Artist brings show from 58th Venice Biennale to Singapore

This story was first published on The A List SG on 6 November 2020.

Curator Michelle Ho (left) and artist Song-Ming Ang (right) represented Singapore at the Venice Biennale in 2019.

A year after the successful premiere of Music For Everyone: Variations on a Theme by Singaporean artist Song-Ming Ang at the prestigious Venice Biennale, the show has made its way home to our sunny shores. 

The exhibition takes its inspiration from the Music for Everyone concert series presented by the then-Ministry of Culture in the 1970s. It explores the relationship that Singaporeans have with music, as a society and as individuals. 

Running until 8 Nov at the National Museum of Singapore, the multidisciplinary exhibition will feature all the works Ang presented in Venice, including digital prints, banners, film and sculptures, as well as three new works shown for the first time. 

Audiences can also embark on a guided tour by volunteers of Friends of the Museum on 4 and 6 Nov. A special online panel discussion, titled Music For Everyone: A History, which explores the history of programming music for the nation and more, will take place on 7 Nov. 

Of the show in Singapore, Ang says: “This is an exhibition that is truly collaborative in spirit and extensive in scope, and we have expanded the presentation to include even more elements of national history as well as my own artistic output throughout the years. 

“I am happy and grateful that our presentation in Venice can now be experienced by everyone in Singapore, and hope that it resonates with the audience.”

Here are five highlights not to be missed at Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme:

Music For Everyone

This series of textile banners is based on posters issued by the Singapore government between 1971 and 1985 to cultivate public interest in music. The posters focus on promoting Western classical music, local choral societies and cultural groups performing ethnic music. More than 360 concerts took place in that period as part of the concert seriesMusic for Everyone

Recorder Rewrite

The centrepiece of the exhibition, Recorder Rewrite is a three-channel video installation that features primary school children from different backgrounds and ethnicities playing the recorder in unconventional ways. Part child’s play and part choreographed, the video highlights how children relate to music intuitively.   

Recorder Sculpture

This installation features various types of recorders – soprano, alto, tenor and bass – dismantled and rearranged by carefully balancing the different parts together to form sculptures. Minimal support structures are used to hold each sculpture together, to achieve a sense of elegance and convey the child-like wonder one experiences when things are taken apart. 

You And I

From 2009 to 2018, Ang invited the public to write him a letter on his personal website. He received more than 60 letters from friends, colleagues and strangers. He reciprocated by sending each person a unique mixtape of songs. Seven of those exchanges make up this new installation in the show.

Manifesto For Bad Music

A tribute to all music forms deemed uncultivated by society’s standard, this installation first premiered at the 2011 Singapore Biennale. It is included in this exhibition and it takes the form of a crowdsourced playlist and text printed on vinyl. The work is Ang’s response to snobbery in fine art, and it attempts to highlight the merits of underrated forms of music. 

Plan your visit to  Music for Everyone: Variations on a Theme here

(Photos: Renée Ting, Olivia Kwok, Marvin Tang, Marvin Tang)

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