Homegrown Artist Sarah Choo Jing on the Unseen Wonders of Contemporary Living

INSTINC Singapore has strung together a stunning ensemble of international artists for instinctive 1.0: (in)visible; a themed exhibition that seeks to explore the concept of the unseen, as well as the liminal relationships formed between the visible and invisible.

Amongst the eclectic selection of artists, you may notice familiar names that have made significant imprints all over the local arts scene. One of such being the youthful Sarah Choo Jing (b. 1990), whose works such as the multimedia installation The Hidden Dimension II may have caught your eye at the Singapore Art Museum where it is permanently exhibited. Interested in an exploration of individuals increasingly isolated in an urban context, her works have a signature voyeuristic tinge that piques the curiosity of the observer.

Part of Hidden Dimension II
A segment of Hidden Dimension II

Her works have gained a strong following beyond home-ground, having exhibited internationally in countries such as Busan, London and Paris. Sarah is also internationally acclaimed, being 2013’s Photographer of The Year in the Fine Art Photography category at the 4th International Pollux Awards and awarded Gold at the recent PX3 Prix de la Photographie Paris 2016.

Before the exhibition officially opens on 14 Feburary 2017, Popspoken had a chat with Sarah on her personal endeavours as an artist and arts educator.

What is the thought process you go through before settling on a title for your artwork?

Reflecting and writing is integral to my Practice. I often begin and end off a piece of work with sketches and ramblings scribbled within my journal or on sheets of paper.

In specificity to titling an artwork, I suppose they are mostly extracts or phrases from my reflections.

What role do you think technology plays in the sense of loneliness urbanites go through?

The distraction addiction is prevalent in contemporary society. I think technology has definitely contributed to the loneliness epidemic. Our growing reliance on social technology rather than face-to-face interaction is almost frightening.

Everyone is perpetually slipping into each other, passing through ceaseless cycles of transformation; no longer separate, but interspersed. We are embodied but we are also networks, living on inside machines and in other people’s heads; memories and data streams. We are being watched and we do not have control. We long for contact and it makes us afraid. But as long as we are still capable of feeling and expressing vulnerability, intimacy stands a chance.

You’ve pursued teaching art. Do you think relationships with your students have transformed how you produce your works, and if so, how?

 I see my practice as a process of conceptual enquiry and of making meaning. Because my works inherently reflect relationships or lack thereof, between people, I would say any relationship between myself and another, has a direct impact on my art practice.

Learning to embrace failure and to keep an open mind whilst experimenting is an attitude that I’ve learnt from my students and am still growing into. I identify as a co-learner, who questions and re-organises my knowledge and understanding of issues, rather than as infallible experts. The consistent dialogue between my students and myself, make for meaningful and refreshing ways of seeing. This constant banter and continual questioning is something I find refreshing and truly appreciate.

Waiting for the Elevator
Waiting for the Elevator

What is one thing you would change about the local art education system, and how would you go about doing it?

It would be too simplistic and almost impossible to change only one aspect of the local art education. Every action and cause is inter-related; changing one thing would lead to repercussions both positive and negative. Indeed, change is the only constant, and change allows for progression. Having said that, utmost care must taken when exercising any form adjustments.

I am open to, and hopeful of, the possibility of working within the planning/policy division in Arts Education.

This will hopefully allow for me to better understand the difficulties and needs of our local arts education system. But for now, I will give my best to impact the local arts education starting from ground up, through sharing my thoughts, beliefs and experiences with students and young artists.

Finish this sentence: In 2017, I would like to…  not grow up too quickly.

instinctive 1.0 : (In)Visible will be held at Ion Art Gallery (2 Orchard Turn, ION Orchard, Level 4 Singapore 238801) from 14 – 19 February 2017.

All artworks at the exhibition are for sale, and are priced between SGD 550 and SGD 25,000. Details here. 

Featured image background: Nowhere Near (2015) by Sarah Choo Jing.

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