Polls and power through pictures

A work in Shifting Dioramas depicting the Aljunied area (above) by Green Zeng.
A work in Shifting Dioramas depicting the Aljunied area (above) by Green Zeng.PHOTO: CHAN HAMPE GALLERIES
A work in Shifting Dioramas depicting the Aljunied area by Green Zeng (above).
A work in Shifting Dioramas depicting the Aljunied area by Green Zeng (above).PHOTO: ST FILE

Artist Green Zeng contemplates Singapore's changing electoral boundaries in his new solo show

Photographs that appear like unfinished drawings can be seen in Singapore artist and film-maker Green Zeng's upcoming solo show, Shifting Dioramas.

Referencing the changing electoral boundaries here, the works are inspired by National Day billboards seen last year when Singapore celebrated its Jubilee year. It was also the year the nation went to the polls and the People's Action Party won 69.9 per cent of the vote.

The 43-year-old tells The Straits Times: "I have always been interested in the relationship among power, individual and society. The National Day billboards and the various elements they portrayed, especially those in our Jubilee year, served as a good entry point to examine this relationship."

Zeng started by visiting various constituencies islandwide late at night.

He says: "By capturing these billboards devoid of people in the still of the night, the landscape and billboards are brought into sharper focus. The billboards become a marker of the place and constituents may recognise familiar buildings, roads and other landmarks in their town."

The 12 works, shot in August last year, are priced between $4,500 and $5,500 each. The show opens at Chan Hampe Galleries at Raffles Hotel Arcade on March 17 and runs until April 10.

  • VIEW IT / SHIFTING DIORAMAS BY GREEN ZENG

  • WHERE: Chan Hampe Galleries, 328 North Bridge Road, Raffles Hotel Arcade, 01-21

    WHEN: March 17 to April 10, 11am to 7pm (Tuesday to Sunday), closed on Monday and public holiday

    ADMISSION: Free

    INFO: Call 6338-1962 or go to www.chanhampegalleries.com

The shifting or changing nature of electoral boundary lines throughout the years is something that intrigues the artist.

Finding a way to portray that was one of the key challenges of this project.

He decided to use lines that look like random shapes, but represent something deeper.

For example, the photography on the Holland-Bukit Timah Group Representation Constituency (GRC) features two electoral lines. He says they are intended "to show how the shape of the GRC has evolved over time".

The title of the show was chosen "because of how the boundaries are in flux, changing shape with every election".

He adds: "The tableau-like billboards hopefully allow the viewer to contemplate the many connections in electoral politics."

Zeng, a graduate of Lasalle College of the Arts and a multi- disciplinary artist whose practice encompasses visual arts, theatre and film, is known for his critically acclaimed and politically charged artworks.

In March 2011, he staged a solo show in which he created dollar notes bearing the faces of former leftists and political detainees from the 1950s and 1960s.

In another solo exhibition in July 2011, he showed 15 photographic works of an imaginary exile who returns to Singapore after a long absence.

In the past, the people Zeng portrayed often symbolised men and women who played a significant part in modern Singapore's history and who he feels "need not be forgotten".

This time, he has taken people out of his pictures, though the questions he poses are part of the over-arching themes he has reflected on through his art.

The juxtaposition of photographs with shifting electoral boundaries is something he hopes "will lead to some interesting questions about power play in Singapore".

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 08, 2016, with the headline 'Polls and power through pictures'. Print Edition | Subscribe