The 77th Annual Trans-Ideological Congress for Constructive Divisiveness
Bras Basah Open:
Jireh Koh, Victoria Hertel, Kapilan Naidu, Smiha Kapoor, Tan Qian Hui, Bruce Quek, Douglas Chew, Cara Ow, Hilary Yeo, Helios Singh Bajwa
1 - 9 April 2023, 11am–7pm, Plenary: 6 Apr 2023, 7:30–9:30pm
The 77th Annual Trans-Ideological Congress for Constructive Divisiveness is a collaborative art installation and transdisciplinary workshop that explores how material cultures and collective agencies are informed by, and in turn reinform, practices of futurology, myth-making, and communal deliberation. Framed as the site of a fictive geopolitical conference à la the UN General Assembly, Congress assembles ‘representatives’ of divergent ideological and theoretical persuasions to assess ‘policies’ drawn from contemporary theory and mass culture as they pertain to the medium- and long-term prospects of human civilization. ‘Founded’ in the wake of the US’ atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the formation of the UN (a pair of watershed events in the brutal 20th century that both occurred in 1945, 77 years ago), this shadowy convention does not aim to build consensus or arrive at resolutions, but to clarify (and sometimes escalate) divergences between belief systems in order to gauge trajectories of probable conflict and avert future cataclysmic fallouts.
An exercise in upending entrenched dogmas about the relative values of unity and division, harmony and conflict, in constructive discourse, Congress invites audiences to ponder the schisms and crises (ecological, economic, social, medical, etc.) of our times in a critical spirit, shifting the discourse away from paralytic states of denial and anxiety towards courage, wonder, and hope. Congress extends Bras Basah Open’s efforts to initiate critical and informative academia-adjacent interventions in the local arts and culture landscape. The collaborating artists were gathered not only for their artistic merit, but also for their strengths as interlocutors and their diverging theoretical-ideological beliefs. Their collaboration will put the principle of constructive divisiveness into practice: the making process will be preceded by sharing sessions during which they will discuss their viewpoints in a spirited but respectful atmosphere in order to test and refine them in the face of scrutiny and objection. In a similar spirit, the public workshop will introduce audiences to topical debates in contemporary discourse and create avenues for them to reflect and reorient themselves amidst the chaos and turbulence of the present moment.
About the Artist(s)
Helios Singh Baja
Helios Singh Bajwa (b. 1992) is a Singaporean writer, curator, and independent researcher working at the intersections of contemporary art and philosophical discourse. He organizes Bras Basah Open, a para-academic forum for the arts and humanities in Singapore, through which he initiates community-oriented interventions that aim to catalyze critical, informative conversation across local cultures and contexts.
Kapilan Naidu (b. 1992) is a media artist, designer and technologist exploring the effects of rapid mechanization and com-putational supremacy in modern society. Using interactivity and real-time data as mediums, his works span generative images, animations, sound, mixed-reality experiences, screen-based installations and computer programs. His current re-search into transhumanism and artificially intelligent systems also informs his approach to forming creative partnerships between humans and machines
Douglas Chew is The Philosophical Bachelor. He has a Bachelor’s degree in philosophy and advanced degrees in engineering. His philosophical quest can be characterised as an existential search for meaning. While this necessarily involves enquiry across the breadth of philosophy, he is currently interested in philosophical anthropology, metaphysics and the implications of technology, science and society on the human condition.
Jireh Koh (b. 1991) is an multidisciplinary artist, musician and Arts educator whose practice spans across multiple art forms and traditions. Starting out as a classical painter and vocalist, he has since expanded into many mediums including sculpture, installation, video, sound, and performance art, exhibiting his art overseas and locally. Jireh graduated from Goldsmiths, University of London with a Bachelor of Arts in Fine Art (Honours) in 2017. In his eclectic practice, Jireh weaves between the disciplines of visual art, music, movement and performance-making, drawing inspiration from diverse fields of knowledge such as medicine, biology, astronomy, psychology, cognitive science, comparative mythology, theology, philosophy and more. He is interested in the process of mark and meaning-making, as well as the role of myth and ritual across cultures - of the experience of art as an essential way of knowing. He is also interested in the occult quality of art, in which art can occlude, conceal, harbour and reveal deeper meanings through the emergent relationship with the viewer in the process of encounter.
Victoria Hertel Velasco is a German-Venezuelan artist whose practice explores the sensory entanglement of the self and non-self. Her immersive installations combine sensor technology, trace and motion to construct distilled sensory encounters that heighten our awareness of the material network we inhabit. Through the synaesthetic experience of these encounters we are invited to expand our understanding of
our coexistence in relation to everything within and around us. Hertel Velasco received her BFA from the University of Barcelona and her MA in Fine Arts from LASALLE College of the Arts Singapore in partnership with Goldsmiths University of London. She has been awarded the Chan-Davies Art Prize for academic excellence in her MA research and practice of Trace as energy in materialities. Her work has been exhibited in solo shows, group exhibitions as well as residencies in Germany, Spain, Austria, Poland, China, Taiwan and Singapore.
Dr Tan Qian Hui
Dr Tan Qian Hui obtained her Ph.D. in Geography from NUS and her dissertation examined how the spatio-temporalities of single individuals in Singapore could be queered or problematised. Her research interests in intimate relationalities, embodiment and more recently, sustainability politics are often informed by critical feminist as well as queer theoretical perspectives. As a socio-cultural geographer by training, her work has been published in Gender, Place & Culture, and Social & Cultural Geography. Besides extending her investigations on intimate geographies, she will be involved in an interdisciplinary project on plastic waste management within households across Singapore and Australia at Asia Research Institute.
Cara Ow is a body most regularly occupied by experimental poetry. Understanding the space of the page as sites to be contested and negotiated, their works explore place-making, miscommunication and connection. The second place recipient of the 2021 Hawker Prize for Southeast Asian Poetry, some of Cara’s works can be found in The Tiger Moth Review’s Issue 3, BooksActually’s My Lot is A Sky, Exactly Foundation’s Entau Tak Tahu, Eggbox Publishing’s Underline and Undertone, and elsewhere. Most recently, Cara performed at the Esplanade for dink. They also run bad peaches, a creative-critical writing workshop focused on generation and failure.
Hilary Yeo is a multi-disciplinary artist and sculptor based in Southeast Asia, Singapore. Her practice explores and articulates the notion of agency through sculpture. Her works prioritise non-human subjectivity as a way by which the physical, social, and imaginary self can be formed. They represent a continual goal in diminishing the script of a fixed human project in favour of a transcendental becoming across vectors of sexuality, gender, race, class, and other limiting constructs.
Hilary is also active as a co-founder and co-runner of various collectives like ‘Pure Ever’, ‘Endless Return’, and ‘T.T.O.O’, where she engages in other mediums of art-making such as curating and the organisation of art-related events.
Smiha Kapoor (b. 1997) is an Indian artist and facilitator currently based in Singapore. Her approach to visual art-making is performance-centric through which she extends the personal into the realms of drawing, installation and image-based media.
She also pursues an active interest in performative practices through collaborations and participatory processes, that have been nurtured through her dynamic involvement in the Singapore creative community. She's often seen harnessing connection-making as a creative strategy to weave concepts and communities across presumed separations into authentic and creative relationalities.
She has presented works in India, Germany and Singapore and has developed collaborative performances for institutions like National Gallery Singapore and NUS Museum. She graduated with a Bachelor in Fine Art (Hons) from LASALLE College Of The Arts and was the recipient of the Winston Oh Travelogue Award for 2021
Bruce Quek (b.1986) is an interdisciplinary artist, well-versed in installation art, sound art as well as photography. Having received a Diploma in Fine Arts (Sculpture) from LASALLE SIA in 2006, Bruce went beyond conventions of traditional mediums to work on the installation and performance pieces from as early as 2004 at 37 in The Bar to 2008 where he exhibited solo at Post museum, and finally in group exhibition, B.E.A.U.T.Y Show in Copenhagen, Denmark. His experiences range from collaborating on a music project with Shazanah Hassan to working as both a photographer and videographer for The Artists’ Village and AHPY.
The diversity of his mediums belie the various concerns of his work, which includes; the distribution and dissemination of information, as well as other conceptual investigations, which range from critiques of artistic infrastructure to studies of various pathologies and emergences. One of his interests is in the representation and speculation of koan - a concept of Zen buddhism - beyond form of a story but at a given place and time in one’s life.