Exhib! Each Blade of Grass Each Shrub Each Tree

David Tan, Jambu Fruit Dove

Robert Zhao, How To Make A Tree Disappear As Nature Intended II (2016)

Susie Wong, The land remains where God had put it; but white men they come and in a little while they go (2012)

(from the Press Release)

The Substation presents Each Blade of Grass Each Shrub Each Tree, a programme of exhibition, performance and forum as a response to the Cross Island Line (CRL) discussions about MacRitchie Reservoir.

Bringing together the works of artists, writers and nature conservationists who resist constructed visions of nature as a singular, unchanging entity, the programme complicates our understanding of Nature and the Garden. From the edenic to the horrifying, from the sublime to fictions of representation, nature, through their eyes, becomes speculative, autonomous but also charged with human trace—as Tan Wee Kiat, former CEO of NParks puts it, “each blade of grass and each shrub and tree [is to be] brought to the site and put into place.”

Singapore’s prevailing moniker of the Garden City is a reflection of the attempts at yielding nature a place in the land-scarce city. The focus on greening our city has its roots in British-colonial ways of engaging nature, and has since taken on shifting definitions in line with national and strategic interests. Lee Kuan Yew, our former Prime Minister noted, “after independence, I searched for some dramatic way to distinguish ourselves from other Third World countries. I settled for a clean and green Singapore…”

By engaging with artists and academics who have developed ways of experiencing or thinking about nature and/or the urban, the programme is part of The Substation’s plans to drive larger conversations in Singapore. The Artistic director, Alan Oei says, “At The Substation, we hope take on some of the big, difficult cultural questions that affect us, as a nation, a people, and as individuals.”

Most of the artworks presented have no direct relation to the CRL, but provide a survey of different responses to the ecology of Singapore. They range from written documents to painting, photography and performance.

The programme is a timely and topical response befitting The Substation as an independent voice for the public. He says, “Timing is everything. With a real issue on hand, the space for reflection to consider our relationship to nature within this small island city becomes far more potent. We’re very careful to remain neutral on the CRL issue. We just want to show the different strands of practice and engagement that artists have with Nature. It doesn’t try to be a coherent survey by any means, but still has great potential for revealing a deeper condition of Singapore and our varied experience of Nature as a construct.”

The exhibition runs from 5 until 15 May at The Substation Gallery, but will be closed for a private performance and forum on 7 May from 1PM to 4PM. Featuring Chu Hao Pei, David Tan, Deborah Emmanuel, Geraldine Kang, Robert Zhao, Sharda Harrison, Susie Wong, Timothy Barnard, and Tony O’Dempsey.

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