SIPF 2016

Director’s Message


The festival is more than a platform. It acts as a change-maker, lending a glimpse into the world around us.

In each edition, the festival carries out a project with purpose and intention. In 2014, the team activated a disused piece of land in the city to build an artspace dedicated to photography called DECK. Made up refurbished shipping containers, DECK was designed to house a photobook library, a workshop studio, an artist studio, and three gallery spaces. This independent artspace encompasses the spirit to change and courage to dream, and to shape the arts landscape of Singapore with its curated offerings.

In the 5th Singapore International Photography Festival, the challenge for space remains. We are looking beyond gallery walls and into the public space. The festival envisions opportunities for people of all walks of life to experience art. For the first time, in partnership with the Land Transport Authority (LTA) and Singapore Bus Services Transit (SBS Transit), the festival has curated over 200 works by 33 photographers across 6 MRT stations along the Downtown Line. To what extent can the arts experience be actualised within the public sphere? What are the likely encounters? Does a transformed space create new experience that leads to a change in thinking? Hop on the train, catch the showcase, and perhaps we could find some answers from you.

To expand the dialogue and curatorial practice of photography, SIPF kickstarted the first open call for curators. In its inaugural edition, the jury panel—Gwen Lee, Melanie Pocock, and Robert Zhao Renhui—selected “A room with a view” curated by Carol Chow, a lecturer and a researcher at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her curatorial proposal on the Hong Kong identity through the lens of six female photographers echoes the trajectories and sentiment in Singapore.

From the outside, we dive back into the nature of the photographic medium. With the theme “The Archive”, 5th SIPF explores the development of photography’s nature and role in society—the acute shift in the boundary of photography alongside technology advancement, the surge of social media platforms that discovered new frontiers, and the indistinctive status of the photographic medium in the institution and personal domain. Centring on this ubiquitous nature, the festival presents this edition’s series of exhibitions and programmes:

Premiering for the first time in Southeast Asia, The Archive presents three international exhibitors whose works arise from China, Japan, and South Africa.

“Witness: The Archive of Cultural Revolution” by Li Zhensheng tells the tale of photography as a tool to capture incidents that unfurl before the camera. With burning conviction, Mr Li – a photojournalist of the Heilongjiang Daily – risked his life to protect the negatives which revealed the full narrative of the Cultural Revolution from 1966 to 1976.

On the other end of the spectrum, photography is used as a tool of expression. Known as the father of street photography, Daido Moriyama’s intense and poetic eyes immediately registered the changes in the streets from the mid-1960s to early-1980s, expressing Japan’s post-war zeitgeist in are-bure-bokeh aesthetic.

Drawing deeper, we delve into Roger Ballen’s images. An award-winning photographer based in South Africa, his works walk on the line between fantasy and reality. Ballen’s documentary fiction is a powerful commentary about the human condition in South Africa.

The conversation on The Archive continues with an interactive outdoor exhibition by 8 contemporary photographers. Moving from the national domain, we focus on the vernacular and personal subjects through an investigation on the archive made by these photographers.

Kevin WY Lee’s “Public Notice Singapore” is an archive of the ongoing public domain found in pockets of spaces around Singapore. Zakaria Zanial’s ‘The Gurkha Photo Museum’ sheds light on the lesser-known Gurkha community by presenting family albums. On the other spectrum of fictional narrative, Robert Zhao Renhui archives old photos of Singapore from 1942 to 1995 as an investigation Singapore’s social changes.

Responding to the technology era, “Proof” by Tomas Gudzowaty celebrates the aesthetic of chance with the Polaroid Type 55 film, accompanied by a book of the same title published by Gerhard Steidl. From analogue to digital, “Selfie” by Tom Stayte and “Thai Politics” by Miti Ruangkritya are interactive presentation of vernacular images found across social media platforms.

Perhaps there will be no conclusive dialogue to The Archive. When oceans of images are sieved from different sources, the act of image-reading is open to the myriad of interpretation as demonstrated by Thomas Sauvin & Lei Lei’s print and new media installation based on B&W photographs found in China’s flea markets from 1910 – 1940 and Angki Purbandono’s collection of over 1,000 “Anonymous” photographs.

At the core of SIPF is the belief in audience engagement and professional development – and in this edition, the festival continues its series of portfolio reviews, symposiums, outreach workshops and guided tours established since its inaugural edition in 2008. This year, SIPF offers five workshops and guided tours to the festival exhibition catered to secondary schools. We hope this will bring students of different interests into the world of images, engaging them to develop their creativity in visual literacy.

The wonderful programmes in 5th SIPF are made possible by patrons and sponsors who share in the vision of the festival. On behalf of the festival, I extend our appreciation to the cultural institutions – Goethe Institut, Italian Cultural Institution, and Alliance Francaise – for their continuous support towards SIPF as an international photography platform of exchange in Singapore.

Above all, I would like to express my sincerest gratitude to the late Mr Kwek Leng Joo, and City Developments Limited for their ongoing commitment as a patron since 2008. The late Mr Kwek Leng Joo’s support and advisory role has given us the ability and confidence to create a consistent series of programmes for the photography community.

Enjoy our offerings this edition and register yourself as part of The Archive in the 5th SIPF.

Gwen Lee
Festival Director
SIPF