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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