We started the week with biennale news and we'll end it with more biennale news.
Details of next year's Singapore Biennale were revealed today. And in a nutshell, there are a lot of changes.
They've moved it to the latter part of the year, from Oct 26, 2013, to Feb 16, 2014.
It'll be held around the Bras Basah-Bugis area (roughly, think Night Festival territory).
Next year's theme title is If The World Changed (sounds like a James Bond movie!). And to echo that, the big, big focus will be on Southeast Asia.
Which is why there won't be any artistic director with a couple of curators. There will be 27 curators. Yes, 27. And a couple more on the way.
Basically, it's kind of decentralised a bit, with artists/curators from different SEA countries going in-depth to dig up more than the usual artists. The Singapore Art Museum, of course, is still in charge, says, director Tan Boon Hui, but the curatorial decisions and the selection will be "collective".
The 27 were here for the past week brainstorming and they are:
Singapore: Tan Boon Hui, Khairuddin Hori, Joyce Toh, Tan Siu Li, Michelle Ho, David Chew, Naomi Wang and Fairuz Iman Ismail (all from SAM), Tay Swee Lin and Seng Yu Jin (both ex-SAM), Tamares Goh from the Esplanade and Charmaine Toh of Art Incubator and Objectifs.
Malaysia: Faizal Sidik and Yee I-Lann.
Indonesia: Aminuddin TH Siregar "Ucok" and Mia Maria.
Philippines: Claro Ramirez, Kawayan de Guia, Charlie Co, Abraham Garcia Jr.
Thailand: Ark Fongsmut and Angkrit Ajchariyasophon.
Vietnam: Tran Luong and Nguyen Nhu Huy.
Cambodia: Erin Gleeson.
Laos: Misouda Heuangsoukkhoun.
Myanmar: Aye Ko.
The biennale will also have a programme advisory committee comprising museum advisory board chair Jane Ittogi, National Arts Council deputy CEO Khor Kok Wah, art historian TK Sabapathy and artist/critic/curator Susie Lingham.
These are some pretty curious changes, starting with the region-centric approach, or, as Tan described it, a "refocusing of the lens" towards the region. The decision to gather all those curators was also partly inspired by the strategy for the first Asia Pacific Triennial.
There are, of course, some big questions to be asked here, and I guess the most pertinent one is how this relates to the recent Venice Biennale pullout--considering that in the statement released by the NAC, which is one of the SB supporters, one of the counterpoints given was that more money has been pumped into local arts efforts, and SB was cited. (Although according to Tan, the budget will roughly be the same as the last SB.)
Unfortunately, no official response yet. We'll have to wait until next week.
But there are lots more to ask!
For instance, what happens to SAM? Eight curators are are from the museum.
From a logistical standpoint, they'll be working concurrently on museum stuff and SB stuff (Red Bull anyone?).
But from an ethical and aesthetic standpoint, Sabapathy pointed out that this is one issue that needs mulling over. How different will a SAM show be (considering SEA is its main focus anyway) from SB, he asked. And indeed, is it possible to set aside one's museum curator hat when on biennale business? Or how does the act of museum acquisition figure in the scheme of things?
Gleeson pointed out the possibility of tension between the curators and the museum as an institution. It's all early stages, so hopefully they'll be able to figure how to deal with, as Sabapathy described it, "the fissures and faultlines" of this situation. (Which isn't entirely unique--Queensland Art Gallery, for example, organises APT.)
Another thing is the change of date. Tan categorically denied that the move was not related to Art Stage Singapore's own dates (which is in January). Instead, he cited the Sharja Biennale and Auckland Triennial, both in March 2013 (presumably giving the SB works a chance to travel after it ends?) and also feedback from schools. Not to mention a return to the original dates of the earlier SB editions.
Finally, there's also an Open Call for entries until Dec 21, 2012. Details here.
So there you go. Singapore Biennale 2013. Now I shall leave you to digest all of that. Watch this space.