Grey Projects


Notes on a Revolution by Godwin Koay [2013]

[24.08.13 — 29.09.13]

The setting is Singapore. But the situation is ambiguous enough. What is the cause? What are the demands? What is the reaction? Who is taking part? Where are we meeting? Are we marching somewhere? There are no right answers. Perhaps the least we can do to begin is to imagine.

“With this exhibition, I plan to present a fuller body of work that encompasses the already-existing ‘notes from a revolution’. This work consists of small-scale watercolour paintings that take after found (or culled) images – photographic prints, newspaper clippings, website screenshots, official and unofficial documents, video snapshots, etc. – which contain information in textual and/or pictorial form. These images look the part of appropriated material, but are in fact works of fiction. The images posit a hypothetical situation or situations set in an ambiguous contemporary time period wherein Singapore experiences social, political, and economic change that may be referred to as ‘revolution’.

The story of this ‘revolution’ has been collected and archived by an unknown person or entity, and is told in a fragmented, layered, sometimes contradicting manner. Of course, is there ever just one story? As is the case in reality; the work attempts to explore and chart such complexities. Indeed the watercolour paintings and hand-written text mimic the real object, but they are not meant to be counterfeits and are flawed/failed reproductions in that respect. The idea is that the confabulation of this internal narrative can be naturally revealed through the very medium in which it is carried – as such the fictional aspect of this body of work will not be emphasised upon. The focus then is turned to the content of these mini set pieces. Although the containing subject matter may seem topical, the impetus driving its making is not a concern with currency, but rather urgency – that a provocation needs to be made towards authoritarian forces that are shaping the new social and political space.

The work and exhibition will collectively deal with various topics, broadly: confronting notions of exceptionalism propagated by nationalisms; addressing plural ideas of revolution and social change; the relationships between text, image, authority, agency, documentation, and interpretation; how a document of this contemporary moment may look and exist as art. Images in this work will be presented in small clusters of 5, and will total approximately 20 images. The exhibition may also be extended as a print publication containing extracts of this work.” — Godwin Koay

Godwin Koay graduated in 2011 from LASALLE College of the Arts with a BA in Fine Arts. This somehow qualifies him to be a ‘professional artist’. But what does that mean? What is an artist? What is the work of one? Who gets to decide if it is art, or good art even? Because surely someone gets to decide these things, in part through established hierarchies that permeate our institutions. Is the contemporary art world and its agents in fact complicit in preserving and extending a patriarchal capitalist hegemony; reinforcing and formalising dominant and dominating narratives? What alternatives are there? Should there and can there be any? Or more pertinently, what could it look like, and should it remain at a periphery, perhaps deemed cliché, unworkable? How can art contribute to the imagination, creation, and sustainment of different ways of seeing and doing? Seeking to explore the possibilities of artistic practice at an interstice with a social praxis, these are some of the questions that preoccupy Koay, and that form the basis of his work and inquiry.

Renée Tingpast exhibitions