An international group of 15 artists have embarked on a journey back into time at Pulau Ubin – one of Singapore’s last bastions of rural life. The field trip is but one of the many activities lined up in a 10-day event, Tropical Lab, to spark artistic discourse on issues involving the complex relationships between spaces, deeply-rooted cultures and traditions. And come Friday 21 November 2008, the public will get the chance to explore and engage in the outcome of this discourse – a group exhibition of original interpretations of spaces in cities and rural areas.
Tropical Lab is the brainchild of Milenko Prvacki, Dean of Fine Arts at LASALLE College of the Arts. It is an intensive and highly engaging workshop aimed at stimulating innovation and scientific research in art through collaborative approaches. Participants come from fine arts institutions in the USA, UK, Serbia, Turkey, Italy, Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore. Five Masters in Fine Arts candidates from LASALLE are taking part as well.
Drawing on the geo-political qualities of each participating country, Tropical Lab aims to provide artists with a geographical playground to unravel the complex tensions of rural life and living in a metropolitan society like Singapore through a series of talks, dialogues, workshops and excursions. Most importantly, Singapore presents to the workshop a physical case-study of how competing meanings and cultural attachments can co-exist and provides the canvas for examining whether the sacrifice of observing cultural practices and traditions is necessary in developing countries such as Thailand and Indonesia.
Mr Prvacki said: “With a fast globalising Asia, there is a greater need to understand if the preservation of certain cultures and traditions would be detrimental to the modernisation of a developing country. Tropical Lab thus aims to be established as one of the geographical platforms for serious enquiry, bringing together artists from diverse cultures to learn, exchange and debate on contemporary issues.”
The group exhibition, also entitled Tropical Lab, which begins this Friday, 21 November 2008, is co-curated by art historians and guest-curators Ms Biljana Tomic and Ms Dobrila Denegri.
Ms Tomic and Ms Denegri are also the founders of the Real Presence workshop, an international event for young artists, known to be the largest art workshop in the world, Real Presence has played host to more than 1,500 young artists from over 100 art academies in 59 countries and has spearheaded several collaborative artistic projects dealing with issues of identity and diversity.
Aside from the field trip to Pulau Ubin, participants visited the 2nd Singapore Biennale, which featured 137 regional artworks around the island for over two months and concluded on 16 November 2008. Tropical Lab is also among the list of 23 parallel programmes, running alongside the city’s largest international contemporary visual arts exhibition.