Singapore Biennale 2011: The bluffer's guide

Singapore Biennale 2011: The bluffer's guide

No need to give yourself an art overdose: These 10 pieces provide a perfect introduction to the Singapore Biennale 2011

Consider the numbers: 161 works by 63 artists from 30 countries spread over four different venues -- we don’t blame you if you’re less than keen to take in the whole Singapore Biennale 2011.

Hotfoot it to these 10 key exhibits that embrace the theme of “Open House” with open arms.

Then you can say you've actually been to see the best.

All Lines Flow Out

1. “All Lines Flow Out”

Singapore’s Charles Lim presents a video work of the city’s unseen waterways captured on film at curious angles. Keep an eye out for an anonymous character appearing intermittently.

Old Kallang Airport

Contraband 2010

2. “Contraband”

American Taryn Simon spent five days and nights at New York’s JFK’s airport documenting the prohibited items people tried to smuggle in via express mail or inside their luggage. The resulting work is an amusing mishmash of forbidden items; from food to cigarettes to animals, poignantly set against a sterile white background.

Old Kallang Airport

Imminent Departure, 2011

3. “Imminent Departure”

American artist, Lisi Raskin has transformed an entire floor of the former airport into an installation of scrap wood, light fixtures, rope and other construction material. While her artwork looks pained at first, it does grow to suit its space, eventually blending into the dilapidated surroundings.

Old Kallang Airport

Self-Portrait, Our Landscape

4. “Self-Portrait, Our Landscape”

This series of artworks by more than 3,000 Singapore school children from 40 schools occupies an entire floor. Tasked to produce a drawing on the theme without including an image of themselves, the kids came up with a diverse range of interpretations, presented row after row, inadvertently steering the viewer to look at the works as a colorful collective, as well as an individual whole.

Old Kallang Airport

this will change

5. “Construction”

A sound piece by Pakistani-born, Berlin-based artist Ceal Floyer. Presented in a room with just a projector and a naked lightbulb, the soundscape bounces off the walls, with the hum of machinery, voices and ambient noise producing a disconcerting and almost eerie effect.

SAM at 8Q

Turn to page 2 for more

Factum, 2010

6. “Factum”

A work by South African Candice Breitz; video walls show footage of identical twins and a set of triplets talking about themselves and their lives. Dialogue between each set is spliced back and forth leaving visitors pondering the obvious questions of identity and individuality.

SAM at 8Q

Secret Affair, 2011

7. “Secret Affair”

To market, to market; Malaysian artist Roslisham Ismail documents six households who were each given S$200 to shop for groceries. Each visit was filmed and the purchases arranged in identical LG fridges, though identities are not revealed. However, the goods and how they were stored say a surprising amount about each family.

SAM at 8Q

House of Sulaiman Behind Ah Guat's Shop

8. “Rumah Sulaiman Belakang Kedai Ah Guat”

Malaysian Shooshie Sulaiman’s installation re-creates two homes -- the house of an old lady who she used to visit in Malacca, and Sulaiman’s own studio in Kuala Lumpur. The work fuses the old lady's heart-wrenching tale of abuse and neglect together with Sulaiman’s current generation studio space.

SAM at 8Q

Artists in the News, 2011

9. “Singapore Art Archive Project”

A pet project of self-professed newspaper archivist Koh Nguang How, who has collected local newspapers in English and Chinese dating back decades. A fascinating, and slightly odd presentation, newspapers cover every inch of the space. Koh’s aim? To be acquainted with proper archiving practices.

SAM at 8Q

The Merlion Hotel, 2011

10. “The Merlion Hotel”

Merging art with the city, Japanese artist Tatzu Nishi turns his talent for creating out-of-scale installations to Singapore’s humble Merlion, building a luxurious hotel room around the mythical beast, giving visitors a different framework to view and value the national icon.

The Merlion Park, One Fullerton


Singapore Biennale 2011

Old Kallang Airport (9 Stadium Link); Singapore Art Museum and SAM at 8Q (71 Bras Basah Road); National Museum of Singapore (93 Stamford Road); and Marina Bay (The Merlion Park, One Fullerton)
March 13-May 15
Tickets at S$10 (adults) and S$5 (children); admission covers all venues.
Tickets available at venues except Marina Bay.
Go to for more information.

Elaine Ee writes about Singapore, the city she lives in, covering the arts, events, personalities and social issues. Her stories have appeared in Time Out SingaporeTatler HomesFood & Travel and Jetstar Asia. She’s also an editor at, a Singapore community-driven website run by socially conscious denizens. When she’s not at her laptop, she practises Bikram yoga, spends time with her three kids and makes it a point to keep trying something new. 

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