Ho Tzu Nyen: Time & the Tiger is possibly one of the most significant exhibitions this year. Presented by Singapore Art Museum (SAM) from Nov 24, 2023 to Mar 3, 2024, this is the Singaporean artist’s first mid-career survey exhibition highlighting his prolific artistic practice.
Internationally acclaimed as a writer, visual artist and theatre-maker, Ho explores identity, storytelling and time in Asia, particularly after World War II.
Time & the Tiger, for instance, illustrates his fascination with tigers dispersing over time. From geological transformations in Asia to ancestral memory, tigers offer a perspective on time on a wide range of scales.
Ho views time as a multidimensional matrix shaped by cultural, ecological, and historical factors. In putting together his exhibition, he wondered: “Can all these scales of time coexist?”
Taking over Galleries 1 and 2 at SAM, with an off-site presentation at several public libraries, the exhibition, co-organised by Art Sonje Center (ASJC), features eight major installations, including T for Time, SAM’s newest commission.
It also combines major artworks mainly from SAM’s collection. They include Cloud of Unknowing (2011), The Name (2015-2017), The Nameless (2015), CDOSEA (2017), One or Several Tigers (2017), and Hotel Aporia (2019), a site-specific installation commissioned for the 2019 Aichi Triennale, one of the largest international art festivals in Japan.
The multi-channel video installation illustrates Japanese nationalism and imperialism through the eyes of a group of characters. At SAM, Japanese inn pavilions have been created using tatami mats and shoji screens to present it.
Ho has collaborated with SAM on artwork commissions over the years, including H for Humidity (2022), featured in the group exhibition Lonely Vectors. For this current exhibition, the museum and ASJC commissioned T for Time (2023), a two-channel video installation that explores time-keeping traditions across Asia.
Over the last 20 years, time has been a crucial dimension of Ho’s work. According to him, T for Time is the most personal work he has produced, yet it bears no traces of his persona. As he explains it, “Much of its foundation lies in the transformative 1980s, a pivotal decade in my rather middle-class and relatively comfortable childhood in Singapore.
“It is a collection of many anecdotes about time, and it comes from different historical moments and cultures, but it makes no claim to be universal. In the end, the work still became a subjective work, rooted very much in my specific moment, in my specific trajectory.”
As Eugene Tan, director of SAM, and lead curator for Time & the Tiger puts it: “Ho’s art is emblematic of a radicalism, perpetually in motion. It sheds its skin when it needs to; it evades easy categorisation and dodges classification. Yet, one thing remains certain: in a time where complexity is reduced to soundbites, Ho’s art serves as a reservoir of reflection and a critique. We look forward to audiences immersing themselves in the worlds and narratives he has created over the past two decades.”
In addition to the artist’s keynote lecture, there will also be storytelling sessions, family-friendly activities, quizzes, and curator tours at Tanjong Pagar Distripark. As SAM also provides contemporary art to local communities, the Jurong, Queenstown, and Woodlands libraries will feature Ho’s national TV series 4 x 4 – Episodes of Singapore Art (2005).
Following its debut here, the exhibition will travel to ASJC in Seoul and the Hessel Museum of Art in New York. While Ho’s core works in in Time & the Tiger will be the focus, SAM, ASJC, and their international partners are actively collaborating to customise the exhibition according to country-specific curatorial interests.
General admission is free for Singaporeans and PRs at SAM in Tanjong Pagar Distripark. More information can be found at bit.ly/SAM-HoTzuNyenTATT.
All photos courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.