Arguably to be the most anticipated piece in the biennale, particularly by the local arts community, is Artists in the News by local photographer and documenter, Koh Nguang How.
Simple as it is, the work takes form of an office space for Koh during the biennale period as he embellished the space of 8Q SAM with his collections of newspapers, dated back to decades ago. Yes, he collected every single newspapers, particularly the news on the arts.
Basically you can find everything about the local art scene here. Koh, being one of the long running member of The Artists Village, an art community founded by Singapore’s pioneer contemporary artist, Tang Da Wu has the best archive when it comes to local art scene. The collection is superb but how does the institution see this passion?
Koh mentioned that his attempt to digitalize the information as part of National Gallery’s archival project was not successful, it was for a couple of months but the gallery backed off. His archival now remains fragile as there is no fund to further archive this library of national treasure. As Koh keeps collecting newspaper up to date, how much storing can he individually handle alone?
In the midst of newspaper forest, news about nudity and sexuality in the arts can be spotted. To our surprise, there was a number of them. One which happened recently this year during Artstage is just on the above snapshot. Others include female nudity in art (they even published works by Henry Moore as ‘nudity’. Josef Ng’s supposedly-controversial performance can also be spotted on Koh’s performance archive and the long list goes on.
We would say to be the last standing poster of Paddy Chew’s performance in 1999 is one of the highlight, at least for RAP in this piece. Paddy Chew is the first Singaporean who went public with his HIV+ status. He has left us but the memory remains. This piece reminds us of Chew and shall we give him a tribute for this year’s World’s AIDS Day exhibition?
The installation was never still. It kept evolving like a forest, which Koh did turn his office into nearing the end of the biennale. Every day, Koh will change the newspapers on the wall showing different perspective and information on the local art scene. It will be a work which not everyone can fully grasp but Koh feed his audience with stories and facts about what is Singapore art. Up to date, there is no formal archive on local art production and development. Although local art is part of Junior College’s Art A level topics, information online is scarce.
Archival project is difficult, in terms of continuity and budget. RAP which aims to document LGBT art is doing what we can but we are a small portion of what Koh’s doing. We owe Koh a great favor and the least we as part of the local arts community would like to say Thank You.