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Art review: Displacements | 3.5/5

SINGAPORE — The city changes quickly; with each passing day, new condominiums and shopping malls sprout from the ground, with increasingly improbable names. It’s a pace of change which can feel almost abstract, with vast swathes of land transforming all at once. Displacements, an exhibition by a group of 16 artists, looks at Singapore’s changes on a more intimate level.

SINGAPORE — The city changes quickly; with each passing day, new condominiums and shopping malls sprout from the ground, with increasingly improbable names. It’s a pace of change which can feel almost abstract, with vast swathes of land transforming all at once. Displacements, an exhibition by a group of 16 artists, looks at Singapore’s changes on a more intimate level.

It’s a last hurrah for a 77-year old family home on Wilkie Terrace, which will be demolished shortly after the exhibition ends and replaced by a shinier residential development. Appropriately enough, you’ll find the triumphant property developer’s showroom just next door, boasting bright lights and colourful balloons in stark contrast with the stately old bungalow’s worn concrete.

But Displacements isn’t just an exhibition. Over the three weeks it’s on, the house will be playing host to a wide variety of events, ranging from screenings, to workshops and performances. Most of the works by the core group of sixteen artists are on the second floor of the house, while the first floor has been given over to art students, a community sharing room (featuring a peculiarly warped map of Singapore) and assorted artworks, bric-a-brac, and other curiosities.

A few of the works, such as Boedi Widjaja’s One And A Half, Elizabeth Lim’s Whitewash and Kenneth Lee’s The Grass Is Greener On The Inside will also be changing over the course of the show. Widjaja, in a tribute to the one-armed swordsman of wuxia movie fame, will be attempting a drawing at increasingly difficult handicaps, while Lim plans to paint part of the house’s exterior red, with a water-soluble paint that might and fade, depending on the weather. Similarly, Lee’s moss-based artwork calls for careful tending in the warm weather, in a clear contrast to the building’s imminent demolition.

Displacements of personal relationships and interactions are very much on show as well, with such works as Karen and Alex Mitchell’s No Due Date, which offers a novel and engaging mash-up of library due-date cards and emotional debts and other interactions. Similarly tactile approaches can be seen in Michelle Lim’s interactive ceramic installation, Memory in Motion, which is soaked in nostalgia for the sociality of the family dinner table.

More abstractly haunting, perhaps, is Li-Cassidy Peet’s installation, which concentrates and re-assembles commonplace household materials for some serious sensory impact, or Mark Wong’s Leaving Room, a minimal audio-visual exploration of the sensation of leaving.

All in all, there’s a dizzying array of questions, answers, and sidelong nudges concerning the themes of change, leaving and displacement. Of course, as a large, sprawling, generally jam-packed exhibition-festival hybrid, things can be a little hit-and-miss. But the overall diversity makes up for it, if blunting the focus somewhat, and that seems to be in the celebratory spirit of the show.

Displacements runs until June 23, 3pm to 8pm, 13 Wilkie Terrace. Closed on Mondays. Free. Visit http://www.13wilkieterrace.com/ for details.

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