Field Trip Reflection – Time of Others at SAM

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A survey of contemporary art from the Asia Pacific Region, Time of Others features works of artists responding to social, historical and geopolitical concerns at this present juncture of living in a more interconnected world today, where notions of boundary, difference and Otherness have also become more complex – excerpted from the exhibition’s brochure.

The exhibition poses a question of how can we understand other society’s culture while we are residing in our own localities, and being a globalised world today. For me, objects, photos, and videos that survive the passage of time are the real answer for this question. Though we may not have the complete understanding of other’s culture, a glimpse of the artefacts could bring our minds to at least imagine and wonder. In this essay, however, I will focus on reflecting about ‘time‘ through the artworks exhibited.

Firstly, I believe that an object could be a silent witness of how time can change one’s original meaning. Shitamichi Motoyuki especially has looked into this issue through his series, ‘torii’. Torii is a Shinto shrine gate. Shitamichi tracked down torri in places that are outside Japan’s borders and captured them in photographs. His works show that after Japanese occupation ended, their shapes and uses have been changed to suit local cultures and lifestyles in respective countries. In the exhibition, we could see a photograph of torii in Taichung, Taiwan be used as a bench in a park.  

source: http://m-shitamichi.com/torii09w.jpg


Photos of another place are means to bring us to the place without being there. For me, a photograph also has the ability to travel to the past. I only realized this upon reflecting on Tozer Pak’s interactive work: “A Travel Without Visual Experience: Malaysia.” Joining a five-day tour, Pak went to Malaysia in 2008 and took pictures by the intuition of his senses but sight because he had his eyes closed. He only viewed the images of Malaysia after he returned from the holiday. The performative gesture seeks to delay the experience of his holiday until it is over. About this work, Pak said, “these photographs enabled my ‘future’ eyes to view the documented foreign landscapes at a later stage.”

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Images courtesy of the writer. These photos were taken by activating my phone camera’s flash in the dark room.

Images courtesy of the writer. These photos were taken by activating my phone camera’s flash in the dark room.


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All in all, time is capable to change anything. However, we could revisit the still from the past from a photograph. This piece from Heman Chong titled ‘Calendars (2020-2096)’ especially speaks to me. The artwork itself consists of one-thousand-and-one picture calendars that are installed in a grid covering the walls of an entire room. The photos are taken in Singapore between 2004-2010 and have no presence of any human inside. One of the photos is a still from a NTU Canteen. The place has undergone a major renovation, and now that corner has changed partly. Below is the photo of the exact same corner taken in February 2016.

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Image courtesy of Cindy Thongson.

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Exhibition brochure: https://www.singaporeartmuseum.sg/downloads/exhibitions/TOO_exhibition_guide.pdf

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