8 November 2021 to 23 January 2022
RESTLESS TOPOGRAPHIES is an ongoing research path of three multi-disciplinary artists, Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan. Their investigation centres around environmental and ecological histories of Singapore, with a particular interest in colonial-era terraforming of the island and how this pattern of intervention extends to ongoing land-use policies of the modern Singapore state, with its violent reshaping of old coastlines and other endemic geographies like mangroves, forests, and hills.
Their research takes the form of walks through (and in pursuit of) liminal spaces, such as intertidal zones, fallen forests, leveled hills, pathways with ritual and natural-historic significance, as a means to trace, understand, and conceive of the palimpsestic entanglements between the physical and spiritual landscapes of the island.
The documentation of their explorations—through video, sound, writing, and harvesting of materials—forms an archive that is the core of the collective’s conceptualisations, from which they continue to develop a vocabulary or material means of conveying these spiritual and psychic traces. Some of the questions that inform their artistic practice and expressions are:
- How can we tease out polysensorial ways of experiencing, perceiving, and knowing a landscape and site-specific environments?
- How can we translate pre-modern knowledge pertaining to spiritual landscapes into material forms and art objects, with an eye to the cultural biographies of such materials?
- How do we create forms that can bridge our archive with embodied experiences and auto-ethnographic accounts of loss, haunting, memory, family, trauma, and migration?
From the months November through to January, the collective will explore the surrounding areas of 136 GOETHE LAB from Tanjong Pagar/Keppel to Labrador Park, in particular, focusing on the evolution of the coastline, which has historically been a node of various spiritual ecologies and migrant pathways. They will develop bodies of work—art objects, sound pieces, sound walks, dioramas, and installation—that encapsulate these narratives and phenomena.
In December and January, the artists will host open studios and public events at 136 GOETHE LAB, as well as a final presentation during Singapore Art Week.
18 December, 12 to 6pm: OPEN STUDIO
28 December, 10am to 6pm: BUANG SUAY DAY
8 January, 12 to 6pm: OPEN STUDIO
14 to 23 January, 12 to 6pm: OPEN STUDIO (Singapore Art Week)
(Closed on Monday)
21 January, 7pm: Violence, Infrastructure, Bodies (performance-presentation)
22 January, 5pm: Grief, Land, Specters (performance-presentation)
Email Valerie-Ann.Tan@goethe.de to register for performance-presentations.
Joel Tan is a Singaporean writer, performer, and playwright based between London and Singapore. His work straddles theatre, film, and audio and examines the ways in which politics distort the personal and spiritual, exploring subjects ranging from colonial history, nature, queer experience, and contemporary Singapore life.
Zachary Chan is a graphic designer, composer, sound designer and gamelan musician. His musical roots are based in central Javanese gamelan music and he has written music and designed sound for experimental ﬁlms, plays, video games, storytelling and art installations.
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 and role of the artist as “cultural ventriloquist” who lends polyphonic voices to data-driven systems and shapeshifting worlds.
136 GOETHE LAB is a new project space at the Goethe-Institut Singapore. Housed in the former library and reading room, the space is intended as a response to the need for physical spaces for the arts, and an ongoing conversation with the public and arts community in Singapore.
RESTLESS TOPOGRAPHIES is supported as part of the open call Project Work (PW), which invited applicants to activate the space with a group proposal.