An open letter to Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister, Ministry of Information, Communications and The Arts (Singapore)

Dear Dr Yaacob Ibrahim,

The Venice Biennale is unequivocally the most highly visible and important international stage for contemporary artists at work today. Since 2001, the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale has been an important platform for Singaporean artists to introduce and share their diverse and multifaceted practices to the world. An opportunity to present their work in Venice has spurred our artists to challenge themselves into conceptualising, developing and executing artworks of enduring critical, historical and global significance.

We, the undersigned, are therefore writing to you to express our utter disappointment in the National Arts Council’s (NAC) decision to withdraw Singapore’s participation in the 55th Venice Biennale in 2013, and to formally request that this decision be reconsidered.

Each subsequent edition of the Singapore Pavilion has borne witness to ever greater sensibility and sophistication in the quality of works that our artists have produced. Also of significance and no less important is the way in which Singaporean curators have learned to navigate and negotiate the process of communicating the work to a wider audience. While we recognise that Singapore’s participation in Venice need not be the determination of artistic worth for Singaporean artists, the fact remains that it is one of the most important and invaluable channels through which Singaporean artists can connect with the international art world on our terms.

There are also other important issues at stake beyond that of artistic excellence. While a country’s participation in an international event like Venice need not and must not be reduced to a matter of cultural representation, the visibility of participation in such a significant international art event affords us an indispensable channel through which to negotiate issues of how we represent ourselves to the world – something vital to our on-going national conversation about the direction and development of Singaporean identity. Just as we cannot afford to be parochial in our economic development, so too must we not allow culture and community to be interpreted in narrow provincial terms that preclude the engagement of Singaporean art with global movements and discourses. Indeed, greater community involvement in the arts does not, should not – and need not – be at the expense of artistic excellence.

While we respect the NAC’s decision to “critically re-assess Singapore’s long-term participation at this event to ensure optimal benefits to visual arts development”, we are alarmed and perturbed by the sudden decision to withdraw from participation as a means of exercising this critical review. We seek to understand how the NAC arrived at this conclusion. The NAC has stated recently that it intends to pursue greater dialogue and engagement with artists, curators and the arts community in Singapore; this abrupt and unilateral decision to withdraw Singapore’s participation in the 55th Venice Biennale is very much contrary to the spirit of consensus and engagement. It should be reconsidered.

1. Suzann Victor, Artist (Singapore Pavilion 2001)
2. Heman Chong, Artist, Curator and Writer (Singapore Pavilion 2003)
3. Francis Ng, Artist (Singapore Pavilion 2003)
4. Tang Da Wu, Artist (Singapore Pavilion 2007)
5. Vincent Leow, Artist (Singapore Pavilion 2007)
6. Zul Mahmod, Artist (Singapore Pavilion 2007)
7. Ming Wong, Artist (Singapore Pavilion 2009)
8. Ho Tzu Nyen, Artist and Filmmaker (Singapore Pavilion 2011)
9. Lindy Poh, Curator of Singapore Pavilion 2007, Venice Biennale
10. Tang Fukuen, Curator of Singapore Pavilion 2009, Venice Biennale
11. Emi Eu, Director, Singapore Tyler Print Institute
12. Ong Keng Sen, Artistic Director, Theatreworks
13. Tay Tong, Managing Director, TheatreWorks
14. Noor Effendy Ibrahim, Artistic Director, The Substation
15. Chew Kheng Chuan,  Chairman, The Substation Limited.
16. Graham Berry, Board Member, The Substation
17. Sabapathy Thiagarajan, Lecturer, History of Art
18. Peter Schoppert, Member, International Association of Art Critcs (AICA); Member of the Board, The Substation
19. Joselina Cruz, Co-Curator Singapore Biennale 2008
20. Russell Storer, Co-Curator Singapore Biennale 2011
21. Trevor Smith, Co-Curator Singapore Biennale 2011
22. Rudy Tseng, Collector
23. T. Sasitharan, Director, Intercultural Theatre Institute
24. Chong Tze Chien, Company Director, The Finger Players
25. Sean Tobin, Head of Theatre, School of the Arts, Singapore
26. Tan Wee Lit, Head of Visual Arts, School of the Arts, Singapore
27. Jacquelyn Soo, Artist and Chairperson, Singapore Contemporary Young Artists (SCYA)
28. Woon Tai Ho, Founder & Creative Director, The Green Orange
29. Aun Koh, Co-founder, The Ate Group; formerly Deputy Director Visual and Literary Arts, National Arts Council Singapore
30. Lim Qinyi, Curator, Para/site
31. Karen Lim Li-Ching, Asst. Director (Curatorial), NUS Museum
32. Lonce Wyse, Director, IDMI Arts and Creativity Lab, National University of Singapore
33. Dr Charles Merewether, Curator and writer
34. Professor Tony Godfrey, Director, Equator Art Projects
35. Lee Yew Leong, Editor-in-chief, Asymptote Journal
36. Suzzana Chew, Owner of Artitute.com
37. Amelia Abdullahsani, Gallery Owner, Lu Magnus
38. Valentine Willie, Gallery Owner, Valentine Willie Fine Art
39. Benjamin Hampe, Gallery Owner, Chan Hampe Galleries
40. Audrey Phng, Art Consultant, Asian Art Options
41. Wahyuni A. Hadi, Objectifs Centre for Photography & Filmmaking
42. Woon Tien Wei, Director, post-museum
43. Jennifer Teo, Director, post-museum
44. Amanda Heng Liang Ngim, Artist
45. Milenko Prvacki, Artist
46. Delia Prvacki, Artist
47. Ana Prvacki, Artist
48. Jimmy Ong, Artist
49. Michael Lee, Artist and Curator
50. Ang Song Ming, Artist
51. Charles Lim, Artist
52. Genevieve Chua, Artist
53. Ho Rui An, Artist and Writer
54. Alvin Pang, Writer
55. Choy Ka Fai , Artist
56. Robert Zhao Renhui, Artist
57. Donna Ong, Artist
58. Tan Kai Syng, Artist
59. John Clang, Artist
60. Erika Tan, Artist
61. Dana Lam, Artist
62. Tara Tan, Creative
63. Sherman Ong, Artist and Filmmaker (Singapore Pavilion 2009)
64. Tan Pin Pin, Filmmaker
65. Wee Li Lin, Filmmaker
66. Fran Borgia, Filmmaker
67. Jeremy Chua, filmmaker
68. Yeo Siew Hua, Filmmaker
69. Adelene Kwan, Producer
70. Sylvia Tan, Producer
71. Melanie Chua, Editor
72. Yuen Chee Wai, Musician
73. Susie Lingham, Writer and Artist
74. Alan Oei, Artist and Curator
75. Dr Lynn Lu, Artist and art educator
76. Tang Ling Nah, Artist, Curator and art Educator
77. Hazel Lim, Artist and art educator
78. Urich Lau, Artist and art educator
79. Debbie Ding, Artist, Archivist and Writer
80. Susie Wong, Artist
81. Vivian Lee, Artist
82. Yvonne Leow-Lee, Artist
83. Gilles Massot, Artist
84. Melinda Lauw, Artist
85. Jying Tan, Artist
86. Joel Ong, Artist
87. Lynette Tan, Artist
88. Brendan Goh, Artist
89. Tan Guo-Liang, Artist
90. Ang Song Nian, Artist
91. Kah Kit, Artist
92. Tay Bee Aye, Artist
93. Weixin Chong, Artist
94. Godwin Koay, Artist
95. Geralding Kang, artist
96. Samantha Tio, Artist
97. Cheong Sze-Yenn, Artist
98. Ho Zhen Ming, Artist
99. Kin Chui, Artist
100. Yen Phang, Artist
101. Regina De Rozario, Artist
102. Bruce Quek, Artist
103. Joshua Yang, Artist
104. Alecia Neo, Artist
105. Chan Sze-Wei, Artist
106. Vladimir Todorovic, Artist
107. Mike HJ Chang, Artist
108. George Wong Yung Choon, Artist
109. Liana Yang, Artist
110. Valerie Oliveiro, Artist
111. Kent Chan, Artist and Filmmaker
112. Daniel Kok Yik Leng, Choreographer and dancer
113. Joavien Ng, Choreographer and art educator
114. Lim How Ngean, Dramaturge
115. Lok Meng Chue, Theatre practitioner
116. Michelle Tan, Theatre practitioner
117. Jason Wee, Artist, Curator and Writer
118. Shubigi Rao, Visual artist and writer
119. Seah Sze Yunn, Artist and Designer
120. Jackson Tan, Artist and Designer
121. Sean Lee, Photographer
122. Jing Quek, Photographer
123. Ian Woo, Artist and Art Educator
124. Adeline Kueh, Artist and Art Educator
125. Jeremy Sharma, Artist and Art Educator
126. Betty Susiarjo, Art Educator
127. Karen Mitchell, Art Educator
128. Tan Peiling, Art Educator
129. Karen Yeh, Educator
130. Philip Holden, Educator
131. Shirley Soh, Art Educator
132. Ng Yun Sian, Educator
132. Dr C.J.W.-L. Wee, Academic
133. Dr Warren Liew, Academic
134. Dr Lilian Chee, Assistant Professor
135. Dr Margaret Tan, Fellow, Tembusu College, National University of Singapore
136. Jeremy Fernando, Jean Baudrillard Fellow at The European Graduate School
137. Jay Koh, Founding director, international Forum for InterMedia Art
138. Chu Chu Yuan, co-director, international Forum for InterMedia Art
139. Isabella Chen, Media Co-coordinator, United Nations
140. Jeremy Tiang
141. Jeannine Tang, Art historian, Center for Curatorial Studies, Bard College
142. Paul Khoo, Art Historian
143. Syed Muhd Hafiz Bin Syed Nasir, Curator and Writer
144. Joleen Loh, Curator and writer
145. Daniela Beltrani, Curator and artist
146. Eliza Tan, Curator
147. Josef Ng, Curator and Writer
148. Loredana Paracciani, Curator
149. Nurul Huda Binte Abdul Rashid, Assistant Curator, NUS Museum
150. Eva Ella McGovern, Curator, Valentine Willie Fine Art
151. Traslin Ong, Arts Administrator & Program curator
152. Ben Slater, Writer
153. Justin Zhuang, Writer
154. Teh Su Ching, Writer
155. Darryl Wee, Art Writer and Translator
156. Louis Ho, Writer and Critic
157. Raksha M., Writer and Editor
158. Joycelyn Ng, Producer and Writer
159. Yishan Lam, Design Researcher
160. Angelia Poon, Academic
161. Amanda Lee, Editor
162. Nazry Bahrawi, Critic
163. Apple Lee, Gallery manager, Valentine Willie Fine Art
164. Teng Yen Hui, Gallery assistant, Singapore Tyler Print Institute
165. Richard Lim, Registrar assistant, Singapore Tyler Print Institute
166. Mervyn Quek, Arts Manager, TheatreWorks
167. Hafiz Osman, Exhibition officer
168. Tan Li-Jen, Manager, Museum Programmes & Outreach, NUS Museum
169. Aishah Abu Bakar, Programming Manager, Moving Images, The Substation
170. Annabelle Felise Aw, Programme Manager, Visual Art, The Substation
171. Chelsea Chua, Marketing Manager, The Substation
172. Nur Khairiyah Bte Ramli, Programme Manager, The Substation
173. Chris Ong, Programme Manager, The Substation
174. Ann Mui Ling, Museum docent and art collector
175. Clifford D. Mallory
176. Kay Vasey
177. Jeremiah Choy
178. Meena Mylvaganam, Collector
179. Oon Shu An, Actor
180. Madelyn Yeo, Designer
181. Darel Seow, Illustrator
182. Jessica Anne Rahardjo, Arts Publications Executive
183. Tiara Johari, Arts Manager
184. Teresa Fu, Arts Manager
185. Nicole Ho, Arts manager
186. Low Zheng Yi, Admin Coordinator
187. Joyce Teo, Arts educator
188. Seah Tzi Yan, Arts organiser
189. Wirashery Fangiono, Arts freelancer
190. Jo-Anne Lee, Health Administrator
191. Jolovan Wham, Social Worker
192. Chris Williams, Manager
193. John Solomon, Graduate Student
194. Nigel Jon Sing, Student
195. Sarah Lee, Student
196. Au Yeong Yeen, Student
197. Kim Tay, Student
198. Wong Binghao, Student
199. Elvis Wang, Art Student
200. Ang Siew Ching, Student
201. Debrah Jiang, Student
202. Hajar Abdullah-Anjong, Student
203. Wesley Aroozoo, Student
204. Loe Chek Siang Kenneth
205. Joanna Ng Shuhui
206. Sarah Yap
207. Joscelin Chew
208. Justin Lebrun

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