Twelve artists play between the domain of arts and science at the Beast/Bloom for Thee: Biota Etc, Canna Gallery

English Statesman and poet, Robert Bulwer-Lytton, said art and science have their meeting point in method. It is from here that we can find Leonardo Da Vinci’s excellence, who according to American computer expert, Ben Shneiderman, combined art and science, aesthetics and engineering, that kind of united is mutual.

Inspired by the eternal relationship between art and science, the Canna Gallery launched the Beast/Bloom for Thee: Biota Etc, from February 23 to March 23, 2013. With Josef Ng as the curator, artworks from 12 Asian artists are exhibited. They are Agan Harahap (Indonesia), Agus Suwage (Indonesia), Herman Chong (Singapore), HONF (Indonesia), Manit Sriwanichpoom (Thailand), Rodel Tapaya (Filipina), Sakarin Krue-on (Thailand), Sudsiri Pui-ock (Thailand), Sun Yuan & Peng Yu (China), Venzha dan v.u.f.o.c (Indonesia), Yasmin Sison (the Philippines), and Zhao Renhui (Singapore).

In his curatorial, Josef Ng said the theme demonstrates a reflective view of the relations between man and art. This is especially amid man’s increasing influence on what’s left of nature, prompting assimilation, personalization and exploitation.

From this view, Josef gave his curatorial notes on the artworks that depict their exploration to find articulations on the diverse narrations and creating border-crossing dialogues. “Not only about physical habitations, the artists respond to identity, mass and popular culture and politics through non-human life forms as attitude, autobiographical, mythological, or simply, an uncomfortable satire of the brutal speed and thrust of progress where nature is increasingly re-articulated, invented or shaped,” said Josef, who is from Bangkok, but has long lived in Singapore.

Josef curatorial view is primarily exemplified by the artworks of animals. The relation between man and animals is featured by two of Agus Suwage’s works: the The Dogfather (2012, 86,5 x 62 cm, water color and tobacco juice on embossed paper) and the The Dogfather Film. The work display Agus and his pet dog, of which the relation between the two are clearly seen in his film. The film shows Agus playing his saxophone, accompanied by his dog’s howl.

The close relations between man and his pet animal is also featured by Agan Harahap through his work, Our Beloved created on 70 photo panels of Digital C-Prints on Paper with a dimension of 20.3 x 30.5 cm. The photos feature the gravestones of pets. Manit Sriwanichpoom also displayed photos of animals (from crocodiles and lions to monkeys) through nine of his masterpieces.

Robert Zhao, using three media panels of archival piezographic in his work, Where we come from and where we are going, also featured animals. And also Sakarin Krue-on, his 1.20 minutes Balance of Terror video animation is played in a dark room. Opposite the screen there’s a pool of oil, which reflects silhouettes of ferocious dogs.

Objects narrate the presence of nature comprehensively – animals and plants – are presented by Rodel Tapaya in his 244 x 426 cm acrylic canvas painting, titled Multipetalled Beauty.

The installation from Venzha + v.u.f.o.c is the only works of art that use plants as objects. Titled An Extraterrestrial Study Center, the work displays a black VW Wagon. Inside, pots of shrubs connected with a computer monitor that display graphics to resemble the monitor that tracks the heartbeat.

The science aspect is also displayed by HONF’s work of art. He designed a room filled with installations that join a flat screen television with petri dishes containing random samples connected with the human life – fluid from the gutter located by the gallery, urine water, and waste water from dishwashing activities, among others.

Although “seemingly” to be using the science language, some of the works clearly shows that they are not created to be scientifically accountable. They want to criticize the awareness of art lovers on the relation between modern human and nature, and question whether the relation is harmonious.

The concept of some artworks successfully displays the situation, either clearly and implicitly. But, generally, the exhibition exhibits masterpieces that stand out in terms of concept, but not in terms of aesthetics.

In the name of concept also, the caption of every work comes in the form of a map displayed on the wall. Visitors seeking to know the artist behind an artwork would have to visit one of the maps. This makes it difficult for the visiting art lovers.

Enjoying the ideas and concepts – especially those that are mischievous and unique – is a fun experience and shows the symptoms of the contemporary art from young artists. It is here that the Beast/Bloom for Thee: Biota Etc becomes an example and hopefully the exhibition would not only become a brief moment discourse.


Indonesian version