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Tarek Atoui

The Hive: On Vibration and Resonance
BE
In this video workshop, Tarek Atoui invites children to explore music-making through playing with toys and instruments.
The Hive: On Vibration and Resonance

Jorge Otero-Pailos

A Library of Earthen Architectures
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BE
Jorge Otero-Pailos collaborates with Saudi artists and heritage experts in charge of Saudi World Heritage sites to create a Library of Earthen Architectures, which includes artefacts representative of Saudi cultural memory.
A Library of Earthen Architectures

Feifei Zhou

Before there was land, there were mangroves
com
Zhou’s commission is a long-term, collaborative research undertaking that investigates coastal land reclamation across the globe. Filled by hard material such as rocks and cement, reclaimed land eliminates porosity and results in more severe flooding and biodiversity degradation. In contrast, mangrove forests, such as those in the Indian Ocean, nurture a rich range of sea and land creatures including fish, crabs, birds, and shrimp. Their salt-tolerant trunks and roots also create a porous environment and natural barrier against floods and tides. Preserving mangroves are some of the most pressing battles for coastal communities around the world.

NIDHI MAHAJAN & MOAD MUSBAHI

An Excerpt from Kitab Al Marasi: A Composite Navigational Manual for the Indian Ocean
com
A composite navigational manual for the Indian Ocean that draws from the historical cultural practices of local sailors to confront the uncertain future of coastal communities across the Indian Ocean facing extreme climate degradation. The work creates a repository of Indigenous maritime knowledge that firmly ties the risk of climate change with vernacular forms of knowledge.

Hiba Ismail

Two Islets
com
Using an ongoing archive of sonic field recordings and images as a starting point, Ismail’s commission involves gathering extensive field recordings and images from the Red Sea and its surrounding areas, resulting in an index of recordings and photographs. Her most recent recordings took place on the Suakin Archipelago and multiple locations off the east coast of Sudan. The process of collecting audio material is an attempt to understand our relationship to the environment, drawing parallels between contemporary politics, archaeologies, and the natural histories of the earth. She consolidated the extensive catalogue of archipelago sounds into an audio composition developed in collaboration with sound designer Panos Chountoulidis.

Dana Awartani

Listen to my words
exh
In this selection of translated Arabic poetry interlaced with geometric symbolism, Awartani's work breathes a new life into powerful voices from the past, orchestrating an intergenerational dialogue that subtly questions the status of women in contemporary society. 
Listen to my words

Jumana Emil Abboud

Gazelle in a Mother's Eye
BE
Working with collaborators Tamara Kalo and Ileana Gonzalez Pacheco, artist Jumana Emil Abboud has created an immersive study of local folktales and the experience of embedding herself in the Riyadh landscape.
Gazelle in a Mother's Eye

Seher Shah

Notes from a City Unknown
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Cities are archives of our histories. They unfurl the historical, and connect the political to the personal across intimate passageways. We navigate the city through our kinships, languages, and constellations, which bind us in unknown and profound ways. We live with the weight and traces of those that came before us, as we guide our exterior and interior lives. Woven into us are notes and networks from inherited places, or a separation, leaving traces of a memory and a marked absence. Our names and bodies bear the weight of our failed nations, as we trace our footsteps to a sense of belonging.
Notes from a City Unknown

Tara Aldughaither & Joe Namy

Rhythms of the Rising Sun
com
Rhythms of the Rising Sun traces migratory rhythmic ecologies from West Asia, the Indian Ocean subcontinent, East Africa, and the Arabian Peninsula. This collaborative research project aims to raise awareness for resonant sound pressures in the region today. It explores how lucid migratory patterns have shaped some of the most prominent rhythms, sounds, and music of these geographies, and how rhythms have in turn shaped language and ways of life.

Hussein Nassereddine

Hanging notes on “Laughing on the River”
BE
I choose here, dear ones, to comment on the texts that have become laughter on the river, from that time a poet recalled his loneliness in the open desert and its long night, to my friends in the river near our village, as we jump from the high rocks––plunging headfirst into the water, then the years take us, and we enter time. 
Hanging notes on “Laughing on the River”

Paulo Tavares

An Architectural Botany
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Paulo Tavares writes about what can happen when we recognise that a quintessentially natural or wild space—as defined by the hegemonic epistemic frameworks of colonial modernity—is in reality a cultural, socially produced artefact and how architectural practice and research can learn from a botanic archaeology, its methods and epistemic shifts. The essay is an excerpt of “Architectural Botany: A Conversation with William Balée on Constructed Forests,” the eighth chapter of Environmental Histories of Architecture, an open-access book published by the Canadian Centre for Architecture.
An Architectural Botany

Aseel AlYacoub

The Secret Lake
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In this video documentation, Aseel AlYacoub explores two sites within Riyadh's desert, commonly referred to as 'The Secret Lake'. Through the footage, the artist interweaves narration from Paul W. Harrison's "The Arab at Home" (1924), a work by an American medical missionary to Arabia.
The Secret Lake

Mariah Lookman

Poets have forgotten the words for love
exh
BE
A digital version of Mariah Lookman's sound walk, which gathers stories along spice routes in Saudi Arabia. The artist’s poetic narration is inspired by the stories of healers and merchants at the souks, and those of mothers and grandmothers. Storytelling becomes a method of recuperating a knowledge of plants that is passed on orally from one generation to the next. The work is an embodied and holistic experience of cross-cultural encounters and vernacular knowledge that has endured over distance and time.
Poets have forgotten the words for love

Taus Makhacheva

Archival Footage: Behind Charivari
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Taus Makhacheva shares archival films that were collected and compiled from her research on the Soviet circus tradition.
Archival Footage: Behind Charivari

Anca Rujoiu, Priyageetha Dia

Forget Me, Forget Me Not
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Amid the sea of information and data prone to racialized terminology, what are the possibilities for an artistic engagement to eschew or hijack the perpetuation of violence? Anca Rujoiu writes about Priyageetha Dia's *Forget Me, Forget Me Not.*
Forget Me, Forget Me Not

ROBIN MEIER WIRATUNGA

Waves Beneath an Ocean of Wet Air
com
This commission juxtaposes audio recordings from the Empty Quarters in the Arabian Peninsula—sounds of singing sands, acoustic measurements of dune sediment, and foraging ants from his field work—with submarine recordings from the Indian Ocean, neuroelectric activity of the brain, AI-synthesized vocal sounds, and various other elements to create a generative, polyphonic soundscape, giving a voice to the stories of the desert and weaving a composition with sounds from oceans of varying wetness and its entangled kin.

Rasha Al-Duwaisan

Buckets and Waterskins
BE
In this poetic reflection, Rasha Al-Duwaisan expands on Buckets and Waterskins, which was presented in March 2024 as part of the Biennale Encounters program of the Diriyah Contemporary Arts Biennale.
Buckets and Waterskins

Aseel AlYacoub

Desert as Method
BE
Drawing insights from historical records, cultural narratives, and the constructed environment, Aseel AlYacoub invites workshop participants to redefine preconceived notions about the desert.
Desert as Method

Martha Atienza, Jake Atienza

Equation of State
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Martha Atienza’s ‘Equation of State III’ is part of a series that examines climate change and asks the viewer to question environmental management and socioeconomic development. The installation is an entry point to community-based archival work on Bantayan Island in central Philippines from which it emerges.
Equation of State

Anne Holtrop

From Geology to Glass
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Anne Holtrop Studio presents part of the research behind Glass to Stone, with a focus on the transitions from geology to glass, to glass waste and new glass production.
From Geology to Glass

Mohammad AlFaraj

Sketches / Whispers
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Mohammad AlFaraj shares pencil sketches, ephemeral poems, and handwritten notes from the making of *The Whispers of Today Are Heard in the Garden of Tomorrow*, a newly commissioned work showing outdoors at the JAX District as part of Diriyah Contemporary Art Biennale 2024.
Sketches / Whispers

Migrant Ecologies Project

Fragments from Railtrack Songmaps
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BE
By probing the existing relationships between humans and birds, Migrant Ecologies collaborators explore a series of pathways through a contested zone along the former tracks of the Malaysian state railroad at Tanglin Halt, a neighborhood of Singapore that has undergone considerable social and environmental change. 

Fragments from Railtrack Songmaps

Sammy Baloji

Overcoming Modernity
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A conversation between Sammy Baloji and Rolando Vázquez Melken on world exhibitions and the politics of cultural representation and appropriation through contemporary artistic and architectural interventions.
Overcoming Modernity

Cercle d’Art des Travailleurs de Plantation Congolaise

Plantations, Museums, and Regenerative Ecologies
com
The work presented is a radical act of digital restitution. CATPC reclaims a piece of their heritage by using funds gained from NFTs (non-fungible tokens) such as Balot NFT, minted in 2022 and depicting the angry spirit of Belgian colonial officer Maximilien Balot (1890–1931). A series of short videos share the journey of collective members as they speak to elders, art historians, and academics about the possibility of restitution and the future use of blockchain technology toward regenerative forest ecologies.

Liam Young

The Great Endeavor
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Speculative architect and filmmaker Liam Young reflects on The Great Endeavor, a 2023 work that depicts a planetary carbon removal and storage industry emerging in the near future as part of the solution to the climate crisis.
The Great Endeavor

Munem Wasif, Natasha Ginwala

Kheyal: a conversation with Munem Wasif
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Munem Wasif and Natasha Ginwala discuss Wasif's solo exhibition Kromosho (ক্রমশ), or "step by step" in Bengali. Together, they exchange views around how the artist’s gaze has evolved, chronicling fiction and fact over time with fundamental transformations in both medium and subject. Traversing a range of recent works, Wasif attunes to unraveling vantage points, protagonists, and ambient idiosyncrasies.
Kheyal: a conversation with Munem Wasif
Forget Me, Forget Me Not
  
Anca Rujoiu, Priyageetha Dia
exh

Forget Me, Forget Me Not

Anca Rujoiu, Priyageetha Dia

Forget Me Forget Me Not (2022). Image by Ahmad Iskandar.
Yeo Workshop Singapore
Curated by Anca Rujoiu 
Supported by National Arts Council Singapore
Anca Rujoiu on Priyageetha Dia's Forget Me, Forget Me Not

In Forget Me, Forget Me Not, Priyageetha Dia pursues a mindful encounter mediated by technology with colonial representations of labouring bodies. How does one attend to difficult imagery — visual and textual — that continues to dispossess colonial subjects of dignity and agency? Amid the sea of information and data prone to racialized terminology, what are the possibilities for an artistic engagement to eschew or hijack the perpetuation of violence? While the exhibition title calls to question what to remember and forget, it is concerned in equal manner with how to do it. Forget Me, Forget Me Not is a plea for new forms and ethics of remembrance by an artist whose use of technology consciously dismisses its claims to neutrality and immateriality.

The booklet “Labor in British Malaya” published in 1923 and authored by E. W. F. Gilman became Dia’s pivotal archival reference in the thinking process of this exhibition.¹ The brochure provides an overview of the establishment and development of the Indian immigration fund administered by Gilman himself. Issued at a time when Malaya became the world's largest exporter of rubber, this pamphlet outlines the process that undergirded the large migration of workforce from the port of Madras (present-day Chennai) to different parts of Malaya.² Gilman’s account includes one appendix that was supposedly addressed to the workers. In a promotional manner, this handout provides a range of information from the climate in Malaya to wages, working hours, health and education facilities— all those terms and conditions that controlled workers’ lives.³ Gilman ends the brochure admitting lightly that the text overall reflects “the standpoint of the employer rather than of the laborer.”⁴ But where can one encounter the standpoint of the laborer? The laborer whose “unskilled” skills of tapping and weeding made Malaya the most profitable colony in the British Empire and the rubber plantations its largest moneymaking enterprise? Confronted with the blatant rhetorical performance of decent conditions of work in the description of what was otherwise an exploitative industry and the absence of laborers’ voices, the artist seeks throughout the exhibition the possibility of a counter-narrative.

Forget Me Forget Me Not (2022). Image by Ahmad Iskandar.

Dia's animation (we.remain.in.multiple.motions_Malaya) conjures the collective voice of the laborers into a poem that foregrounds the experience of sea travel and labor in the estates. This body of writing is constructed around a shared vocabulary across Tamil and Malay languages. A bilingual glossary permeates through the poem minimizing the default monopoly of the English language and its capacity to homogenize voices and experiences.

In counterpoint to the above official colonial account that reduced human lives to the mercantile speech of “supplies,” “insufficient quantity,” “defective quality,” “heavy cost of importation”, Dia infuses her writing with the scents of camphor, sesame oil, and sandalwood.

The rhythmic pattern given by bodily sounds, breathing and heart beating is amplified by the musician Tesla Manaf's percussion work. The artist's poetic tone gives contextual specificity, sensorial imagery, and linguistic texture to the experience of sea-crossing and work in the plantations. The hybrid idiom of the narrating voice alludes to a postcolonial literary tradition that embraces complex experiences of displacement and belonging. "In our tongues, we're at the fertile frontier of codes, to hear a word among the exchanges of masters and slaves. Is this why my true mother tongue is poetry?" asks the poet Khal Torabully.⁷ It is perhaps poetry's ability to reach life to its core with an economy of means that compels Torabully. But it might be also poetry's capacity to deploy, in his words, "baroquism", an aesthetic strategy that embraces opacity and resists mono-semantic construction of language and identities. Baroquism stands true to historical events that brought into contact "diverse mental structures, modes of life, languages and visions of the world." In a similar manner, interweaving language and imagery rich in texture, Dia's animation has a touch of baroquism.

Forget Me Forget Me Not (2022). Image by Ahmad Iskandar.

Echoing previous works by the artist (Blood Sun, 2022; Long Live the New Fle$h, 2020), the animation created for this exhibition features a single-computer generated protagonist with female bodily attributes.

While CGI is often deployed in mass entertainment for naturalistic depictions of characters and believable performances, Dia’s protagonist never fully feels or aspires to be real.

As viewers, we are constantly brought to acknowledge the protagonist's discernible materiality. Whether gently touching the water, caressing the land or fur, and sensing the marks of incision on a rubber tree, the protagonist evokes, in the worlds of cultural theorist Laura U. Marks, an experience of haptic visuality. Marks defines this form of perception as a tactile mode of looking, a way in which the eyes use the organs of touch. The sense of haptic in the artist's animation is amplified by her relinquishment of a linear perspective and resistance to depth vision to which Western's modern traditions of representation are tied. Besides, the interactions between her protagonist and the environmental enhance the haptic sensibility in the artist's work. Transferring the ritual drawing of kola that traditionally marks the thresholds of homes or the margins of the streets onto the body, the artist continuously strives to dissolve the boundaries between body and environment. This spatial merging is amplified in the architecture of the exhibition where enlarged hands on the wall guide, embrace, or entrap the viewers inside.

Forget Me Forget Me Not (2022). Image by Ahmad Iskandar.
How does one reconcile the insistence on the materiality of the body with a choice of art made through digital imaging? How does one reconcile the history of the plantation labor market, a subject matter entrenched in histories of exploitation, with the usage of digital technology largely known for its commercial and military appliance?

Dia’s work is defined by the consciousness that physical infrastructure underpins current technologies. None of the “algorithms, data, and cloud infrastructures” could exist without earth’s minerals that are essential to any electronic components, asserts the researcher Kate Crawford.¹⁰ Digital media relies on the convergence of natural resources, labor, and geopolitical power. It is the tension between immateriality and materiality that echoes in the exhibition. Computer-generated imagery (CGI) sits in a continuum with other materials, from screen-printed works on latex, sublimation fabric prints, to vinyl on walls and barren soil.

The mechanisms of continuity are key to the artist’s argument: corporate digitization and commodification of colonial archives contribute to a legacy of control and dispossession; digital technologies persist in the exploitation of natural resources and labor while concurrently obscuring their physical presence.

This is further attested by Dia’s appropriation of stock images of Malayan rubber plantations that one can easily excavate from search engines.

Forget Me Forget Me Not (2022). Image by Ahmad Iskandar.

What is at stake in Dia's appropriation of stock photography? First, artists often employ existing images to address conventions of representation underpinning the production of racialized bodies and subjects. That's one pathway to highlight how different forms of cultural production, whether texts or images, have legitimized colonial action and perpetuated its ideology. The question of photographs' ownership cannot be disentangled from the subjects' rights. Have the laborers in Malaya's rubber plantations ever consented to be photographed? That's the key question to ask. While acts of appropriation might not restore the subject's rights to self-image, they intervene in a system of representation that remained comfortably untouched and unquestioned in its commodified form. Lastly, the relationship with colonial photography for colonized subjects and their heirs is not as straightforward. As violent as they are, these images are often the rare material traces accounting for the existence of people and communities that were otherwise deprived of means for self-representation.

When archives of colonial histories are filled with omissions, gaps, and prejudices, one has to acknowledge, in the words of the writer Saidiya Hartman, an impossibility.¹² The impossibility to know what has not been told, recorded or experienced. The challenge, asserts Hartman, is not to give voice to what remains untold, but rather to "imagine what cannot be verified". Combining mass-production techniques such as screenprinting in the treatment of digitized archival photography, with the worldbuilding and speculative capacities of CGI modeling, Forget Me, Forget Me Not posits that to resist forgetting, one needs to conjure new forms of telling.

  • (1) E. W. F. Gilman, Labour in British Malaya (Fraser and Neave: Singapore, 1923). Gilman was the controller of labour in Malaya, headquartered in Kuala Lumpur.
  • (2) Lynn Hollen Lees, Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects: British Malaya, 1786-1941 (Cambridge:Cambridge University Press, 2017, 171.
  • (3) Such information was distributed by the kanganies, local recruiters of Indian origin employed by plantation owners under the immigration system overseen by the British government. It is very uncertain to what extent the workers had access to their contracts and gained an accurate understanding of such terms and conditions. Irrespective, “the employer had the liberty to interpret its conditions.” Shanthini Pillai, Colonial Visions, Postcolonial Revisions: Images of the Indian Diaspora in Malaysia, (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Pub., 2007), 9.
  • (4) Gilman, Labour in British Malaya, 27.
  • (5) Scholar Lynn Hollen Lees accounts the export of rubber alongside the import of British goods as part of this commercial success. She also describes how tapping was a skillful operation that required the worker to produce a mathematically accurate slicing to minimise the long-term damage of the tree. Lees, Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects: British Malaya, 1786-1941, 188.
  • (6) Gilman, Labour in British Malaya.
  • (7) Torabully, Khal. "Coolitude: Worker Bees of the Colonies/[Coo- litude: Petites Mains Des Colonies]," translated by Nancy Naomi Carlson, The Southern Review (Baton Rouge) 54, no. 2 (2018): 286. Torabully’s writing has been committed to the histories of Indian indentured labourers in the British colonies and the act of reclaiming the concept of the “coolie”.
  • (8) Carter, Marina, and Torabully, Khal, Coolitude: An Anthology of the Indian Labour Diaspora, (London: Anthem Press, 2002), 172.
  • (9) Laura U. Marks, Touch: Sensuous Theory and Multisensory Media (Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press, 2002).
  • (10) Kate Crawford, The Atlas of AI: Power, Politics, and the Planetary Costs of Artificial Intelligence, (Yale University Press: London, 2021),35.
  • (11) Lees, Planting Empire, Cultivating Subjects: British Malaya, 1786-1941.
  • (12) Saidiya Hartman, “Venus in Two Acts.” Small Axe : A Journal of Criticism 12, No. 2 (2008): 1-14.

Anca Rujoiu

Anca Rujoiu (born 1984 in Bucharest, Romania) is a curator and editor with more than fourteen years of experience working in contemporary art in Western and Eastern Europe as well as the Asia-Pacific region. She was a member of the founding team of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (2013–18), first as Curator for Exhibitions and later as Head of Publications. In 2019 she was the co-curator of the third edition of the Art Encounters Biennial, Timișoara, Romania. As a member of the curatorial initiative FormContent (2011–13) in London, United Kingdom, she co-initiated the nomadic program It’s Moving from I to It. More recent curatorial projects include the Inventory of the Week (2023), the National Center for Dance Bucharest, and Solidarity is a Verb (2022), Akademie Schloss Solitude, Stuttgart, Germany. Rujoiu is a PhD candidate at Monash University, Melbourne, Australia; her research focuses on institution building, self-organization, and alternative ways of constructing and writing histories.

Priyageetha Dia

Through site-specific interventions, speculative narratives, and acts of appropriation, Priyageetha Dia addresses the plantation histories of Southeast Asia and their contemporary legacies. Dia studied fine art at LASALLE College of the Arts in Singapore. Working with computer-generated imagery (CGI), Dia has developed a digital vocabulary that traces the links between technology, labor, and environmental destruction. Her sensorial environments translate colonial histories into a space of visceral experience.
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