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Artist and former Olympic sailor Charles Lim Singa represents Singapore at the Venice Biennale
SEA STATE is presented in Venice as an interdisciplinary installation that interrogates the assumption, inherent in our late-modern notions of progress, that finite resources can be made to appear limitless.

VENICE.- The Singapore Pavilion was opened on 6 May, 3pm by Mr. Sam Tan, Minister of State for Culture, Community and Youth, Singapore, in a newly-restored space in the Sale d’Armi building at the Arsenale. This is the first time that the Singapore Pavilion is situated in the historic Arsenale on a long term lease for twenty years.

Mr. Sam Tan says, “Singapore has a rich pool of artistic talent and we want to be able to always identify and create opportunities for them to showcase their works. The return to la Biennale di Venezia, our seventh outing so far, reflects this commitment to our Singapore artists, who will have the opportunity to tap into global networks and reach out to new international audiences. The long-term lease of the Singapore Pavilion at the Biennale further underscores our commitment to our artists, who will fly the Singapore flag on the global stage.”

Mr. Paul Tan, Deputy Chief Executive, National Arts Council, says: “Singapore’s representation in Venice is the ideal platform for Singapore's artistic practice to be connected to the rest of the world. As modern Singapore turns 50 this year, Charles' work is also timely; it is a thoughtful examination of the physical establishment of our city-state, offering fresh perspectives and meanings. We hope, with a successful showing at the Venice Biennale, Singapore will excite a global audience about art created in Singapore and our region, as well as the many new developments here, such as our National Gallery opening in November.”

SEA STATE is a project initiated in 2005 by artist and former Olympic sailor Charles Lim, with the premise of inverting perceptions of sea and land on the island of Singapore. It explores the biophysical, political and psychic contours of the Southeast Asian city-state, through the visible and invisible lenses of the sea. The project’s structure is inspired by the World Meteorological Organization’s code for measuring sea conditions, which numbers the varying states ranging from calm, to moderate, to the phenomenal.

SEA STATE is presented in Venice as an interdisciplinary installation that interrogates the assumption, inherent in our late-modern notions of progress, that finite resources can be made to appear limitless. The installation consists of four newly commissioned digital video works, altered marine charts, a maritime buoy and a 3-D sand model of the seabed around Singapore. The buoy is fondly named SAJAHAT, after an island that disappeared from the world’s nautical charts in 2002 due to Singapore’s land reclamation efforts. Compelled to discover the meaning and the gravity of this disappearance, the artist has reconstructed the buoy that once marked the island for navigational purposes.

Since 1965, Singapore has grown by more than 50 square miles through land reclamation, with sand brought from elsewhere in Southeast Asia. A nation created by maritime trade, both colonial and modern, Singapore has found itself at the centre of global debates surrounding resource use, climate change and territorial sovereignty. Its often bold solutions – from land reclamation to the vast undersea caverns recently constructed beneath its southern coastline – represent singular yet suggestive prototypes for the management and navigation of these pivotal challenges of our time. As the nation continually reclaims and recreates itself, SEA STATE frames these debates with the transnational spaces of the sea.

Artist Charles Lim says: “When we think of a nation as a physical thing we imagine a land mass. Yet the true border of any country touching the sea is not the edge of the land, but out in the water. The actual border and the imagined border are quite different, especially for an island like Singapore. SEA STATE makes that border visible. It brings to the fore what is ordinarily kept in the background, the real depths of the sea and our uneasy maritime unconscious.”

The pavilion’s curator, Shabbir Hussain Mustafa, notes: “Charles Lim’s practice stems from an intimate engagement with the natural world, mediated and informed by field research and experimentation, performance, drawing, photography and video. His works make visible a dynamic coastal ecology, showing how the infrastructures of global capitalism do not replace the maritime environment, but inhabit and transform it. In an era of rapid global exchange, the complex, transnational spaces of the sea play host to a dynamic interplay between nature and culture, framing many of the key anxieties of our time. Embracing a range of media and disciplines, the Singapore Pavilion takes us to places that were until recently only a thing of oneiric theory.”

SEA STATE will be presented at the NTU CCA Singapore in 2016 in collaboration with the National Arts Council Singapore. The public conversation, The Geopolitical and the Biophysical: A structured conversation on Art and Southeast Asia in context, will continue at NTU CCA Singapore in 2016 and expand upon the debate in Venice.

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