SWAB PRESENTS THE PROGRAM VIDEO BOX: HOME/LAND: RECENT MOVING IMAGES FROM SOUTHEAST ASIA
CURATED BY ALFONSE CHIU
Southeast Asia is a recent invention—a name given afar that marks it as a site of extraction, of colonial dreams coming true. The people of Southeast Asia never did see themselves as Southeast Asians until now, when geopolitical boundaries become effective technologies of identification. Before, they were of their own names, own kins, own kingdoms, who leave with the trade winds from the Northeast down to the Southwest, amongst islands and the continent. HOME/LAND presents snapshots of recent moments that see the flow of land and body in Southeast Asia as an extension of capital and as a marker for the changing relationship with nature, society, and the universe that the nations of Southeast Asia have. Drawing a line of sight—and comparison—between migrations, extractions, and the future, this moving image programme reflects on the strange terrains of Southeast Asia and its stranger journey as an unfamiliar homeland.
Robert Zhao Renhui Singapore
Tuan Mami Vietnam
Zarina Muhammad Singapore
Lêna Bùi Vietnam
Shireen Seno Philippines
Lim Sokchanlina Cambodia
Prapat Jiwarangsan Thailand
Riar Rizaldi Indonesia
Robert Zhao Renhui
Robert ZHAO Renhui is a Singaporean artist. His works has been exhibited globally, having held solo exhibitions in Singapore, China, Japan, Australia, and Italy, as well as participating in various biennales and photo festivals. Zhao will represent the Singapore Pavilion at the upcoming 60th Venice Biennale in 2024.
An omen, a warning, and a promise; the migration of animals have long symbolised both a change in the season and—when they deviate from the normal pattern—imminent danger. Carefully watching the migratory patterns of birds across East and Southeast Asia, Singaporean artist Robert Zhao Renhui observes that something has shifted in the air over the course of three works, And a Great Sign Appeared (2021), Evidence of Things Not Seen (2020), We Watch Them Disappear (2019), that collectively ask the question: What are we really seeing when the birds fly?
And a Great Sign Appeared, 2021
On Dec 22 2019, thousands of birds appeared in front of Robert Zhao Renhui’s home, darkening the sky and covering the open field next to a construction site. They were Asian openbill storks, birds foreign to Singapore and which had travelled a long way. Their appearance was a sign of something, but what of, Zhao was unsure.
Evidence of Things Not Seen, 2020
Already one of the largest urbanised areas in the world, the Pearl River Delta continues to urbanise at an alarming rate. When Zhao first arrived in Shunde, Guangzhou, he was worried because he could not see or hear any birds for the first hour. Where had all the birds gone? In recent years, birds have been used as indicators of possible changes in the environment. By looking closely at the types of birds and the number of birds, we can learn more about the current state of the environment.
We Watch Them Disappear, 2019
The wetlands in Yalu River, Dan Dong, is an important bird migratory site for the godwit and great knot. These birds migrate between New Zealand, China, North Korea and Alaska every year. In fact, the godwit’s migratory flight is the longest nonstop migration of any bird in the world. As more wetlands and coasts in South Korea and China become concretised, the wetlands in Yalu River remains one of the last sanctuaries for these birds
Zarina Muhammad and Zachary Chan
ZARINA Muhammad is an artist, educator and writer whose practice is deeply entwined with her decade-long multidisciplinary research on the shapeshifting forms and cultural translations pertaining to Southeast Asian ritual magic and its mythological roots.
Zachary CHAN is a graphic designer, gamelan musician, sound designer, composer and visual artist.
Can you hear what the world is telling you? In this sensitive exploration of territorial and ecological history in Singapore, artists Zarina Muhammad and Zachary Chan propose that the spectral landscape could be a useful tool for cultivating a different relationship with land and country in earth, land, sky and sea as palimpsest (2021). Weaving a path through a strange and familiar world that embraces the non-human and more-than-humans around us, the artists reimagine our capacity to enter a communion with our homeland, and nurture the relationships we share with the world itself.
Earth, Land, Sky and Sea as Palimpsest, 2021
Whispering Secrets into Trees, The Poetics of Moving Earth, Terra as Palimpsest are 3 vignettes that offer starting points and a first iteration of earth, land, sky and sea as palimpset, a broader body of work and collaborative research project looking into environmental histories, infrastructures overlaid on spirit paths, extractive capitalist urbanization, archival fragments, moving, shapeshifting walking paths through human built landscapes alongside what lies below and above these trails and coordinates.
Shireen SENO is a artist and filmmaker whose work addresses memory, history, and image-making, often in relation to the idea of home. A recipient of the 2018 Thirteen Artists Award from the Cultural Center of the Philippines and the 2022 Film Fellow of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin program, Seno’s films have been screened and won awards globally. Conducting a series of studies on bird migration inspired by the migration experience of filmmaker’s father, the film presented aims to deal with a sense of mobility in various forms and times.
A child dies, a child plays, a woman is born, a woman dies, a bird arrives, a bird flies off, 2020
Drawing from her own personal histories of migration and rootlessness, Philippine artist Shireen Seno’s A child dies, a child plays, a woman is born, a woman dies, a bird arrives, a bird flies off (2020) uses studies of migrating birds as a larger metaphor for mobility and circulation of bodies across geographies both material and immaterial. A traversal of media, terrains, and memories, Seno’s work probes at the practice and politics of survival, and the complicated roles images have in producing new realities that slowly encroach and warp the world.
Prapat JIWARANGSAN is a Thai artist and filmmaker. His practice investigates and represents the relationships between history, memory, and politics in Thailand—particularly in relation to the theme of migration by Southeast Asian bodies. Jiwarangsan’s works have been shown widely in film festivals and biennales including Berlinale (2021, 2022), IFFR (2016, 2018), and Singapore Biennale (2019).
In his recent works, Thai artist and filmmaker Prapat Jiwarangsan has been exploring the narratives of the Thai migrant community and diaspora in East Asia: Japan in Destination Nowhere (2018), and South Korea in The Wandering Ghost (2019). Blurring the lines between fact and feeling, fiction and non-fiction, Jiwarangsan’s documentaries are ethnographic essays that speak to the tenacity of the human spirit but also the political and economic logics that rewrite beings and bodies into commodities within the global market. With his wry experimentations of form and narrative, Jiwarangsan surfaces uncomfortable and unknown histories elegantly.
The Wandering Ghost, 2019
In the last couple of years, thousands of illegal Thai migrant workers in South Korea are deported back to Thailand, while thousands more slipped through the borders to take up both legal and illegal jobs. Calling themselves ‘ghosts’, they left their homeland for a foreign country whose language they cannot speak, work towards an uncertain future, and hide like phantoms to evade the authorities. The film observes the situation of these workers, as well as visits the other generation of Thai migrant worker in South Korea, an 80 year-old Thai veteran who once fought a Korean war.
Destination Nowhere, 2018
A young man who was born in Japan. His mother is a Thai worker who had illegally lived in Japan for many years, and, recently, was deported to Thailand. The court initially deported the young man too, but he is fighting for his right to stay to Japan. What should we make a decision on his case – should we follow the rule of law or the rule of humanity? I had made a film with him, and a series of photographs and objects inspired from his life.
TUẤN Mami is a visual artist based in Hà Nội. Frequently working with site-specific and re-constructional interventions to deal with larger conceptual inquiries about art, life, meaning and social interactions between people, Tuấn’s works have been shown globally at institutions such as Documenta 15th, Framer Framed, The Factory Contemporary Arts Center, and the Kuandu Fine Arts Museum.
The culmination of a long-term investigation of the impact of limestone mining on the Hà Nam province in northern Vietnam, In One’s Breath, Nothing Stays Still (2018) by Vietnamese artist Tuấn Mami derives its title from the epic indigenous Mường poem ‘The Birth of Soil and Water’, which imagines humanity’s uneasy coexistence with nature within a long animist lineage. A stunning portrait of a landscape and the terrible beauty of its destruction in service of human desires, Tuan’s almost apocalyptic vision is both a warning and a sirensong for the impacts of development and the climate crisis.
In One’s Breath, Nothing Stands Still, 2014
In One’s Breath – Nothing Stands Still studies the ruthless transformation of the landscape and ecosystem in the artist’s hometown in Hà Nam province as a consequence of rapid and unsustainable industrialisation. With the arrival of mining companies over the last 10 years, the inhabitants here have suffered from repeated environmental crises, and have been forced to self-teach new life skills. Land erosion, loss of biodiversity and contamination of soil and water have resulted in several traditional means of making a living – such as farming and hunting – being abolished. With this project, Tuấn Mami reveals a scene marked by conflict and makes visible the unspoken – unheard reality of his land and people.
Lêna BÙI is a Vietnamese artist based in Sài Gòn. Her works explore people’s relationship with nature and the impact of rapid development on people’s lives in registers ranging from the intimate to the anecdotal. She has shown widely at institutions including the Jeju Biennale 2022, Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Sharjah Art Foundation, and the Wellcome Collection.
Like a cascading echo of memories inherited from different lives, languages, and worlds, Kindred (2021) by Vietnamese artist Lêna Bùi unfolds like a visual poem, bringing together the shared stories of different beings and communities into a continuous cycle of transmission and repetition. Meditating on the occasionally violent but always deep entanglements between humans, non-humans, and nature, Bùi excavates the pre-history of colonisation and modernisation to imagine our collective future as a continuous and cohesive narrative of the world.
Lim Sokchanlina is a Cambodian artist working and based in Phnom Penh. Straddling documentary and conceptual practices through different strategies and media, Lim traces the impacts of development and connectivity in contemporary Cambodia. He is an active member of the artist collective, Stiev Selapak, since 2007 and has shown at museums and biennales widely.
Placed at the intersection of where the natural meets the manmade, Wrapped Future II (2019) by Cambodian artist Lim Sokchanlina is structured by a simple compositional principle that subtly communicates the recent developmental history of Cambodia: a series of freestanding corrugated metal sheets commonly used as fences to construction sites obscuring the centre of a landscape, immobile even as the environment around it slowly moves to the wind and tide. At times uncannily serious, at times drily humorous, the fences in Lim’s vignettes are both symbols and tools of a nation’s future.
Wrapped Future II, 2019
Barrier, wall, fence, border, obstacle, panel are all hide landscapes that human create under their constructing the world they live in. Cambodian construct Cambodia. This series of working is the imagination of the combination of human made landscape and natural landscape that has been hidden, that we always know, but are not sure what it looks like. Two forms of beauty confront each other, that of a flexible nature, that of hardness with strict forms invented by man. These large metal plates could be the metaphor, in a world that is experiencing the greatest migrations in its history – for economic reasons, political, climate change – of obstacles to prevent the passage. But nothing is said, nothing is asserted, except this form that is a manner of staging the landscape and that we are forced to look right in front.
Riar Rizaldi is an Indonesian artist and filmmaker. His recent practice investigates the relationship between capital and technology, labour and nature, and the role of textuality in generating social imaginaries. His works have been shown at film festivals including Locarno, IFFR, FID Marseille, and at institutions and biennales such as Centre Pompidou Taipei Biennial, Istanbul Biennial, Venice Architecture Biennale, and Biennale Jogja.
Over the course his recent works, Indonesian artist Riar Rizaldi has been steadily exploring the hidden lives of geological materials as extensions of a much broader network of human attempts at predicting and controlling nature. Drawing on both traditional animistic beliefs and a critical engagement with the environment as central elements in his moving images, Rizaldi makes fables that question how effective apparatuses of knowledge- and sense-making really are and give voice to the landscape itself: from tin and tin mines of Bangka island in Kasiterit (2019), to the active volcano Mount Merapi in Pyroclasts are Eloquent Storytellers (2022).
Pyroclasts are Eloquent Storytellers, 2022
Pyroclasts are eloquent storytellers observes the notion of prediction—where humans always have their own methods and apparatus in constructing their predictions for the future. In this context, this film focuses on the eruption forecast of one of the most active stratovolcano in the world: Mount Merapi. For many human who live around the volcano, Merapi as a geological entity is a symbol of a contingent future. Pyroclasts are eloquent storytellers delves into the psyche of the mountain as well as examines the practice of prophecy performed by people who live around the volcano with their multimodal approach to worldviews.
One-third of the global tin supply is extracted from Bangka island in Indonesia. Tin is the most impacted mineral by the upcoming technological development, which includes artificial intelligence and technology for renewable energy. Natasha is a solar-powered A.I. voice, and in this film, they trace their genealogy and the truth of their origin; from the capital liquidity to labour dynamic. With their feminised voice—as quite often performed by other AI-powered voice assistants produced by tech-companies, Natasha narrates the emergence of tin in Bangka island and their existence from the perspective of tropical anthropology of nature, value theory, philosophy of time, genetic mutation, geopolitics, and automation
VideoBox program will present a cicle of 4 short films in Zumzeig Cinema.
Wednesday 4th October, 7pm
Tickets available at here
- At the end of the screening there will be a Q&A with the curator Alfonse Chiu.
The Story of Ones, 2011
Phạm Ngọc Lân (Vietnam)
Utilizing the banality of Vietnamese state radio broadcasts, The Story of Ones gives a face and a sense of place to the unseen and offers a personal counterpoint to the officially sanctioned.
Russell Morton (Singapore)
Saudade is an aural and visual archive narrated entirely in Kristang—a creole language that emerged in 16th century Portuguese colonial Malacca. The film reimagines rituals and choreography characteristic of early Eurasian kampongs in three acts: a song and dance of the Jinkli Nona, a scene between a shrimp fisherman and his wife, and a cross-cultural encounter with the Malay ghost orang minyak. Using folklore and myth as narrative anchors, Morton weaves his personal identity and allegorical storytelling into cinema to examine the origins of Eurasians.
Tiyan Baker (Australia / Malaysia)
In Tiyan Baker’s mouthbreather, we witness the world from behind the artist’s teeth as she walks across her Ancestral lands and mouths, breathes, calls forth and gives form to a buried language. Mouthbreather explores the possibilities of language revival nd how language shapes and changes our relationship to land and ways of knowing the world.
Terpesona dengan Kegelisahan, 2022
Nadiah Bamadhaj (Indonesia)
Social media is a channel for various spectacles that reveal the representation of power through the language of images and videos. Nadiah Bamadhaj created her video after watching a ‘militaristic ritual’ (known as TNI yells) that went viral on social media. For Nadiah, the yells have to do with a nationalistic spirit displayed through a hyper-masculinity that arouses fear.
IN COLLABORATION WITH