press release

SINGAPORE BIENNALE 2019
'EVERY STEP IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION'
22.11.2019 - 22.03.2020

The Singapore Art Museum (SAM) announces the title of the sixth edition of the Singapore Biennale: Every Step in the Right Direction. Through this title, Singapore Biennale 2019 (SB2019) will explore curatorial and artistic themes common to our human conditions and the catalytic role ‘hope’ plays in pushing for change. SB2019 will pivot on Southeast Asia, and from there, extend to the rest of the world. The international contemporary art exhibition is organised by SAM and commissioned by the National Arts Council, Singapore.

SB2019 Title: Every Step in the Right Direction
Helmed by Patrick Flores as SB2019 Artistic Director, and with a curatorial team of six members from Singapore, Southeast Asia and beyond, Singapore Biennale 2019: Every Step in the Right Direction focuses on the imperative of making choices and taking the steps to consider current conditions and the human endeavour for change and betterment.

SB2019 reflects on the potential and abilities of the artists to rework the possibilities of the world. It also invites the audience to be open to such works and to such a world that is made different through the making of these works, and, thus, also attempting to make the world right. Through the act of artistic exploration, SB2019 invites participation to transform the world around us, and to get things done the right way. This process begins with a step, from a crucial decision to make changes happen. The reiteration of this commitment leads to the right direction—a direction that each of us is entitled to move towards. Informed by such an impulse, SB2019 offers a sustainable, self-renewing project of change, and moves everyone to act—to make a step.

Patrick Flores, Artistic Director of SB2019 explains, “It may be said that the world is troubled. To sense such a state of flux is to acknowledge the situation and begin to face it. For Singapore Biennale 2019: we ask – what is the possibility of art, the artist, and the audience in light of this trouble? What is the responsibility of the artwork, its making, and its experience in the prospects of future action? As we believe, every effort to change the world for the better matters. SB2019 puts its faith squarely in the potential of art and its understanding to rework the world, expressed in the Biennale title: Every Step in the Right Direction.”

SB2019 Curatorial Model
Led by Patrick Flores, the Artistic Director of the Singapore Biennale, the curatorial team consists of a combination of in-house and external curators, including SAM Assistant Curators Ms. Andrea Fam and Mr. John Tung, National Gallery Singapore Assistant Curator Ms. Goh Sze Ying, Manila-based independent researcher and curator Mr. Renan Laru-an, art historian and Seoul-based independent curator Ms. Anca Verona Mihulet, and Bangkok-based independent curator Vipash Purichanont.

Born in the 1980s and early 1990s, the six curators offer a perspective from their generation, with an aim to enhance the potential of SB2019 to fully engage with the "current" atmosphere of both discourse and expression.

Dr June Yap, SAM’s Director of Curatorial, Programmes and Publication says, “The Singapore Biennale is envisioned by SAM as an opportunity to engage with the public on matters of the human condition through contemporary art, its contexts and related discourses. The appointment of Patrick Flores as Artistic Director for SB2019 puts into practice SAM’s commitment to enriching exchanges and championing aesthetic appreciation. We are thus encouraged by the Biennale’s proposition of the meaningfulness of the aesthetic act and its potential for positive transformation.”

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Artistic Director’s Statement:

It may be said that the world is troubled. To sense such a state of flux is to begin to face it. What is the possibility of art, the artist, and the audience in light of this trouble? What is the responsibility of the artwork, its making, and its experience in the prospects of future action? Every effort to change the world for the better matters. The Singapore Biennale 2019 puts its faith squarely in the potential of art (and its understanding) to rework the world, expressed in the Biennale title: Every Step in the Right Direction.

In this examination of act and action, the Biennale then considers the necessity of the step, that is prompted by the Biennale’s geography, itself spanning nodes and locations across the city of Singapore, thus inviting audiences to be inspired in an exploration. Furthermore, we observe this everyday but decisive act of walking in artistic practices, such as of Singapore artist, Amanda Heng. Utilising the act of walking in a number of performances (for example, Let’s Walk, first performed in 1999), Heng presents her audience with moments for moving forward, looking back, turning inward, venturing outward with others, in so doing, engendering reflection, the speculation or adoption of other perspectives, and the consideration of pasts.

As artistic director of the Singapore Biennale 2019 and a scholar of Southeast Asian art, in my effort to deepen the conversation on the need for an ethical gesture in our time and in history, I recall the words of Salud Algabre, who, in the 1930s in the Philippines, played a central role in a peasant movement that did not appear to achieve its immediate intentions. Responding to a scholar on the perception of its failure, Algabre reasoned that no movement fails, “each one is a step in the right direction.” This apparently counterintuitive reply opens up for rethinking the condition of failure and the chance at transformation. In relation to art and its investigation of material and its ecologies, it might then be that this counterintuition restores hope as a medium of continuous conversions and as a method of getting things done the right way, but only in light of steps taken and decisions made about the right direction. Informed by such an impulse, SB2019 offers a sustainable, self-renewing project of change, and moves everyone to act – to make a step.

Patrick Flores
Artistic Director
Singapore Biennale 2019