Spotted! Cassandra Koh

Multidisciplinary artist Cassandra Koh Ling Wei is a fresh grad from LASALLE, College of the Arts with a degree in Fine Arts-Painting. We were won over by her “Self-portrait as Carnival” series, in which she deals with the complexity of Singapore’s postmodern identity and Singaporean youth culture, the so-called ‘strawberry generation’.

Cassy: “The series is centered on questioning the country’s postmodern identity and reviewing the paradox of its postmodern identity. Imagine Singapore as a frightening yet comforting place like a colorful carnival world of jolly libertarian paradise where the urban terrain is not only ever-changing but the identities of common individuals are given the freedom to re-invent themselves. Yet, such an imagination is hardly believable; Afterall, Singapore as a postmodern nation is a paradox – the urban terrain is constantly shifting yet individual identities of common people are prescribed; fixed in a mold and modulated by the state. In the words of Zygmunt Bauman who postulates the ‘problem of identity’, “Indeed, if the modern ‘problem of identity’ was how to construct an identity and keep it solid and stable, the post-modern ‘problem of identity’ is primarily how to avoid fixation and keep the options open.” For a strong pragmatic state like Singapore governed by regularity and strict order imposed on life by capitalism and bureaucratic administration, the state exerts power to control common identities and the post-modern ‘problem of individual identity’ noted by Bauman is persistent. My work titled Self-portrait as carnival, examines the possibility of creating my very own carnival as extension of the self, which addresses the post-modern ‘problem of identity’ with my re-invented characters (based on local icons, mascots, and political metaphors) and architecture (gardens by the bay, esplanade and more) in Singapore. The ‘carnival’ that I explore in my work refers to an alternative subversive space for freedom, abundance and equality against official seriousness. As Singaporean Architect William S W Lim stated, “common people in Singapore have begun to develop a desire for ‘carnival’, which represents and incorporate class equality, resistance and rejection of authority.” In view of the carnival, I adopted notions of Mikhail Bakhtin’s carnivalesque – the ‘world turned upside down’ and the ‘grotesque body’ – that embraces unrestricted Interspecies transformation of the self and architecture, which alludes to multiplicity in duality (disorder/order, rebirth/degradation, authority/ commoners, artificial/nature, …) and hybridity as a form of subversion of the state.”

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