Paris Mon Amour

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Singapour Mon Amour, held for the first time in Paris in June 2015, was a presentation of Singapore’s contemporary art by innovative curatorial platform Lowave and its French partners, musée du quai Branly, Centre Georges Pompidou, Église Saint-Merry, La Cinémathèque française, and Point Éphémère. The presentation covered visual arts, cinema, performance, and literature. If you missed it in Paris, you get another chance to view it: in its on-line hybrid catalogue/archive form, launched just last Saturday in Singapore.

Silke Schmickl, the head of Lowave and the mover of Singapour Mon Amour, kindly agreed to answer a few questions about the presentation and its on-line publication.

 

SP. Congratulations on the success of Singapour Mon Amour and on the launch of the accompanying on-line publication! What was the French response to Singapour Mon Amour in June? Did you find anything surprising or interesting in the response to Singapore and its arts?

SS. Thank you, Jee, we feel very happy that the next important step of Singapour Mon Amour, the e-publication, is now available. It extends the exciting research and artistic collaborations that we presented in Paris this summer. The response to Singapour Mon Amour was very positive and the various modules of visual arts, cinema, performance, literature, and research were well received by the French audience. Each component had the objective of critically examining urban, socio-political and historical aspects of the city-state, and paying tribute to alternative movements, daring art initiatives, and cutting-edge culture. Many of our spectators had never seen art from Singapore before and had not expected to encounter such an inspired independent scene from a state that is generally associated with glossy art, economic success, and rigorous political control. The fact that we worked with different institutions over a span of six weeks created the spirit of a forum, an open platform where Singaporean and French artists and intellectuals met with the local audience in an informal way. From a curatorial perspective this format was perfect to create a deeper intercultural understanding and to truly connect individuals from both countries. The four live performances and the colloquium were highlights in this regard.

 

SP. How is the on-line publication different from a traditional exhibition catalogue?

SS. We had initially planned to release the publication at the same time as the events and to use it as an enriched programme guide for Paris. The project changed as we felt that we needed more time to rethink the status of such an object and to better understand the advantages and challenges of online publishing which we had never done before. It was a good decision as the publication now comes as a complex and hybrid object that reflects the open and experimental character of Singapour Mon Amour. It is organised in four chapters dedicated to the four modules and presents a variety of media ranging from texts to images, videos, and audio recordings. The type of documents is equally diverse – written and recorded artist interviews and conversations, artist texts and poetry, visual essays and films are juxtaposed with critical texts, comments, colloquium presentations and documentary materials. I see the potential that such a multilayered publication can contribute to the formulation of a new and innovative discourse that is neither purely academic nor purely artistic but somewhere in-between, exploring the subtleties of interdisciplinarity and interculturalism. I also like the idea that the publication exists as a whole on Lowave’s website, but that it can also be fragmented and recontextualised if visitors share or embed just one article or chapter, for example. The online format also allowed us to include practitioners we deeply appreciate but whom we could not bring to Paris, such as Shubigi Rao, Kenny Leck or yourself, and we hope that it can grow with more contributions over time.

 

SP. What are some of the highlights of the on-line publication?

SS. It’s difficult for me to pick as I cherish all the pieces that we received. Some personal highlights are Godwin Koay’s Fiction of Resistance; William Phuan’s Dreaming of a multicultural Singaporean Literature; Mickaël Robert-Gonçalves’ interviews with Frédéric D. Oberland [FOUDRE!] and Nelson Yeo; Tan Pin Pin’s and Jason Soo’s podcast conversation on making films at the edge; the video recording of Ezzam Rahman’s and Pascal Battus’ performance; and Jeremy Chua’s interviews with Sookoon Ang and Jiekai Liao.

 

SP. As the curator of Lowave, you are concerned with unconventional and hybrid art practices and with innovative ways of distribution. What are the influences, personal and intellectual, that shape your curatorial agenda?

SS. I feel best and most stimulated when I am in an intercultural environment where I can compare and question different ways of living, and relativise my thought systems and behaviours. My main inspiration comes from traveling and not necessarily traveling for work. When I am on the road all my senses are activated and I am extremely open to my environment, I am in flux and in tune with my surroundings. The collected experiences and observations shape my intuition and often lead me to the conception of new projects. I have always been inspired by Paul Valery and notably a short essay he wrote in 1935 called “The Outlook for Intelligence,” where he says: “Let us begin by examining the faculty which is fundamental, which is mistakenly contrasted with the intelligence, but which is actually its real motive power; I mean the sensibility. If the sensibility of modern man is greatly compromised by the present conditions of his life, and if the future seems to promise an even harsher treatment, then we may be justified in thinking that our intelligence will suffer profoundly from the damage done to our sensibility. (Paul Valéry, “The Outlook for Intelligence,” History and Politics, trans. Denise Folliot and Jackson Mathews, Vol. x  The Collected Works of Paul Valéry, New York: Pantheon Books, 1962,, pp. 139–40). I am also inspired by writings of Charles Baudelaire, Guy Maupassant, Walter Benjamin, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, Peter Brook’s and Bertold Brecht’s theatre, Fassbinder’s and Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s cinema, but most of all the people around me and the stories they share.

 

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Image from Singapour Mon Amour website

About Jee Leong Koh

My book of poems Steep Tea (Carcanet) was named a Best Book of 2015 by UK's Financial Times, and a Finalist by Lambda Literary. I also wrote three other books of poems and a book of zuihitsu. My work has been shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize, and translated into Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and Latvian. Originally from Singapore, I live in New York City, where I edit the arts blog Singapore Poetry, and run the Second Saturdays Reading Series and the Singapore Literature Festival in NYC.

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