Installation view of “Motions” at Ota Fine Arts, Singapore, 2016. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts. 


Ota Fine Arts
Singapore China Japan

CHEN WEI, In the Waves #1, 2013, archival inkjet print, 150 × 187.5 cm. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Singapore. 

“Motions,” the subject and title of Ota Fine Arts Singapore’s current exhibition, carries broad subjective meanings. It projects as noun or verb, embraces chaos or control, and could be deliberate or fortuitous. In this group show, Ota presents intriguing variations on this theme through the photography, installation and video works of seven emerging and established regional artists who conjure up motion and its many choreographies of transformation.

In the central space of the gallery, two large-scale color photographs by Chinese artist Chen Wei greet the visitor. The artist typically stages imagery within odd, hand-made maquettes—in shadowy rooms or dismal flats, for example—and in this dual selection from his photographic series “In the Waves” (2013), Chen concocts a smoky nightclub. Commenting on the identity and culture of China’s disaffected youth, Chen populates the club with dozens of young dancers who seem to neither move nor interact: their studied aimlessness and inward expressions are micro-narratives of pure solipsism. Apposite to the bleak, gestural imagery of “In the Waves” is Passing (2015), Singapore photographer Victor Gui’s mosaic-like installation composed of 105 small black-and-white photographs that ensnare and document motion. Each photograph is a layered half-hour exposure comprising a different car journey made by the artist in Singapore, recorded with a pinhole camera mounted on his dashboard. The final images can be read as compressed recollections, which (like most offhand, minute-to-minute memory) consist of grayish, delicate blurs, unexpectedly enlivened by the occasional lucid glimpse of trees or road. Gui includes an abstract map of Singapore’s highway system as context for these private, temporal interludes.

BETTY SUSIARJOAnemones, 2011, glitter, Hama beads, speakers and sound, dimensions variable. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Singapore.

Rather than suspend motion, Singapore-based mixed-media artist Betty Susiarjo chooses to create it, literally. Her whimsical installation Anemones (2011) involves small black speakers, each rimmed with ingenuous blue and green beads. The speakers are strewn across the gallery floor and emit sounds recorded at a Singapore beach; lying within the shallow scoops of these speakers are loose puddles of glitter that spasm and tremble with the resonant cadence of waves surging on shingle. Susiarjo’s idiosyncratic installations and videos often incorporate found and craft-based materials intended to trigger wonder: in her imaginary tide pool at Ota, once-prosaic speakers shift and stir in a sonorous current and become beautiful.

A play on synchronicity is illustrated in the silent video installation For Saya (2011) by veteran Japanese media artist Hiraki Sawa. Though lasting only a few minutes, it unfurls like a Mobius strip of infinite motion. Sawa integrates his two-channel video inside a small, hinged wooden box that rests, lid open, on a table, revealing two identical black-and-white images of a woman dancing. The miniature screens are just slightly out-of-synch, making the dancer’s stuttered gestures entrancing: is this one woman or two? Is this chaos or control? Sawa’s formalized distortions are resynchronized in Twin Dance (2012), a video by Korean sculptor and media artist Yeesookyung. Through subtle editing, the artist mirrors two individual yet nearly identical women who perform a traditional Korean dance in mannered symmetry. In mock response to this ritualistic uniformity is Mr. Hungry (2015), a performance piece by Shanghai-based artist Tang Dixin, which is described as “a physical engagement with books.” As an act of intentional self-obstruction, Tang circumnavigates a room without touching the floor, by balancing awkwardly on a pathway of books. Tense, cautious and blundering, the artist deliberately induces an alternative language of movement.

HIRAKI SAWAFor Saya, 2011, two-channel video: 3 min 15 sec. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Singapore. 

Hong Kong artist Samson Young presents another dance-based study of motion in his video Muted Situations #2: Lion Dance (2014), which appears to be a straightforward documentation of a lion dance team in rehearsal, but without the usual noisy percussive accompaniments. The only sounds are of feet shuffling, clattering wooden hinges, rustling fabric and breathing. Young is a composer and sound artist who creates soundscapes through “musical aberrations,” and in Muted Situations he discards music and invites the eye to morph the familiar sequence of prancing lions into an abstractive, physical notation. Without drums and cymbals, the discordant chaos of the lion dance realigns with the gestures inherent in exhilaration.

At Ota, the elusive subjectivities of “Motions” either capsulize time, fabricate ethereal worlds, or strip bare the merest intention. In the works of these very diverse artists, “motion” unfolds within the ebb and flow of dancers, the tangibility of sound and the disappearance of lions.

SAMSON YOUNGMuted Situations #2–Lion Dance, 2014, single-channel video: 7 min 21 sec. Courtesy Ota Fine Arts, Singapore.