Inaugural artists of Yale-NUS College’s Artist-in-Residence programme, Andrew S Yang and Christa Donner are working creatively with current social and ecological circumstances unfolding in Singapore, as the garden city takes new steps to control a novel coronavirus.
What happens when a ‘residency’ experience becomes one of ‘sheltering-in-place’? For artist team Christa Donner and Andrew S Yang, who relocated to Singapore from Chicago, United States of America in January 2020 to join Yale-NUS College’s first Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programme, it means expanding their work which uses a variety of media ranging from drawing and social practice to sculptural installation, activating local sites through collective actions along with critical reflection on the empirical world.
This programme at Yale-NUS College is the first Artist-in-Residence programme situated within a liberal arts and sciences college in Asia and positions contemporary art as living practice contributing to a deeper understanding of Chinese and global culture today.
At the College, Yang and Donner are teaching an art module called Culturing Nature in which students are invited to engage with ecology as a starting point for creative research. Through a multisensory approach, students interact with gardens on and off-campus, experimenting with drawing, photography and multimedia projects as ways to observe, represent and imagine the ways humans relate to the living world in an age of environmental urgency.
Student Alexis Chen (Class of 2022) describes the module as one that “encourages me to deeply engage with the world through my senses — recognising the little things I easily overlook in everyday life… influencing me to think about how we can steer away from viewing the world in a human-centric manner to one that validates the presence and importance of non-human species.”
Working on individual projects as well as collaboratively with Yang and Donner, students exhibited their works in the College library and are preparing for an online showcase of work produced by students across the College’s creative modules, and open to the global community from late April.
Yale-NUS Assistant Professor of Humanities (Visual Art) and AIR Director James Jack said, “Contemporary artists Yang and Donner probe the reality we live in with reflexive methods for understanding how our own existence is enmeshed with global networks. Amidst the rapid changes the planet is experiencing now, art provides creative ways of working imaginatively with and through uncertainty.”
Donner summarised their residency aims as starting from the rich history of ‘“Chinese scholars’ gardens, community gardens, kitchen gardens and the landscaping of everyday life,” while Yang invites the public to consider relationships “of ecology to the body, of the psychological to the physical, the organic to the inorganic, and the complex relationships between what we call cultural, and what we call natural.”
In the context of the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic, Yang believes that artists are “re-imagining what kind of world we might live in. The coronavirus raises crucial questions about what it means to live together with, and live apart from, other people and other species alike.”
Yang and Donner’s new works in progress will be presented later in the programme, with opportunities for dialogue and engagement planned in alternative formats. Donner noted they have been working on the creation of “zines and small press publications as a way of sharing our work beyond a gallery or museum,” alongside new site-specific installation works. They continue to engage local and regional artists, as well as gardeners and creatures of Singapore’s naturescape, as part of their creative exploration.
The AIR programme engages with contemporary issues, Chinese culture and local communities in Singapore from 2020 to 2022 with the aim of nurturing a vibrant and diverse arts community. It is supported by the Tan Chin Tuan Foundation through the Tan Chin Tuan Chinese Culture and Civilisation Programme at Yale-NUS College.
For past press release see: https://www.yale-nus.edu.sg/newsroom/yale-nus-college-launches-artist-in-residence-programme/.