Dancing girls and fake news in secret places

Singapore-based artist Adeline Kueh created a digital print on chromaluxe titled Don't You See, Baby, This Is Perfection (above) from some footage she retrieved in an abandoned laptop she found.
Singapore-based artist Adeline Kueh created a digital print on chromaluxe titled Don't You See, Baby, This Is Perfection (above) from some footage she retrieved in an abandoned laptop she found.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADELINE KUEH
Singapore-based artist Adeline Kueh (left) created a digital print on chromaluxe titled Don't You See, Baby, This Is Perfection (above) from some footage she retrieved in an abandoned laptop she found.
Singapore-based artist Adeline Kueh (above) created a digital print on chromaluxe titled Don't You See, Baby, This Is Perfection from some footage she retrieved in an abandoned laptop she found.PHOTO: COURTESY OF ADELINE KUEH

Amid the madness in Venice as the city cranks itself up for the Biennale, one exhibition is sidestepping all the hype. Word Of Mouth, curated by Glasgow-born Australian artist Peter Hill, will run in a secret location - and for one week only.

The aim of the show, which begins today and features works by 25 artists from Australia, Scotland and Singapore, is not to draw as many people as possible. Rather, it hopes to give a sustainable number of people time to view the art and have in-depth discussions, says Hill.

It will counter the "unsustainability" of Venice - its mass tourism and expanding events calendar.

Aside from the exhibition, there will be "fragments" - events such as nightly art discussions and a two-hour walk through Venice.

One does not need to do too much sleuthing to find out where or when the exhibition or events will be held - simply e-mail Hill. Every day, updates will be sent through word of mouth and social media, especially Instagram.

Singapore-based artist Adeline Kueh, 48, a senior lecturer at the MA Fine Arts programme at Lasalle College of the Arts, is displaying two works based on footage she stumbled upon five years ago.

In 2014, the Malaysia-born artist was involved in An Eminent Takeover, a project where Singapore artists turned the disused spaces of Eminent Plaza into de facto galleries and concert venues before the building in Lavender was demolished. When she was in the building, she found an IBM Notebook that had been left behind in one of the building's KTV lounges. The device had several videos, including one of Chinese women dancing to singer Shakira's Hips Don't Lie.

This became the subject of a digital print on chromaluxe titled Don't You See, Baby, This Is Perfection (a film still) and Blue Moon, a looped video projection featuring a slowed down close-up of a dancing girl's hips, rendered in blue.

Both works are a commentary on the search for love and connection in the city, while underscoring a sense of loss and longing, she says.

"The dancing girls were trying to look cheerful and smiley because that was almost an occupational expectation," says Kueh, whose video projection was shown at a triennial art exhibition in Belgrade, Serbia three years ago.

"At the same time, there's this sense of dread because it's work and some of the work involved quite unsavoury matters," she adds, referring to the vice activities that went on in the plaza.

She will be adding more facets to her Venice project.

Next month, she plans to record a film while walking down the streets in Venice - drawing on the idea of "derive" or "drifting", described by French writer Guy Debord as the "transient passage through varied ambiences".

The film will be set to the sound of the pop song Blue Moon and be made available online at a later date.

Also involved in this exhibition is Singaporean artist Urich Lau, who is known for his video and new media work. He will present The End Of Art Report, a three-channel film installation that made its debut at the 2013 Singapore Biennale. The Venice edition of his work will have one television screen broadcasting the fake news that major local museums in Singapore will be shutting down.

"It questions the relevance of contemporary art," says Lau, 44, who was recently shortlisted as a finalist for the 2019 Sovereign Asian Art Prize.

"We have to look at how we sustain our main (art) institutions - and at what point are contemporary art or these kinds of institutions not sustainable anymore?

Kueh adds that one of the things that drew her to Word Of Mouth was that "it's quite low-brow, quite off-key, it's almost like the underdog".

"It's not about volume (of visitors), but whether the experience will continue to haunt."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 07, 2019, with the headline 'Dancing girls and fake news in secret places'. Print Edition | Subscribe