Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Pang He Ling

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!

Pang He Ling is a third-year undergraduate from NUS, majoring in Japanese Studies. She joined the museum from December 2012-January 2013.

I was an intern for the exhibition OMNILOGUE: Your Voice Is Mine, co-organized with the Japan Foundation, where six groups of Japanese artists explore the boundaries of Self/Other in the Singaporean context, creating a polyphonic narrative and dynamic that both artists and audience share as one discovers the multiple facets of the contemporary identity. As a cross-cultural collaboration, much effort has been put into negotiation and liaison to ensure a smooth preparation, and subsequently, a successful exhibition.

I joined the NUS Museum team at a quaint time – much of the negotiations and liaisons had been done and the team was in the last stage of preparations. Most of my work was editorial so as to ensure that meanings are not lost in translation. A huge challenge was negotiating the tensions that arise due to the different natures of English and Japanese, ensuring that the nuances intended in the Japanese discourse was not lost in its English counterpart.

Like the exhibition title, I find myself speaking for the artists, sharing their voice and beliefs in their art. To be able to fully comprehend how these artists negotiate the Self/Other boundary, I did research on each artist and their previous works. While each artist differ in their style and way of approaching art, they all share the same fundamental belief – to induct their audience into (re)thinking the current state, be it the gallery system and what makes a “sculpture” like Motohiro Tomii does with his daily Twitter project Today’s Sculpture, or Makiko Koie with her fascination with moments and feelings taken for granted in our everyday lives. The next challenge, then, was to translate their beliefs into a language that does not express itself the same way as Japanese.

While I do not have to deal with the hassle of translating directly from Japanese to English, it was an uphill task trying to convey what the artists hope to express in their works. It is fortunate that after much editorial work both from the NUS Museum side and the Japan Foundation side, what the audience read now is an expression of the artists’ perspectives on the Self/Other boundary that is very close to its original Japanese text. The artists’ voice is now ours as well.

The journey as an intern for this project has been exciting, and I was ecstatic that it ended with a bang. While it was originally not intended for me to do interpretive work for the exhibition opening, circumstances pushed me to do so and I am glad that I was of some help. It was an unexpected task that was daunting, but thanks to the help that was offered, the opening was a success.

This internship has given me much more than it offered; on top of gaining insights to exhibition preparations and curatorial work, I have also gained a deeper appreciation of art and the art of exhibition, and also the art of expression, particularly the beauty of expression in languages. And when two persons share the same perspective at looking at things, this is when Your Voice Is Mine.


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