Opens 12 June NUS Museum Singapore: “When you get closer to the heart you may find cracks…”

NUS Museum presents an exhibition featuring encounters and exchanges between the arts and sciences, between practice and research, between the inquiring subject and the object inquired.

An interdisciplinary project, “When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” is a continued inquiry by the Migrant Ecologies Project into human relationships to trees, forests and forest products in Southeast Asia – explored in terms of materials, metaphors, magic, ecological resources and historical agency. In 2008, artist Lucy Davis embarked on an endeavour to recast fragments of the form and the content of the mid twentieth-century Singapore modern woodcut movement in a contemporary macro-context of “cutting of wood” (deforestation).This process led to an investigation into the genetic origins of one particular item of “cut wood” (a teak bed found in Singapore) in collaboration with Singapore startup DoubleHelix Tracking Technologies. The following journey has taken Davis’ team across the region in search of the diverse “aborealities” – connections between the peoples, trees and wood. A disappearance of forests in Southeast Asia accompanies a similar disappearance of stories with their attendant memories and practices. The work of the Migrant Ecologies can thus be seen as an attempt to remember and reanimate these tales.

“When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” will feature several new woodprint works from Davis alongside works by photographers Shannon Lee Castleman and Kee Ya Ting. Tales from two “Islands after a Timber Boom” comprise an underlying structure to the exhibition. The islands are Muna Island, Southeast Sulawesi, where early DNA tests have suggested as the origins of the wood from the teak bed; and Singapore island where Davis has been researching stories of Singapore’s entrepot timber industry in and around the Sungei Kadut Industrial Estate.

Finally in this exhibition, Davis is directly referencing for the first time the initial inspiration for this six-year research process: the Singapore modern woodcut movement. Fragments of iconic woodblock prints from NUS Museum collection are reconstructed in the show as animated shadows which weave in and out of the exhibition experience.

NUS Museum curator Kenneth Tay notes, “This project might be read as a proposition to rethink radically (radix-roots) the issues and problems of identity in the region, particularly in the context of ‘origins’, but also what sustains it and so on. Here, the inquiry towards the ‘origins’ of the teak bed throws up much more stories that only seem to both enrich but also obscure the question. We might then see the bed as the site of a primal scene unfolding, from bed to bedlam.”

“When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” is a curatorial collaboration between NUS Museum and Jason Wee from Grey Projects.

About the Migrant Ecologies Project

Migrant Ecologies Project was founded by Lucy Davis in 2010 as an umbrella for art practice‐led inquiries into questions of culture and nature in Southeast Asia. The Migrant Ecologies Project embraces concerned explorers, curious collectors, daughters of woodcutters, miners of memories and art by nature. The project evolves through and around past and present movements and migrations of naturecultures in art and life in Southeast Asia.

Collaborators have included Shannon Lee Castleman, Zailani Kunning, Zai Tang, Dr Shawn Lum, Shankar Iyerh, Dr Andrew Lowe, Kee Yating Hera, Farhana Ja’afar, Sing Ting Si Jemima, Ang Wei Tyng, Chan Phui Yung, Goh Wei Choon, Wee Jia Hui, Wee Nai De Mark, Jac Min, Edwina Ong Zhi, Michelle Yap Su Zhen, Farhana Jaffar, Ong Fang Zheng and Dennice Juwono.

For more information, please visit the official website of the Migrant Ecologies Project:

About Lucy Davis

Lucy Davis is Assistant Professor at the School of Art Design and Media (ADM), Nanyang Technological University Singapore and has over 15 years of experience of conceptualizing and coordinating interdisciplinary arts and society initiatives in Europe, Southeast Asia and West Africa.

Early explorations of stories of wood by The Migrant Ecologies project were finalists for the French Prix COAL Art & Ecology Prize in 2011. Davis’ Together Again (Wood:Cut) series was nominated for the APBC Signature Asia Pacific Art Prize Singapore Art Museum 2011). Her short film Jalan Jati (Teak Road) has toured widely and been screened at Rotterdam, Yamagata, The Los Angeles Fim Forum and the Barbican UK. Jalan Jati won Promotion Award of the International Festival at Oberhausen 2012 and Best Sound and Special Mention Animation in The Singapore Short Film Awards 2013.

Lucy is currently SEAsia Contributor for ANTENNAE, The Journal of Nature in Visual Culture (UK). Her writings on culture and nature are featured in a series of international anthologies and peer reviewed journals. Lucy was Founding Editor & Editor in Chief of the 6 volume series FOCAS Forum on Contemporary Art & Society from 2000- 2007. Alongside FOCAS, Lucy has published in The DOCUMENTA #12 READER (Taschen); BROADSHEET Art & Culture (Australia); Art Asia Pacific (Sydney/New York); Inter-Asia Cultural Studies (Routledge); NU The Nordic Art Review (Stockholm).

About Jason Wee

Jason is an artist and writer who lives in Singapore and New York. His practice takes up the dilemmas, conflicts, and varieties of parallax in people’s interpretation of specific histories and spaces. These spaces may be an island, a school, cinema, city, or museum, the events historical moments of particular intensity. These events and spaces are, for him, conundrums of enigma, idealism and unexplored futures.

Jason founded and runs Grey Projects, an alternative art space and residency that focuses on nascent practices and experimental curatorship. He is an editor for and previously editor of Vehicle arts journal, published by artist-run space Plastique Kinetic Worms.




All text and images are taken from NUS Museum


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