Zarina Muhammad

TWMAIRL – Panel Discussion: “Politics and practices of care”

What we’re watching happen with COVID-19 is what happens when care insists on itself, when the care of others becomes mandatory, when it takes up space and money and labor and energy. See how hard it is to do? The world isn’t built to give care freely and abundantly. It’s trying now, but look how alien a concept this is, how hard it is to make happen.⁣ It will take all of us—it will take all of us operating on the principle that if only some of us are well, none of us are. And that’s exactly why it’s revolutionary. Because care demands that we live as though we are all interconnected—which we are—it invalidates the myth of the individual’s autonomy. In care, we know our limits because they are the places where we meet each other. My limit is where you meet me, yours is where I find you, and, at this meeting place, we are linked, made of the same stuff, transforming into one because of the other.“ Johanna Hedva,
A Text for Covid-19, Get Well Soon

In recent times our collective stress and grief have escalated due to interconnected social, political, economic and ecological conditions, exacerbated by the pandemic, and how we care for oneself and others have become more important than ever. As Audre Lorde said, “Caring for myself…is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” As political and social systems reveal their failures and insufficiencies, care becomes revolutionary as communities have supported each other through mutual aid organising and informal support networks. This panel explores how the politics and practices of care may be centred and interrogated in our artistic and curatorial practices? How may care practice navigate aestheticisation as cultural capital?

Join artists and organisers Adeline Kueh, Quek Jia Qi, Vivian Lee, Zarina Muhammad in a conversation, moderated by Alecia Neo.

Biographies

Adeline Kueh makes installations, photography and embodied works that reconsider the relationship we have with things and rituals around us. Her works are imbued with a sense of desire and longing, and act as modern-day totems that explore personal histories and overlooked moments. Using drawing as a conceptual tool, Adeline tries to map out the historical trajectories across time and space through her use of found objects and new production. Adeline was involved in the Word of Mouth exhibition in the 2019 Venice Biennale, and was a consultant/designer for projects including the Passion Made Possible Culture Shaper Tribe films (Singapore Tourism Board) in 2019 and Hermes Singapore in 2016.

Quek Jia Qi is an interdisciplinary artist, educator and organiser. Her socially-engaged practice investigates how relational and transformative learning can emerge through experimental forms of storytelling and hospitality. With a focus on care-based artistic processes, she works collaboratively to explore how modalities of exchange – intersecting art, pedagogy and civic practice – can bring individuals and communities together for civic engagement. Based in Singapore, she has led and facilitated participatory workshops, site-specific installations, public programmes, and performances across the US, UK, Europe and Asia. Her work has been presented at the Singapore Archifest; Institute of Contemporary Arts, Singapore; CICA Museum, South Korea; Whiteconcepts Gallery, Berlin; Framer Framed, Amsterdam; Raven Row, London; The Yard Theatre, London; King’s College London; Goldsmiths, University of London; 5th Base Gallery, London; amongst others in the public streets of London, Singapore and New York City. She has also worked with Asia-Art-Activism research network, The Substation, and Serpentine Education & Projects, at Serpentine Galleries to develop cross-disciplinary public programmes such as Oceans*A*Part, Discipline the City: Shifting Concretes, and Power Walks. In 2017, Jia Qi was awarded the Social Art Award by The Institute for Art and Innovation e.V. She holds a BA (First-Class) Joint Honours in Fine Art & History of Art from Goldsmiths, University of London, UK, where she was mentored under Dr Janna Graham. Her recent works include Bind, a participatory archival project developed during her research residency at Asia-Art-Activism. Combining traditional bookbinding techniques with socially-engaged pedagogy, participants learn to bind stories of others and our own, tracing a diversity of personal trajectories surrounding stories of care, labour, maintenance and well-being; Field Trip to Redhill, a collaboration with DesignSingapore Associates and My Community to uncover the design of everyday life, heritage and stories through a mix of guided and spontaneous wanderings; Myths On a Red Hill, in collaboration with architects Isabella Duffield and Randy Chan, to lead a public storytelling pavilion in Singapore and reimagine an open classroom in an urban farm for creative modes of exchange. The pavilion grows as a living archive — collectively weaving narratives, knowledge, experiences and stories from different individuals and communities. Jia Qi is also a published illustrator for The Little Things – a children’s book about kindness, narrated with characters of local food to inspire children in Asia to celebrate who they are; a community initiative in collaboration with Wu Jiezhen and Tampines Kindness Movement.

Vivian Lee’s social artistry brings people together for meaningful connections over garden harvests or homemade potluck. Her passion for seeking the deeper truth in life turns her towards the art of living – exploring practices such as food as medicine, music and movement, poetry and fine art, co-living, compassionate communication, and the healing of self, community and the planet. As a social artist, she uses food, shelter and community-building as media; the garden and gathering spaces serve as her studio where the convergence of diverse energies and natural elements of the cosmos find creation. Her time with the Transition Town community in Los Angeles inspired her to co-create spaces for regeneration and resilience. An inner gardener and shapeshifter, she founded Garden of L.E.A.H.,a conscious-living practice space in Chiang Mai, Thailand; here, she holds space for mindful practices through gardening, cooking, natural building, yoga and meditation. In Singapore, she co-founded Conscious Connections with fellow artist Ng Hui Hsien, working at the intersection of art, well-being and spirituality. She is active with Foodscape Collective where she shares the vision of an agrihood, and is part of the editorial team of Foodscape Pages. Vivian shares her ethos at gardenofleah.home.blog. Conscious Connections was born out of a search for stillness. We rest in the belief that in a hectic world, silence holds the key to healing and wellbeing. Residing at the intersection of art, well-being and spirituality, we carve out physical and mental spaces for pause through nature-inspired gatherings and interactive workshops. Conscious Connections are currently artists-in-residence at “Women in film and photography 2020” at Objectifs Center for Photography and Film.

Zarina Muhammad is a Singapore-based artist, educator and researcher whose practice is deeply entwined with a critical re-examination of oral histories, ethnographic literature and other historiographic accounts about Southeast Asia. Working at the intersections of performance, mixed media installation, text, ritual, sound and moving image, she is interested in the broader contexts of myth-making, haunted historiographies and role of the artist as “cultural ventriloquist” who lends multiple voices to spectral matters and speculative polyphonic histories. She is particularly interested in the imaginings and understandings pertaining to the land, seas and other elemental sites. She has been working on a long-term project on Southeast Asia’s provisional relationship to the otherworldly, ritual magic and the immaterial against the dynamics of global modernity and the social production of rationality. She is ever so amused when superficial readings of her work predictably and blandly assume all she does is “do black magic in exhibition spaces” and “open portals to invoke unholy evil spirits”.

Alecia Neo develops long-term projects that involve collaborative partnerships with individuals and communities. Her socially engaged practice unfolds primarily through photography, video, and participatory workshops that address modes of radical hospitality, reciprocity, caregiving, and wellbeing to explore issues of identity and the search for self. Her recent projects include ramah-tamah, Asian Civilisations Museum, a collaboration with the community engagement platform Both Sides, Now, Singapore, (2019-2017); a research project for the Touch Collection, Singapore Art Museum and Between Earth and Sky for Personally Speaking, Objectifs (both Singapore, 2018). She is the co-founder of Brack and Unseen Art Initiatives.