Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Curating Nation: Reflections on SUSURMASA | A talk by Zanita Anuar, Director of Museum Innovation, Malaysia Museums Department

Date: 14 October 2011, Friday 
Time: 6.30pm
Venue: NUS Museum
Admission free. To register email: or call 6516 8429

The landmark exhibition SUSURMASA Seni Lukis Malaysia Bersama 50 Tahun Balai Seni Lukis Negara or Timelines of Malaysian Art presented a large scale re-introduction to the Permanent Collection of the National Art Gallery of Malaysia (NAG) in conjunction with the celebration of NAG's Golden Jubilee in 2008. Its objective was to put on display, the permanent collection of national visual arts heritage. Curatorially, it was set up across six thematic galleries, as a series of encounters between the ethnographic and modern; the pre-colonial, the colonial, and post-independent; proposing timelines and entry points. 

The talk examines the role of the curator as a trespasser of sites. In particular, the provocateur of museums and galleries, as sites where issues of identity, national memory, power and place intersect. The NAG has been engaged in the preservation, representation and contextualization of objects, cultures and histories over space and time. Institutional curators become culture brokers and memory shapers, and are influential in illustrating and re-illustrating popular perceptions of the past. The Malaysian art audience of the 21st century has demanded that the institution responsible for culture and arts take up the challenge of providing discourse around the diverse perspectives of multi-culturalism and under-represented groups. Investigations on ethnographies and postcolonial trends, have spurred the curators who have worked alongside area-specialists, historians and archaeologists to query the categories of art, aesthetics, text and authenticity in developing a National timeline. The Susurmasa becomes a site investigation.

Zanita Anuar started her career as a Lecturer in INTI and LICT and assumed the role of Education Curator in the Nanyang Gallery of Art, Hong Leong Group Bhd, in 1993. She later served at the National Art Gallery of Malaysia from 1995 to 2010. In 2011, she assumed a new role as the Director of Museum Innovation at The Malaysia Museums Department, initiating appreciation programs in embracing innovation in a museum environment. She is currently advising The University of Malaya on their collections and curatorial strategies towards the creation of the University Malaya Art Gallery (UMAG), and is the Guest Curator for an upcoming charity exhibition in aid of Palestine and the Al Aqsa mosque.

About Curating Nation Talk Series
In recent years, the idea of the nation has been studied not merely as a site of economic, political or geographic persuasions but also as a cultural object of analysis. Presented in conjunction with the exhibition Camping and Tramping Through the Colonial Archive | The Museum in Malaya, this talk series brings together leading art practitioners from Southeast Asia in an attempt at discerning the complexities involved in curating aspects of the nation within museological or gallery settings. Ranging from the deployment of exhibitions as a mode of cultural production, to the play of cosmopolitan identities at international biennales, curating the nation is conceived as a platform for the interdisciplinary discussion of memory, object and practice.

Click here to view e-flyer

Event photos 

Monday, 26 September 2011

Raku Workshop with Delia Prvacki


With all participants enthusiastically immersed in the second day of the workshop's process Delia explained and illustrated different ceramics samples with varied materials and composition. Whilst emphasizing on differences between types of clay and firing, all subordinated to the functionality of the final product (industrial, commercial, ornamental etc) Delia also insisted that ceramics can be an independent form of art if practiced by artists who choose it as their medium and their "language" to express their creativity. In studio practice ceramicists-artists are allowed to try all sorts of experiments and innovations, and the ultimate criteria is to follow the originality and integrity of the artist's ideas and message shared with a high command of skill and technical knowledge.

As such, contemporary ceramics became an equal medium to any other mediums practiced by visual artists and is competent to translate all directions and discourse present in 2D techniques and 3D installations.In this context, RAKU occupies a very special space and offers endless varieties of interpretation. Within this course of this workshop, Delia's intention is to promote an alternative approach to ceramic art among practitioners and ceramic -lovers in Singapore.

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Fiona Tan

Our intern from last summer, Fiona Tan, has been featured in the NUS Campus Life column! Click on the image to read more about her experience of working in the Raffles Light Prep Room.

Click here to read more Diary of NUS Museum Intern entries.
Click here to find out about our Internship Opportunities

Friday, 23 September 2011

Vote for NUS Museum

NUS Museum and the NUS Baba House are in the running for the Best Overall Experience category at the first inaugural Museum Roundtable Awards 2011. If you enjoyed your visit to the NUS Museum, the Baba House or a programme that we organised, we hope you will show your appreciation by voting for us.

To vote for NUS Museum and NUS Baba House

      Login to Facebook or create a Facebook account if you do not already have one.
      To vote for NUS Museum or NUS Baba House, click on this link:
      Click the “LIKE” button on the top-right of the page
      After clicking “LIKE”, you should see the list of participating museums appearing in each category.

      Click the “VOTE” button under the NUS Museum or NUS Baba House heading. NUS Museum is listed under the Art category and Baba House under the Culture category. If the page remains blank, please refresh the page.
       In addition, you may write a comment about your experience and be eligible to win prizes. The voting period ends on 30 Sept.

The results will be announced on 4 October 2011 at the Museum Roundtable Awards prize presentation ceremony.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Writing Power | Zulkifli Yusoff

 Pelayaran Munsyi Abdullah [detail], 2003, Aliya and Farouk Khan Collection. [Gallery Impression, Writing Power | Zulkifli Yusoff, NUS Museum, 2011]

Date: 9 September  –  4 December 2011
(Exhibition extended until 19 Feb 2012)
Venue: NX Gallery, NUS Museum

Assembling two installations Malaysian artist Zulkifli Yusoff completed almost two decades apart, Writing Power (re)stages and simultaneously unpacks the conceptual grounds and the workings that inform the artist’s practice. Once restated as a contemporary encounter, colonial and native texts – often lodged as literary or historical – offer fresh lines of enquiry, contextual re-positionings, anecdotal links, and re-significations purposeful beyond the articulation of artistic methods, projecting into the dynamic role of reading and its potentials. Writing Power enacts a matrix that prospects engagements between image, texts and ideas and the associated authorial positions, negotiations that implicate the viewer’s interpretative agency. An assemblage of sites exposing everyday work materials ranging from archival traces to testimonials to media prints which make visualizations possible, they form traces that are recalcitrant, fragmentary rather than fungible, calling out: if it matters not-knowing what these traces mean, who made them, when and why, where do we place them, or how to approach them, in the now.

Entering into the Malaysian contemporary art scene in the late 1980s, Zulkifli Yusoff’s practice looks at how historical texts color cultural memory and shape contemporary understandings of the Self. Often arranging materials in an assemblage of citation and juxtaposition, and presenting them as archival scaffolds, a complex of texts and objects, Writing Power draws on three texts which were mobilized by Zulkifli Yusoff for his installations since the 1990s. Namely, The Story of Abdullah’s Voyage to Kelantan (Pengajian Kesah Pelayaran Abdullah Munshi, c. 1838) which remains a crucial reference for the study of modern Malay literature, the Malay Annals (Sejarah Melayu, c. 16th century) which locates the genealogy of the Malay Sultanates of the Malaccan Empire, and the Malay Sketches (c. 1895) penned by the first Resident General of the Federated Malay States, Sir Frank Swettenham, which provides glimpses into his interactions with and regard for the communities of the region.

XII University Museums and Collections Conference | 10 – 13 October 2012

NUS Museum
National University of Singapore
The annual University Museums and Collections Conference (UMAC) will be held in Singapore from 10 to 13 October 2012 and it will be hosted by NUS Museum.

A Southeast Asian first, UMAC 2012 is an excellent opportunity for SEA university museums to engage with the global university museums community 

In view of the dramatic growth of museums and exhibitionary interests in Asia, the conference in Singapore will discuss how university museums can remain relevant to educational institutions and institutions beyond; identify challenges confronting university museums and collections; share strategies adopted by university museums, collections, galleries and museum professionals. 

Please click here for  details on the proposed conference Programmes and theme Encountering Limits: The University Museum 

Remembering No.157 | Conversation with Wee Lin

Date: 28 September 2011
Venue: NUS Baba House

Event photos

Monday, 19 September 2011

Raku Workshop with Delia Prvacki

Click on the above image to view photo gallery

The first session took place at Delia’s studio “Combinart” in Hiangkie Industrial Building, where the artist had exhibited some of her recent works. 

The first session was a talk which Delia focused on a brief introduction in the world of ceramic art with a very personal interpretation of Raku's origin, as a specific technique for firing clay works. Delia’s intentions was to project the “accidental” discovery of “raku” in the context of Japan’s economic, social, architectural development and transformation in the late 16th century, juxtaposed on aesthetics, craft, religion and philosophy of that time. As such, RAKU became a vehicle for promoting a new life style (tea ceremony and the use of special hand-made tea pots), sophisticated rituals and intellectual, artistic discourse, generating a fresh view and innovative methods of artistic expression, which were owervelmingly embraced, adopted and adapted by Western ceramicists in 20th century, especially with the re-invention and diversification of this medium by American artists in 60s. This latest groups is credited to reinvigorate the technique and to contribute with innovative technology and adventurous logistic and a deep sense of community, ecological principles interwoven in RAKU craft studios.

Delia also explained her concept of the “natural” approach in the raku clay work as the energising force behind the “revolution” produced in the contemporary ceramic art by establishing new criteria for practicing and expressing ideas and creating a new visual language which is emphasised on freedom, spontaneity, improvisation with the ultimate goal to produce an object meant for contemplation. The magic and fascination with colours developing from raw materials, the process of hand-moulding the clay, the adventurous spirit to work directly with the FIRE in order to create the colour effect in a deliberate way, are the starting points for the participants in the workshop to reflect upon and to try to translate in the works they are encouraged to produce during following weeks in the workshop.
Proposed theme for the following sessions is related to idea of human body, skin, personal identity, a similarity to basic characteristics of clay as a material and the tactile and sensual appeal embodied in the completed artwork under FIRE. Delia expressed her views and belief that ceramic works are accessible to every passionate individual, as long as there is sincerity and sense for exploration in the working process. Delia says: Ceramic practice should not be limited to strict rules and the creative activity, it should be accepted as a moment of liberation, allowing our body (through our skin and hand’s work) and our senses (tactile and most importantly, the visual, chromatic appreciation of colours, texture of fired glazes, which all comes from natural, earth and metallic components) to translate our inner world. Watch out for more updates as the works are in progress....

Rohini Yuvaraj (NUS Museum)

Press | Passage : September/ October 2011

Double click on the image to view pdf version of the article

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Video | Interactions with R.E. Hartanto

Note: This post is part of the online series Interactions with R.E. Hartanto: A Series of Scenarios, Schemes and Stories. This series documents the artistic process and development of Hartanto's latest series of works to be featured at NUS Museum in January 2012. It documents his visits to Singapore, the workshops he conducts and feature writings, photographs and notes from his earlier exhibitions. Acting as a conduit between the artist and the audience, the series provides insights into the artistic and curatorial processes of the project.

As part of the development for R.E. Hartanto's exhibition at NUS Museum next year, NUS Museum and the University Scholars' Programme co-organised a workshop from 14-16 Sept 2011 at USP Cinnamon College. The workshop called for Hartanto along with a group of NUS students and staff to confront the other self as a subject and material that would transverse the boundary terrain of self and society, perception and memories that are entangled inside the surface of the body.

During the three-day workshop, Hartanto and the participants engaged in discussions of his artistic process, the capturing of expressions of anxiety and a collaborative art-making activity.   On the second day, the participants were asked to relieve a moment of anxiety while being photographed. Hartanto then chose the photograph that he thought embodied the theme of anxiety the best, rendering it into a sketch which was then divided into grids. During the art-making activity on the third day, each participant was given a few grids and asked to sketch what they see on each grid. They had no idea which photograph had been selected as they sketched their respective grids. After each piece was completed, they were pieced together and slowly the photograph-sketch was revealed...

Much thanks to USP for hosting the workshop and Hartanto and all the students who participated so enthusiastically in the workshop! We will be blogging more about the workshop in the next few days, so do look out for them!

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Melinda Susanto

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Besides working hard and fast in their cubicles, our interns have travelled to Bandung and Malacca, organised symposiums, waded through tons of historical research and pitched in during exhibition installations. It was definitely no ordinary internship for them! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!

Melinda is currently a 4th year Art History and Curatorship major from the Australian National University. Her internship was part of the IARU Global Internship Programme. NUS Museum has been welcoming interns from this programme for the past three years and we look forward to more in the future. If you would like to find out more about this programme, please click here.

When I started my internship at the NUS museum, little did I know how much I would gain from it! I got a crash course in Singapore history and the colonial museum through researching, tried my hands on some practical museum work, went on exhibition-related day trips and even attended a museum conference. The research experience itself was enriching, and oddly enough, resonates with a kind of past-present parallel. The colonial archive may well be a site of memory, but as I researched for Camping and Tramping, a tale of contemporary endeavours also unfolded before me.

‘Exploring the unknown’
Colonial Malaya, with its ‘exotic’ and then-unfamiliar people and locales, was an object of exploration and a space for imagination. Explorers chronicled their adventures, scientists illustrated newly-discovered species of flora and fauna, ethnographers recorded local folklore and collected artefacts, be it a keris or a basket. Malaya beckoned to people of varied backgrounds, where piqued interests provoked deeper research.

Similarly, Camping and Tramping as an exhibition presents an exploratory complex. As visitors to the museum each bring with them their own perceptions and world-views, they also come away with different thoughts. Artefacts are simply labeled with numbers -with further details provided in a gallery guide and much more in reference binders- rewarding those who seek further information, just the way once-upon-a-time expeditions played out. Witnessing a fortuituous school visit also showed me the youthful drive for knowledge: students armed with papers to draw, write and explain their interest and understanding of artefacts, echoing the inquisitive process of explorers, scientists, and ethnographers traversing through colonial Malaya.

‘Glimpses between the texts’
Through my internship, I spent much time delving into existing texts, research that made up the current exhibition – from writings of jungle and cave explorations, through records of mystic magic, to elucidation of flora and fauna – it all fascinated me how the history of Singapore and the rise of the colonial museum is filtered through the lenses of the writers of these texts.

These historical texts provide a glimpse, no matter fragmentary, into the personalities involved in establishing the colonial museum and the lives of the local population. Yet it is with a random thought that I realised, so does the exhibition and the existing stacks of research I was diving into. They too, tell a story of the researchers who compiled the mass of sources – the scribbles in the margins, the annotations in the bibliographies, are abound with curious and insightful thoughts on the research. While annual reports may reflect the interests of an official and what directed the priorities of the colonial museum, the stroke of a pen, a colourful splash of highlighting, reveals what each researcher considered significant and presented me with signposts as I sifted through the texts.

The acquisitions of artefacts reflected the efforts and mindsets of colonial officials; equally, amassing the range of books, newspaper articles and reports attest to the hard work and research-paths of last year’s interns. While an intriguing newly-discovered artefact or species may wow its then-audience, I am fascinated with an obscure reference found, thinking, “How did he/she find that!?”, a sentiment surely echoing that of past audiences.

The only difference in the texts’ function as archive of memory in the historical versus the contemporary sense is that I actually met some of the interns in person, while the gap between historical reality and the mirage of personalities glimpsed between the texts perhaps necessarily remains nebulous.

‘Intrigue. Search. Collect.’
The colonial archive may be seen as a product of accumulation. Many writers of these texts acknowledged that there was much more to know; they sought to record even more encounters as they explored the region, with the certainty that more knowledge will yield greater significance sometime in the future.

Then, it occurred to me that I, too, was gripped by some kind of fervour which drove me to fill up gaps and follow up trails of references to find something new, assembling heaps of papers and collecting links of relevance. I knew not where it would go, but that it mattered for me to keep being thrilled at new discoveries and adding to the collection of research, texts ranging from colonial artistic impressions of Singapore to the development of the Nanyang arts movement.

And then, just as the archival texts contained lists and tables attempting to organize the scientific and ethnological knowledge gained about the colonial environment, so too it seems the exhibition’s binders and lists of bibliographies denote previous researchers’ task of compiling and making sense of the research intended for this exhibition. To this, I also added my humble two cents’ worth: updating bibliographies and generating timelines plotted along the milestones of Singapore history, the development of the arts, the interactions between local communities and the colonial institution.

‘Peeling back the layers’      
By the end of two months, I have come to realise that there are many layers to what is known as the colonial archive. I emerged from the internship with an appreciation of the complexities of postcolonial discourse, the histories of colonialism and its institutions. I also gained a valuable insight into the day-to-day work of the museum, from the process of engaging with research and generating scopes for exhibition content, to the installation process of an upcoming exhibition. All in all, it was a rewarding experience to be part of the NUS Museum’s internship program and I found it more than worthwhile to have swapped the wintry streets of Canberra for the sunny shores of Singapore during this break.

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Article | Interactions with R.E. Hartanto

Note: This post is part of the online series Interactions with R.E. Hartanto: A Series of Scenarios, Schemes and Stories. This series documents the artistic process and development of Hartanto's latest series of works to be featured at NUS Museum in January 2012. It documents his visits to Singapore, the workshops he conducts and feature writings, photographs and notes from his earlier exhibitions. Acting as a conduit between the artist and the audience, the series provides insights into the artistic and curatorial processes of the project.

Art as Play by Roy Voragen
By Whiteboard Journal, May 18, 2011

(Please click on the image for the original article.)

To read more of Roy's writings, please visit his blog, Amor Fati by Roy Voragen.


Friday, 9 September 2011

Publication: Writing Power | Zulkifli Yusoff

Foreword | Ahmad Mashadi
Re-visioning Power | Zanita Anuar
Abdullah, Method, Object, Conversing with Zulkifli Yusoff | Hasnul J Saidon
Writing Power | Shabbir Hussain Mustafa

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Process | Interactions with R.E. Hartanto

Note: This post is part of the online series Interactions with R.E. Hartanto: A Series of Scenarios, Schemes and Stories. This series documents the artistic process and development of Hartanto's latest series of works to be featured at NUS Museum in January 2012. It documents his visits to Singapore, the workshops he conducts and feature writings, photographs and notes from his earlier exhibitions. Acting as a conduit between the artist and the audience, the series provides insights into the artistic and curatorial processes of the project.

Interactions with R.E. Hartanto: A Series of Scenarios, Schemes and Stories

Artist R.E. Hartanto is an Indonesian artist, currently living and working in Bandung, Indonesia. He is known for his provocative portraitures that narrate stories of contemporary social political issues that are prevalent in our society.

As part of Hartanto's artistic process and development for his latest series of works for his first solo exhibition at the NUS Museum in January 2012, NUS Museum is launching the online series Interactions with R.E. Hartanto: A Series of Scenarios, Scenes and Stories. This series documents his visits to Singapore, the workshops he conducts, feature writings, photographs and notes from his earlier exhibitions. Acting as a conduit between the artist and the audience, this series provides insights to the artistic and curatorial processes of the project.

Hartanto's current approach to the upcoming exhibition focuses on the theme of angst, revolving around the idea of constructing a "theatre of anxiety". This idea is based on a proverb he believes in, where every child is born a twin. He will attempt to confront the other self as a subject and material that transverse the boundary terrain of self and society, perception and memories that are entangled inside the surface of the body.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Workshop by Artist R.E. Hartanto

Date: 14 - 16 September 2011
Venue: Tutorial Room 2, Cinnamon West Learn Lobe (USP), Level 2

Event photos