Singapore Art Museum (SAM) Opens Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & The Tiger, A Solo Exhibition By Critically Acclaimed Singaporean Artist Ho Tzu Nyen

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The exhibition features eight major installations, including a new commission titled T for Time.

Venue & Date:

  • Gallery 1 and 2, SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark: now to 3 Mar 2024
  • Queenstown Public Library: now to 7 Jan 2024 
  • Tampines Regional Library: 10 Jan 2024 to 25 Feb 2024
  • Woodlands Regional Library: 28 Feb 2024 to 14 Apr 2024
  • Jurong Regional Library: 17 Apr 2024 to 2 Jun 2024

Fee: Free

Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger

Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger is a mid-career survey exhibition of the artist’s practice that spans two decades worth of paintings, films, theatrical performances, and video installations. Ho’s works often draw from historical events, documentary footage, art history, music videos and mythical stories to investigate the construction of history, the narrative of myths, and the plurality of identities. The first-ever mid-career survey of the artist's practice, this exhibition charts the developments in Ho’s body of works through the tiger and other shapeshifting figures.

The exhibition also features a new commission, T for Time, a two-channel video installation that reflects on the embodied and heterogeneous experiences of time. Time is a critical dimension that underlies Ho’s wide-ranging practice, as his works are often populated by a host of shapeshifting creatures such as weretigers, spies, ghost-writers and monsters—all of which are creatures of time that hold out the promise of becoming and metamorphoses.

Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger is co-organised between Singapore Art Museum and Art Sonje Center. The exhibition will be presented internationally with partnering institutions around the world. An exhibition catalogue will be published to accompany the exhibition.

Artworks at SAM

The Cloud of Unknowing (2011)

The Cloud of Unknowing references the title of a 14th-century medieval Christian treatise on contemplative faith, in which the “cloud of unknowing” is used to describe the encounter with an abstract and transcendent divine. Shot entirely within a public housing block in Singapore days before its scheduled demolition, the video features a cast of eight characters set across different apartments. The individuals live hermetically in their apartment space until the appearance of a permeating and mysterious cloud connect their seemingly disjointed lives.

Each of the eight scenes draw upon shifting representations of the cloud across Western and Eastern art history, literature, and philosophy as symbols of transcendence, transience and hallucination. The cloud can be regarded as one of the earliest shapeshifting motifs that appear throughout Ho’s body of work. The cloud’s amorphous nature and its constant change also reflects, for Ho, the always contingent knowledge of the world. Not unlike the moving images of this installation, every picturing of the world is almost always just a freeze-frame, on the brink of changing.

The Name (2015-2017)

The Name (2015-2017) is a video installation constructed out of found footage from various western films showing actors engaged in the act of writing. The installation also features books “written” by Gene Z. Hanrahan (an alleged pseudonym). While some have long suspected Hanrahan to be a cover for a secret organisation with links to the CIA during the Cold War, The Name is less an exposé on Hanrahan than a meditation on the heterogeneity of names, origins, and the act of (ghost)writing itself. Chief amongst the books displayed is an early historical account of the Malaysian Communist Party, with access to secret documents that suggests Hanrahan’s insider knowledge.

The Nameless (2015)

The Nameless (2015) is a video installation that revolves around a Sino-Vietnamese man named Lai Teck, a triple agent for the French, British and Japanese secret services during the years of the Malayan Occupation (1941-1945). Lai Teck was also known by various other names such as “Truong Phuoc Dat,” “Lighter” and “Mr. Wright.” The Nameless takes repurposed images of the iconic actor Tony Leung, known for his performances in various Hong Kong films in multiple languages spanning 1989 to 2013. This amalgamation serves as a cipher, ingeniously representing the enigmatic “Lai Teck.” The Nameless attempts to represent this multi-faceted figure as one who not only influenced a crucial period of Malayan history, but also one who embodies the intricate web of historical and ideological complexities of Southeast Asia.

CDOSEA (2017–ongoing)

CDOSEA (named after The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia) consists of existing images, video clips and animations that the artist appropriated and then overlaid with a hypnotic voiceover that recites different stories and histories of Southeast Asia. The work is programmed by an algorithm that randomly sequences its video files, thereby creating permutations of the work that are always different and new. An earlier version of CDOSEA is presented openly on the Internet. This exhibition features CDOSEA also takes the form of a video installation, with a projection screen outfitted with LED lights that are programmed to glitch the work’s appearance. This dynamic and ever-changing nature of the work reflects the climatic conditions of Southeast Asia as a region marked by geopolitical turbulence and tropical entropy.

One or Several Tigers (2017)

One or Several Tigers (2017) is a video installation that traces the figure of the tiger as it appears across the different histories and mythologies of Southeast Asia: from the tiger that allegedly interrupted Government-Superintendent G. D. Coleman’s road survey in the jungles of Singapore to the weretigers in the Malay world who inhabit the space between human and animal, between the present and the past. This work centres on a strange hypnotic duet between G. D. Coleman and a tiger. At points, it becomes unclear just who is singing which line, as the identities of the two seem to merge. This ambiguity and transformation represents, for Ho, the possibility of our becoming something else, outside of ourselves. Tigers, and weretigers, represent at once Southeast Asia’s cosmologies and ways of knowing, but also they are shapeshifters who populate Ho Tzu Nyen’s body of work.

Hotel Aporia (2019)

Hotel Aporia (2019) is a video installation that features multiple rooms, each replete with video projections, shoji screens and tatami mats, simulating the interiors of a Japanese-style inn. The work features a cast of historical figures from Japan’s interwar period including World War Two kamikaze pilots, philosophers of the Kyoto School, filmmaker Yasujiro Ozu, and animator Ryuichi Yokoyama all of whom were caught up in the heady mix of Japan’s militant nationalism, anti-modernism and cultural propaganda. Letters and correspondence between the artist and his Japanese collaborators, the writers Tomoyuki Arai and Yoko Nose, form the narrative basis of Hotel Aporia, while the installation draws on the aesthetics of Japanese architecture and Ozu’s cinematography. As the audience moves through the various rooms, contradictions between the beliefs and actions of the aforementioned characters come to the surface, so much so that it becomes impossible to agree upon the “Japan” that is referred to and idealised by some of these characters.

T for Time (2023–ongoing) & T for Time: Timepieces (2023–ongoing)

T for Time (2023) is a two-channel video installation that features anecdotal stories about time, memories and time-keeping traditions across Asia. The work is programmed to randomly re-sequence itself over its defined duration of 60 minutes, such that new configurations and permutations are created with each repeated play. Time is explored here across its various scales: from an atomic level of precision to the everyday and subjective sensation of time passing. By combining and contrasting these different scales and experiences of time, T for Time approximates the plasticity and heterogeneous experiences of time. It is accompanied by another component—Timepieces (2023)—which features multiple video screens, each representing a particular motif and sensation of time passing.

CDOSEA: Square Stacks (Faces) (2019) & CDOSEA: Square Stacks (Landscapes) (2019)

Each of these lightboxes comprises 26 images overlaid on top of one another through the technique of lenticular prints. At first glance, these images appear to be flattened onto a single surface. However, as the audience move past the lightboxes, the seemingly static images unfold and reveal themselves as a moving image, representing their respective themes. As physical condensations of Ho Tzu Nyen’s video and database The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia (CDOSEA), these lenticular lightboxes continue the artist’s central inquiry: what is Southeast Asia—a region that was never unified by language, religion or political power? But rather than seek an answer within the academic discipline of area studies, Ho shifts the question into the realm of formal aesthetics, to consider the region as an open composition and as conceptually plastic work of art.

F for Fold (2021)

Photo Credits: Singapore Art Museum (SAM)

F for Fold (2021) is an abridged dictionary of 26 terms drawn from Ho Tzu Nyen’s meta-project The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia (2012–). Designed as an accordion book, the work unfolds into various sculptural forms, reflecting Ho’s aesthetic inquiry into Southeast Asia as an open form. While its title is a direct reference to the accordion folds of the book, it is also a term in itself within the database of Ho’s The Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia. In thinking about folds, the artist is drawn particularly to the topological thinking of philosopher Michel Serres, where two seemingly unconnected things might be “folded” together to reveal new connections. Folding and unfolding the book thus allows the artist not only the chance to present new sculptural permutations, but also to allow seemingly unconnected terms to touch one another and to produce new connections—not unlike the power of editing, as seen in the randomised sequencing of the video work CDOSEA (2017).

Artworks at Public Libraries in Queenstown, Woodlands, Jurong & Tampines

4x4—Episodes of Singapore Art (2005)

4x4—Episodes of Singapore Art (2005) is an attempt to re-present four works of art by four Singaporean artists, done through three different platforms: a forum discussion; a foldable postcard cube for distribution; and a television series, which was aired on Singapore’s Arts Central channel. This project grew out of the artist’s desire to address two cultural deficits in Singapore: the missing public of visual arts; and the absence of historical memory. The television series straddles video art, mass media intervention, cultural sleuthing, polemics and pedagogy. Set as dialectic arguments between a man and a woman, the programme attempts to popularise techniques of visual analysis and art historical interpretation.

Complementary Programmes

Tiger Tales by Sheila Wee

Venue: The Engine Room, Level 1, SAM at TPD
Date: 2 Dec 2023
Time: 2.30pm
Fee: Free

Join storyteller Sheila Wee as she takes you on a roaring adventure with three tiger-themed tales.

Suitable for ages 4 and up.

Curator Tour of Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger (SgSL provided)

Venue: Gallery 1 & 2, SAM at TPD
Date: 2 Dec 2023
Time: 3pm
Fee: Free

Join SAM curator Kenneth Tay as he gives you an overview of SAM’s latest exhibition, Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger.

Singapore Sign Language (SgSL) interpretation will be provided.

Collection & Connection: The Malayan Tiger, the Art, and the Well-being of the Ecosystem

Venue: The Engine Room, Level 1, SAM at TPD
Date: 2 Dec 2023
Time: 4pm
Fee: Free

Join Dr Cheng Wen-Haur, Deputy CEO Life Sciences & Operations & Chief Life Sciences Officer at the Mandai Wildlife Group; Teresa Teo-Guttensohn, Co-Founder and President of Cicada Tree Eco-Place; and Kenneth Tay, SAM curator as they shine a spotlight on the disappearing tiger, and its role as a recurring icon in the Ho Tzu Nyen’s oeuvre – across the environmental, cultural, and historical.

Images and Times: Notes on the Retro/Prospective, by Ho Tzu Nyen with SAM curator Selene Yap

Venue: The Main Deck, Level 3, #03-07, SAM at TPD
Date: 9 Dec 2023
Time: 3pm
Fee: Free with registration | Register here

Hear from the artist as he reflects on two decades of his practice through the past, the present and the future, and the many ways these temporalities flow and loop into one another. Through recurring images and motifs in his art, Ho presents a retrospective survey of his own practice as a way to generate and prospect for new horizons.

*Specially created drinks inspired by the exhibition will be available by donation on a first-come-first-serve basis at the end of the event.

Curator Tour of Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger

Venue: Gallery 1 & 2, SAM at TPD
Date: 19 Jan 2024
Time: 3pm
Fee: Free 

Join SAM curator Kenneth Tay as he gives you an overview of SAM’s latest exhibition, Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger.

Sonic LIVE: Session

Venue, Date & Time:

  • Main Stage at the Spine, Tanjong Pagar Distripark
    • Session #1 NADA and Raja Kirik: 19 Jan 2024, 8pm
    • Session #2 Bani Haykal: 19 Jan 2024, 8pm
  • Container Bay Stage, SAM at Tanjong Pagar Distripark (Rear Entrance)
    • Session #3 George Chua: 26 Jan 2024, 8pm
    • Session #4 NUS Electronic Music Lab: 27 Jan 2024, 5pm

Fee: Free 

Sonic LIVE features music jam sessions across two weekends, comprising artistic duos NADA (Rizman Putra and Safuan Johari) and Indonesian collective Raja Kirik (Yennu Ariendra and J. Mo’ong Santoso Pribadi); sound artist and musician Bani Haykal; experimental musician and composer George Chua; and music arts group NUS Electronic Music Lab. These performances are planned in conjunction with SAM’s exhibition Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger and aim at exploring the aurality of our landscape and emergent sonic fields extending from past and present.

Curator Tour of Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger

Venue: Gallery 1 & 2, SAM at TPD
Date: 21 Jan 2024
Time: 3.30pm
Fee: Free 

Join SAM curator Selene Yap as she gives you an overview of SAM’s latest exhibition, Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger.

Behind-the-Scenes with ARTFACTORY: On the artistic practice of Ho Tzu Nyen

Venue: SAM Corporate Office, Level 3, #03-07, SAM at TPD
Date: 27 Jan 2024
Time: 2.30pm
Fee: Free 

Join technical designer and director Andy Lim of ARTFACTORY as he shares insights into the backend processes involved in the presentation of artworks by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen.

As we map two decades of practice with the technical team, follow us as we trace a lineage of projects such as The Cloud of Unknowing (2011), Ten Thousand Tigers (2014), One or Several Tigers (2017) and more, via a different lens.

Curator Tour of Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger

Venue: Gallery 1 & 2, SAM at TPD
Date: 2 Mar 2024
Time: 4pm
Fee: Free 

Join SAM curators as they give you an overview of the exhibition, Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger.

Programmes are subject to change. Please visit the SAM website for the latest information.


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This article is prepared by

Leona Quek
Blessed with 3 handsome and loving boys in her life. Two of them call her Mommy, the other calls her Wifey. Every night, she wishes for an early bedtime, but misses her babies as soon as they sleep.

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