Please Explain: The Rise of New Asia Is Not the End of the World


2.00PM – 3.30PM

4A’s series Please Explain invites presenters to rethink, recharge and reimagine contemporary issues through the arts, academia, journalism and related fields. Responding to By All Estimates presented at 4A, an exhibition that brings together works by artists that give form to narratives often obscured by the Singapore’s rapid urban and social development, this edition of Please Explain will feature exhibiting artists Erika Tan (UK) and Moses Tan (Singapore) alongside academic Dr Yvonne Low (Power Institute, The University of Sydney) and Ursula Sullivan, co-owner of Sullivan+Strumpf, the first Australian gallery to establish a presence in Singapore at Gillman Barracks.

Taking the seminal essay Authenticity, Reflexivity, and Spectacle; or, The Rise of New Asia is Not the End of the World (2004) by prominent Singaporean art critic and curator Lee Weng Choy as a key reference for discussion, speakers will explore a range of ideas and relate their own experiences concerning Lee’s central premise that “Singapore imagines itself not just as taking the best from the East and the West—as the inheritor of the great traditions and the latest technologies—but, by offering itself as the paradigm of New Asia, Singapore also stakes a claim as part of the avant-garde of the next stage of global capitalism.”  This Please Explain will ask: How has his contention may have further evolved over the past fifteen years? How does the construct of ‘New Asia’ play out in the contemporary arts scene and global imagination? How have past and present institutional and national agendas influenced the way local artists and art markets operate? What is the democratic role of the arts in public discourse? And what role do artists play within Singapore’s investment in its rise as a global knowledge-based economy in the twenty-first century?

Missed the event? Listen to the audio recording below:


Dr Yvonne Low, Erika Tan, Moses Tan, Ursula Sullivan

Moderator: Pedro de Almeida, 4A

Speaker Profiles: 

|  Dr Yvonne Low 
Dr Yvonne Low specialises in the modern and contemporary arts of Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Her research interests include colonial histories, cultural politics of art development, women artists and feminist art history, and digital art history. Yvonne has published widely, and is on the editorial committee of Southeast of Now: Directions in Contemporary and Modern Art in Asia and Ambitious Alignments: New Histories of Southeast Asian Art. She holds degrees majoring in Art History from the University of Sydney and the University of Melbourne and has taught part-time at Nanyang Technological University, the University of New South Wales, and is currently a Lecturer in Asian Art at the University’s Power Institute. She is also the project coordinator for Site and Space in Southeast Asia, and co-convenor of Gender in Southeast Asian Art Histories 2019.

|  Ursula Sullivan 

Ursula Sullivan is co-owner of Sullivan+Strumpf. Established in 2005, Sullivan+Strumpf presents the work of established and emerging artists at the forefront of contemporary art in the Asia-Pacific region. The gallery has spaces in Sydney’s Zetland and Singapore’s Gillman Barracks. Alongside co-owner Joanna Strumpf, Ursula has helped foster the careers of some of the most exciting artists working in the region today.
|  June Yap 
Dr June Yap is Curatorial Director at Singapore Art Museum, Singapore. Dr Yap previously served as a curator at SAM, in 2003 and 2004. She has also served as curator at the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore and at the Solomon R Guggenheim Museum under the Guggenheim UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, where she presented the well-received exhibition on South and Southeast Asian Art titled No Country. In 2011, she served as the curator for the Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale.

|  Erika Tan 

Erika Tan is an artist and curator based in London. Her work evolves from an extensive process of research focused on interests in received narratives, contested heritage, subjugated voices and the transnational movements of ideas, people and things. Solo exhibitions include APA JIKA, The Mis-Placed Comma, National Gallery Singapore ‘Uncommissioned’ tablet platform (2017-2020); Come Cannibalise Us, Why Don’t You? (Sila Mengkanibalkan Kami, Mahu Tak?), a major exhibition, symposium and artist book project presented at NUS Museum, Singapore, and Central Saint Martins School of Art, London (2014-2016), and Persistent Visions, Chinese Arts Centre, Manchester (2005), NUS Museum, Singapore (2010) and Vargas Museum, Manila (2010). Group exhibitions include Diaspora Pavilion, 57th Venice Biennale (2017); On Attachments and Unknowns, SA SA BASSAC, Phnom Penh (2017); Double Visions, He Xiangning Museum of Art, Shenzen (2014); Camping and Tramping Through The Colonial Archive: The Museum in Malaya, NUS Museum, Singapore (2011–2013); Thermocline of Art, ZKM, Germany (2007); Around The World in Eighty Days, South London Gallery/ICA (2007); the inaugural Singapore Biennale (2006); Cities on the Move, Hayward Gallery, London (1999). Tan studied Social Anthropology and Archaeology at Kings College, Cambridge; Film Directing at The Beijing Film Academy, followed by an MA in Fine Art at Central Saint Martins School of Art, London. She currently teaches Fine Art at Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts London, was awarded the Stanley Picker Fine Art Fellowship 2018-2020, and is a founding member of Asia-Art-Activism, Raven Row, London.


|  Moses Tan

Moses Tan is a Singapore-based artist whose work explores histories that intersect with queer theory and politics while looking at melancholia and shame as points of departure. Working with drawing, video and installation, his interest lies in the use of subtlety and codes in the articulation of narratives. He graduated from LASALLE College of the Arts with a BA(Hons) in Fine Arts and a BA(Hons) in Chemistry and Biological Chemistry from Nanyang Technological University. He was awarded the Noise Singapore Award for Art and Design in 2014, Winston Oh Travel Research Grant in 2016, and the LASALLE Award for Academic Excellence in 2016. He has shown in Grey Projects (SG), Hidden Space (HK), Indiana University (US), Sabanci University (TR), Kunst Im Dialog (DE) and also recently completed a residency in Santa Fe Art Institute (US).

| Moderator: Pedro de Almeida 

Pedro is Business Manager at 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and exhibition curator of By All Estimates.

By All Estimates is produced by 4A Centre for Contemporary Asian Art and supported by the British Council and the Singapore Tourism Board.
Erika Tan’s work and participation in public programs has been supported by the British Council.
Image above: Jessica Bradford, Haw Par Villa #4 (Swans), 2016. Image courtesy the artist and Galerie pompom, Sydney.

Exhibition curator: Pedro de Almeida

Assistant curator: Janet Jin, who has assisted on development of this Please Explain discussion.