The Singapore Biennale, returns for its fifth edition this year with an evocative theme, An Atlas of Mirrors. Featuring artworks of various media by 63 artists from 19 countries across Asia, this year’s theme hopes to inspire visitors to explore the ways of seeing the world and ourselves through the many imaginative and critical perspectives of artists who attempt to reflect the human condition and everyday realities through their works. We had the pleasure of picking the brains of 2 artists from the lineup, here’s what they had to say.

Deng Guoyuan, Noah’s Garden II

Hailing from Tianjin, China, artist Deng Guoyuan has created a labyrinth of mirrors and vibrantly colored flora and fauna that create a feeling of the loss of subjectivity upon entering the installation.

How did you conceptualize this piece?

The idea for Noah’s Garden was born out of the concept of “impossibilities”, taking the environment as the focus I was looking to interpret what people saw when they looked at nature or the environment in a way that was not “possible”. This piece in particular started off with a lot of experimentation on plants and developed into abstract and finally the installation. For the first Noah’s Garden I experimented with many different plants to exhibit and document their life and death. I wanted to create a space where people could walk in and experience the life and death of the plants focusing on how nature is dying but at the same time the space signifies new life. Although nature is destroyed there is hope for revival which plays on the story of Noah’s Ark, how new life was generated after depletion.

Why did you choose to use mirrors in the space?

I took the kaleidoscope as my inspiration, I dismantled a kaleidoscope and examined the pieces that make up the inside. I want people to feel that they are physically walking into a kaleidoscope as they enter the space, where the lines of what is real and artificial are blurred and play with the notion of what’s real and what’s not. To look beyond what they see physically and for the space to reflect the future of our environment. 

Zulkifle Mahmod, SONICreflection

Singaporean sound media artist, Zulkifle Mahmod explores the micro-universes of Singapore’s various Southeast Asian communities that have settled down here over the years. His piece highlights the auditory character of these communities and the spaces they inhabit in Singapore. 

Why did you choose to make use of wok lids in this piece?

In Southeast Asia we mostly use woks to cook and everyone has their own ingredients and everything so right now I’m just uncovering all these “ingredients” to Singapore, to share with Singaporeans that we have so many different communities here and we can learn from one another so the wok lids represent that in a way and also the speakers are facing inwards to the lid so basically the sound bounces off and is amplified.

What is the message you wish to impart with this piece?

I think different people will get something different from it, so take what works for you I don’t really have any specific thing in mind in the way I want people to experience the piece. If certain sounds remind you of certain memories then its good enough I don’t dictate how you have to view my work. For me personally I think we have to realize that we are still a migrant city, we have a second influx of migrants and I think its about understanding each other’s culture if you don’t understand cultures then that’s where prejudice starts to come in. These communities exist in Singapore and we should learn from one another.

These are just two works from the massive collection that is being presented at eight locations with the Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q as anchor venues. The Singapore Biennale will run from 27 October 2016- 26 February 2017, for more information head over to their website.

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