Culture / Art Republik

Southeast Asian Cross Disciplinary Collectives

The value of cross-disciplinary practices

Apr 12, 2018 | By Art Republik

Toccata Studios, photograph from the ‘Space Age: The Phantom Power’ performance, 2018. Image courtesy Toccata Studios.

More often than not, intriguing and sometimes complicated cross-disciplinary practices are driven by art collectives made up of individuals with varied skills. The art world seems to continually question and redefine itself through cross-disciplinary practices, and art is increasingly used to illustrate and express the content of other disciplines. It is common to see art used to give visual form to an electronic music composition or illustrate a science project. However, it takes great art producers, in the form of collectives, to demonstrate the value of art in the active development of other disciplines and produce works that question the conventional in concept, creation and practice.

Vertical Submarine, an independent art collective from Singapore, is known for their playful installations and works. Their recent project took the form of a maze that dogs could explore by following their owners’ voices through speakers, and a smaller one for cats that chased remote-controlled mechanical mice. In addition to eight other pet-friendly installations, the works were part of the exhibition, ‘PAW-sitive: Interactive Art for Pets’ held at the School of the Arts Gallery in October 2017. This innovative project led by Silversky Ltd involved collaborations involving artmakers, animal behaviourists and veterinarians. Art is not used to merely make the maze look fanciful, but rather, design an interactive space for pets and their owners to experience.

Toccata Studios, photograph from the ‘Space Age: The Phantom Power’ performance, 2018. Image courtesy Toccata Studios.

Malaysia-based group Toccata Studio has worked across theatre, dance, art, light and music. One project is ‘2020: Futurists’ Diaries’, an experimental performance where scientists, artists and clones explored the concepts of time and space. Dancers interacted with light installations, and a live painting took centrestage. Another is ‘Space Age: The Phantom Power’, a contemporary classical performance featuring five musical instruments. In the words of founder Tan E-Jan, their practice is “cross-disciplinary not only within all art forms but outside of them as well.”

Image of INTERMISSION Exhibit. Image courtesy INTERMISSION.

Singapore-based art collective INTER-MISSION reflects a growing number of artists collaborating across different disciplines. Their collaborative works span across video art, audiovisual, performance, installation and interactive art. With a focus on research, INTER-MISSION believes cross-disciplinary art practices provide a platform to uncover new or unknown methods of working, and to tap into a collective pool of knowledge and skills. Urich Lau, a member of the collective notes that “artmaking is never a lone effort” and that “it’s definitely a form of co-existence”. Their involvement in the Interdisciplinary Art Festival Tokyo and the OSMOSIS – Audiovisual Media Festival (Taiwan) has contributed to awareness and dialogue about cross-disciplinary art practices and approaches in Singapore, Japan and Taiwan.

Ace Mart, a 24-hour minimart that sold artworks alongside items regularly found in convenience stores was a conceptual work conceived by Ace House Collective. The Yogyakarta-based art collective has collaborated with institutions, restaurants and independent practitioners to produce conceptual projects inspired by youth-pop culture. The collective aims to interact with the community where its gallery is located, including taxi drivers and construction workers, through blurring the space between the gallery and its surrounding environment. The transformed gallery space resembling a provisional shop represents conceptual layers of artmaking while bringing new meanings to objects and spaces that were previously not associated with art.

This article was written by Daryl Goh for Art Republik 18.

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