The Novel Normal: Interview
A catch-up with a participating artist of the Time Passes exhibition, hosted by the Singapore Art Museum at National Gallery Singapore from 4 Sep 2020
I wouldn’t blame you if you wanna cancel 2020 and jump straight on to 2021. It has been novel; it has been a challenge; and it has been an eye opener — but time passes.
Where working from home used to be a luxury or a flimsy excuse to skip work, with COVID-19 it’s become a fixture for companies like Google and recently, Morgan Stanley, to name a few of the bigger names.
Where facial masks used to only adorn doctors and nurses; and people observing a strict skincare regimen before their beauty sleep, with COVID-19 everyone has to be wearing ’em. Unless of course your figurative name is Karen.
Where overseas travel was the means for escape for most from the humdrum of daily work/life, a quick trip to the grocery store nowadays is considered cathartic; a privilege even.
But time passes.
The exhibition opening from 4 Sep 2020 to Feb 2021 is described as a
corridor of time that echoes the indeterminate passage of our days as we navigate through the pandemic that is still to pass, and the detritus it will leave behind — Time Passes
It’s also part of Proposal for Novel Ways of Being, a collective response of visual artists that looks at new ways of living in a world changed by the pandemic.
And to get a flavour of what to expect, I caught up with one of the Time Passes’ participating artist, Fazleen Karlan, as she brings you the insights from the inside.
Hi, Fazleen! Thanks for affording us the time to let us know more about the Time Passes exhibition and your art. First and foremost, maybe a brief intro about yourself?
Hello! I’m an artist by night and by day I’m a post-excavation technician with the Archaeology Unit. I take care of artefacts, this includes sorting them according to materials, packing and assigning their unique identification numbers.
My creative practice takes on an imaginative element of archaeology, where I reassemble fragments of materials from different time frames to reflect on this present moment.
In your own words, how would you describe this exhibition that you’ll be featuring in?
The title is a reference to the middle chapter of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse. It serves as a bridge between the past and the future in the narrative. This exhibition embodies the different ways of expressing care amidst uncertainties that have been plaguing the world since 2020 began.
As we reunite in different spaces after emerging from the circuit breaker, it also speaks of how we relate to each other and our surroundings while adjusting to this precarious situation.
The idea of continuing to care for others and ourselves, despite limitations on physical contact, is something that resonates throughout the exhibition too.
Share with us more about your art and its connection with the overall exhibition.
My work, #sgbyecentennial, is a response to the Singapore Bicentennial 2019. Using methods from archaeology, it’s a way to move beyond the version of colonial history that we grew up with.
The objects in my work illustrate the habits and consumption of the population, and they are different from the usual artefacts. When we talk about artefacts, what typically comes to mind are Egyptian mummies or precious jewels.
However, artefacts can also consist of things used in daily life. Taking the perspective of an excavation that is yet to happen, #sgbyecentennial highlights the labour and care invested in these artefacts. With the different layers of soil colours, time becomes a physicality that is encased within the objects.
Other than your exhibit (duh!), if one is pressed for time, which exhibit shouldn’t one miss?
If one is really pressed for time, the exhibition right next to Time Passes shouldn’t be missed! An Exercise of Meaning in a Glitch Season is curated by Syaheedah Iskandar and features a great lineup of artists who reimagine ways of thinking and doing towards a better future.
Any final words regarding the exhibition, art or life in general?
This exhibition is part of Proposals for Novel Ways of Being. It’s a large-scale initiative by several art spaces and art collectives, as a response to the pandemic.
Projects under this initiative will present ways of contemplating this ‘new normal’. It’s an opportune moment to look towards art after a significant period of isolation and unpredictability. I hope that everyone can carve out some time to attend the exhibitions/programmes that will be rolled out until Feb 2021, as we try to recover, rekindle our hopes and carry on.
Also, just a note — the SAM building is currently under renovation, so the exhibition is at NGS!
You did not just hear it from me, but from Fazleen, one of the artists actually participating in this exhibition!
So if you’re feeling demotivated after your umpteenth home workout, deaden by the drone of yet another Zoom call, or simply to destress after a tumultuous week at work, make a date with Fazleen and the rest of the artists, and explore their craft and interpretation at the Time Passes exhibition.
But know that time passes — so hesitate no longer ‘cuz before you know it, it’ll already be past Feb 2021.
Stay fresh and lovely, peepur