Singapore Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale
Arsenale – Sale d’Armi
Campo della Tana 2169/F
Curator: Shabbir Hussain Mustafa
SEA STATE is a project in nine parts, initiated in 2005 by artist and former Olympic sailor Charles Lim with the premise of inverting perceptions of sea and land on the island of Singapore. It explores the biophysical, political and psychic contours of the Southeast Asian city-state, through the visible and invisible lenses of the sea. The project’s structure is inspired by the World Meteorological Organization’s code for measuring sea conditions, which numbers the varying states ranging from calm, to moderate, to the phenomenal.
With its impressive urban edifice, Singapore has long defined itself by an ability to overcome environmental constraints. Its often bold solutions—from epic land reclamation to the vast undersea caverns recently unveiled off its southern coast—are potent symbols for the national imaginary, reflecting both its aspirations and its realization. Created by maritime trade, both colonial and modern, the tiny island nation has found itself at the intersection of pressing global debates around resource use, climate change and territorial sovereignty.
Charles Lim’s practice stems from an intimate engagement with the natural world, mediated and informed by field research and experimentation, performance, drawing, photography and video. His works make visible a dynamic coastal ecology, showing how the infrastructures of global capitalism do not replace the maritime environment, but inhabit and transform it. In an era of rapid global exchange, the complex, transnational spaces of the sea play host to a dynamic interplay between nature and culture, framing many of the key challenges and anxieties of our time. The pavilion’s curator, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, notes: “SEA STATE, as it will be presented in Venice, could be seen as a steady accumulation, a linking of poetic moments and discrepant realities, in search of a vocabulary about the sea and the demands one makes of it.”
After a brief hiatus in 2013, Singapore returns to Venice this year with a pavilion in the historic Arsenale for the first time. Paul Tan, Deputy Chief Executive, National Arts Council, says: “la Biennale di Venezia remains the premier platform to showcase Singapore’s visual artists to the world, and connect them with their international peers. We are excited to see Charles’s work take shape and this global platform will provide crucial critical validation to his practice. As modern Singapore turns 50, we wish for the country to grow as a centre for artistic production and research in Asia.”
The official launch of the Singapore Pavilion will take place on Wednesday 6 May from 3 to 5pm. An exhibition catalogue will be published for the launch of the pavilion, featuring essays by Ute Meta Bauer, Prasenjit Duara and Anselm Franke, amongst other leading thinkers.
About the artist:
Charles Lim Yi Yong (b. 1973, Singapore; lives and works in Singapore) studied Fine Art at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design, London, graduating in 2001. In 2002, he participated in Documenta11 in Kassel, Germany as a member of the net-art collective tsunamii.net. A former professional and Olympic sailor, Lim’s practice stems from an intimate, bodily engagement with the natural world, mediated and informed by field research and experimentation, performance, drawing, photography and video. Since 2005, he has developed a body of work entitled SEA STATE that explores Singapore’s political, biophysical and psychic contours through the visible and invisible lenses of the sea.
Recalling the excursions of the Land Art movement of the 1970s, SEA STATE scrutinizes both natural and man-made systems, opening new perspectives on our everyday surroundings, from unseen landscapes and disappearing islands to the imaginary boundaries of a future landmass. Recent iterations of SEA STATE have been exhibited at Manifesta 7 (2008), the Institut d’Art Contemporain Villeurbanne, France (2013) and at biennales in Shanghai (2008), Singapore (2011) and Osaka (2013). Various stages of the project have been presented at all of Singapore’s major exhibiting institutions, including the National Museum, National Library, Singapore Art Museum and NUS Museum. Charles Lim’s moving image works have been screened in international film festivals at Rotterdam, Tribeca and Edinburgh. His award-winning short film All the Lines Flow Out premiered at the 68th Venice Film Festival, winning a Special Mention award.
Image: Charles Lim, SEA STATE: phase 1 (production still), 2014. Courtesy of the artist and Future Perfect, Singapore.