In May 2010, we submitted a proposal for the use of TriSpace, a triangular-shaped gallery space at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. TriSpace was, in the words of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, intended to be an “unconventional space suited to experimental approaches and any types of interventions while providing possibilities of engagements with the visitors.” We were invited to discuss our proposal with the director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts. The meeting took place on 19 July 2010. On 18 July 2010, Alan Shadrake, a British author was arrested in Singapore on charges of defamation, after the launch of his book Once a Jolly Hangman – Singapore Justice in the Dock in Singapore. The book addresses the death penalty in Singapore through interviews with human rights activists, lawyers, former police officers, and a former chief executioner. During our meeting with the director of the Institute of Contemporary Arts, the concern over our proposal exploring the death penalty and its implications on the Institute of Contemporary Arts was raised. A follow-up email sent by the director expressed his concern regarding the budget, as well as the exploration of the death penalty through a forum. We responded to explain that the budget could be pared down, though the concept and implementation should remain, as the form was integral to the work. We also suggested that it was the discussion on the death penalty that appeared to be the primary impediment. In response, the director said that he wished that they could “push the limits so as to address precisely what [we said] about the relations between the state and contemporary art in Singapore”, and expressed his hope that he could find “one day” the opportunity to collaborate. We wonder if the “one day” will come. We have since refined the proposal and continue to seek opportunities to present the work. On 16 November 2010, Alan Shadrake was sentenced to six weeks in jail in Singapore and a fine of SGD 15,400 for contempt of court over his book deemed critical of Singapore’s judiciary.
PROPOSAL 180˚ hinges on the collective meanings of three separate yet interlocking projects and angles. While presenting a personal perspective on a social theme stemming from each of our practices and interests, the significance of each project is sharpened or softened, by their points of connection with each other, drawing out the potential of a curated space to excavate meanings through, and concerning participation and confrontation. Each project will be presented sequentially and build on each other, in environments representative of spaces within a home, such as the bedroom, living room, and kitchen, within a triangular-shaped space. The physical setting of a home, as a micro-unit of society, is employed to call attention to familial, honest, and sometimes discomfiting conversations that occur. Living with Vui, Shanmugam, Nguyen & Tochi by Sha Najak initiates a conversation about the lives of four death row inmates who have been the focus of a civil society campaign on the mandatory death penalty in Singapore for drug trafficking. A series of framed photographs of the four men will be placed next to a bed, a gesture emulating a deathbed, and representing the contrast between security and anxieties brought to the fore in the campaign. From this bed an event will be moderated and will feature video screenings on advocacy efforts, accounts by families of those on death row, and activist interviews from Singapore. The Golden Tehrangles by Zaki Razak raises consciousness of the migrations, trade and historical representations of the samosa snack. The title hints at the origin of the snack, and the ways the project is traced to Tehran in multiple angles. This project will be presented in three forms. (A) The Samosa Propaganda, where samosas will be the only snacks served at all sessions of 180˚ reflecting on how the snacks reinforce social relations. (B) The Semiotic of the Kitchen (after Martha Rosler) comprising a kitchen installation revealing trade routes, the samosa ‘diaspora’ and its affiliation with contemporary situations. This installation will function as a kitchen for preparing samosas. (C) Make Samosas Not War featuring a talk on the snacks’ historical and cultural affiliations, and workshops for participants to explore the art and possibilities of wrapping samosa fillings. Delta by Magdalen Chua proposes that societal principles and legal structures are results of cultural and religious worldviews, which have been embraced and cemented over time, and creating change warrants a reflection of these foundational views. Responding to the topic of the death penalty and the strategy of delving on the evolution and function of the samosa, Delta presents an occasion to peel off the layers behind views of the death penalty by inviting three artists to present works investigating religious and cultural views towards death, retribution, and justice, asking how cultural beliefs, in addition to rational and humanistic points of view, continue to exert and influence our positions in society.