troublemaker: "a person who habitually causes difficulty or problems, especially by inciting others to defy those in authority".
So Making Trouble, my two-year project (part of The Substation's Associate Artist Research Programme) is starting with the first series of eight interviews happening in the beginning of October! The project aims at investigating, articulating and documenting the intersections between visual art and socio-cultural activism in Singapore since the year 2000. I'm excited about all the awesome people who have consented be interviewed and am really happy that Lisa Li is onboard with me, helping with essential research and transcription.
Loo Zihan is the other artist-in-residence at the same time, and I am thrilled about that too. We're going to be exhibiting together next March at The Substation Gallery as part of a collaborative work-in-progress show and I'm looking forward to it immensely.
I'm not quite sure what shape my work is going to take, but I do know that a large part of what is going to be exhibited is content from the upcoming interviews I'm conducting. The entire process is supposed to serve as a historical investigation and qualitative study of visual artists who occupy space both in the creative community as well as civil society; visual arts practitioners whose creative impulse is rooted in the desire to affect change. I'd like to map a visible network of the abovementioned creative practitioners, events and spaces to create a timeline of events which highlight engagements between civil society and the visual arts. I am also hoping to document the histories and roles of spaces that have been either established or hacked in order to create spaces in which non-dominant discourse, creative or otherwise, can transpire.
The longer I am here, the more I feel many of our creative communities are invested in social and cultureal activism, and yet much of phenomena that comes out of this, is not documented and often forgotten. For as long as I can remember, there have been many exhibitions and events concerning issues of human rights, animal rights, gender and sexuality, environmental issues, etc and yet, (as far as I know) this specific type of action has not been archived as a line of history in and of itself. That so much work done by the visual arts community in the name of socio-cultural activism might be undermined by simply not being "important" enough to document/remember, has been eating at me for awhile.
I am also interested in the tensions and possibilities that arise when artistic provocation meets institutional support. To what extent are counter-cultural values compromised or devalued when artists engage with socio-political causes via state platforms, state-sponsored venues and state infrastructure? To what extent does Singapore’s famed “climate of fear” affect the ways in which socially-conscious artists make work or negotiate OB-markers put in place by state-sponsored bodies?
Another tangential issue I am keen to discuss is the role of autonomous collectives and social media in the development of contemporary cultures of resistance. How do individuals and groups develop and cultivate new ways of understanding, articulating and manifesting resistance to dominant hegemonies and what are the role(s) of creative practice within these methods of resistance? And can collective action function effectively without manufacturing new and equally harmful hegemonies? How are modes of art-making employed in the everyday in an effort to articulate autonomy from dominant cultural hegemonies? (e.g. zine-making, DIY culture, etc)
It's a lot of information and probably way to many questions, but the timeline and documentation are the main issues driving the project. Everything else are issues I am keen to learn about in the process.
Do you have any other issues to you believe are relevant to this project? Do you have any questions you would like answered? Are there any visual arts events dealing with social issues that have occured since the year 2000 but that no one seems to remember?
Is this concept of "artist as troublemaker" relevant to Singapore and if so, to what extent?