Interview: Michelle Lim & Zhen Ming (Singapore)
by Singapore artists Lim Jia Ning Michelle & Ho Zhen Ming
Dates / Duration
15 August 2015
Opening hours 12 - 6pm
Opening reception: 14 Aug 2015, Friday 7-9pm
What happens in your mind as you enter a doorway?
Where does the outside end, and the inside begin?
What does the room remember?
INSTINC presents #04-163, a show in which artists Lim Jia Ning Michelle and Ho Zhen Ming make the residency space the locus for their examination of interior spaces—how we perceive and relate to them, and draw distinctions between the inside and outside worlds.
Michelle and Zhen Ming are Singaporean artists who are interested in the ways language makes meaning, demarcates space, and locates the experience of art.
Michelle was educated at New York University and graduated with a BFA (Studio Art) in 2013. She has exhibited at The Substation Gallery, Singapore; Grimmuseum, Berlin; and Rosenberg Gallery and The Commons, New York. (http://ljnm.net)
Zhen Ming was educated at The Slade School of Fine Art and The Cooper Union, and graduated with a BA (Fine Art) in 2013. He has exhibited at The Substation Gallery, Singapore; Viridian Art House, Singapore; and Sassoon Gallery, London
Post-exhibition chat with Michelle Lim and Zhen Ming by Yeo Shih Yun
1Q: INSTINC loves collaboration! Your exhibition is the second exhibition this year that involves a collaboration! Is this the first time you both are collaborating? If yes, what spark off this collaboration? If no, when was the previous collaboration and what project did you both create?
ZM: Yes, this is our first collaboration. After knowing each other for quite awhile, we came to realise the growing importance of language in both of our practices. I think it was as simple as that -- and a curiosity to see what can come out of working at new works together.
2Q: As individual artists, are both your works similar? Or very different?
ZM: I would say different. I told Michelle awhile back that these are certainly works that I couldn't have made through my own practice.
3Q: The title of the exhibition is the unit number of INSTINC at soho, could you elaborate on the ideas/themes you were exploring and how did you both arrive at this title?
ML: We thought about this particular unit of space a lot, how the fact that it's a combination art and residential space with a lot of highly specific features. We realised that it would be impossible to turn it into a sort of white cube gallery - and neither did we want to try to do that. Instead, we made works with the intention of engaging with qualities of the space, and explored ideas such as interiority vs. exteriority, the possibility of transforming a space through the language imposed on it, and the relationship between language, imagination and space.
4Q: You guys took 3 nights to set up for this exhibition, was it enough? What would you have done if you were given more time?
ZM: How much more time, hah! I think the show was so site-specific that the duration of installation definitely contributed heavily to how it turned out. With much much more time, I would love to have lived there with no art in mind. Really see how the space changes my routines, and then see what I can say about it.
5Q: Which specific works were the collaborative pieces? Can you share with us your collaborative process? Who did what? What was your experience in this collaboration?
ML: All the works were collaborative except the silkscreened statements and the wheatpasted altar text. In collaborating, we had many conversations about the nature of space and people's relationship towards it. We visited INSTINC several times to get a feel for its possibilities. We shared excerpts from books (in particular, Gaston Bachelard's "The Poetics of Space") and artworks that we felt were relevant to what we were doing. When it came to the execution of the work, we were both present and the division of labour was rather organic. ...Zhen Ming tended to do the things that required height and precision, haha.
6Q: Why did you guys choose to use "silk-screen" as a medium in this exhibition?
ML: I see it as an efficient way of producing text that also affords highly specific aesthetic choices. Though the tendency is for people to become fixated on the text, I enjoy the material nature of the ink and paper a lot.
7Q: There are many text-based works in this exhibition, who are your 'art heros' and how have they influenced you as an artist? Is Yoko ono one of them?
ZM: I am intrigued by American artist Lawrence Weiner. He's traced the history of art by trying so many things, to eventually arrive at text (of different languages) as his modus operandi. He's made me consider how and why we can use language to ask an equal share from the audience, and maybe some difficult questions along the way.
ML: Yoko Ono, sure. I also enjoy American artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres' work. His work has a very romantic and sincere quality that I admire.
8Q: Can you give us a brief virtual artist walk-through of your exhibition, for the benefit of those who missed it?
ML: It might be ironic for artists working with texts to say this, but I do think in this case photographs do an infinitely better job.
9Q: What was the last show you saw that surprised you? Why?
ZM: Not exactly a show -- I saw these gigantic water lilies by Monet at the Met in New York. They blew me away. I'm surprised because I never expected to be blown away like that by artists we have looked at and talked about for so long.
10Q: Where are you finding ideas for your work these days?
ZM: A lot from observing people on trains I think.
ML: I've been making work on a sort of ad-hoc basis, whenever there is an opportunity to. In doing so, I've found that I work well by considering the specificity of the shows' sites, as well as through engaging with the themes that exhibition organisers have determined.
11Q: As both of you are MOE scholars and are now teaching full-time, is it difficult to carve out time to create? Can you share with us the challenges as well as joy in teaching art?
ZM: Definitely difficult, but I think that's partly why people find collaborative formats to keep on creating. I think a growing challenge for art in schools has to do with protecting the time to do simple things. The simpler they are, the longer they take, the harder to keep in the classroom, because it's hard to convince students, parents, and managers of their value. That said, when you win that battle, you often get to see students learn something you know they are not getting to learn anywhere else. And you can tell because they get lost in it, and 'productivity' and 'results' get forgotten for a little while. That part's nice.
12Q: What is your dream project?
ZM: I want to make a film about war films.
ML: I want to fill a space like how Philippe Parreno filled the Palais de Tokyo. But maybe several decades from now.