Of Waters
Suzann Victor, curated by Marc Gloede
Apr. 27 until May 11, 2021
Presented by STPI in Singapore

About the Artwork

Suzann Victor & Martin KirkwoodFire Water, 2021
Outdoor bonfire, 150 x 15 cm burning timber log, stereo contact microphones, Sony WM-D6 Pro-Walkman, 11 minutes 53 seconds.

Artists’ Statement
A sound removed from the visible source of its generation can activate the imagination of association to complete a picture otherwise mysterious or mundane.

Here we present a stereo sound recording of a large burning timber log, captured using two contact microphones attached to both sides of a section of wood that was jutting out of the bonfire. Contact microphones reveal the vibration of sound as it moves through matter in contrast to conventional microphones which capture the vibration of air. To delve deep into matter and eavesdrop, much like a doctor listening to a beating heart with a stethoscope, is to turn the inside outward for the listener. Perceptually confounding, that which may appear obvious to the portals of the eye and ear operating in concert, a recording removed from its context/s, and indeed from light (to see) and air (to hear), conjures the uncanny.

We were taken by the profundity of how a recording of burning timber calls forth its very antithesis – a watery sound – soothing – the timbre of a small waterfall pelting rocks morphing into a moving stream, light rain percussing a tin roof. Here, the potential danger of actually being so close to a fire to extract an otherwise unheard soundscape of ferociously devoured wood is contrasted with the sense-illusion of a calming watery sound, creating a conceptual dissonance. This auto-conjuring of a prospective representation of one highly visual element by means of another in sound and as sound, may underscore the essential nature of our unified senses in perceiving and determining the true quality of our shared realities, lived or imagined. An uncanny blind spot, Fire Water performs the mutability of perception and phenomena. A hidden secret sound, sounding out transformation. 

In the sonic stream, we arrive inside matter, blindly – timber, made of cellulose and lignans – aged, fallen, a step removed from life, emptied of that most essential element – water. Much more of the world’s forests are vulnerable to raging fires now than ever before, increasingly, devastatingly, catastrophically. Either through climate-change induced wild fires, or slash-and-burn agricultural practices, primary forests are decimated at an unprecedented and alarming rate. Hence, to be inside burning timber as it were, to witness the listening act of imagining and imaging rain falling and water flowing, interrupted by the counter-sounds of bursts of wood atomically splintering and exploding in midstream, we may be reminded that our forests are key to maintaining the cycle of precipitation, the capture of carbon, the creation of oxygen. Or a burning world.

* The joint term “firewater” commonly refers to used water after fighting fires which is contaminated, thus requiring disposal.

About Of Waters

Fire Water is presented as part of Of Waters, a solo exhibition by prolific Singaporean artist Suzann Victor and curated by Marc Gloede. Of Waters is presented as part of Galleries Curate: RHE. 

The exhibition Of Waters brings together three seminal works by the artist which highlight the artist’s interest and investigation into the element of water. With two gallery installations (where one is also presented here, online) and one print work, the exhibition invites the audience to experience the multifaceted practice of the artist and dive into an immersive experience. 

Of Waters explores the different (sound) qualities that water contains. The physical installation and online presentation of Fire Water (2021) (in collaboration with Martin Kirkwood) offers a dark room in which the audience oscillates between different readings of the sound source. In stark contrast, Strike (2021) offers an archipelagic landscape of crystalline water containers that visitors can turn into a Glockenspiel. Finally, Portwine – Romance included (2015) is an encounter with the visual dimension of the element and this resonates with the artistic process. 

With these three corresponding components of the exhibition, Of Waters allows a deeper understanding of the artist’s continuous interest in the element. Furthermore, the exhibition encourages the visitors to recalibrate their senses, reflect on their own preconceptions of water, and experience the multiple potentialities that are embedded in the element.

Visit www.stpi.com.sg/exhibitions for more information.

About the Artist

Suzann Victor. Photo by Toni Cuhadi.
Image courtesy of STPI – Creative Workshop & Gallery, Singapore. 

Suzann Victor is a prolific Singaporean artist whose practice spans over 20 years, from an award-winning abstract painter in the 1980s to being Singapore’s first female representative at the 49th Venice Biennale.

At STPI, Suzann Victor responded to and inverted traditional printmaking in experimental ways, creating new methods of performing materiality and ideas that resonate long after the aesthetic encounter. These innovative strategies resulted in architecturally-presented paintings with paper pulp, whilst her gestural acid paintings were the largest copperplate etchings ever produced at STPI in 2015. Her reconstruction of the postcolonial cultural/ family unit were fronted by Fresnel lenses whose perceptual effects confounded the act of seeing, all of which are unusual additions to her practice consisting theatrical devices, kinetic mechanisms, performance-installations, experimentations with the body, light, water and natural phenomena such as the meteorological where she induced double rainbows to appear inside the National Museum of Singapore.

Victor’s works have graced international platforms such as the 6th Havana Biennale, 2nd Asia-Pacific Triennial (Queensland Art Gallery), Adelaide Biennale (2008), Sunshower Exhibition, Tokyo and the 5th Seoul International Media Art Biennale, Korea. She was a recipient of the 2009 Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship and a special residency from the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum in 2017. In 2019, her iconic performance, Still Waters, was honoured as the theme of the international theatre showcase M1 Singapore Fringe Festival. 

About the Guest Curator

Marc Gloede. Photo by Wei Leng Tay.

Marc Gloede is a curator, critic and film scholar. His work focuses on the relationship between images, technology, space, the body, and the dynamics between art, architecture and film.

From 2008 to 2014 Gloede was senior curator of Art Film, Art Basel’s film programme. Other film curatorial projects were the A+ Online Festival of Video Art (2020), the film programme for the exhibition “Siah Armajani: Spaces for the Public. Spaces for Democracy,” at NTU CCA, Singapore, or his guest curation for the Experimenta Festival 2007 in Mumbai/ Bangalore. Furthermore he has curated numerous exhibitions including “STILL/ MOVING/STILL – The History of Slide Projection in the Arts” (Knokke/Belgium) or more recently “Progressive Disintegraions” at Objectifs and “To Draw a Line” at the ADM Gallery in Singapore.

Gloede authored the book Farbige Lichträume/Colored Space of Light (2014), and was co-editor of Umwidmungen (2005) and Synästhesie-Effekte (2011). His writing has been published in The Impossibility of Mapping [Urban Asia] (2020), The State of Motion 2019: A Fear of Monsters, and publications such as Fantom, Texte zur Kunst, OSMOS, Parkett, and Art in America, among others.

He received his PhD at the Free University of Berlin and since 2017 is Assistant Professor and Co-Director of the MA in Museum Studies and Curatorial Practices at NTU/ADM.