Thursday, June 26, 2008

Work in progress

On the preview and opening of The Bowl of Rice, some visitors have expressed some dissapointment about the scale of the rice drawing - that it is too small. In fact, the opening is only the start of a three-week process during which Zai will keep making drawings which cover the entire chapel gallery floor.

A Bowl of Rice is an organic process which slowly finds its form day by day. Hence, Zai also invited the audience to make an effort to revisit the gallery to see how the drawing has changed and evolved.

Since Sunday (22 June), the work has expanded to cover the whole of the chapel gallery floor.

Click for larger image

On coming Sunday (29 June) 2pm, this drawing will be cleared to ensure that the rice are still edible and delectable for our beneficiaries. One of them, H.O.M.E, an independent organization which provides shelters for enstranged migrant workers, will come to Sculpture Square to help us re-pack and distribute the rice.

In the 2nd week of the exhibition, Zai will be opening new bags of rice and creating a new drawing. The work will also further develop towards collaborating with our beneficiaries to raise public awareness of their activities.

You are welcome to join us on Sunday, or simply walk in the next two days to enjoy the work and the serenity of the chapel.

More photographs on work processes

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A Bowl of Rice Opening

What is a bowl of rice?

If one looks at a bowl of rice in monetary terms, we can say that it is worth almost nothing. During the preparation for the work, we’ve learnt that the cost of 100kg of rice is alarmingly equivalent to a mere 30 grams of gold (SGD 150). On the other hand, if one looks at bowl of rice from the other end of the spectrum, it could be a source of comfort for an entire family, depending of the way of cooking.

On Sunday (22 June), friends and families have selflessly lent their support to the opening of the exhibition, A Bowl of Rice. Wonderful individuals have contributed their valuable time and efforts to this work, and as we receive these positive vibes, the significance of a bowl of rice gradually unfolds.

During the opening, we had the pleasure of tasting various kinds of food and drinks made from rice. These wouldn’t have been possible if not for friends and families who have either turn on the stove or rung up the stores immediately when we asked for help.

Korean rice cake, Song Peung

We have to thank the Korean ladies, who arrived with rice cakes and sweet rice drinks despite being late for their church services; Yuko, Ichiro, Ally and Mark, who prepared a hundred pieces of Japanese Dango at the last hour; Dudley, who went to at least two houses to find a working oven; Vani, who has taught us that a kitchen with the right pulses represents a whole solar system in working; our families, whose unspoken love is deeply heartfelt.

Ellimechai Chatham (Lime Rice)

It doesn’t matter if rice is served in a bowl, on a leaf, mashed into flour, baked as pudding, or fermented as drinks. It is a bowl of rice which reminds and unites us as people whose dietary habits and cultures have long depended on the cultivation of padi fields.

Japanese Dango

Malay Kueh Kueh

From 500kg of rice, we have accumulated up to 800kg from the donation on Sunday alone. Apart from Zai’s family who has contributed almost half of the donations, we like to thank thoughtful individuals who brought in their small bags of contributions. It is the thought that counts, and from a bowl of rice that we consume almost everyday, let us always remember those who need our help.

People of all ages and from all walks of life visited the opening on Sunday. As the visitors found their way to interact with rice and raised questions about the work, we are once again reminded that rice, as unassuming as it may seem, is not only a staple food source but also a grain that can inspire our sense of wonder and marvel.

At the end of the day, we’ve learn that a simple bowl of rice has the power to bring people together. Old friendship has been reinvigorated, new friendship has been forged.

Possibly, rice not only provides nourishment for our souls, but also rejuvenates our love for living.

What does a bowl of rice means to you?

More photographs
Photo Credits: Vivian Lee

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Sunday, June 08, 2008

A Bowl of Rice

You are cordially invited to the opening of
Sunday, 22 June 2008, 2pm
Sculpture Square, Chapel Gallery

A few months ago, Sculpture Square's curator, Alvin Khoo, contacted Zai Kuning about their 9th Anniversary exhibition. Sculpture Square is a modest building which sits quietly at the busy cross road between Middle Road (opposite Fortune Centre) and Waterloo Street (opposite Si Ma Lu Guan Yin Temple and Khrisna Temple)

While most of us know that a variety of religious sites (Chinese, Hindu, Christian/Catholic, Muslim and Jewish) and art-related spaces (Stamford Arts House, Young Musician’s Society , Action Theatre, Singapore Art Museum and so on) are located in the vicinity, not many people know that Sculpture Square once housed Singapore's first Straits Chinese Malay Methodist church in the 19th century. Almost a century and a half later, the space has been resurrected as the Chapel Gallery - the orange building you see above.

As with many buildings which are converted into spaces for either commercial, recreational or artistic purpose, we tend to forget what they were initially created for. Thus recalling the origins of the space's former glory and its purpose as a sanctuary for the mind and spirit, Zai has conceived a site-specific work as a homage to serenity and contemplation.

His work, A Bowl of Rice, will feature two geometric rice installations that occupy the entire floor space of the 195 sqm chapel gallery. Through continually renewing these over the exhibition period from 22 June–13July, Zai reverences the materiality of the grain and reprises its significance as precious seeds.

While most of us might fret over the rising price of rice as a commodity, we tend to forget the centrality of rice production and consumption in many Asian civilisations, and how this has shaped, and still continues to shape, ways and means of living, well being, festivities and symbolisms.

When was the last time we've eaten rice?

When was the first time we ate rice?

Not many of us in Singapore deal with or conceive rice beyond cooking and eating it We have little ideas about how rice is produced and probably, some of us may be better informed of the animal abuse in America’s farms than about the problems faced by rice farmers in the countries around us, much less the conditions under which they live and work

Yes, a lot of rice will be used in this exhibition. In fact, we have already 500kg of rice sitting in at the back of Sculpture Square.

At first thought, 500kg is a lot of rice, especially considering the food crisis facing us. According to the Catholic Welfare Society, an old folks home would consume that amount in a week. Buddhist Lodge, which practices giving free, uses up to ten times that amount in a month. Is 500kg a lot of rice? It isn't. However, it is disconcerting that we can take the integral presence of rice in our everyday desires so much for granted.

Throughout the exhibition, the installation will be recreated as the rice grain used in the work will be distributed to voluntary welfare organisations. Confirmed beneficiaries are

Catholic Welfare Service
Singapore (CWS) Darul Ihsan Orphanage
Singapore Kampung Senang Charity & Education Foundation
Marine Parade Family Service Centre
Food Not Bombs Singapore

Do you know of small charity organisations which are in need of rice donations? Please let us know.

Zai Kuning and onistudio invites you to participate in the ongoing installation cycle and commemorate Sculpture Square’s ninth anniversay with generous contributions of a bowl – or two – of rice for the needy.

Comments are welcome.

For rice donation and enquiry, please contact:

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