New exhibition in Singapore from The Migrant Ecologies Project

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Curated by Kenneth Tay and Jason Wee, the exhibition is the latest incarnation of over 6 years of art history-informed explorations of relationships between wood, trees and people from this region.


Date: 12 June 2014, Thursday
Time: 7.00pm
Venue: NUS Museum

Free admission with registration. To register, please email

Guest-of-Honour: Professor Leo Tan, Director (Special Projects), Faculty of Science, National University of Singapore

Special guest: Professor Alan Chan, Dean, College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, Nanyang Technological University

6.30pm – Arrival of guests
7.00pm – Arrival of Guest-of-Honour, Prof Leo Tan
7.05pm – Welcome remarks by Ahmad Mashadi, Head, NUS Museum
7.15pm – Opening address by Prof Alan Chan
7.30pm – Speech by Guest-of-Honour, Prof Leo Tan
7.50pm – Curator’s tour followed by refreshments

NUS Museum presents an exhibition featuring encounters and exchanges between the arts and sciences, between practice and research, between the inquiring subject and the object inquired. An interdisciplinary project, “When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” is a continued inquiry by the Migrant Ecologies Project into the human relationships to trees, forests and forest products in Southeast Asia – explored in terms of materials, metaphors, magic, ecological resources and historical agency. Beginning with an attempt to trace the origins and stories connected to a teak bed found in Singapore, and set against the macro-context of “cutting of wood” (deforestation) today, the project has evolved into an accumulation of the diverse “aborealities” – connections between the peoples, trees and wood – in Southeast Asia.

The exhibition will feature several new woodprint works by artist Lucy Davis alongside works by photographers Shannon Lee Castleman and Kee Ya Ting. Tales from two “Islands after a Timber Boom” form an underlying structure to the exhibition, vacillating between Muna Island, Southeast Sulawesi (where early DNA tests have suggested as the origins of the wood from the teak bed) and Singapore island (where Davis has been researching stories of the local entrepot timber industry in and around the Sungei Kadut Industrial Estate). Fragments of iconic woodblock prints from the NUS Museum’s collection are also reconstructed as animated shadows which weave in and out of the exhibition. A disappearance of forests in the region sees also a similar disappearance of the various stories of wood with their attendant memories and practices. This exhibition is an attempt to re-member and re-animate these tales. “When you get closer to the heart, you may find cracks” is a curatorial collaboration between NUS Museum and Jason Wee from Grey Projects.

Exhibition runs till November 2014.

Works are supported by: Ministry of Education Tier 1 Grant, DoubleHelixx, Singapore International Foundation, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) Art & Heritage Museum, National Arts Council, School of Art, Design and Media, NTU, Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh, Lee Foundation, Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film and The Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple.

[Image: Together Again (Wood:Cut) Part V: EVIDENCE, Lucy Davis.  Assembled print fragments of a ripped-up log end. Part of what is supposedly the last shipment of teak logs to Singapore from Burma before a 31 March 2014 ban on whole log exports by the Burmese government. The log ends were donated by Allen Oei, an old-time Singapore timber trader and log grader. The letter and number marks were punched into to the timber in Burma. They tell you the grade of the timber and (if you can decode the marks) where in Burma the logs come from. A star apparently means best quality. 125 x 125 cm, woodprint collage on paper, 2014]


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