Nothing Is Forever.
In a group survey of SG sculptures from the 60s to present at the National Gallery till February 2023. The works were made over thanks to the immobility of the Pandemic. I have took an exhibited work from 2016 and performed on it with two artist friends in Singapore to transition the work from sculpture back to a shaman’s prop.
Except from an OpenHouse blurb about the work:
BeHeaded and legless, the posture and crossed arms of this soft sculpture effigy serve as the only spectral semblance of that familiar statue of Thomas Stamford Raffles along the Singapore River. Here, the Uncursed Cotton in transformed semblance of Seamstress Raffleses (2016-2021), is exorcised by the act of unpicking and unstuffing. Ong sees disembowelment as a performative process of atonement —with Raffles’ skin being flayed, limed, fleshed, bated, and tanned as leather in the performance—leaving the once-turgid sculptures soft and wearable like trophy animal skins. This relic of performance as a pacification of colonial karma while we continue to live with Raffles as commemorated in 2019 in Singapore.
Its original form (the Seamstress Raffleses) were hand-stitched by Javanese seamstresses from Ong's studio in Yogyakarta—stuffings of cotton bounded by layers of lurik and batik cloth; their backs inscribed with excerpts from Javanese Ethics in Kawi, one of a hundred proverbs lifted from a chapter in the book The History of Java by Raffles that relates to the good and evil of men. The effigies are hung up in ropes, as appropriate restrain in Shibari of slaves of the past and as a reversal of colonial ownership.