Recap | Supergarden, Curating the Singapore Architecture Pavilion at the 11th Biennale

Watch the entire talk here

Architecture beyond Building, Singapore beyond the Tangible
By Fiona Tan
Year 4, History Major

Lilian Chee’s and Peter Sim’s Supergarden: Curating the Singapore Architecture Pavilion at the 11th Venice Biennale provided a complementary follow-up of Singapore’s architect and designer community participation to June Yap’s discussion of the artists’ participation in such international Biennales last week.
Beginning with a theoretical discussion of the issues involved in exhibiting architecture, Chee explicated a conception of architecture beyond building. Citing works by Herzog & de Meuron, she highlighted how the archaeological slant to curating architectural “waste” highlighted the complex imaginary aspects of the architecture, beyond its ultimate imperfect product – the building. Moving on to the 11th Venice Biennale, with the theme of “Architecture Beyond Building”, Sim discussed FARM’s involvement in curating the Singapore Architecture Pavilion. Carrying on Chee’s interdisciplinary ideas on present-day theories architecture, Sim described the Pavilion, which resembled a conceptual art installation more than an architectural exhibition, with a table of 22 objects representing up-and-coming architects and designers, complete with motion-activated suspended speakers immersing the visitor in a cacophony of ongoing discussions between the architects and designers.

Similar to Yap’s presentation the previous week, both talks highlight the tension between institutional expectations of curating nation with the communities’ – the artists last week and the architects and designers affiliated to FARM this week – efforts to go beyond the nation as a clich├ęd tangible entity. Sidetracking the perhaps over-laboured and self-restricting question of “What is Singapore Architecture”, Chee and Sim charted the process of curating an exhibition which shifted away from the previous exhibitions which feature award-winning Singaporean designs. Rather than focusing on the tangible, they chose to display the intangible and often-neglected process of design, placing the interaction between individuals in the limelight.

Careful to conform to the commissioning panels’ expectations, Chee and Sim nevertheless package this “ecosystem of ideas” under the title the Supergarden, referencing Singapore’s reputation as the Garden City. Mirroring the earlier theoretical discussion of the complex translation from architectural designs to tangible building, the negotiations and compromises struck between curators and commissioners reflect equally, if not more, complicated task of exhibiting nation. Just as Architecture is never completely able to divorce itself from its practice, the Building, the exhibition of nation beyond the tangible still has to conform, albeit artificially and superficially, to a stereotype of Singapore. 


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