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JOURNAL beyond borders

SINGAPORE

Sister Catherine Paul, WBB Artist Faye Shen, Lorraine Serena, Singapore Organizer Pat Chen and Daughter.
Sister Catherine Paul of KK Hospital, WBB Artist Faye Shen, WBB Founder Lorraine Serena, General Manager of Sculpture Square Patricia Chen-Law and daughter

 

Sculpture Square

Singapore
March 8 – May 13, 2001

Edmund Cheng, Founder and Director
Patricia Chen, Founding General Manager
Joyce Fan, Assistant Curator
Susie Wong, Assistant Curator, Singapore Art Museum

 

The women participants in Singapore created boxes in relation to a community, i.e. a collaboration with family, friends, a group of people, etc. The objective was to discover who women are and what women want in our particular society and context. Women first examined their personal identity and space, and second, related to their experience with the community, be it male or female. The community was engaged in the art making process, thus extending the collaborative nature of WBB. This process gave rise to a more comprehensive reflection of societal values, needs, wants and identity as a whole.

 

ko-prisca-constraints-faced-by-contemporary-women-2001-singapore-silo
Prisca Ko – Constraints Faced by Contemporary Women, Singapore, 2001

Prisca Ko – Constraints Faced by Contemporary Women – 2001, Singapore

 

This work seeks to explore and express the constraints faced by contemporary women who live in public housing apartments, also known as Housing Development Board (HDB) flats in Singapore. About 86% of Singaporeans are housed in these HDB flats. Like the vast majority, I, too live in a HDB flat and one of the personal constraints that I face is the lack of physical space. This inspires me to conceptualize the given wooden box as a block of HDB flats with many dwellers within. Each of the niches in the box represents a female dweller.

 

The different constraints faced, ranging from physical, emotional, mental, and social to religious realms, are reflected in the interior decoration of the units and the contents of the vials. Women from different phases in life; teenagers, singles, married with and without children, and retirees, were invited to participate in a survey, and their views are expressed collaboratively in this box.

 

WOMEN BEYOND BORDERS: SINGAPORE STYLE

 

Curator Joyce Fan, Lorraine Serena, and Curator Suzi Wong
Curator Joyce Fan, Lorraine Serena, and Curator Suzi Wong

 

When Women Beyond Borders was shown in Singapore in 2001, the curators Joyce Fan and Susie Wong invited local artists to submit boxes that would interrogate individual identity in relation to a specific community – from as small as the family unit to as wide as the world. In response, several artists explored their experiences as a member of one of the many expatriate or minority sub-communities living in Singapore. Others reflected on the identity of women in contemporary society at large. One box by Prisca Ko was a collaborative box with 40 women,  which reveals the constraints faced by women living in Block Housing. Another box depicted the mending of a mother and daughter relationship using a crochet needle and gold thread. The objective was to discover who women are and what women want in our particular society. We directed women artists into first, self-examining their identity and space, and second, in the course of this journey, relating that to their experience with the community.

 

A blind woman examining one of the boxes from the collection

 

The WBB Exhibition in Singapore was held at Sculpture Square with an overflow of 125 new boxes. The Singapore exhibition consisted of three sections: a Curated Section featuring invited women artists, a Women’s Communities Section with participation from KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, Association of Women for Action and Research (AWARE), the University Women’s Association of Singapore (UWAS) and the Singapore Council of Women Organization (SCWO) and an Open Section which feature creations by women from all walks of life. These boxes were shown alongside the WBB collection of international boxes. The first lady of Singapore, Madame Goh Chok Tong, was Guest-of-Honor.

 

Susie Wong, Curator, Elena Lui, UWAS, Patricia Chen-Law, General Manager of Sculpture Square, Lorraine Serena, WBB Founder, and Mrs. Goh Chok Tong, First Lady of Singapore

 

It’s utterly prosaic, this box, until it falls into the hands of the artists… at which point the box is transformed, exploded, expanded, shattered, sculpted, pasted, painted, and reborn into an expression of a woman’s identity.               

– Shanti Menon, East Magazine, Singapore

 

Suzanne Victor – Untitled, Singapore, 2001

 

Suzanne Victor – Untitled – 2001, Singapore

 

I find this concept very challenging although of course initially, I found the concept of Women Beyond Borders and the form (BOX) contradictory, as boxes inherently are about discreet entities/objects with their own definite boundaries, surfaces and edges etc. And these boundaries are walls in themselves, not just an imaginary line or flat paths on the soil dividing countries nor printed lines on the map. In other words, the whole notion of borders and liberating women from it contradicts the very form of the box given to every participant that say so disturbingly otherwise. My intention for the approach to producing a work for this project is to deal with this collision of concept and form. I have gathered a few women and men from the community I am with, to witness a cremation of this box, after which the ashes would be placed in a custom made replica of the box but it will be in cut glass. Death to borders–of course the glass box and its glass walls is practically a vitrine – to enshrine the diminishing of all borders that divide us.

 

SEE SINGAPORE ESSAYS

 

SEE BOXES FROM SINGAPORE