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Explore the interplay of art and technology at S.E.A. Focus’ upcoming ‘Serial and Massively Parallel’ exhibition

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In today’s ever-evolving world, the convergence of arts and technology remains a subject of debate among practitioners, consumers, and patrons. In this year’s S.E.A. Focus, the Southeast Asian contemporary art exhibition will explore the interplay between humanity and technology, examining what gives distinctiveness to being human amid an impending technological confluence.

Titled “Serial and Massively Parallel,” the showcase will feature a curated assembly of artworks from 22 galleries and more than 40 artists worldwide. S.E.A. Focus’ sixth edition is scheduled to take place from Jan. 20 to 28, 2024, at 39 Tanjong Pagar Distripark, Singapore.

A conversation with the curator

In a conversation with Manila Bulletin Lifestyle, John Tung, the curator of this year’s much-anticipated art exhibition, discussed the show’s inspiration, narrative, and what attendees can expect from the event. John is an experienced curator with a rich background, gained through his work with institutions such as the Singapore Art Museum (SAM), Singapore Biennale, Singapore International Photography Festival, and various other independent engagements.

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Artwork by Filipino artist Aiman

“The title ‘Serial and Massively Parallel’ is actually a very, very specific reference to how the human brain operates,” he said. “It’s a term that is actually used predominantly by computer scientists and it highlights the difference between how a computer program, or a machine would run in contrast with the human brain.”

John, who also teaches art in college, mentioned that the idea for the show occurred when the school distributed guidelines on using ChatGPT or artificial intelligence in students’ work. Consequently, this exhibition is curated and designed to demonstrate the proliferation of artificial intelligence in our everyday lives and emphasize that it will not surpass the impact of humanities.

According to John, the underlying concept here is our recognition of what appears to be a proliferation of artificial intelligence in our everyday lives.

“I felt that it is really timely for the exhibition to be exploring this, to really highlight how many ways the human mind or humanity cannot be surpassed by its technology—the technologies that it created. And, fundamentally, what defines us as a species, is not just our intelligence alone, but rather our ability to be in the aesthetic experience. To be able to recognize beauty and art.”

More than digital technology

Despite this narrative, John clarified that the show will not focus on artificial technology alone but will also highlight the reality that these technologies do not exist yet in other parts of the globe.

“The show is not focused on artificial intelligence. It’s not focused on augmented realities. It’s not focused on all these kinds of technologies. It is simply recognizing that they exist,” he explained.

During our conversation, he emphasized the works of the Filipino ceramic artist Ella Mendoza, illustrating how her pieces demonstrate that technology is not confined to the digital realm but has existed even in ancient times.

“Ella Mendoza, who made a work which in many ways was in response, highlighting the fact that this proliferation of artificial intelligence is not flat, it’s not universal,” he said.

“There are numerous rural communities that do not use such technologies.”

In the upcoming show, John shared that Ella is arranging an art installation consisting of hanging pots, along with traditional pots commonly used in the Philippines for storing food, produce, and the collection of water.

According to John, Ella’s works shows us that the spread of technology is uneven, not only across the region but globally as well. Simultaneously, her showcase of ceramic works serves as a reminder that artificial intelligence constitutes just another manifestation of technology.

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Apichatpong Weerasethakul – “A Conversation with the Sun” (Installation)

Ella’s installation is just one of the works that people should look forward to, as numerous artists have participated in the exhibition, including Aiman from Singapore, Poklong Anading from the Philippines, Apichatpong Weerasethakul from Thailand, Mella Jaarsma from Indonesia, and Tan Zi Hao from Malaysia. Visitors will have the opportunity to experience a variety of large-scale and unconventional artistic creations that reflect the fusion of Southeast Asian influences and contemporary digital advancements.

“Come in with an open mind to broaden your perspectives,” John said when asked what his message was to the artists and visitors coming to the show. “Put yourself in the shoes of all of these artists with these amazing works of art and find a new way to look at the world that is around us.”

The National Arts Council commissions S.E.A. Focus, Singapore (NAC), the homegrown annual showcase that plays a pivotal role in the Singapore Art Week (SAW) calendar, marking the city’s signature visual arts season.

Credit belongs to : www.mb.com.ph

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