Singapore music-making to feature at 2019 Venice Biennale

Curator Michelle Ho (left), 38, and artist Song-Ming Ang, 38. Backed by the National Arts Council, the duo makes up the team who will represent Singapore at the Venice Biennale in 2019. ST PHOTO: SONG TAO
Linda de Mello, 58, Director of the National Arts Council's Sector Development (Visual Arts), at the media briefing for the Venice Biennale 2019. ST PHOTO: SONG TAO
Singaporean artist Song-Ming Ang is known for his work with music and multimedia and will form a counterpoint to the state-driven vision of Music For Everyone. ST PHOTO: SONG TAO

SINGAPORE - Music will take pride of place in Singapore's ninth Venice Biennale offering next year.

Singaporean artist Song-Ming Ang and curator Michelle Ho will present Music For Everyone: Variations On A Theme at the Singapore Pavilion of the 58th Biennale from May 11 to Nov 24 next year.

The National Arts Council (NAC) announced the exhibition on Wednesday (July 18).

The exhibition derives its title from a series of concerts organised by Singapore's then Ministry of Culture in the 1970s and 1980s to encourage public appreciation of the arts.

It will be based in the Singapore Pavilion, located at the Sale d'Armi building in the Arsenale in Venice.

Ang, 37, who is known for his work with music and multimedia, will draw from experimental music practices and the spirit of amateurism in forming a counterpoint to the state-driven vision of Music For Everyone.

It will make use of old poster designs for the concert series, as well as build on his earlier work You And I, in which he compiled and mailed out personal mix CDs to whoever wrote him a letter.

It will also include new multimedia work Recorder Rewrite, which involves the recorder, a staple of school music education since the 1970s.

Ang, a 2011 Young Artist Award recipient who is based in Berlin, said of music: "It has the power to emote and manipulate."

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He added: "I'm also interested in narrative and in challenging the formats of what art can be."

Ms Ho, 38, who is gallery director of the ADM Gallery at Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media, had previously worked with Ang on four public presentations.

She said the work poses an ideological challenge: What exactly is music for everyone? "Who should decide what is meaningful music?"

They hope to involve the public in the work through You And I, Recorder Rewrite and other avenues. "Control is very important to the artist and to surrender it is very stressful," said Ang. "But this is also about trying to challenge myself."

NAC chief executive Rosa Daniel estimated that it will cost more than $1 million to take the exhibition to the Biennale, inclusive of plans to bring it home to Singapore afterwards. Last year's Biennale presentation, Dapunta Hyang: Transmission Of Knowledge by Zai Kuning, was shown at TheatreWorks' premises earlier this year.

It is Singapore's ninth participation in the Biennale since 2001.

NAC director of sector development (visual arts) Linda de Mello, 58, said of the upcoming exhibition: "It traces our historical narrative in a scalable and accessible way. I hope those who see it will be fascinated to learn about the history of Singapore, and yet find its art very futuristic and cutting-edge."

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