Note 4: Sequel-making

It is why the artists of the project (some alongside new collaborators) have been invited to return to the forested areas that they had once dwelled. To engage with the other-than-human domains of the forests through their own practices and predilections be it through foraging, ritual-making or movement. In the process opening up possibilities to what Donna Haraway refers to as the emergent realisations of worlds, not just worldviews.

The artists have been asked to revisit the metaphorical (but also literal) fruits from their past labour.

They’re making sequels!

Though unlike their blockbuster counterparts are not for the lack of originality, but rather to trace us back to our points of origin. In acts that paradoxically, creates lineages forward, rather than backwards in time. To re-seed, re-cultivate and see these works through to their next stages of evolution.

Follow their lead as they seek out the king of fruits, choreograph bodies to the woods, echo-locate our way along spirit paths and visit a future beyond humans. Allowing us to appreciate ways of attending to the living logics that have always been part of how forests speak, commune and move through “us”.

08.01

Curator’s Notes

09.01

Curator’s Notes

10.01

Curator’s Notes

Note 3: Pandemic green

The pandemic has given forests a new lustre in our newly-confined worlds. The lush green openness a balm to our Corona-weary minds.

“When your eyes are tired from the monitor, look out to the big green tree to rest your eye” – a trope, a stereotype revived to reinvigorate us in these pandemic times.

As we flock to the wide embrace of nature it beggars the question as to how our understanding and relationship with forests are built so unilaterally. The divorce brought about by modernity between man and nature is such that we only ever look across the divide through the lens of science, consumption, recreation, etc.

The forest no longer a site of communion, but an only-for-human space for extraction and pursuit.

08.01

Curator’s Notes

09.01

Curator’s Notes

11.01

Curator’s Notes

Note 2: Life / Signs

In a tropical rainforest, durian trees are often a tell-tale sign of the proximities of bats. Twines and branches point to possible simian superhighways. While holes in the ground suggest the presence of wild boars. Semiotically, if we were to expand upon the notion of selfhood by explaining life as a sign process, then as anthropologist Eduardo Kohn contends, forests are in fact an “ecology of selves”.

Then to answer the question posited by the title of this text and project, forests do indeed talk all the time; amongst its other-than-human inhabitants, within and out of itself, and to us.

And like the most contentious pockets of the Internet, here at the equatorial rainforests (more than anywhere else) the volume and complexity of the chatter is tuned up to the nth degree. How then have we managed to tune so much of it out?

08.01

Curator’s Notes

10.01

Curator’s Notes

11.01

Curator’s Notes

Note 1: If Forests Talk?

I sit here in front of my laptop with the temptation to begin this text with an assortment of platitudes; about the wondrous nature of forests, what they are, what they mean and what they represent. Platitudes that are like dewdrops condensed from the sheer complexities that forests constitute through their roles in the story that we call deep time.

 

PBS Eons have taught me that if we were to trace the sylvan origins of our species, we’d find forests forming the settings of the early defining moments in our evolution.

The forest canopies that our early ancestors dwelled upon. The forest grounds that our distant relatives stood upon when they eventually descended from the trees. Even their absence as forests gave way to grassland is believed to have spurred us to loss our fur coverings as we evolved to run more efficiently as hunters.

All this is to say that even at such short evolutionary timelines (roughly five million years) and narrow species-specific perspectives (humanity), forests have so much to tell us about ourselves, but much more everything else.

09.01

Curator’s Notes

10.01

Curator’s Notes

11.01

Curator’s Notes

The Lover, The Excess, The Ascetic and The Fool

*For best experience play video with the Youtube app to enable mobile gyroscope

by Yeo Siew Hua

The vulgar romantic, in its undying love, ultimately conservative. Unaware, the grotesquely entitled tries effortlessly to be generous. Simple and Pragmatic, there is kindness in an unwavering radical. On the contrary, the one who utters uncaring paradoxes without tact is wise, though most certainly poor.

In these seemingly eschatological times, where the increasingly irreversible fact of the climate crisis unfolds. The delayed nature between (our) actions and their effects lend itself to a sense of suspension with the elongation of time. More and more so, the future(s) has become guesswork.

The video offers a virtual dwelling of a tropical rainforest within a speculative moment in time when humans are no longer inhabiting the land. Proposing an anthropomorphic superimposition of human character traits found in the fictions of this land onto 3D animated flora of the future. Put on your VR headsets or toggle around with your cursor.

Reincarnation is a funny business.

 

 

YEO SIEW HUA
Yeo Siew Hua is a Singaporean director and writer. His last feature film, A Land Imagined (2018), won the Golden Leopard at the 71st Locarno Film Festival and was selected as Singapore’s entry to the 92nd Academy Awards’ Best International Feature Film category. The film also won Best Original Screenplay and Best Original Music Score at the 56th Taipei Golden Horse Film Festival and is now internationally distributed on Netflix.  Extending beyond conventional cinema networks, Yeo’s works have been shown at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), New York; the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), Taipei; the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum, Madrid; the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA), Singapore and for the Singapore International Festival of Arts (SIFA).

He is co-founder of 13 Little Pictures, a vanguard film collective which organises experimental film labs around Southeast Asia, and part of the artist group soft/Wall/studs, where he programmes documentary films in conversation with contemporary art practice.

07.01

New Works

07.01

New Works

earth, land, sky and sea as palimpsest

Consisting of a series of earth drawings and a video in three parts: Whispering Secrets into Trees, The Poetics of Moving Earth and Terra as Palimpsest. Together they offer multiple entry points and traversing pathways through the work. Serving as invitations and invocations to see with skin, hear with our feet, feel our way through spatial interruptions and somatically attend to sound at points of transit, change and threshold-crossing.

How are we listening to each other, to our surroundings, our environments, our bodies, our breath, our organs, to creaturely companions, to reconfigured rhythms of time and disembodied sounds from virtual realms? How are we unlearning and re-negotiating our relationship to time, to routines, to spatiality, presence and sentience in space? What invocatory technologies of the present are lending themselves to these new planetary questions and shapeshifting worlds we are building, sensing and mapping?

Each cumulative form of this long-term project is an invitation to reframe hegemonic cartographies, to conjure the ecologies of selves within the seen and unseen, and make memory maps from meandering through the homely and strange, the uninhabitable, the chthonic, the otherwo­­rlds and more than human worlds that we share habits and habitats with.

 

ZARINA MUHAMMAD
Zarina Muhammad is an artist, educator and researcher whose practice is deeply entwined with a critical re-examination of oral histories, ethnographic literature and other historiographic accounts about Southeast Asia. Working at the intersections of performance, installation, text, ritual, sound and moving image, she is interested in the broader contexts of myth-making, haunted historiographies, multi-species entanglements, land as palimpsest and role of the artist as “cultural ventriloquist” who lends multiple voices to spectral matters and speculative histories. She has been working on a long-term interdisciplinary project on Southeast Asia’s provisional relationship to the otherworldly, ritual magic and the immaterial against the dynamics of global modernity and the social production of rationality.

In addition to presenting recent incarnations of her projects, performances and installations at Singapore Art Museum, ArtScience Museum, NTU Centre of Contemporary Art, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, Indonesia Contemporary Art Network, Museum of Contemporary Art Taipei, she has also presented her work and been involved in projects across Asia Pacific and Europe.

ZACHARY CHAN
Zachary Chan is a graphic designer by profession. He is the co-founder of design collective, crop.sg.

He is also an occasional composer, sound designer and an amateur musician, participating in Javanese and Balinese Gamelan ensembles. As a musician, notable performances and collaborations include “Continuum” (2015-16) with the Observatory, “Vinayaka” (2016) with Bhaskar’s Arts Academy, “Gema Karawitan Nusantara” RRI Semarang (2016), “Pragmatic Prayers for the Kala at the Threshold” with Zarina Muhammad, “Pokoknya” (2020) with Tini Aliman, and “JOGJAKARFEST” (2020) with Singa Nglaras.

As a composer, he puts out new work on a semi-regular basis, most recently at the first International Gamelan Festival (2018) held in Solo, and the Singapore Night Festival (2019).

07.01

New Works

07.01

New Works

Waiting for Durian

by Kray Chen and Melinda Lauw

Waiting for Durian is a sixteen-minute audio story inspired by Kray Chen’s very own short film, Durian-picking. A retelling that sonically and spatially transports the audiences into the Singaporean rainforest as they’re brought along on the nocturnal excursion, amidst a looming tropical storm.

Durian-picking itself was a short documentary featuring the artist and his father heading into the forest in search of wild durians. In the film, it reveals a community of Singaporeans that are part of the durian-picking subculture. In the quest for free durian, these durian-pickers reconnect with the rescinding forest, in an activity that often finds them brushing up against the law. 

Accompanying the audio piece are two specifically designed picnic mats that are available for purchase. Each of which are themselves pocket-encyclopedias to the history of durians in the region. Rounding up the experience of durian foraging is the partnership with durian retailer 99Oldtrees who will offer durian picnic packages that can be ordered and delivered with the mats. An olfactory and gustatory conclusion reminiscent of the casual durian sessions where old newspapers serve as makeshift table mats.

In Waiting for Durian, we find the visual elements of a film displaced only to have all our other senses teased, triggered and most importantly, tantalized.

* The product will go online for preorder by 15th January and will be fulfilled on 29th Jan onwards.

** How to Picnic

  1. Gather and Seat your Group
    This experience accommodates 1-4 people. Assign each person one side of the mat. We positioned different content facing each side to encourage sharing among the group.

     

  2. Prepare and Position Durian on the Mat
    We’ve designed this experience for nostalgia and tactility so we strongly encourage you to get whole durians, but any durian you like is fine. Place your durian in the center of the mat.

     

  3. Listen to our Durian Picking Story
    Scan the QR code on the mat and listen to the 20-minute audio journey, taking you into the forest to pick wild durians. As the audio is directional, we recommend using headphones! Close your eyes if you want a deeper listening experience!

     

  4. Feast and Explore

Crack open your durian and enjoy all the graphics, content and activities on the mat! It’s super easygoing. As you eat and chat, take turns to share things on the mat or just flow with your group and see what catches your eye. 

For Design A, there’s no defined way to explore. Pick and choose bits of information to share, give out quizzes when prompted and admire our lovely hand drawings!

For Design B, you’ll notice how the illustration maps the audio story! Start playing from the top left corner and go clockwise! 

Durian Picnic Party Pack buyers, consume your durian within 24 hours of delivery for maximum freshness. You can keep any leftovers in an airtight box in the fridge for up to 2 days. In the unlikely case that your durian is defective, take photos and whatsapp 99Oldtrees at +6598222495. 

 

KRAY CHEN
Kray Chen (b.1987) is a visual artist dealing with film, performance and installations. Kray is fascinated with social rituals and behaviours. Through them, his practice contemplates on body politic and looks at the effects, remnants and traumas of ideology and biopower. He has presented at international art events, such as Art Encounters Biennial (2019), Singapore Biennale (2019), Bangkok Art Biennale (2018), NTU-CCA Singapore (2017), FRAC Des Pays De La Loire in France (2015), Art Stage Singapore, ArtJakarta and Singapore International Film Festival (2016). He is the recipient of the 2017 National Arts Council’s  Young Artist Award. He lives and works in Singapore.

MELINDA LAUW
Melinda Lauw is an artist, experience designer and immersive creator working across the fields of art, immersive entertainment and experiential marketing. She is the co-founder of Whisperlodge, a production company pioneering the practice of live ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response). Since 2016, Whisperlodge has completed 14 sold-out runs of their eponymous immersive performance across New York, San Francisco and Los Angeles, plus a recent virtual adaptation. Melinda has been featured on Netflix and in The New York Times, and has worked with brands such as Audible, Museum of Ice Cream, Refinery 29 and Marriott Hotel Group.

07.01

New Works

X Steps Through A Forest

00:00
00:00
  • enter 00:00
  • perspective dissipating into movement 00:00
  • listen 00:00
  • signs 00:00
  • ground adaptation 00:00
  • touch-me-not 00:00
  • memory cultivation 00:00
  • mycelial 00:00
  • edible-non-edible 00:00
  • structurally unsound 00:00
  • stream 00:00
  • axis 00:00
  • wet 00:00
  • cameocopy 00:00
  • map 00:00

by Nina Djekić

Work comes online 22 January 2021

During this time of the global pandemic, many of us have at least in part rediscovered forests and other natural ecosystems populated by a variety of other-than-human agents. These lively environments have again proven to be an ever so welcome extension to our homes. An outside to the confines of anxiety where we can exercise, relax or reflect. Imbuing us with a sense of relief, stimulation and companionship.

X Steps Through A Forest is a sound piece in the form of an experiential audio guide. Interspersed with choreographic anecdotes, the work consists of multiple short soundtracks that as a series of movement routines lead the listener on a journey through the forest. Guiding one’s awareness towards variety of movements and physicalities that transpire both within our environment as in our own bodies.

The listeners are encouraged to listen to the work during a walk through their neighboring forest. But also, for those who do not have access to such an environment. With hopes that these mnemonic evocations help transpose oneself into the forest from wherever one is.

Concept and text: Nina Djekić
Voice: Weixin Quek Chong
Sound design: Tini Aliman

 

NINA DJEKIĆ
Born in 1989 in Ljubljana, Slovenia, Nina Djekić is an artist and choreographer based in between Singapore and the Netherlands. She graduated with a BA in choreography from School for New Dance Development and an MFA from Sandberg Instituut, both in Amsterdam. Her work revolves around choreographic notions in exhibitionary settings. It looks at the bodily engagements between the artwork and the visitor as well as the affect the uncanny presence of artworks has on the relationship between the visitors themselves. Often conflating the conventions of writing with the scoring of movement, her curiosity lies in the relation between embodiment and language. Central to this is the notion of empathy, as an ability to be moved (physically and/or otherwise) and how to choreograph it.

07.01

New Works

An Invocation To The Earth

An Invocation to the Earth
by Yeo Siew Hua

2020
16:10 min video

Deep in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia, a series of incantations invoke the spirits of yore, including those of the nimble, tricksy Kancil (mouse-deer) and the ferocious Buaya (crocodile). The ancient animals enact their folkloric vendetta in a furious dance of dominance, yet long-overdue vengeance is shrouded in smoke. Meanwhile, an effigy of a tree is burning, summoning a whole other host of spectres and ancestors. Conceived during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival in 2019, while large-scale fires were consuming the forests of Indonesia, Yeo Siew Hua’s An Invocation to the Earth confronts climate collapse through the lens of pre-colonial folktales and animistic rituals. Through spoken spells and bodily entanglements, the video conjures up the fallen environmental defenders of a region ridden with ecological threats in the hope that their spirits will be reborn once again.

An Invocation to the Earth work was commissioned by TBA21 for its online st_age platform.

06.01

Past Works

06.01

Past Works

Whispering Secrets Into Trees

Whispering Secrets Into Trees
by Zarina Muhammad

2020
A ‘spirit house’ assemblage composed of repurposed birdcages, soil, salvaged organic materials and plant parts, incense, benzoin resin, snakeskin, clay, yarn, coins alongside 56 ‘memory fragments’ printed on postcards.

Singapore has undergone rapid deforestation since 1819. Secondary vegetation has regrown on these previously disturbed lands. Did you have a favourite tree, plant, flower or weed growing near your home that you looked forward to meeting when you could? Did you have non-human companions growing up? 

Where was the first forest where you met your first migratory birds, eagles, tree snakes, reticulated pythons, whip snakes, black spitting cobras, iguanas, fire ants, millipedes, centipedes, phasmids, arachnids and ground beetles? When was your first memory of crossing human-created thresholds? Where might you have met other residents, other keepers of the forest – the ones who perch on trees or sit on park benches, and disappear when you blink. What is your first memory of a forest, a tree, soil, earth, dirt, places where people refuse to step on because there’s no concrete? Can you say the names, see, hear, smell, sense all the bodies and beings who have resided, occupied, moved through, been displaced, rehomed, rerouted, uprooted in this exact spot where you stand?”

Whispering Secrets into Trees is part assemblage, part letter addressed to the trees older than the buildings in our neighbourhoods, part exquisite corpse to be activated and extended with each additional reader, part performative object for anyone to play ventriloquist or medium with, part correspondence with an imagined stranger in these strange new times where we are isolated from one another. The work draws from environmental and land histories, biographical memory fragments, the names we give our favourite trees, places of childhood and the stories of non-human companions of that time whom we might have shared secrets with.

Artwork description: A ‘spirit house’ assemblage composed of repurposed birdcages, soil, salvaged organic materials and plant parts, incense, benzoin resin, snakeskin, clay, yarn,  coins alongside 56 ‘memory fragments’ printed on postcards.

06.01

Past Works

06.01

Past Works

06.01

Past Works

Durian-Picking

Durian-Picking
by Kray Chen

2015
15:32 min video

In this short film, Kray Chen follows his father into the thick vegetation in the early morning in search for durians. Through the activity, Kray talks with his father about the peculiar hobby of durian-picking and the various stories he encountered in yearly adventure. 

06.01

Past Works

06.01

Past Works

Approximities

Approximities
by Nina Djekić

2020
16:40 min video


Approximities presents us with a series of seemingly everyday vignettes. However, as the characters move in and out of the frame, the scenes increasingly gain an air of artifice.

The film builds on my experiences visiting a local park while living in Singapore. Spending long stretches of time at the park without a particular aim in mind, it has allowed my thoughts to roam freely and gently, amidst the company of strangers. One by one, alongside the scenery and vegetation, these strangers became a familiar presence.

Reconstituting this familiar park space through my memories, I engaged with a group of friends in a long-distance choreography of enacting and translation. This process is a paradoxical task of establishing common ground within an artificially constructed situation.

Can we think of a park as a virtual space or vice versa, that enables us to gather regardless of physical distance? How do we rearticulate proximity under those conditions?

How do we spend time?

06.01

Past Works

06.01

Past Works

Note 4: Sequel-making

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Note 3: Pandemic green

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Note 2: Life / Signs

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Note 1: If Forests Talk?

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The Lover, The Excess, The Ascetic and The Fool

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earth, land, sky and sea as palimpsest

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Waiting for Durian

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X Steps Through A Forest

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An Invocation To The Earth

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Whispering Secrets Into Trees

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Durian-Picking

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Approximities

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“If you get your hands dirty and dig around the fallen trunk you can discover string upon strings of mycelium reaching deep into the ground. Not unlike the internet and the neural-network of your own embodiment that allows you to hear this”

– Nina Djekić, from X Steps Through A Forest

If Forests Talks is an online programme that looks at the tropical rainforest through the lens of artists. Nature, greenery and rainforests within Singapore are often seen through logics rooted in extraction – for botanical, recreational and consumptive purposes. The project seeks to paint the tropical rainforests in a different light, through a series of new works that draws lineage to the artists’ existing artworks, wherein the tropical rainforest had featured prominently. Might the pandemic reframe the forest, before and after?

Through the form of videos and audio pieces, the artists themselves revisit their past works to engage with the other-than-human domains of the rainforests, which re-emerges as the site for tradition, futurity, temporary communities and choreography.

Works are online from 21 January until 28 February 2021.

If Forests Talk is part of Singapore Art Week 2021 and is supported by the National Arts Council, Singapore.
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