The seventh edition of the Singapore Biennale opened to the public on Sunday, October 16, and it’s anything but expected. Organized by the Singapore Art Museum and commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore, the biennale will operate for the next five months under a different sort of name: Natasha. Through this act of naming, the four Co-Artistic Directors (Binna Choi, Nida Ghouse, June Yap, and Ala Younis) hope to move away from the common perception of a biennale as a mega-thematic exhibition, instead imagining Natasha as an intimate and collective journey with artists, collaborators, and audiences.

Conceived as a series of exploratory spaces for audiences to wander through and rest in, Natasha takes place in a variety of locations beyond traditional gallery settings. Visitors can experience art at sites like Tanjong Pagar Distripark, the Southern Islands, International Plaza, the Singapore Flyer observation wheel, and 22 Orchard Road (one of the city’s old shophouses), as well as everyday spaces like regional libraries and Yan Kit Playfield.

The title of Zarina Muhammad’s installation on St. John’s Island, “Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil” (2022), alludes to the historic identities of the land it sits upon, which has the Indigenous Malay name Pulau Sekijang Bendera.

Journey to Sentosa, Lazarus Island, and St. John’s Island — three of the eight Southern Islands off the coast of Singapore — to experience six artistic projects that grapple with humanity’s relationship to nature, social practices, and myths. These include “KĪPUKA (for Natasha)” by the mother-son duo Maile Meyer and Drew Kahuʻāina Broderick, which brings together offerings from an intergenerational group of collaborators and friends inside an altered shipping container; Donghwan Kam’s “Fermentation House”, miniature house sculptures where soya sauce is fermented using an underground technique; and Singaporean artist Zarina Muhammad’s “Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil,” a multi-faceted installation accompanied by several on-site workshops, tours, and performances in which audiences can participate.

Installation view of Natasha Tontey’s “Garden Amidst the Flame; Lacuna for Compassion” (2022) at Singapore Art Museum in Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

A diverse selection of works by artists from around the world span multiple levels of the Singapore Art Museum’s new home at Tanjong Pagar Distripark, where internationally renowned artists including Haegue Yang (the winner of this year’s Benesse Prize), Araya Rasdjarmrearnsook, Cevdet Erek, and Wu Mali are exhibiting alongside homegrown Singaporean artists like Berny Tan and Ong Kian Peng. Through multimedia installations, immersive experiences, and participatory workshops, audiences will learn about the practices of artists like Samia Halaby and Joo Jae-Hwan and encounter newly commissioned works by Natasha Tontey, Kanitha Tith, Angkrit Ajchariyasophon, Kiran Kumar, Aarti Sunder, Brian Fuata, Ali Yass, Moad Musbahi, and Valentina Desideri and Denise Ferreira da Silva, among others.

Also on view at the Singapore Art Museum and part of the Singapore Biennale’s residencies in partnership with Darat al Funun is Ong Kian Peng’s immersive multimedia installation “The Viscous Sea”, created during his three-month residency in Amman, Jordan. Jordanian artist Raed Ibrahim, who is in residence in Singapore until November, explores the anonymity of established concepts through a series of clay tablets coded and customized to reflect a subject that is missing, obstructing, or obscuring.

Left: Installation view of Ong Kian Peng’s “The Viscous Sea” (2022) | Right: Installation view of Raed Ibrahim’s “Scripted Tablets” (2022)

Through the act of naming, the public is invited to meet and connect with artists, their lives, and different forms of life that are more than human. Myriad conversations with surrounding environments are introduced as artists present their interventions and work across a variety of spaces, whether they be the grounds of Tanjong Pagar Distripark or beyond. Visitors are encouraged to travel throughout Singapore and across various biennale sites and venues to truly experience the breadth and depth of the relationships and narratives to be found in Natasha.

The Singapore Biennale is on view now through March 19, 2023.

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