Practices of Alternative Art Spaces and Transitional Politics in Asia
Date : 19 Oct 2018
Time : 18:45 - 21:00
Venue : Moving Image Gallery, Singapore Art Museum at 8Q
8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535
Organisers : Minna VALJAKKA

Organised by Asia Research Institute; venue sponsored by Singapore Art Museum.


Alternative art spaces through their transnational practices have reformulated the position and understanding of arts across Asia. In Singapore, this ‘spatial turn’ can be traced back to the eminent artist colony in Sembawang, The Artists Village (TAV), founded by Tang Da Wu in 1988. Characterized by aspirations of autonomy and coalescence of varied cultural practices, numerous spaces have since pursued for alternative visions of and for societal change. Grounded on mostly invisible and transnational alliances, extending beyond urban conditions to rural communities, alternative art spaces continue to provide fertile discursive sites for exploring and questioning the dominating value structures. While each space is shaped at the nexus of specific geopolitical and local circumstances of the city in question, what they share in common is the advocation of transformative effects of socially engaged art practices. Drawing from their long-term engagement with research on and collaboration with alternative art spaces across Asia, the participants of this panel seek to elaborate how the innovative art practices move beyond “relational aesthetics” (Bourriaud 1998) and act with approaches ranging from “dialogue-based public art” (Finkelpearl 2000) to “collaborative art” (Kester 2011). Now it is imperative to reconsider these approaches to socially engaged art in Asian cultural contexts, such as Taiwan (Tung 2013), Japan (Jesty 2017) and Southeast Asia. At stake in this relational process then, are precisely the kinds of interaction and connectivity that shifts the focus on transnational networks beyond human-centric exchanges to nature and environmental issues, including but not limited to migratory pathways of birds, mobility of garbage and pollution across national borders. In this context, the significance of alternative art spaces and their transitional practices in Asian art may be understood as a precondition for the enactment of an artful societal change.


Moderator             Prof Chua Beng Huat | National University of Singapore




Dr Minna Valjakka | National University of Singapore


Prof Yoshitaka Mōri | Tokyo University of the Arts, Japan
Dr James Jack | Yale-NUS College, Singapore
Dr Michelle Lim | Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Mr Tay Tong | Cultural Worker, Singapore
Dr Woon Tien Wei | Artist and Curator, Singapore






Yoshitaka MŌRI earned his MA in Media and Communications and PhD in Sociology, at the Goldsmiths College, London. His primary research interests focus on the inter-relations between the arts, culture, society and politics; grounded in the fields of sociology, cultural studies and media studies. Professor Mōri’s current research on street theater Sasurai shimai (DriftingSisters, examines the relation between art, in particular theater performance, and the city landscape. Transformation of industrial structure and the development of digital media has reconfigured the working conditions of proletariats. At the same time, socio-political position of the streets (as open public space) are changing too. In the age of growing globalization and digitalization, the main question is how art and culture can intervene into politics in the streets. Critical analysis of Sasurai shimai and their socially engaged practice to perform in the day-labourer towns (such as San’ya, Shinjuku, Kotobuki and Shibuya) for the last 30 years during New Year celebrations provides new perceptions to analyze the renegotiation of social justice in these cities and how the number of homeless people has increased along with human right supporters. In addition to his academic research, Professor Mōri is actively involved in art research projects taking place in alternative art spaces across the region. A travelling art project Hotel Asia, launched in 2011, has been since organized in various cities, including Kitakyshu, Bangkok, Hefei, Shanghai and Tokyo in 2016 ( Another collaborative art research project, Triangulation: Tokyo—Goto—Ho Chi Minh, between Tokyo University of the Arts and Ho Chi Minh City University of Fine Arts, ( included Asst Prof James Jack (Yale-NUS College) as one of the guest artists. To further enhance knowledge distribution across different disciplines, Professor Mōri with his colleagues publish 5: Designing Media Ecology magazine (

James JACK is an artist concerned with rejuvenating fragile connections that exist in the world. His work with local activists and community members nourished the exhibition Molokai Window at the Honolulu Museum of Art this year. He has developed socially engaged artworks for the Setouchi International Art Festival, Busan Biennale Sea Art Festival, Echigo-Tsumari Triennale and Tokyo Metropolitan Art Museum. His artworks have been exhibited at Orford Arts, TAMA Gallery, Kentler International Drawing Space, Cheryl Pelavin Fine Art, Sumi Gallery, the Asian-American Art Center and the Fukuoka Prefectural Art Museum. His artist writings have been published in Art Asia Pacific, Shima: The International Journal of Research into Island Cultures, Modern Art Asia and art catalogs published by Blum & Poe Gallery, Satoshi Koyama Gallery and The Contemporary Museum of Hawai‘i. Dr Jack completed a PhD at Tokyo University of the Arts and was a Postdoctoral Artist Fellow at the Social Art Lab at Kyushu University. In Singapore, his works have been exhibited at the Centre for Contemporary Art, the ADM Gallery at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) as well as the Institute for Contemporary Art.

Michelle LIM is a writer and curator based in New York and Singapore. She holds a PhD in art history from Princeton University and was a Curatorial Fellow in the Whitney Independent Study Program. Dr Lim has been involved with the art world since the early 2000s. She has worked on research and curatorial projects for institutions such as the Asia Society Museum in New York, the Whitney Museum of American Art, Princeton University Art Museum, Sculpture Square in Singapore, and the National Museum of Singapore. Exhibitions she has curated include Clang. A Self Portrait (2004) at the Jendela Gallery in Singapore, Visions & Illusions: Reconstruction of a City (2004) at the St. James Power Station in Singapore and Undercurrents: Experimental Ecosystems in Recent Art (2011) at The Kitchen Gallery in New York. Michelle has taught at The Cooper Union and CUNY Graduate Center, and also guest lectured at Wellesley College, University of Oregon, Maryland Institute of Contemporary Art. Her writings have been published in Asian Art News, World Sculpture News, Ish magazine and various exhibition catalogues.

TAY Tong has been in professional practice as a cultural worker for more than 30 years. He recently left his position as the Managing Director of TheatreWorks which is an independent performance company with an art space, 72-13. As a producer since 1989, Mr Tay is dedicated to the development of contemporary arts in Singapore and to the evolution of an Asian identity and aesthetics of the 21st century through a culture of differences. He has produced international arts festivals, including the Singapore International Festival of Arts during 2014-2017, as well as around 200 productions. Mr Tay is an advocate for engagement with diverse cultures and he firmly supports the philosophy of ‘celebrating differences’ and cultural negotiation. This approach forms the basis to the two key intercultural, multidisciplinary and capacity building programs in Southeast Asia he produced. The first one is the biennial Flying Circus Project (FCP), a process-based multi-disciplinary, long-term research and development program of theatre, dance, music, visual arts, film and ritual, established in 1996. The second is the Arts Network Asia (ANA) that gives project grants and mobility grants to artists and cultural workers to develop connectivity and a network of dialogues within Asia. Mr Tay was the Director of ANA from 1999 to April 2018.

WOON Tien Wei is an artist and a curator based in Singapore. His work focuses on cultural policies, collectivity in art, social movements, community engagement, land contestation, urban legends and social movements. In his practice, he works with the independent cultural and social space, Post-Museum. In addition to the Post-Museum’s own initiatives and projects, the curatorial team also research, curate and collaborate with a network of social actors and cultural workers. With Post-Museum, Dr Woon worked on Bukit Brown Index (2014- ), an ongoing project that indexes the land contestation case of Bukit Brown Cemetery. He lectures part-time at Lasalle College of the Arts in the Faculty of Fine Arts. Dr Woon received his DCA in the Arts from Curtin University of Technology, Perth.

CHUA Beng Huat received his PhD from York University, Canada. He has previously served as Provost Chair Professor, Faculty of Arts and Social Science (2009-2017), Research Leader, Cultural Studies in Asia Research Cluster, Asia Research Institute (2000-2015); Convenor Cultural Studies Programmes (2008-2013) and Head, the Department of Sociology (2009-2015), National University of Singapore. His book publications include: as author, The Golden Shoe: Building Singapore’s Financial District (1989), Communitarian Ideology and Democracy in Singapore, Political Legitimacy and Housing: Stakeholding in Singapore, Life is Not Complete without Shopping, Structure, Audience and Soft Power in East Asian Pop Culture and, Political Liberalism Disavowed: communitarianism and state capitalism in Singapore (2017); as editor, Singapore Studies II: Critical Studies; Consumption in Asia: lifestyles and identities, Communitarian Politics in Asia and, Elections as Popular Culture in Asia. Professor Chua is also the founding co-executive editor of the journal, Inter-Asia Cultural Studies.


Admission is free, and seats are available on a first come, first served basis. We would greatly appreciate if you click on the "Register" button above to RSVP.

Contact Person(s)
Minghua TAY