Backstage with Song-Ming: On “Efficient Art” and Artists as Engineers

Published on 27 July 2018

The A List SG team chats with the artist representing Singapore at the 58th Venice Biennale and discovers beauty in organised art-making.

 

Marcel Duchamp. When he stopped making art, he was a good chess player.”

 

Wait, what was that about  Duchamp again?

Painter, sculptor, chess player and writer, Duchamp rejected purely visual or what he dubbed ‘retinal pleasure’, deeming it to be facile, in favour of more intellectual, concept-driven approaches to art-making and, for that matter, viewing.

Ah. Sounds like this left-brained artist would have been a darling in process-driven Singapore.

But back to Song Ming.

 

“As an artist I think I am responsible for creating value, for adding value. But a lot of that comes down to how much resources you have.

I tend to respect people who can work with very little and produce a lot out of it.

It is very efficient in that sense and runs counter to the idea of art-making because efficiency is usually something not related to art.

The stereotype we have about art is that it is always chaotic, the artist being crazy and not able to rein in their emotions.

Efficiency is such an unsexy word. But it is one way of structuring your art-making processes, and it can be really interesting.”

 

Such an export of Singapore.

Maybe Duchamp could have been a Singapore PR if he lived today.  

Who said Singapore was an art desert?  Singapore – modern day Dada city.

 

“When you’re working with so many variables there’s an element of risk to the work that you make.

You learn how to structure it.

So really my job is to create that structure, or that foundation,

or to create that kind of environment,

in which things can occur in a way that that would produce interesting results.”

 

Are we talking to a financial analyst?  

An economist?  

But he’s open to surprising results.

Maybe the difference between artist and non-artist lies in how open you are to unpredictable outcomes.

Not so much whether you draw, dance, play, sing, write or design.

 

“I look at systems a lot.

Systems all have variables.

And when these elements or actors within that system do certain things,

everything else changes.

I love football, and I am not interested in how skilful you are as a player.

I am more interested in how the team plays. It’s about strategies and tactics.”

 

Just like how a landscape artist takes in the surrounding nature,

You take in surrounding human relationships, Song Ming.

We need our art-based social scientists.

 

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