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A Social Think Tank For Urbanism

An exhibition by the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore presents newly commissioned projects that examine the key ideas of one of Singapore’s foremost architect William S. W. Lim.



BY Janice Seow

16 November, 2016


The exhibition hall of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore (NTU CCA Singapore) has been temporarily transformed into a casual, contemplative and participatory space for visitors to ponder the multiple facets of urban life.

Titled ‘Incomplete Urbanism: Attempts of Critical Spatial Practice’, the exhibition will run until 29 January 2017. Lending its title from the publication, Incomplete Urbanism: A Critical Urban Strategy for Emerging Economies (2012), written by eminent Singaporean architect William S. W. Lim, the exhibition serves as a “laboratory of ideas”, drawing from the influential practice and perspectives of Lim.

“Acknowledging Lim’s contributions as a prolific urban theorist and a driving force for discourse, whose vision asks that we reconsider the traditions of Asian architecture for the “contemporary vernacular”, the exhibition is a response to his critical ideas,” say the curators.

Newly commissioned projects present unique perspectives on the spatial, cultural and social aspects of city life. A case in point, Hong Kong-based M+ Associate Curator for Design & Architecture Shirley Surya put together a series of quotes, articles, images, and printed matter that document the parallels and tensions between architecture and the broader social and urban interests. A video installation produced by Jakarta-based research scientist Etienne Turpin documents a network of existing urban labs, hackerspaces and community-led data-infrastructure projects in Asia.

“Smells are (chemical) signals from the environment, from animate and inanimate things,” says smell researcher and artist Sissel Tolaas, who picked up the various “smellscapes” of Singapore to create an aromatic experience of the city. Visitors are invited to pick up various ‘canisters’ containing the olfactory profiles taken from various local communities. Appealing to the audio-visual senses, Dr Marc Glöde, a film scholar and NTU ADM visiting scholar, showcased a selection of moving images that provide an introspective look at how architecture is referenced in multimedia.

As opposed to a conventional ‘art gallery’ format, the individual works come together within a ‘mega living room’ concept, alluding to the fact that most of Lim’s ideas have been conceived in the living room. Exhibition designer Laura Miotto, Associate Professor at the School of Art, Design and Media at NTU, wanted to create a comfortable place where people would gather, explore and discuss freely. “We want this space to be activated. It is not an exhibition that is crystalised,” Miotto says.

Despite the exhibition being primarily about the city and urban life, the domestic setting draws the audience back to the humanistic and intimate elements of Lim’s work. The furniture used in the exhibition came from the Centre’s storage and have been up-cycled – a vital theme in urbanism today.

Incomplete Urbanism: Attempts of Critical Spatial Practice will run until 29 January 2017 at NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, The Exhibition Hall, 43 Malan Road, Gillman Barracks, Singapore 109443. Admission is free. For more information on upcoming public programmes, visit ntu.ccasingapore.org.

Images courtesy of NTU CCA Singapore


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