An artist residency in Singapore goes virtual
Artist Genevieve Leong was n ear residency’s artist-in-residence in August. Photo: Genevieve Leong

An artist residency in Singapore goes virtual

As the world becomes increasingly digitalised and people live their lives online, a Singapore-based artist residency has followed suit. The two-year-old n ear residency is redefining what an artist residency is, by morphing from a conventional brick-and-mortar set-up into a virtual one.

The residency was started in 2018 by three artists, Susanna Tan, Dominic Khoo and Leow Wei Li, who had decided to create a virtual residency. The aim: to provide artists with an alternative form of residency, one that presents new possibilities for art-making.   

Tan says: “‘n ear’ takes its name from the word ‘near’ and we hope for n ear to stand in the gap between things, relationships and environments.”

While n ear fills the niche for a digital form of artist residency, it retains the spirit of conventional artist residencies; its artists-in-residence continue to engage in process-based explorations, albeit in the digital realm. At the end of each residency, the works developed by each artist are presented on the residency’s Instagram page.

Visual artist Genevieve Leong, who was an artist-in-residence last month, tells us about her experience.

What is a virtual artist residency like?

Often, when we think of an artist residency, we tend to associate it with isolation, with being cut off from the world for a period in order to focus. However, the virtual residency made my encounters with art more connected to the world. 

For example, in the third week of my residency, I was invited to contribute a piece of writing for Short Provocations on Form, an hour-long online lecture-performance by four artists – Yin Ying Kong, Judith Hagan, Bryony Bodimeade and George Leith. They turned the writings of contributing artists into an experimental lecture. I contributed the writing, exercises in limbo, which became part of my final presentation for the residency. 

Genevieve Leong
Artist Genevieve Leong’s work, hierarchy: excerpts & extrapolations (above), explores the nature of relationships through installations comprising text and objects. Photo: n ear residency

Artist Genevieve Leong’s work, hierarchy: excerpts & extrapolations (above), explores the nature of relationships through installations comprising text and objects.

What work did you develop during your virtual artist residency?

I worked on hierarchy: excerpts & extrapolations, a body of work that seeks to re-evaluate what we think we might know about objects, words and media.

The starting point of this work was an excerpt from a publication I made, a self-created dictionary titled a pocket dictionary of non-understanding, which attempts to dissect and redefine certain words relevant to my practice.

There was a large element of play involved. I wanted to see if things could stand in for one another. For example, can “here,” “heir,” and “hiir” sound or mean the same? Can a sketch of a shelf take the place of an actual shelf? These were some of the hierarchies I was interested in debunking.

Genevieve Leong
Leong’s work, hierarchy: excerpts & extrapolations (above), includes installations made up of everyday objects such as bricks and cups. Photo: n ear residency

Leong’s work, hierarchy: excerpts & extrapolations (above), includes installations made up of everyday objects such as bricks and cups.

What did you learn from the virtual artist residency? 

Space is as big and as expansive as you make it to be. There is a lot that we can do within our constraints. I have also been comforted by the conviction that time spent thinking is not idle time.

When I first became an artist, my work was rooted in photography. It later shifted into object-based installations. This virtual residency (with a digital presentation on Instagram) brought me back full circle – whatever object or thing I wanted to use, I had to photograph it and fit it back into a frame. It was an oddly familiar process yet conducted in an entirely different manner and setting.

Replies were edited for clarity.

To learn more about n ear residency and the works of its artists-in-residence, visit @near_residency.

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