Monday, 7 March 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Sherlyn Goh

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information! 


Sherlyn Goh is a third-year Liberal Arts student at Yale-NUS College. As our Baba House Outreach intern, Sherlyn was involved in the research and development of upcoming public programmes in 2016, and the daily operations of maintaining the Baba House, a heritage home.

Being only 5-weeks long, this is the shortest yet one of the most hands-on internships I’ve embarked on. As an outreach intern at the NUS Baba House, I designed publicity materials, assisted in heritage tours and house operations and managed communications with the public. In-lieu with the house’s current 3-year exhibition Preserve/Conserve/Restore: Studies at 157 Neil Road, I researched on the history of Neil Road which the Baba House sits on and its surrounding neighbourhood. Despite the internship’s short duration, I learnt so much that I wouldn’t have if not for this internship. I gained a first hand insight into how the house is conserved and maintained on a day-to-day basis, how NUS Museum’s unique position as a non-profit university museum informs the way it curates its exhibitions and conducts its outreach and so much more about Peranakan culture by assisting the docents in the heritage tours.

Image 1: DIY session after a trip to IKEA to get stools to accommodate more guests during events.
Image 2: Third floor of the Baba House, converted into a gallery

Being over 100 years old, monitoring and maintenance work happens frequently at the Baba House. Conservation is an ongoing process, and through this internship, I learnt more about the technicalities of architectural conservation. During my last week here, my supervisor Poonam and I noticed black spots, presumably mould, staining the walls of the third level gallery. As a result, we have temporarily ceased using air conditioning in the gallery and started opening the windows to air the area instead. Its heart-warming to see how much Poonam and Fadhly care about the house: the attention they pay to the handling of the artefacts, their dedication to the maintenance of the house and the worries they have when problmes arise.

Part of my duties involved liaising with the public via email and phone to manage heritage tour bookings, and I often had to turn away visitors when tours are oversubscribed. Due to loading restrictions, the house can only hold a maximum of number of visitors at any point in time. This reminded me of the fragility of the Baba House, not merely a physical fragility, but also a cultural one. People tend to start paying more attention to cultural and heritage sites when these sites face a threat of being demolished or redeveloped. Bukit Brown is a case in point. Appreciation shouldn’t just stem from nostalgia, neither should conservation from impending loss. We have places rich in culture and heritage that exist in Singapore, and we have people who put in years to restore, conserve and maintain built heritage. Supporting existing cultural or heritage sites by visiting, volunteering and spreading the word sends a strong message to the powers that be (i.e. URA) how significant these places are to us, which is why I find outreach incredibly important. While managing tour bookings and assisting as warden during the tours, I noticed that most of the visitors  to the house are Caucasian tourists. I hope that in time, more people in Singapore would come to know of, appreciate and support the Baba House.

The brochure I designed for the Baba House and the upcoming Art Week.

Baba House brochures now up for grabs at the University Cultural Centre and NUS Museum.

As an outreach intern, I also assisted in developing public programmes for the ongoing exhibition Preserve/Conserve/Restore: Studies at 157 Neil Road in the Baba House gallery. This exhibition aims to explore the history and urban development of the neighbourhood the house is located in and engage with technical conservation of built heritage. When doing research on Neil Road, I learnt that it was originally called Silat Road, a slang usage of selat, meaning strait in Malay. It was renamed Neil Road in 1858 by the British Municipal Council in honour of Scottish military officer James George Smith Neill who died during the Indian Mutiny of 1857. The books and online articles I read described the officer as a one of the “heroes of the Indian Mutiny”, when he is actually infamous for indiscriminately humiliating and killing native Indians including innocent civilians during the uprising. Some of his forces even revolted when they saw his brutal massacres. Dubbed a hero for bringing ‘peace’ during mutinies, he was appointed a colonel and an aide-de-camp to his queen and subsequently had a road in Singapore named after him. British imperialism and colonialism was a recurring theme that popped up during my research, from street names and  architecture to land development policies and urbanisation.

A photograph of a rickshaw parked along Silat Road, now known as Neil Road.

While looking through journals in the library, I came across a quote that struck me: “But as most of the residents are aware, the names given by the Municipality to the various streets are only used by the European portion of the population, and the Chinese, Tamils and Malays have names for the streets very different from their Municipal titles.” — Haughton, H T (1889), ‘Notes on the names of places in the island of Singapore and its vicinity’, Journal of the Straits Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, 20.

I am particularly interested in resistance, both conscious and unconscious resistance — the ways in which the colonised, the seemingly powerless resist. I never thought I would find resistance in the adoption of street names. A month of research has taught me so much, yet beyond learning, I also find myself more attuned to the urban spaces around me, curious about street names (what they mean, whether an English street name is named after a brutal war ‘hero’) and appreciative of the cultural influences on architecture that I’ve long taken for granted — the the shophouses near my best friend’s neighbourhood and the temples I pass by when I go to Chinatown.

Pictures of community life in post-war Tanjong Pagar. Left: five-foot way libraries beneath shophouses.

Five-foot way libraries beneath shophouses. Right: the popular Yan Kit Swimming Pool. How many girls and women can you spot in the photograph?

I’m also beginning to appreciate museums and curating more. Prior to this internship, I had found it difficult to appreciate museums, as art can sometimes be inaccessible to the untrained eye. Working in a museum, visiting other museums and reading about museums during this stint helped me develop a better understanding of the thought that goes behind each exhibition and a glimpse into the workings of a curator’s mind. The weekly reading discussions about Singapore’s art scene, the history of NUS Museum and the role of the curator as well as visits to galleries and exhibitions with Michelle and the other interns were helpful in providing a much-needed context to the actual work and research that I was doing. These sessions and visits gave additional structure to the internship, which I found incredibly important especially for an internship this short.

To end off, I would like to say a big thank you to my supervisors: Poonam for her guidance,
patience and understanding, and Fadhly for showing me the ropes and for the laughs we shared. It
is a privilege to be given an internship opportunity, and I’m incredibly grateful to Michelle, Poonam
and NUS Museum for taking me in this December.

At the National Gallery of Singapore.


Monday, 29 February 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Richmond Tan

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information! 


Richmond Tan is a first-year History student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Richmond joined the Museum Outreach team, working to conceptualise programmes for the Museum's 2016 slate of events, in particular programmes for the current exhibition Vietnam 1954-1975.

I was involved in assisting with the planning of programmes for the exhibition Vietnam 1954 – 1975: War Drawings and Posters from the Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran Collection, as well as planning for the upcoming Art on Campus Facebook series. In these brief but fulfilling five weeks of assisting with the Outreach programmes, I was able to better familiarise myself with the roles and responsibilities of outreach in the context of a university museum.

As students of history, the Vietnam War offers a case study that highlights the importance of contesting assumptions implied in terms like “Cold War” that are often accepted uncritically. In particular, the conflict that shaped and was shaped by the tensions between the American and Soviet blocs played out differently outside of the “West” – in Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, the violence and turmoil that shaped its post-World War II realities were anything but “cold”. Hence, doing this research as preparation was a necessary and timely reminder to consider and be aware of the Western-centric lens we may adopt when studying the past.

To supplement the research I was doing, I read William J. Duiker’s book, “Sacred War: Nationalism and Revolution in A Divided Vietnam”. The book was comprehensive in covering the North Vietnamese perspective – not only the period of 1954-1975, but also tracing the roots of revolution, the formation of North Vietnamese state as well as the subsequent resistance against the French. With an understanding of the period leading up to 1954, I identified themes I considered important for this exhibition, such as the notions of loss and trauma in war. Hence, the films and topics I suggested sought to bring out this theme of loss through the narratives of individuals experiencing the conflict.

In addition to doing research and planning programmes, I also sat in an ARI Cultural Studies Seminar listening to Assoc. Prof Thy Phu’s presentation on “Revolutionary Vietnamese Women and Global Solidarity”. The talk and subsequent discussion was engaging and interesting as the representation of women in revolutionary contexts were discussed, both within the Vietnam War but also comparatively to other conflicts. This highlighted the theme of representation for the exhibited collection as well as the programmes, which I hope would be a recurring motif that those attending the programmes might recognise and discuss.

Minh Hai, Silence the American Cannons!, 1969, Mixed media hand-painted poster on paper, 39.5 x 57.3cm

I also assisted with planning the Art on Campus Facebook series, where the NUS and NUS Museum Facebook page would release a series of posts on the public art in NUS. In doing so, there might be a greater appreciation for the works presently located on campus, from the familiar I Was Here to other works that receive less attention. Interest in the series might generate greater awareness for the NUS Museum and its Facebook page, maximising the potential of the Facebook page in generating the feedback of and suggestions for the various museum activities.

Besides the tasks for our specific roles, all the interns were also involved in the reading programme organised by Michelle that was designed to complement our activities. We learnt more about the origins of the NUS Museum and its development, the history of art in Singapore as well as the curator and curatorial function. We also visited the Baba House and National Gallery Singapore, where both trips were made more meaningful and memorable thanks to the readings that we had to familiarise ourselves with the site and the works respectively. 

Interns (L-R): Sherlyn, Hui Tuan, Tinesh, Richmond, Han Siang, Austin, Geryl, Ignatius; Jeryl and Han Siang were interns at the NUS Centre For the Arts

Another important learning opportunity came through the curatorial tour given by Kenneth on Sheltered: Documents For Home and The Library of Pulau Saigon. We learned more about the strategies and considerations in the planning of an exhibition, while asking questions and clarifying doubts regarding curatorial work, such as working with artists and organisation of space when considering how the viewers might navigate and view and exhibition.

Curatorial tour on Sheltered: Documents For Home by Kenneth 

This internship has been a great experience and I enjoyed learning about the museum and assisting with its programmes. In addition, having written initially that I wanted to participate in this internship to “understand the general demands and constraints of museum work”, being able to witness the work behind-the-scenes ensured that I was able to do that and more.

On this note, I would like to thank my supervisors, Michelle and Trina, for their patience and guidance throughout the internship, the other members of the museum team as well as fellow interns – Austin, Hui Tuan, Ignatius, Sherlyn and Tinesh for their delightful company and discussions. 

Monday, 22 February 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Chean Hui Tuan

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information! 


Chean Hui Tuan is currently pursuing her Master of Art in Curating at the University of Sydney. She joined the NUS Museum in December 2015 as the Archaeology Ceramics Research Intern, focused on developing a bibliography of glazed ceramics production in Myanmar.

‘Research is formalised curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.’ – Zora Neale Hurston

The above quote is a simple yet precise understanding of the nature of research work and spells the motivation behind choosing a seemingly lonely and strenuous career path. It was this sense of curiosity that prompted me to take up an internship with the NUS Museum and the 5 weeks experience is truly rewarding. Under Su Ling’s supervision, I was tasked to research on the ceramic production of Lower Myanmar and to draft a bibliography on the subject.

Image 1. The Map of Myanmar - My local companion throughout the course of research. 

I have to confess that prior to starting the internship, my knowledge of Myanmar was minimal – the fact that I could not recall Myanmar’s geographical location was an acknowledgement of my ignorance. The research work proved to be a challenging task as I progressed and more often than not, I reached a bottleneck and had to search for a new entry point. The challenge could be attributed to a lack of research and academic resource on the subject matter, but I suspect that my inability to read the Burmese language contributed to the self-imposed limitation and did not do justice to the research outcome. Spending the majority of my time in the library flipping through books and browsing the online database, I realised that one has to take an adventurous approach when researching on an ‘unpopular’ topic. Half of the books and articles that I have read might not be immediately relevant, but at times I managed to chance upon snippets of information that turned out to be crucial. It is fascinating to observe the formation of something potentially useful from all the work that I have done, even if it might not make sense at the first glance.

Image 2. My daily life. Reading and writing...more reading and writing.

I would like to thank Su Ling for her guidance throughout the internship and for patiently answering my questions and doubts during our weekly meetings. I was given the freedom to explore and to work at my own pace, but whenever I bumped into a hurdle or felt completely lost in the midst of research, it was comforting to know that she would be there to give great advices and help me move forward. I am also grateful to my fellow intern and partner in crime, Ignatius, for being so patient with me and listening to my endless grumbles. He had his fair share of difficulties in the Myanmar research and often I felt guilty of not helping him as much as he did for me.

I would also like to thank Michelle for arranging curatorial tours and reading programmes to enrich my internship experience and provide the platform for all interns to interact, which was really important for me since I was basically ‘absent’ and rarely had the chance to chat with them.  I find the reading programmes and discussions very helpful in terms of relating back to my own studies but in a local context. I am truly delighted to be acquainted with this fabulous group of people at the NUS Museum who are passionate with what they are doing and trying to make a difference to the Singapore art scene in their unique way. 

Monday, 15 February 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Ignatius Albert Wijaya

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information! 


Ignatius Albert Wijaya is a third-year Political Science major at NUS' Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Having been to Myanmar before as part of the FASSTrack Asia Summer School, Ignatius joined the NUS Museum to further pursue his research interests in Myanmar and Southeast Asia as the Archaeology Ceramics Research Intern. In this blogpost, he reflects on his internship experience as well as his hopes for 2016.

Introduction: My “Affair” with the NUS Museum
As someone with a passion for museums, it has been my hobby to visit museums. Getting this internship was thus a wonderful opportunity for me to really explore my interest. I was looking forward to working with the museum staff and fellow interns – And the experience was indeed a fulfilling one.

My “affair” with the NUS Museum began more than 2 years ago. I was at the University Cultural Center to watch the NUANSA 2013 Cultural Productions, and saw that a museum was housed within the building. After visiting the NUS Museum several times and an unsuccessful application last year, I finally saw the 2015 call for interns. As one of the position was for a research intern on a project in Myanmar, the very country I had visited for a field trip during my summer school, I gave it a try. With the blessing of my lecturer Professor John Miksic and NUS Museum curator Ms Chang Yueh Siang whom I had met during my visit to the museum at the summer school local field trip, I eventually got the interview and the internship offer.

With the NUS Museum interns (Ignatius is third from the left).

Déjà vu
The internship at the NUS Museum was like reliving my summer school experience all over again. I had been at the FASSTrack Asia summer program, which involved students from countries and universities as diverse as the United States, Switzerland, Ukraine, South Korea and Vietnam. While the NUS Museum Internship Programme involved all local students, they come from diverse backgrounds: One is a Masters student, while another is a secondary school student. Having interns from such diverse backgrounds enabled us to provide our points of view, which combined to shape lively discussions and exchange of ideas. The reading sessions were full of interesting propositions from the interns and our mentors Ms Michelle, Ms Sidd and Mr Kenneth.

The visits to other museums were also highly eye-opening for me, thanks to the other interns. Prior to the internship I had been visiting museum mainly with family and friends, and largely strolled through the collection. This time, the interns spent more time scrutinizing things seemingly as trivial as the choice of wall color and frame, as well as the placement of the captions. These discussions helped us all understand the point of view of the museum curators better, on how they strive to send the message behind each exhibit.

Similar to the summer school experience, the internship also involved visits to museums and cultural places. For instance, I had my first-ever visit to both the NUS Baba House and the National Gallery. Personally, I found the Baba House to be a highly important companion to the Peranakan Museum, which I had visited several times. While the Peranakan Museum might have had a more grand collection, the Baba House had the more contextual and “lived-in” collection that provides a better idea of what it was like living as a Peranakan family back then in the 19th and early 20th centuries.

My favorite sight during the visits was at the National Gallery. Prior to my visit there, I had seen so many friends posting on Facebook photos of the building and the rooftop, but unfortunately very little on the collection itself. Hence, I tried to look out for interesting artworks at the Gallery… And my favorite work is "Chair" by Matthew Ngui (1997, remade for display 2015).

What looks like a chair from one point is actually a clutter of wooden pieces far apart from each other. The perfect embodiment that what looks perfect from one point of view, might look crooked and all over the place from another point of view.

The big question is: Are we willing to accept that our point of view is just one of many, and might not be the absolute truth? Or are we too consumed on feeding our selfish, self-righteous "I am right, and you are wrong" mindset?

Huge Learning Curve
Indeed, this NUS Museum internship challenged me to open my mind and be accepting of constructive criticism. Personally, the internship was undoubtedly a steep learning curve for me. It gave me first-hand experience of academic research, in which one has to take all the initiative. At FASS, I had been used to using lecture notes as the guide to researching for term papers. In this internship, I had very little starting block to begin with. My knowledge of Myanmar had been largely on its contemporary events and recent modern history, while the project revolves mainly around the kingdom-era Myanmar.

While the first 2 weeks had me feeling lost, when I look back now, I realised that such feeling of lost direction was probably a necessary evil at the start of the project. My research partner Hui Tuan shared that real research is done when we know not where to go. I am glad for this “adventure”, as it enables me to have a first-hand experience of persevering through difficulties and unfamiliarity. My gratitude also goes to our supervisor Ms Su Ling, who patiently listened to our feedback and gave suggestion on how to untangle the issues. Indeed, problem-solving is all about pushing on and asking the right people for help. This internship has allowed me to experience this, and I am grateful for it.

Moving Forward
At the end of this full-time internship, I hope to remain involved in the project all the way until the exhibition itself, which is slated to open in late 2016. It’s been a huge eye-opening experience for me, as I have learnt so much on research and exhibition preparation. And I hope to participate and learn even more from the museum staff, whom I now regards as my mentors.

“You cannot open a book without learning something.”
― Confucius

Monday, 8 February 2016

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Lai Wei Xuan

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information! 


Lai Wei Xuan is currently a JC2 student at Nanyang Junior College. She joined the NUS Museum for two weeks as part of Nanyang Junior College's Work Attachment Programme. Wei Xuan was attached to the Collections & Curatorial teams, assisting in administrative work for upcoming projects. In this blogpost, Wei Xuan reflects on her time with us.

“Short but meaningful”. This phrase sums up my 2-week long internship at the NUS Museum. These two short weeks really opened up my initial perspectives of art, as well as satisfied my curiosity of the behind-the-scenes actions going on in a museum.

My initial perception of how a museum runs was for curators to work on a theme which they are assigned to, and from there set up exhibitions. However, I soon came to realise that administrative work is an integral part of running a museum. One of the first tasks that I was assigned by Greg, AD for Admin & Ops, was to key in acquisition numbers of the museum’s artworks so that the museum’s art collections can be made available online for people to view. That was when I realised that even the curators themselves have to do this tedious administrative work, which forms the not so glamorous job scope of a curator.

Doing administrative work is part and parcel of the job of both a curator and an intern.

I was very lucky to have Austin, my intern-mate, to show me around the museum, and to give me a mini guided tour on the Ng Eng Teng collection, a collection he was assigned to research. His detailed explanations of the various sculptures of Ng Eng Teng really broadened the way I view artworks. With a broadened and more open mind, I was able to better appreciate the beauty of the intricate brush strokes of Chinese paintings and detailed designs of Chinese ceramics from the Lee Kong Chian Art Collection, which reflected the various flourishes in each dynasty.

My personal favourite will be Sun Kai’s, Landscape. His intricate and detailed brush strokes painted a realistic picture of olden China in the late 19th century.

I was also tasked by my mentor, Siang, Curator of the Lee Kong Chian Collection, to create powerpoint slides for the Vietnam War collection, which will be shown in the exhibition in early January next year. As there is limited space to display the hundreds of Vietnam War paintings and propaganda posters, the only solution is to showcase the works through powerpoint slides which will be played on TV monitors at the exhibition. Visitors will then be exposed to more artworks created during the War, and learn about the soldiers and common people’s lives during the war, which are portrayed  vividly through the artists’ works.

Creating PowerPoint slides for the artworks by inserting pictures of artworks and its descriptions.

The visit to the Baba House was a highlight of my internship. The tour guides were so passionate about the Peranakan culture that they explained the significance of almost every nook and cranny of the house and answered visitors’ questions with excitement. I, too, found myself with a huge takeaway from the tour as my understanding of Peranakan culture have definitely deepened. Who would have known that the slightest detail of a piece of furniture of the Peranakans will have a symbolic meaning behind it?

Lantern at the front yard of the Baba House which has the family’s name.

Although it was only for 2 short weeks, not only have I gained new-found knowledge, but also met people with such strong passion for the arts that I have gained respect for them. Never would I thought that I would have a chance to work with curators who tirelessly work on planning exhibitions, and making sure their interns have a better understanding and broader perspectives for the arts. Firstly, I would like to thank Michelle and Trina for giving me this opportunity to intern at the museum. (Thank you Michelle for the short but detailed tour you gave me!)

Secondly I would like to thank the staff at the office: Sidd, Greg, Kenneth, JJ, Francis, Donald for being nice and patient to a young intern and exposing me to the behind-the- scenes action going on in a museum's office.

Thirdly, a big thank you to Siang, my mentor, for being ever so patient with me even when I made mistakes.

Last but not least, thank you Austin, for being a good friend, making my internship even more enjoyable, showing me around the campus, broadening my perspectives for the arts with your strong passion, and deepening my understanding of boy-school culture. (Thank you for the cake treat!) 

Friday, 5 February 2016

Exhibition | CONCRETE ISLAND prep-room

[Gallery Impression, CONCRETE ISLAND prep-room]

Date: 2 February 2016 - June 2016
Venue: NX3, NUS Museum

Taking as its points of departure J.G. Ballard’s novel Concrete Island (1974) and Tan Pin Pin’s film 80km/h (2004), this project features works and documents guided by the metaphor of Singapore as a “concrete island”. It proposes to think of this city as less a built environment, than a condition of movement, exchange, and intensities. The project disperses into several formats all at once: a prep-room exhibition space; a publication reader; an experimental readingprogramme; a bus tour along the Pan Island Expressway; a mobile cinema programme. This prep-room space at the NUS Museum functions as a site for the ongoing accumulation of materials generated out of this project.  

Current contributors to the project include Luca Lum, Tan Pin Pin, Tse Hao Guang, Jason Wee, Geraldine Kang, Fiona Tan, Ho Rui An, Anca Rujoiu, Amanda Lee Koe, Kathleen Ditzig, Liao Jiekai, Vanessa Ban, Lai Chee Kien, and Kent Chan. 

Saturday, 16 January 2016

CONCRETE ISLAND | Bus Tour with Lai Chee Kien

CONCRETE ISLAND takes as its points of departure J.G. Ballard’s novel of the same title and Tan Pin Pin’s 2003 film 80km/h. Rather than a cartographical record of Singapore, the project maps Singapore as a landscape of varying intensities, speed and rhythms. Using the term ‘concrete island’ as a guiding metaphor, this project by the NUS Museum encompasses an exhibition space, a publication reader, a reading workshop, a mobile cinema programme, and a bus tour.

Conducted by Dr Lai Chee Kien, the bus tour begins at Changi Airport, traversing the horizons of Singapore along the Pan Island Expressway, addressing Singapore’s urban history and its movements through a tourist’s moving image of Singapore.

[Image credit: Still from Tan Pin Pin’s film 80km/h, image courtesy of artist.]


Date: 23 January 2016
Time: 4pm-6pm

* Meeting details will be emailed to participants when registration is confirmed. The bus will depart Changi at 4pm sharp.

** Participants can choose to end the tour at the National Library Building, or Golden Mile Complex.

**Please note that photography and videography may take place throughout this event for possible usage in print magazines, digital platforms or for marketing purposes.

This CONCRETE ISLAND Bus Tour is part of Singapore Art Week (16 – 24 January 2016). An initiative by the National Arts Council, in partnership with the Singapore Tourism Board and Singapore Economic Development Board, Singapore Art Week reinforces Singapore’s position as Asia’s leading arts destination. It is a nine-day celebration of the visual arts, held at many venues across Singapore, including museums, art precincts and non-profit spaces.

Reaching out to both Singapore residents and international visitors, Singapore Art Week offers a myriad of quality art experiences, from art fairs, gallery openings, exhibitions, lifestyle events and public art walks, to enriching discussions on art and culture. Covering the visual arts beyond contemporary practices, including modern and traditional visual forms, Singapore Art Week also aims to galvanise the arts sector to launch innovative art and lifestyle concepts and events in conjunction with it. For more information, please visit

Friday, 15 January 2016

Talk | "Who wants to remember a war?" In Conversation with Dato' N. Parameswaran

Date: 22 January 2016
Time: 7pm-8.30pm
Venue: NUS Museum

Free admission with registration at

Join us for a collector's talk with Dato’ Parameswaran, as we hear about how he began collecting prints and drawings from the Vietnam War period, and the stories behind the artists and works. This talk is organized in conjunction with the NUS Museum current exhibition, Vietnam 1954 – 1975: War Drawings and Posters From The Ambassador Dato’ N. Parameswaran Collection which features posters, woodcuts and drawings from the French phase of the Indochina war of resistance against the Americans, and drawings and sketches of life and people at the frontlines.

For more information on the exhibition, please click here.

[Image Credit: Huy Toan, Welcome the Liberation Army of Ho Chi Minh City, 1975, Gouache and lacquer on thick paper, 32 x 53 cm]

Saturday, 2 January 2016

CONCRETE ISLAND | "Through the crash barrier" Reading Programme

"Through the crash barrier" is a 12-week reading programme and literary experiment led by the idea of drift/derive through J.G. Ballard's novel Concrete Island. Beginning first with a close reading of the opening chapter, it aims to accelerate through Ballard's novel by half, reading only a selection of 12 out of 24 chapters. The proposition here is to pace out the reading of Ballard's novel by half

h the end of every session marked by participants deciding on which chapter to read and discuss next. Through a combination of close readings, reading aloud sessions, and reading excursions unfolding across Singapore, this programme is an attempt to put Ballard's novels under a variety of pressures: to explore the space of literature, the acts of reading, and the rhythms of readings set against the (algo)rhythms of the city.

Ballard's Concrete Island tells the tale of a speeding protaganist who finds himself ejected out of the London highways, and marooned onto a traffic island. There he is forced to survive out of what is left in his car and what little else is available on the island. Facilitated by Luca Lum and Kenneth Tay, "Through the crash barrier" is a component of the project CONCRETE ISLAND organised by the NUS Museum.

For more information and to apply, check out -
Applications close on 17 January 2016

[Image credit: Geraldine Kang]

Monday, 16 November 2015

Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Venessa Tan

Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information! 


Venessa Tan is a second year History of Art major at University College London. Venessa joined NUS Museum as the Ng Eng Teng Collection Curatorial Intern, assisting in research for the new permanent Ng Eng Teng Collection exhibition, conceptualisation of an accompanying publication project, and the exhibition preparations for Sheltered: Documents For Home. In this blogpost, Venessa shares and reflect on the process of her work.

My internship with the NUS Museum began with a stack of readings that Michelle had prepared on the museum’s history and museology in general. Her selection of texts highlighted Singapore’s curious position – a Southeast Asian heritage, a colonial intervention, and a subsequent post-colonial existence that I find very hard to understand. The tone seemed to be set that, as people aspiring to work in the ‘cultural sector’, the road would be paved with not just difficulty, but contradiction. As if to acknowledge this, the museum’s permanent collection begins with Michael Sullivan bemoaning the unsustainability of art history in Singapore, equally a resignation and invitation. It seems to be the one Western inheritance that does not rub quite as easily with the general public.

As a ‘curatorial intern’ to Kenneth, I was given a mix of practical tasks (like editing videos, transcribing, photocopying and scanning) together with those of a more cerebral nature (critiques of current exhibitions, suggestions for programmes). I assisted him with Sheltered: Documents for Home, an exhibition involving the response of 5 NUS Architecture and Geography alumni to 03-Flats, a film produced by their former professor, Dr. Lilian Chee. A lot of the conceptual groundwork had been laid, in fact Sheltered had been brewing for a year, and is all part of Kenneth’s larger intention to create exhibitions that possess a continuity or relevance to each other rather than existing as standalone events.

I put together a timeline of our public housing history, aimed at highlighting the importance of this particular trajectory in shaping our political, cultural, and social landscapes. It was a small project but nonetheless one that required time and consideration. I made the ‘mistake’ of writing it in present tense, but Kenneth and I decided to keep it as such, given its ability to suggest the present-ness of the past. We decided to leave out Singapore’s independence year as well. Such decisions, we hoped, would be noticeable even if they were minor.

I also assembled newspaper clippings to supplement this timeline. Although they only involved rudimentary cropping and editing skills (on Microsoft Word no less) I must say that it excited me to have objects that I had worked on displayed in the exhibition. The process involved sieving through Dr. Chee’s selections and choosing those I found to be of relevance to the timeline, whether as a qualification, refutation, or complement. Kenneth then made some edits to my selections based on the kind of message he wanted to send (not uncritical, not overly critical, generative and productive seemed to be what he was going for). By the end of the flurry of exhibition prep (where I was more preoccupied with assisting architect Debbie Loo for her part of the exhibition) the arrangement of the timeline turned out to be very different. It was interesting to see Kenneth’s final curatorial decisions and to be a small part of the massive process involved in putting it together.

Austin and I doing the little that we could before opening night.

There is also an upcoming satellite exhibition of Sheltered at our National Library, for which I had a list of books, plays, literature, and films, to locate. I added on to this list with discoveries of my own, and got a little carried away sometimes with all the interesting material I found. For example, I had not known about how vibrant the Singaporean feminist movement has been – since the 70s, women writers have productively compared the economic, political and legal differences Singaporean women experience, and a more recent title characterises feminism in Singapore to be in ‘a state of ambivalence’. I am not sure what impact the micro-decisions I made will have on the overall exhibition, but I hope that if someone stumbles upon one of the titles I have chosen they might find some nugget of interest.

Another interesting dimension of the museum that I got to engage with was the museum’s two ‘Prep Rooms’, in which upcoming and potential exhibitions are worked on, realized on a small scale, and made transparent to the public. Open Excess looked at bibliographies, forewords, and prefaces as significant texts in the context of Singapore’s art history, of which T.K. Sabapathy is the central figure. While it is difficult to summarise the exhibition because it is rather composite and experimental, in essence Kenneth had gathered the art historian’s books and arranged them to simulate a library experience, where curiosity often leads us upon chance encounters. The shelves, however, were severed from touch by transparent glass panels, which was both a security feature and something that fitted his intentions. I made suggestions to ‘open up’ the space in various ways and activate it as a site of exploration, but even though Kenneth was sympathetic there were other practical issues to account for.

Nevertheless, I felt lucky to have been given the opportunity to engage in these discussions with Kenneth. Given the historical backlog and continuous nature of his programmes, it was very generous of him to attempt to translate what he did to me. On a related note on meaning transfer, it must be difficult to juggle contemporary curatorial practice with the needs of a public that might not have entirely inherited this ‘way of seeing’. In fact, if we want to go all the way back, the exhibition format had its origins in the Great Exhibition of 1851 and was a highly imperialistic venture. Contemporary attempts to de-colonialise the medium are theory-laden and heavy with the struggles of history, which sometimes means that museums are engaged with more as symbols of cultural knowledge than as an active social tool and means of communication. As I continue my education abroad, I hope to dig deeper into how concepts of Art are configured in our country, and see how I can meaningfully contribute in the coming years.

I would like to thank Kenneth for always being receptive to my thoughts even though I was often a disruptive and confused presence. He and Michelle were concerned about my learning and development as an intern – when I was feeling anxious about what I wanted to do in the future, Kenneth actually took time out from his insane schedule to share, straightforwardly and honestly, the joys and trials of being a curator working in his particular contexts. Indeed, there are intellectual, mediatory, and practical elements to the job, and it is anything but easy, requiring not just theoretical rigour, creativity, and logistical aptitude, but, even more demandingly, an acceptance of permanent ambivalence. It’s conceding the vulnerability of meaning-making while at once being responsible for it and having faith in it, and it’s not a job for the weak-willed or easily exhausted.

I would also like like to thank Emma, Jeanette, Yee Ting, Jia Yi, Derong, Chen Wei, and Austin, my fellow interns, for filling my days with happiness (and sometimes delirium). I am immensely grateful that I was able to meet and fall in love with these funny, kind, intelligent, borderline-neurotic people through the internship.

We probably had too much fun – I missed them so much when they were done with their internships!

The NUS museum’s unique institutional contexts/constraints, importance in providing an alternative narrative to Singapore’s history, concern with taking up its own past (“There are too many episodes of people coming in here…”) and interest in speculation about the future (Debbie Ding’s The Library of Pulau Saigon), all make it a really interesting and valuable museum. I can’t be more grateful to have played a small part in an organization made up of down-to-earth, capable, and committed people toiling daily to create sound programmes and expand their reach.