Mary Ann Lim is a third-year Philosophy student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Soc.ial Sciences. Mary Ann was part of the planning and research for exhibitions associated with the Museum’s South & Southeast Asian Collection
And it hardly looked like a novel at all,
I hardly look like a hero at all
And I’m sorry, you didn’t publish this
And you were white as snow; I was white as a sheet
- Hold Your Horses!
One often wonders, when wandering through the space of a museum, where the story leads. For as with any good story, there is a hero -- the best ones are often the ones who struggle incessantly, as the world(s) they belong to fail them -- and just as darkness is about to engulf the entire knowable cosmos, our good hero emerges triumphant: the final, desperate burst of light is all that is required to overcome a darkness which must definitely fail. Naturally, the stories that museums tell do not always depict an epic war between the forces of good and evil. Yet, the figure of a hero remains. Though subtle, though perceptibly unreliable, though unrecognizable; the hero exists only because the voice that speaks is necessarily built upon or around the one that is silenced. And such is, the narrative, which plots a coherent line of thought that must, inevitably, leave out.
In this manner then, leaving out is also forgetting. Here, the museum that acts in remembrance of, also acts in forgetting; for that which recalls, recalls what, or who it once forgot. Wandering through the space of a museum then, while one is reminded of the legacies of human triumphs scorched by fire in kilns, figures of men and machine etched on paper with charcoal, of men and women immortalized upon virtual foundations, one is also reminded of that which is forgotten: the museum is nestled in a history that no longer exists, as well as a future of other narratives that can no longer be. Similar to films and their negatives, it is within this presence that we can mark absence, and within absence that all that appears is in memory.
Attempting the performative with Zhi En (Double Vision)
Catching light at Siang's desk; or the office where I spent my days
Interestingly enough, if the same can be said about the archive (which names arkhe, the commandment and commencement, the guardian that chooses to admit and to not admit certain things as it so pleases), then this blog post which I write in now, is a mode of archival through the edition of memory. For what documents the existence of this internship experience is the admission of my writing into visual evidence. And what emerges at the forefront of memory, or what I permit myself and others to remember, are the various curating anxieties and questions that undergirded conversations and readings of the museum that manifested in the above: on representation, on narrative, on authority, on the institution.
Excursion to the National Gallery
Shenanigans with fellow interns
This is perhaps, where I find myself, as a student of philosophy, caught in the schism that is the praxis of theory. It is apt then, at this juncture where the topic of documentation has been raised, to speak of the museum visually: where the question and answer are both already a framing of sorts, where the clarity of theory is met by my confusion of practice. Thus, in this space of re-appropriated documents that both the museum and I have interacted with, I attempt to highlight my inability to speak for the other who speaks for another, and with equal measure, my inability to speak at all; to articulate the questions, nuances and motifs about curating that throbs and overwhelms my world of memories and forgettings while barely managing a whisper in the world beyond. Yet, maybe, that is where the true beauty lies: in the wanderings between the garbled mess that is the connection from the voice within my head, to the voices that exist outside.
Or as my lovely curator, Sidd Perez, tells me, “there are illuminated things beneath the murky waters”.
Curating Anxieties I
Curating Anxieties II
With many thanks and fondness to the NUS Museum team, especially Sidd Perez, my curator-supervisor who has been the voice of wisdom, clarity and patience through this internship, as well as to the ever-impeccable Michelle Kuek who has curated this gem of an internship programme. And never forgetting my insane bunch of fellow interns, if not for whom all the conversations, arguments, noise and hysterical laughter would not have permeated through my life otherwise.