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June 29 2022 3:47 PM ˚
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Artists-in-residence : Cross-cultural art exchange between Singapore and Jordan

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The artists-in-residence and art institute representatives at Darat Al-Funun. From left to right: June Yap, Ong Kian Peng, Raed Ibrahim and Luma Hamdan.(Photos: Handouts from Darat Al-Funun)
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Artistic residencies have long been a haven for creators seeking supportive environments and friendly atmospheres to learn and grow. Cross-cultural artistic residencies facilitate exchange, experimentation, global cooperation, and dialogue — all of which lead to understanding and finding common grounds to tell stories through art. اضافة اعلان

The Singapore Biennale 2022 (SB22), in partnership with Darat Al-Funun, is holding an artist residency-exchange program between Jordan and Singapore. Luma Hamdan, the director of Darat Al-Funun, highlighted the importance of such partnerships between regional and international art institutions in their facilitation of research, talks, theoretical, and practical interventions in the context of contemporary art.

The Singapore Biennale, which has been held bi-annually since 2006, is Singapore’s esteemed platform for contemporary art. Through exhibitions, performances, workshops, and events, it fosters collaboration while allowing artists, businesses, and groups to engage with the community.

The seventh edition of the Singapore Biennale — organized by the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) and commissioned by the National Arts Council — will take place from October 16, 2022 to March 19, 2023. It is the first time that a biennale has been given a name: Natasha.


SB22 is co-curated by four artistic directors: Binna Choi, a South Korean curator based in Utrecht; Nida Ghouse, an Indian curator based in Berlin; Ala Younis, an artist and curator based in Amman; and June Yap, SAM’s director of curatorial collections and programs.

“The process of organizing a biennale requires creative and practical steps. They are themselves journeys that linger in behind the scenes for a while before bringing outcomes in an exhibition or event. Making art and producing an international contemporary art exhibition for Singapore and the region are exercises in connecting worlds together,” said Younis in her official statement.
Ibrahim’s work raises questions surrounding the unsettling political, social, and economic conditions of our world in crisis. It usually delves into the complexities of Middle Eastern identity, memory, and Israel’s occupation of Palestine.
The first phase of the program kicked off with Singaporean media artist Ong Kian Peng, whose residency runs from May 16 to July 31, 2022. Ong’s work explores the effects of climate change and people’s relationship with nature. Ong develops immersive and reflective environments that imagine alternate visions of our connection to the natural world.

Jordanian artist Raed Ibrahim will work in Singapore from September to November of this year for the second phase of the residency. Ibrahim participated in Darat Al-Funun’s Summer Academy from 2000 to 2003, and was an artist-in-residence in an exchange program between Darat Al-Funun and ProHelvetia in Switzerland.

Ibrahim’s work raises questions surrounding the unsettling political, social, and economic conditions of our world in crisis. It usually delves into the complexities of Middle Eastern identity, memory, and Israel’s occupation of Palestine.

In a round table discussion with Jordan News at Darat Al-Funun, Hamdan, Yap, Ibrahim, and Ong discussed the details of the residency.

“It actually all starts with the Biennale and its four artistic directors. We had started a conversation about what to do with the SB22 during the pandemic: a situation where we felt very isolated when every country closed their borders. In art and culture, we’re very used to contact and relationships developed because of cultural exchange and that all kind of stopped during the pandemic itself, so we felt this very strong sense of loss: of our space, space of relation. We wanted to refocus and think about this human contact, whether it’s between artist to artist or even artists to public. It also allowed us to think about the role of the artist in the Biennale itself, so the artist is not just there to produce works,” said Yap.


Age of Terror (right), past work of Raed Ibrahim, on display at Darat Al-Funun.

She spoke about the significance of SB22, saying it is “about time” for the residency. “It’s not about the outcome. It’s a process, it is time spent. From an institutional perspective, we’re just here to facilitate that creating this space that is meaningful in itself, not just because of itself,” Yap clarified.

Hamdan then detailed how this residency builds on all the previous residencies established by Darat Al-Funun since 1995. “It was an area in turmoil and artists needed residencies in a place that felt like home. Our residences in the past were limitless, ... but with the pandemic, we had to close and move the work online. This is actually the first residency we hold after the measures has been lifted. We’re very proud for this partnership with SB22,” Hamdan elaborated.

The artists-in-residence believe this opportunity will contribute to their careers and ways of thinking. “Such an opportunity would definitely expand my way of thinking and my experience, or at least give it different dimensions. It also means that for a period of time you are in a place to experience a different way of being,” said Ibrahim.
My initial interest was about the Dead Sea. Moving beyond the touristy images ... there’s the backend of this stark reality, sort of impending doom of the death of the Dead Sea. I was really curious about how the Dead Sea died and how it can die again.
According to Ibrahim, the Jordanian art scene is relatively small and has always been observing the West to expand its vision and collective artistic practice. This prompted him to look to the East, instead. He expressed his intrigue in exploring Singapore: a country with no resources, yet booming in economic success.

Ong agreed with this idea of the West being the dominant reference point for artist. “Personally, I also look at the East: in China, Japan, Korea, etcetera,” he said, “but never have I ever looked at the Middle East. We almost have no understanding of what people do here and what kind of problems and concerns exists, or rather perhaps, (we have a) skewed version of what is happening. I think one of the most meaningful things for me is to come here and meet people.”

“I also believe this residency really allows me to have the time and space that is very lacking for me in Singapore. Singapore is a very different ecosystem; we are constantly in the production mode, the production model where we are making work. We lack a lot of time and space to really allow ourselves to delve, to think, to do something without the stress of the capitalistic model of producing,” Ong continued.


Camel in the Room, past work of Raed Ibrahim, on display at Darat Al-Funun.

Regarding the level of exchange and learning this opportunity provides, Yap claims “both artists are very special because they are very open to new spaces.” She explained that the willingness for change is perhaps “a point that we don’t think so much about sometimes when we talk about residences, what it does, not just in its outward form, but what it does to you in your mind and your memories.”

Both artists’ research will culminate in presentations as part of the main exhibition in SB22. Ong’s research revolves around climate change: “My initial interest was about the Dead Sea. Moving beyond the touristy images of people floating and looking really happy, there’s the backend of this stark reality, sort of impending doom of the death of the Dead Sea. I was really curious about how the Dead Sea died and how it can die again. But I don’t really want to fix myself with that. I’m sure there are alternate things for me to unravel here.”

“I’ve also heard a lot about the water crisis, the socioeconomic problems surrounding water, so that’s also something I want to look into. Maybe I won’t create works about that, but I also want to look into it just for me to really not just come here and look at one thing and forget about everything else, but to have a really good understanding of what water is,” he expanded.

On the other hand, Ibrahim’s research focuses on how, as a country, Singapore translates its political decisions into actions. “From my research, I find the functionality, the efficiency, the economy growth, and the structure to reach this point of becoming a worldwide model of success, fascinating,” Ibrahim says. “I get to see it all from inside and from this artistic surrounding. Not the PR experience but the reality of things as they are.”

In closing, Yap expressed how this residency represents a continual relationship between the Singapore Biennale and Darat Al-Funun. As the founder of the latter, Suha Shoman, presented works in previous edition of the Biennale. “This partnership is not just about this period of time. I think it’s more than that. Its effects are here to stay” Yap concluded. 


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