Young, under-the-radar creatives looking for connections and support should flock to this tireless, level-headed 25-year-old who seems to have her finger in almost every pie across the independent creative and art scene here.
At any one time, she’s a freelance creative producer, writer, arts manager and editor of culture publication Sand magazine (she started it). She handles digital strategy for the buzzy art/fashion collective Why Not?, and has curated numerous exhibitions in the past two years, including The Deepest Blue at Gillman Barracks that was one of two winning entries at an open call for new curators. And last month, she co-founded design and branding studio Such A Mood with the aim of bridging the gap between independent creatives and larger corporations.
What’s the driving force that keeps her constantly churning out exhibitions, events, workshops and the like? “I find great value in surrounding myself with people with whom I can bounce off ideas, work, party and have fun,” she says earnestly.” People who would indulge in hours-long conversations. People who come from various backgrounds and have gone through very different circumstances. People who understand the value of closeness and intimacy on all levels…
“These things inform my creative process because I learn to look beyond the ceiling of creating art for art’s sake. Instead, I focus on narratives concerning what’s happening outside a gallery, museum, art space and work my way towards bringing these stories back in.”
That said, she’s no babe in the woods when it comes to the realities creatives tend to face, cautioning that independents still have to be connected to (mainstream) institutions. “We learn a great deal from these spaces, their curators and the people who run programmes – that’s how you know where the market is, and the gaps that exist in bigger infrastructures.”
Going hand in hand with playing the indefatigable fairy godmother to emerging names is her empathetic, strictly non-discriminatory approach to curating. On what catches her eye, she says: “Your works have to be insightful. You can’t be misogynistic, racist or homophobic. Plus points for those who tick these boxes and genuinely want to turn oppressive systems around.” True to form, she’s already working on a series of residency programmes and workshops for writers and creative practitioners from marginalised groups such as women and LBTQIA+ people to launch across the next two years.
What motivates you as a creative producer?
Restlessness, curiosity and readiness. I tend to fill up my free time when I’m given a break but I’m getting better at knowing what to say ‘yes’ and ‘no’ to. I’ve also learned how to create time and space for myself to get ready for tasks and projects.
I find great value in surrounding myself with people I can bounce off ideas, work, party and have fun with. People who would indulge in hours-long conversations. People who come from various backgrounds and who’ve gone through very different life circumstances. People who understand the value of closeness and intimacy on all levels.
These things inform my creative process because I learn to look beyond the ceiling of creating art for art’s sake, instead choosing to focus on narratives concerning what’s happening outside a gallery, museum, art space and working my way towards bringing these stories back in.
Which artists, writers, academics, curators, and other creatives have influenced your practice?
Creative and art practitioners who are close to me – they have greatly informed my worldview, contributing to the development of my practice in a way that’s critical, many times challenging, yet always safe.
Other people who inspire me with their works:
Stephanie Jane Burt, Tulika Ahuja, Pooja Nansi, Mysara Aljunied, Sal Seah
Dead or alive:
Carolee Schneemann, Marina Abramović, Elise By Olsen
What is your approach when it comes to curating?
Honesty, care, empathy and communication. Making sure detailed research is done. Try to take your ego out of the picture.
Your work seems to focus particularly on the intersection or blurring of the boundaries between different art and creative disciplines – what about it attracts you?
I started being interested in people’s stories, and later, how our social environment and politics shape these lived experiences. How do we navigate such conversations knowing that we are different? How do we toe the line between being bold to discuss and practising sensitivity to the privacy, mental energy and circumstances of others?
What are the pros and cons of working as an independent creative producer/curator as opposed to someone connected to established institutions, museums or galleries?
An independent creative producer still has to be connected to established institutions. We learn a great deal from these spaces, curators and programmers. That’s how you know where the market is at, and the gaps that exist in bigger infrastructures. The great thing about working independently is the freedom of control, and the not-so-great aspect is constantly having to justify your numbers as a smaller entity. There are many other factors that determine skill and success that many bigger arts and non-arts organisations fail to acknowledge.
Which of your past projects do you consider to be your favourites and why?
The Deepest Blue (2018) at Gillman Barracks co-curated with Joella Qingyi Kiu. That was my first big exhibition and we worked around the topic of mental health, something that’s very close to my heart.
Such A Mood (2019) has been my pride and glory because it is a labour of friendship and a genuine willingness to explore, be daring and improve ourselves.
I also edited the text for Manfred Lu’s book ‘Deflower’ (2019) this year, which was an incredible and eye-opening process of getting to know his headspace, using the right words to tell his personal story and collection.
Who do you have your eye on in the local art scene?
Mysara Aljaru, Farizi Noorfauzi, Hanae Gomez, Raigo Law, Zhiyi Cao, Chand Chandramohan, Norah Lea, Zulkhairi Zulkiflee, Manfred Lu
What’s your take on the Singapore art scene in 2020? What is exciting? And conversely, what are the limitations/drawbacks here? What more could be done to address these limitations?
Most of all, I’d like to see more representation of working to middle class artists and creatives, more works and discussions on gender politics and identity, less elitism and discrimination, more care and empathy. I also hope for more avenues for people to address their experiences with gender, racial gaps and harassment in the industry. Recently, I attended a group discussion on safe spaces at The Substation led by performance-maker Jaclyn Chong. To what extent can we enforce rules to reduce harm for people existing within a space? What does physical and emotional safety look like to different people? I think these considerations humanise our art scene and creative industry, which tend to feel hostile to certain people.
This article first appeared in the January 2020 print issue of FEMALE.