On Monday, at the invitation of the artist and his publicists, I saw Path. 6, Unpacking my Library书城, a deeply personal exhibition by Indonesia-born Singaporean artist, Boedi Widjaja, at Jendela, the Esplanade’s visual arts space.
Unpacking my Library书城 is part of an ongoing series, Path., in which the artist uses drawing, printmaking, video, installation, and live art to create a home in a city. Widjaja was unwilling migrant; he was sent to school in Singapore at nine years old due to ethnic tensions in his hometown of Surakarta. Path. was first conceived and exhibited in 2012 and “was triggered by the artist’s change in citizenship; a time of charged national conversation on the rights of immigrants in Singapore, his newly adopted country; and the broader narrative of urban migration within Southeast Asia.”
Unpacking my Library书城 uses the gesture of selecting a book from the artist, his father, and his daughter’s personal libraries as a starting point from which to build a private library where books become sculptures, drawings, utterances, readings, songs, and conversations. “Unpacking my Library书城” refers to the title of an essay by Walter Benjamin, a German literary critic, philosopher, social critic, translator, and radio broadcaster, and the Chinese nickname for Bras Basah Complex, a shopping complex best-known for its bookstores.
Unpacking my Library书城 consists of three works: Siapakah si Manusia Baja?, hundreds of mass market novels, canvas-wrapped, and marked in different ways; When steel rings in my sleep, an installation of steel bookshelves, neither built not unbuilt; and <<重见>>, a video installation in which the artist, his father, and his daughter perform together in the act of reading and mark-making.
Unpacking my Library书城 is complicated and emotional. As you might guess, I was taken with the exploration of the materiality of and memory contained within books.
The exhibition closes on January 4, 2015. Join the artist in conversation with Tan Han Wue (on Chinese bookstores in 1950s and 1960’s Singapore) on Saturday, November 15 at 4pm and with Adib Jalal (on Bras Basah Complex) on Saturday, November 22 at 4pm.
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Ogilvy Public Relations asked me to mention Canon. So: wOOt Canon. The interview was arranged to promote Canon’s support of local artists and the creative application of Canon’s technology (in Widjaja’s case, the use of the company’s cameras and projector).
The photographs above are from “Live Art”, a collaboration between the artists and folk singer Dawn Fung.