Singapore, Batam and the ties that bind in Fantasy Islands

Works at the exhibition will include photographs by artist Evelyn Pritt on abandoned and unoccupied real estate on Batam, such as the Ocarina shophouse complex (above).
Works at the exhibition will include photographs by artist Evelyn Pritt on abandoned and unoccupied real estate on Batam, such as the Ocarina shophouse complex (above).PHOTO: EVELYN PRITT

Their expedition to Funtasy Island, a cluster of islands off Batam, started with curiosity and excitement.

Artist Fyerool Darma and curator Kin Chui, who had been pondering the relationship between the islands of Singapore and Batam for a new art exhibition, made a trip last year to the 328ha eco-theme park that is being developed on Pulau Manis, a cluster of six islets 3km off Batam.

Their hired boat, however, was turned away by guards on the island because they were not authorised to go on shore.

The trip may have ended in disappointment, but their experience resonates with issues that lie at the heart of the new exhibition, Fantasy Islands, which explores the notion of borders, exchange across boundaries and the public's perception of islands.

The show at visual arts centre Objectifs is co-curated by Chui and Dr Mitha Budhyarto, a lecturer at Lasalle College of the Arts. It features new works by seven artists from Singapore and Indonesia, including Fyerool and Indonesia- based artist Evelyn Pritt.

People from Singapore usually associate Batam with affordable holidays... while Indonesians think of Batam as a place for work. We want to unpack the various notions people might have of these islands.

CURATOR OF FANTASY ISLANDS KIN CHUI

The exhibition is among the almost 100 activities that include shows, workshops and talks taking place during Singapore Art Week, which runs from Jan 11 to 22. The annual round-up of visual arts offerings is a joint initiative by the National Arts Council, Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board.

Chui, 32, says: "Although the two islands are in close proximity - you can see the skyline of Singapore from Batam - our actual understanding of both places is limited.

"People from Singapore usually associate Batam with affordable holidays and leisure, while Indonesians think of Batam as a place for work. We want to unpack the various notions people might have of these islands and how they are connected."

  • VIEW IT / FANTASY ISLANDS

  • WHERE: Objectifs, Chapel Gallery, 155 Middle Road

    WHEN: Jan 11 to 26, noon to 7pm (Tuesdays to Saturdays), noon to 4pm (Sundays), closed on Mondays

    ADMISSION: Free

The artists in the group were chosen for the show because of their different but intersecting interests in the social, cultural, spatial and economic links of the two islands.

Artist Pritt, for example, trains her camera lens on abandoned and unoccupied real estate on Batam, where new property developments frequently pop up.

Fyerool, on the other hand, will show an installation that touches on themes of language and geo- political history and identity.

His work is born out of conversations with his granduncle, who relocated from Singapore to Batam many years ago, as well as with other residents on the Indonesian island.

The 29-year-old artist says although Bahasa Indonesia is the official language, his granduncle and those whom he interacted with spoke a form of Bahasa Melayu that was familiar to him, albeit a "more refined" one.

"My granduncle likes to say 'kita serumpun', which in Bahasa Melayu loosely means 'we are like leaves from the same tree'. They still believe that the language is what connects us, even though we are from different countries."

The show will also feature a resource section that includes books and writing that informed the exhibition, as well as stills of productions about Singapore shot in Batam, such as the television drama series, Serangoon Road (2013).

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 03, 2017, with the headline 'Singapore, Batam and the ties that bind in Fantasy Islands'. Print Edition | Subscribe