Singapore Biennale 2019


singapore biennale 2019 - collage of sitsit sa kuliglig and the chalk room

We can never go bored with the art scene in Singapore. Year after year we’re blessed with a ton of events and installations that are both interactive and ‘gram-friendly. Well, here’s a treat for those who love immersive art with storytelling tidbits: Singapore Biennale is back for its 6th edition with over 150 artworks across 11 venues in the city!

Titled Every Step in the Right Direction and happening from now till 22nd March 2020, this festival of contemporary art won’t just feature your typical paintings on walls. You can expect lots of film, audio, tech, and live performances to change things up. Here are 6 works you can’t miss out if you’re just getting started:


1. Fly through a virtual reality world


singapore biennale 2019 - la camera insabbiata (the chalkroom) at smu de suantio gallery
It may just be VR, but you’ll be “floating” throughout the entire maze in this trippy digital world.

If you’ve always wanted to experience The Matrix for yourself, the La camera insabbiata (The Chalkroom) installation at SMU’s de Suantio Gallery will give you an up-close glimpse of the action. 

Using virtual reality, the installation sets the stage with a dark labyrinth where your imagination can run wild. The cool part is, you can fly through the digital rain of alphabets and discover hidden rooms at unsuspecting corners.

You can move around the maze by stretching your arms out to go faster. Follow lit pathways to uncover narrated stories of the artists, and you’ll begin to understand the meaning behind these rooms.

singapore biennale 2019 - la camera insabbiata (the chalkroom) at smu de suantio gallery
Try to spot the conga line that’ll lead you to a dance room

One of the many rooms you’ll stumble upon is a sound room where you’ll be able to record your own voice to make a virtual sculpture. Just strike it to hear the fruits of your labour. You’ll also find it worth your while to fly to the dance room to join a long conga line – the entire experience is nothing short of fun!

Jointly created by a Grammy Award-winning musician Laurie Anderson and Taiwanese new media artist Hsin-Chien Huang, this work won the Best VR Experience Award at the 74th Venice Film Festival.

La camera insabbiata (The Chalkroom) by Laurie Anderson and Hsin-Chien Huang
Address: SMU de Suantio Gallery, Singapore Management University School of Economics / School of Social Sciences, 90 Stamford Road, Singapore 178903
Opening hours: 10AM-7PM, Daily
Entry fee: Free


2. Read and hear stories from migrant communities in Singapore


singapore biennale 2019 - telling stories from outside and inside at national gallery singapore

A lot like a real life Twitter timeline, this work displayed at the National Gallery Singapore is titled Telling stories from outside and inside. It details the experiences of migrant workers and local students in mini-stories. 

These were transcribed from real conversations and memorialised in the form of hanging scrolls that you can walk through. We’re not going to lie when we say it can get pretty emotionally heavy, especially with recollections of discrimination, feelings of gratitude, and thoughts on missing home.

singapore biennale 2019 - telling stories from outside and inside at national gallery singapore

Flanking these scrolls are 2 walls of photos and documents, where you can see the faces of the storytellers. For a more intimate experience, put on the headphones to listen to their firsthand narrations as you sit by the window overlooking the lawn of St. Andrew’s Cathedral, where migrant workers gather on their days off.

Telling stories from outside and inside by Veronica Troncoso
Address: National Gallery Singapore, 1 Saint Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957
Opening hours: Sat – Thu 10AM-7PM | Fri 10AM-9PM
Entry fee: From $10 (Singaporeans and PRs) | $25 (non-Singaporeans)
Get your tickets here


3. Stand within a wind chime oasis


singapore biennale 2019 - sitsit sa kuliglig (whatever circles from the center) at national museum of singapore

If you’ve driven or walked past the National Museum of Singapore recently, you might’ve noticed a circular structure at the front lawn near the entrance. 

Resembling a mega-sized wind chime, this installation titled sitsit sa kuliglig. (whatever circles from the center) has layers of windowpane oyster shells known in Tagalog as capiz. They’ve been strung together and now move delicately in the summer breeze of Singapore.

singapore biennale 2019 - sitsit sa kuliglig (whatever circles from the center) at national museum of singapore

Make your way through this curtain of capiz and stand right in the middle to hear the soothing echoes of its clinks and clanks. Step out and see if you can spot the marble balls engraved with “psst” on the surrounding ground, inviting passers-by to slow down and enjoy the wind chime-like sculpture.

sitsit sa kuliglig. (whatever circles from the center) by Lani Maestro
Address: National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road, Singapore 178897
Entry fee: Free


4. Travel to the future of 2065


singapore biennale 2019 - 2065 (singapore centennial edition) at asian civilisations museum

We might not all be gamers but a session with a gaming console is a sure way to release some steam. Over at the 2065 (Singapore Centennial Edition) installation located at the Asian Civilisations Museum, you’ll get to use a console controller to explore a futuristic virtual game world. 

singapore biennale 2019 - 2065 (singapore centennial edition) at asian civilisations museum

It’ll first seem like Singapore has reverted back to her jungle terrains but with iconic buildings like the Marina Bay Sands and the Singapore Flyer peeking through the vegetation. But here’s a twist: you’re actually about to jump into a not-so-distant future where you can see the outcome of global warming.

Teleport yourself to the Casino or the Museum for a visual representation of the types of changes we might have to face in the future that’s overrun by water and plants. Or try to spot the burning drone that’s hovering around the re-structured city.

2065 (Singapore Centennial Edition) by Lawrence Lek
Address: Asian Civilisations Museum, 1 Empress Place, Singapore 179555
Opening hours: Sat – Thu 10AM-7PM | Fri 10AM-9PM
Entry fee: Free for Singaporeans and PRs. Regular admission info here.


5. Get hypnotised by 24 video screens


singapore biennale 2019 - async - volume at national gallery singapore
This installation lets you experience the creative process of composer Ryuichi Sakamoto

The first thing that’ll hit you as you enter the async – volume installation in National Gallery Singapore is the pitch black darkness. This will lead up to a constellation of 24 video screens that are fixed onto the walls. 

You might expect typical videos with lots of movement and sounds, but the videos here depict the stillness of everyday sights, like curtains blowing in the wind and tracks left by the drops of rain on the window. Move closer to listen to the accompanying ambient sounds for an immersive experience. 

async – volume by Zakkubalan in collaboration with Ryuichi Sakamoto
Address: National Gallery Singapore, 1 Saint Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957
Opening hours: Sat – Thu 10AM-7PM | Fri 10AM-9PM
Entry fee: From $10 (Singaporeans and PRs) | $25 (non-Singaporeans)
Get your tickets here.


6. Wear cardboard goggles to watch a ghostly wayang


singapore biennale 2019 - bukit brown index #132: triptych of the unseen by post museum at gillman barracks Image credit: Post-Museum

Whether or not you’re familiar with the Bukit Brown fiasco, the Bukit Brown Index #132:  Triptych of the Unseen will be an upbeat yet insightful storytelling session. Sited in Gillman Barracks, the whole performance is packed into a pair of cardboard goggles that have been decorated to fit the wayang theme.

singapore biennale 2019 - bukit brown index #132: triptych of the unseen by post museum at gillman barracks Image credit: Singapore Art Museum

You’ll first see rows of empty seats facing a stage but once you’ve slipped on your makeshift goggles, get ready to be transported to a bustling scene. It’s typical of one that you’d see at a Hungry Ghost Festival, complete with a ghostly audience. 

It might sound spooky, but watch how the Bukit Brown Cemetery made way for a highway project from the perspectives of 3 characters: a Ghost, an Activist and a Bureaucrat.

singapore biennale 2019 - bukit brown index #132: triptych of the unseen by post museum at gillman barracks
Image credit: Post-Museum

Bukit Brown Index #132: Triptych of the Unseen by Post-Museum
Address: Gillman Barracks, 9 Lock Road, Singapore 108937
Opening hours: Tue – Sun & Public holidays 12PM-7PM | Fri 12PM-9PM
Entry fee: Free


Dive into art of all forms at the Singapore Biennale


Inspired by modern-day dialogues such as global warming, migration, and the prevalence of artificial intelligence, this year’s Singapore Biennale will not be your regular art show. Instead, it’ll let you immerse yourself with interactive artworks, be it virtual reality, audio and visual works or live performances while keeping everyone in the loop about the need for change.

We’re down to the last few months of the festival, so catch these in the flesh from now till 22nd March 2020. Make full use of the free guided tours at National Gallery Singapore and Gillman Barracks on selected days. There’ll even be free weekend shuttle buses for you to easily make your way between these 2 largest venues of the Singapore Biennale.

So mark your calendars and ready yourself to be fascinated by this year’s suite of inspiring art experiences that’ll draw out a sense of curiosity and attentiveness to everyday life.

Find out more about Singapore Biennale 2019 here


This post was brought to you by Singapore Art Museum.
Photography by Joshua Ryan Lee.