This talk opened up a wider understanding of the concept of the “archive”: to consider how the archive, imbued with the authority to validate and authenticate narratives and accounts, has been appropriated and fuelled what has come to be recognised as a genre of artwork (“archival art”, “the artist as archivist”). Just in the edition of the Singapore Biennale in 2016, about a third of the artworks presented dealt with documented material and historical narratives in ways that draw from, implicate and/or present archives.


These art practices variously employ the archive as medium and method, presenting reinvented forms of what it can be, in some instances, content that blurs the boundary of fact and fiction. “Archival art” incorporates new and/or contrasting perspectives, shifts and unsettles accepted knowledge and registers of meaning, and importantly, more than to merely disrupt, it seeks to institute and legitimise new orders and understandings, and new bodies of knowledge.


In this talk, Chu Yuan discussed a range of artworks, focusing on Southeast Asia, to consider the ways in which artists and artistic agencies, have been variously reworking, reforming and mobilising notions, forms and applications of the archive and the archival; and draw some connections between these practices with the larger social and cultural contexts that they act within.


From this, a question arises: would these practices impact or generate new insights for institutional practices of archiving – in calibrating the way we think about, describe, categorise and present archives?

Dr Chu Chu Yuan

Senior Manager (Archives, Library & Research), Singapore Art Museum

Chu Yuan is Senior Manager for Archives, Library and Research at the Singapore Art Museum. In addition to her background in book publishing, education and arts management, she is an acknowledged practitioner of durational social participative and collaborative art. In her PhD research at Gray’s School of Art, Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen, Scotland, she produced a thesis titled ‘Negotiation as Active Knowing: an Approach Evolved from Relational Art Practice’, in which she developed a framework for engaged learning through relational situations. Her work with Jay Koh in Asia and Europe has been discussed by art historian Grant Kester in several publications and is used in teaching material at several universities and colleges worldwide.
Prior to joining SAM, she was based in Myanmar running a contemporary art resource development centre, and realised several commissioned public art projects in Europe. Her insights into the practice and presentation of and writing on contemporary art from international perspectives contribute to her thinking around contemporary art archives.

7TH September 2017
Talk by Dr Chu Chu Yuan,
Senior Manager (Archives, Library & Research),
Singapore Art Museum
Q&A Session
End of Programme