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Archive in Motion: 50 Years documenta

Archive in Motion: 50 Years documenta
1955-2005 & Picturing Singapore
1955-2005: An Archival Perspective
National Museum, Exhibition Gallery 2 (Basement)
9 June – 31 July 2007
10am – 9pm, daily
Free admission

The National Museum and Goethe-Institut present 50 years of documenta alongside a history of Singapore’s art scene

Image Andreas Seltzer
Image Jonathan Monk
Image Sabine Gross
Image Picturing Singapore 1
Image Picturing Singapore 2
Image Picturing Singapore 3

Exhibition Details

Archive in Motion: 50 Years documenta 1955-2005 & Picturing Singapore 1955-2005: An Archival Perspective
National Museum, Exhibition Gallery 2 (Basement)
9 June – 31 July 2007
10am – 9pm, daily
Free admission

Presented by
National Museum of Singapore and Goethe-Institut Singapore

Supported by
Institut für Auslands – beziehungen e. V.
Kunsthalle Fridericianum
documenta Archiv

1955: Singapore, a British Colony, is rumbling with the urgent desire for independence. Illustrations on the cover of books and magazines hint at a collective yearning to break away from the imperial rulers. Far away in Kassel, Germany, broken and defeated from the war, the seminal and controversial art exhibition documenta is born from a need to reconcile Germany with Europe. Its purpose: to reintroduce the character of European art to the German people detached and left behind by the artistic developments in Europe during WWII.

How are the two related?

Today, more than 50 years later, the National Museum and Goethe-Institut Singapore present Archive in Motion: 50 Years documenta 1955 – 2005, a chronicle of the world’s most important modern art exhibition held every five years in Kassel. Archive in Motion features a collection of art from the archives of all 11 installations of documenta and is presented alongside a graphical timeline of Singapore’s own social and artistic developments in the same period. Picturing Singapore 1955 – 2005: An Archival Perspective will bring to life the corresponding developments in Singapore’s arts scene.

“If you took a quick survey of all eleven installations of documenta, you’d see that the common guiding philosophy was that art could not exist in isolation from the wider environment, but it has to respond to the environment it is created in,” said Tan Boon Hui, Assist Director, Public and International Programming, National Museum of Singapore. The art works, especially in earlier documenta, were a response to the destruction and desolation of Germany in the aftermath of WWII. “It was this belief in the importance in the value of art that inspired the National Museum to create a parallel exhibit to reflect how Singapore’s own social climate affected the development of the local arts scene,” he said.

The Museum’s Exhibition Gallery has been transformed once again to capture the creative brilliance of documenta’s founder Arnold Bode, whose spectacular style of presentation brought the exhibition lasting worldwide success. documenta which was first exhibited at the ruins of the Baroque Orangery Palace destroyed by bombs during WWII, will now be presented in 11 rooms (one for each documenta installation) as a retrospective and will feature archival material alongside newly created artworks for this exhibition.

One of the works by Andreas Seltzer is a tongue-in-cheek take on the method used for selecting artists for documenta 8. An old-fashion lottery ticket drum is filled with lottery tickets bearing the names of different artists from the 1987 Art Diary. Above it sits a print of a 15th century engraving in which the goddess of fate Fortuna turns her wheel and raises people from misery only to fling them back into disaster once they reach the height of their power. The fates of the selected artists are compared with those chosen by the wheel of fortune.

The National Museum makes a significant contribution to the dialogue between art and history in the parallel exhibition, Picturing Singapore. Running across these ‘11 pockets of time’, Picturing Singapore will be a snapshot of the local social and artistic climate at each corresponding point in time. While 1955 saw the birth of documenta, it was also the year of a heightened political consciousness in Singapore. This is illustrated in a cartoon (c. 1955) entitled我们站起来了!(Standing Up Together) by artist Mu Lin, depicting workers of various ethnicities united behind an anti-imperialism placard.

Visitors to the two exhibitions will see how one society ravaged by war and another struggling to find its own identity were affected by and in turn, affected change to their artistic landscapes. In addition, a public lecture and guided tour conducted by Archive in Motion curators Dr Michael Glasmeier and Dr Annelie Lütgens will provide an insight into the historical development of documenta and the German art scene after 1945.

Photograph Courtesy of National Museum of Singapore and Goethe-Institut Singapore. All Rights reserved.

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