Literally a surveillance of the art history within this space. So anyway, to clarify, the idea of archiving reports on art started 30 years ago?

I was doing art as a subject in JC, but I was in the commerce stream. Every student did art until at least secondary 2. And art was something I liked but I didn’t do O Level art. Then I flunked my commerce in so I had to repeat. Somehow I knew I could do art as a subject as an alternative to maybe accountancy.

Which is the opposite of what people thought back then.

So I was given a test by my teacher because she wanted to make sure we can pass. Because my college had a 100 per cent passing rate in art and she didn’t want create history by failing art. (laughs) So anyway I got to do art and I was happy doing it. But it’s very simple and it was all skill-based — nowadays people have to do art history.

And then after my A-level art and the army, I joind the National Museum Art Gallery as a museum assistant. I helped the curator and assistant curator of art. In my job, I met artists like Tang Da Wu in 1986 – he was invited to give a talk on contemporary art. I was helping him with his slides, the lighting, and listened to his lecture. Later I went to the museum’s newspaper clippings and found Earthworks.

So your encounter of Earthworks is very much like how we encounter the works reported about here in this space.

Correct, only news clippings. Later, when I knew him personally, he told me the story behind Earthworks and the problem that he faced, that the show was prematurely terminated.

In a sense you’re one of us and not coming from a position higher than your audience.

Yes, I imagine this is the future, that’s why I don’t have much captions or clues regarding this important news. (In a sense) this is the future, I am the future, you are the future audience or user of the newspapers. There is no Da Wu around to tell us, only newspapers.

So when did you start the collection?

1980 as a student, without thinking of whether I would work for the museum or not. If you do essay writing, you probably have got to have some clippings. Even more if you’re an art student.

But you don’t just collect clippings, you collect entire newspapers.

No, I used to clip. I used to cut. But, as I said in Facebook, I cannot cut straight, which is quite true. Because I didn’t have a proper cutter or cutting mat. And then later, when I started to provide things for people, I realised there were no dates (in my clippings). This was in the `90s when I became an artist and started providing things for writers and museums.

So there are stacks of your clippings somewhere?

Yes, but I never put my cuttings in scrapbooks. Some of them are in boxes, some are in my house. I chose not to show too many old clippings here, because it’s hard to handle irregular shapes.

At what point did you realize you had an archive going on?

When I started to help the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in `96. I was invited to be a coordinator for an exhibition called The Birth Of Modern Art In Southeast Asia: Artists and Movements. That job allowed me to meet artists whom I’d never met during my museum work. I was also providing biodatas of artists – and I realised I didn’t have enough. Not even enough to conclude whether the artist is alive or dead! (laughs)

But that’s a full 16 years between 1980 and 1996. You mean for that long you weren’t conscious of an archive?

No, when I was in the museum, I got to read the clippings done by the librarian anyway. I was still collecting.

Is there no gap at all in your collection?

I try to ask my mother or father to buy (when I’m not around). Those six months in Japan for example, she continued to buy newspapers for me. So as long they continued to buy – because I stopped subscribing even though I still buy in the mornings – that when I return home I would go through the pile. Of course it’s not as good as reading them every day.

Weren’t you tempted to sell them to the karang guni?

At times yes, the classifieds. (laugsh) That’s the first thing I would sacrifice. But I still have some classifieds. Especially the Chinese ones. Obituaries are with the classifieds in the Chinese newspapers. English papers, classifieds are purely classifieds. If I do throw away, it’s the Straits Times classifieds.

And the ones that are featured in this exhibition?

From section two or three. If it’s section 1, it depends on whether art makes it to the front page, for example art policies or art “crimes”.

Do you consider yourself an artist or an archivist?

I am an artist. I use photography, I do mixed media collage, normally with my own photographs. I do installation, mostly site-specific installation, in the Substation Garden, in the gallery…

My practice for residencies is archiving for two or three months, to use the material for my installation. Then later, when I did Errata, that’s using art history material for my installation. It’s a two-in-one thing. It’s functional art.

Prior to this, the last solo show you had was Errata?

Yes. But of course I had The Artist Village show, the Drawing (as Form) show (in 2009), where I showed 200 over photographs.

I had wanted to show my photos of performance art at Substation once but I didn’t propose. If I have the chance, the next show will be photography from my collection. My documentation of art work.

The first one was catalogues and books, this one is newspapers. I hope to show the three components of my archive.

I actually wanted to do three shows with p-10 – first was Errata, the second on relics or objects and the third one one photography. But only one was realised.

You mentioned before that the fate of this newspaper archive is uncertain, that you’re thinking of letting it go and that no one seems to be interested in acquiring it.

Uhm, I don’t know. So far there’s no real offer to help me extend the life of this archive, to host it after the Biennale. But definitely the audiences have been saying that it’s something very useful for their studies, for their research. They would like to have such a place.

It’s interesting that in the Biennale context, it’s a work of art. But the reactions of audiences are based on its potential as source of very specific information. Of data.

Of course this is presented as an artwork, but I’m also the archivist in the artwork. So I have two roles. The artist has done the work already, now I’m the archivist. I’m performing the role of the archivist now. Towards the end of the Biennale, the artist will pack up.

And…?
Some institution was actually working with me to host it but now they have stopped. They withdrew acknowledgement credits in the Biennale. Now I was told that they will only spend for the carton boxes, no digitization, no further loan for five years… So I mentioned on my Facebook that I would throw them (the archive) because I’ve lost faith, I’ve lost hope.

Which is rather painful because in a way, this is three decades of you having hope.

Yah, and also in a way I’m continuing the hope of the artists before me. In fact there are more than 30 years (worth of art reporting). I say 30 years because as a story I can start from my Junior College years. But I have in my collection, newspapers from the `50s, `60s, `70s — they are from the older collectors and the artists. More than 70 years worth of Singapore art history.

And then, you’re very much aware that even as you collect, in two months time there’s the possibility of the archive disappearing. It’s a very sadomasochistic performance.

In a way, I look at this collection, the people who come, the story behind these newspapers, the history behind, I believe, whoever makes the choice of not supporting this project will regret it. This is our history, our heritage. I personally feel that they’re all with me – the artists who have already passed away, the artists who are no more in the news, they are on my side.

***

PS, I sent the transcript to Koh to verify his responses and, meticulous as ever, he elaborated on the Errata exhibition:

Errata went to NUS and Singapore History Museum after p-10. The finale at SHM had artist Chua MT and the author Kwok KC confirming the date of errata was 1959 in a forum. What a perfect situation and ending for Errata!

3 versions of Errata:

2004 ERRATA: Page 71, Plate 47. Image caption. Change Year: 1950 to Year: 1959;
Reported September 2004 by Koh Nguang How, p-10, Singapore

2005 Errata at NUS: Exploring Singapore Art History, a new version of the ERRATA show in 2004, co-organised by p1-0 & University Scholars Programme, National University of Singapore, at NUS Central Library. (2 to 16 March)
(The show is accompanied by a series of presentations and workshops)


2005 Errata: Page 71, Plate 47. Image caption. Change Year: 1950 to Year: 1959;
Reported September 2004 by Koh Nguang How
Presented by the Singapore History Museum and Curated by p-10 (15 Aug – 25 Sep)

Like I said in the papers previously, best work at this Biennale.

Tags: art reportage, Earthworks, Errata, Koh Nguang How, Singapore art, Singapore Biennale, Susie Wong, T Sasitharan, Tang Da Wu, TK Sabapathy

3 comments:

  1. Save Singapore Art History by Visiting an Exhibition
    参观艺术展览--救救我们的新加坡美术史
    Mar 20, '11 3:42 PM
    for everyone

    Start: Mar 13, '11 10:00a
    End: May 15, '11 6:00p
    Location: SAM-8Q/ 8Q当代美术馆3楼展览厅 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555 Phone: (65) 6332 3222 8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535 Phone: (65) 6332 3200

    Koh Nguang How
    Artists in the News, 2011 Singapore
    Newspaper archive (Work in Progress)

    Date : 13 Mar to 15 May 2011
    Time:
    Mon to Sun 10.00am - 7.00pm (Last admission is at 6.15pm)
    Fri 10.00am - 9.00pm
    Venue: SAM-8Q, level 3

    Nguang How art work compiled and presented 80 boxes of newspapers (a portion of his collection) - containing an astounding three decades of news about the local arts scene.

    He said that he might consider destroying the newspaper he collected for the past 30 years after the exhibition. One of the reason is that he might not able to support this project with his 3-room HDB flat as his archive room. According to him, no national agent or private foundation willing to fund this project. You can help him by finding a funding agent or at least visit the exhibition to see what we have miss or we might lost forever.

    Nguang How is one of the pioneer of eye e city.


    许元豪
    2011年新加坡双年展 报章中的艺术家(进行中),2011年, 装置艺术

    日期:2011年3月13日至5月15日
    时间:星期一至天上午 10.00 - 下午7.00 (最后入场时间下午6.15)
    星期五上午 10.00 - 下午9.00
    地点: SAM-8Q 8Q当代美术馆3楼展览厅

    元豪展出了80箱他收集了30年关于本地艺术的中英文报章

    元豪说他考虑将三十年的心血在展览后烧毁,部分原因是他的三房式HDB组屋已经不能负荷他的收藏。据他表示,到现在为止,没有政府机构或者私人基金会愿意支持他的计划。如果你想帮助他,你可以帮助他找到赞助机构,或者至少及时参观他的展览,看看我们新加坡的艺术史将会永远失去什么。

    元豪是城市的眼睛的创办会员之一。

    extracted from eye e city Website
    转载自城市的眼睛网站
    http://eyeecity.multiply.com/calendar/item/10066/10066

    ReplyDelete
  2. Koh Nguang How
    Koh Nguang How is a artist, archivist, and curator who has been documenting and collecting materials relating to contemporary art in Singapore since the late 1980s. Koh's documentation of the Artists Village between 1989 and 1999 has become a significant historical resource. In 2005 he established the Singapore Art Archive Project, presenting a selection from it as part of SB2011. Based on the extensive collection that swamps his HDB flat, and a trove of art news clipped from Singapore’s English and Chinese language newspapers, Koh will set up within the gallery an active archival laboratory that replicates the configuration of his apartment. The project merges personal research, private and public space, and public enquiry.
    Born 1963, Singapore; lives and works in Singapore

    extracted from
    http://www.singaporebiennale.org/artists_iq.php

    ==============================
    Top picks at the Biennale
    We pick out our 15 must-see works at the Singapore Biennale 2011
    by Mayo Martin

    ARTISTS IN THE NEWS
    by Koh Nguang How (SAM 8Q)

    The best work at the Singapore Biennale comprises 80 boxes of newspapers - containing an astounding three decades of news about the local arts scene. Painstakingly compiled and presented by The Artist Village artist/archivist Koh Nguang How, entering his room (turned into his personal archival office for the duration of the Biennale) is a humbling experience. On one of the walls is a quote: "I am not the master of my materials - I do not wish to control them. I am interested in making a relationship between me and my material, not in dominating completely." They were uttered by iconic artist Tang Da Wu decades ago, but it could very well have been Koh's. Artists In The News is not just a triumph of dedication and love; neither it is just one singular artwork - it is the sum of Singapore's contemporary art history crammed into two rooms.

    extracted from today online
    http://www.todayonline.com/Arts/EDC110315-0000220/Top-picks-at-the-Biennale

    ========================
    A first Look! Singapore Biennale 2011, Open House.
    15/03/11

    Artists in the News, 2011 | Koh Nguang How, Singapore
    Newspaper archive (Work in Progress)* SAM 8Q, Level 3

    I typically dislike artwork based on found objects. Unless the state of the object has been somewhat changed in a manner that aids the concept of the artwork. This however was an exception. As I mentioned earlier the Biennale wanted to provide insight into the ‘processes’ involved in the creation art. And this project really challenges what you would consider to be art, granted we are talking about contemporary art here. Aright firstly, it involves documentation. And secondly at first look it seems like a banal display of an archival wallpapering the walls of a reproduction of the artist’s own home. Take a closer look and you would see otherwise. The sheer intelligence and ability of this artist to see and present connections is admirable. Even girl next-door Candice Breitz of Factum could not help but state that she was impressed by the commitment and historical importance of this cleverly disguised political piece. If you care about art in Singapore, then you do certainly have to go visit him. And I say ‘visit’ because he will be there everyday in a corner makeshift office by the door till the day the Biennale closes. This is a piece where you will be able to see what an artistic process sometimes does to an artist and vice versa what an artist can do with a process.

    You will also be able to see photographs and documentation of The Artist Village of which he was a member.

    extracted from artitute.com
    http://artitute.com/2011/03/15/a-first-look-singapore-biennale-2011-open-house/

    ReplyDelete
  3. 新加坡双年展2011报道 为艺术 许元豪文件展藏报纸展报纸
    (2011-03-15)
    ● 吴启基 报道

      我们常常会说,艺术的创作和推广有两种人,一种是路,一种是桥。后者指的是展览的策展人、评论者、研究者和记者,很多人心目中的许元豪(47岁),好像是个艺术家,其实,他是一位美术资料的收集者、陈列者和策展人。这种人,在德国叫着“文件展艺术家”(Ducumanta Artist),他们的身份,大多在创作与整理之间,有些也涉及研究。

    据许元豪说,他并没有从事研究。但他做的工作却比谁都要烦人,他从1980年开始,对本地出版的美术方面报道收之藏之,内容包括画家个展、活动及专门介绍等。在这期间,除了有七年时间,他在博物馆画廊负责美术方面的全职工作,其他时间,全部“卖”给了美术资料的收集和收藏。

      作为艺术个体户,他得到的,只是不断的失业和不断花钱及被家人非议。真的,那些容易发霉受潮的大量纸张,排山倒海而来,究竟要如何安排、处置才好?

    ■连车资也缺

      他的这项工作,没有固定收入,有时还弄到连车资也缺缺,在他的家里,一叠叠高低大小不等的报纸,逼得他无立足之地。长期的窘况是:既得不到家人的谅解,更没有什么人愿意和他联手合作。人们只在需要借用资料时,才会摸上门来向他伸出援手。

    以收藏地点来说,30年来,他日收月收,起先是和母亲的四房式组屋“抢地盘”,后来以单身汉买下一间三房式组屋,从此家里塞满本地各类美术、文学、报业的断烂朝报。最近发生的事是:今年的新加坡双年展有意要展出他的“珍藏”,在为数至少3000份中选出一半一一装进为数80个箱子,邻居才“忽然”发现,原来楼上住着一位神秘的“报纸收藏家”。

      谈到收报剪报癖好,原来,许元豪受的是英文教育,后来进入南洋初级学院,课堂作业需要剪报,当时他外祖父读《南洋商报》。他高中自买英文报,服完兵役进入博物院画廊工作,为了工作上的需要和提高自己对艺术的了解和认识,开始注意报纸上发表的美术文字和报道。他买报纸,有时是一次购买6至10份。

      为什么要买那么多份?他认真地回答:“如果不马上买下那么多份,等到后来要买,可能走遍整个义顺组屋区,有钱也买不到,那岂不是更麻烦?像最近逝世的画家陈世集,我知道当年他是六人木刻创作展的成员之一,现在是六人已剩一半。有六个人我就必须存留六份关于这个展出的剪报,有时还可以送给有需要的人。很多时候,我也为了一位画家的讣告,而买下华文报。”

      作为艺术个体户,许元豪发挥了一个独立研究者的精神。像他的一项展览“新加坡美术史”(Channels & Confluences—A History of Singapore Art)勘误展,展览是从本地画家蔡名智油画《上国语课》创作年代的“勘误”出发。

    ■有些资料其实已失传
      画作的创作年份,应该是1959年,而并非如某些研究者所说的1950年,展出是由研究员通过提问方式,陈列五组资料和155个“证据”,让大家参与讨论,最后才一起查明真相。期间涉及研究的方法和本地美术研究一些被长期忽略的课题。甚至要为当年一些画会平反和正名。他也曾为新加坡的文件展出过力,当时“以一个月的时间,准备了50年的新加坡艺术发展历史。”

      1996年对他的收藏工作是一大转捩点,他受邀担任日本福冈亚洲美术馆“东南亚近代美术的诞生”展览协调工作半年,发现资料的重要意义和作用。他了解,若要以东南亚艺术为研究对象,就须累积更多更丰富的资料。可是,“像我这样的独立研究员,要找回资料和建立研究的基地,哪有这么容易?当时就发现有些资料其实已经失传。”他说:“在新加坡,那些被人忽视的人和事,将永久被人忽视。”

      许元豪的报纸文件展,分成几个小区:艺术教育、艺术空间、艺术政策、新媒体创作、热门艺术话题、艺术拍卖等。

    ●日期:已开始,展至5月15日;地点:8Q当代美术馆3楼展览厅

    门票:展出地点全日套票为成人10元,乐龄与学生半价;公众可在新加坡美术馆及8Q当代美术馆、国家博物馆和旧加冷机场售票处购票  

    转载自早报网
    http://www.zaobao.com.sg/fk/fk110315_016.shtml

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