Sites & Nature: A Collection of Remembering

An exhibition featuring selected artworks from the NIE and NTU permanent art collections embedded with a fictional narrative, a project by Nanyang Technological University Museum

Curator: Dr. Wang Ruobing

Assistant Curators: Celeste Tan Jia Mei, Skye Mo

Venue: National Institute of Education (NIE) Art Gallery

22 September – 27 October 2023

“We must welcome the future, remembering that soon it will be the past; and we must respect the past, remembering that it was once all that was humanly possible.” George Santayana

The exhibition is dedicated to ‘remembering’ through situating the insights from the permanent art collections of the National Institute of Education (NIE) and Nanyang Technological University (NTU). This is the first time that an exhibition aims to look into both collections from an overarching perspective, exploring not only what have been collected by the country’s second-oldest autonomous university, NTU, but also what artists have documented in relation to Singapore’s history through their artistic practices.

A unique fictional character and stage are created to facilitate the action of remembering. On this stage, visitors walk through the fictional old man’s blue rooms appreciating more than 40 works from the collections focused on two specific themes – Singapore River and Singapore Botanic Gardens, or more broadly, the city development and the natural environment of Singapore. Things, such as a river, trees, birds, flowers, monkeys, etc, visualised in the artworks offer a site for remembrance, a site for reconnection, a site for imagination, and a site for conversation.  Visitors are further informed via the multi agencies carefully intersected in between, such as archival materials, artifacts, artefacts, furniture and plants, in conjuring a sense of knowing.

The curatorial approach goes beyond conventional means, diving into extensive research from historical materials, oral history, and less explored accounts to enrich the storytelling. Visitors are led by the character’s audio narrative centred on the evolution of these places, making encounters with genuine figures and authentic events.

Revisiting the past is to provide a framework for the interpretation of the present and the future, and to appreciate the contribution of our pioneers in building a flourishing garden metropolis. In this unique exhibition, visitors are offered an informative account of what the artists remember, within a capacity exercised by individuals through artistic expression. At the same time, it invites audiences to celebrate and preserve the essence of Singapore’s heritage for generations to come, fostering a sense of stewardship towards the city’s environmental and cultural legacy. 

Fictional Story
Exhibition Catalogue
Artworks and Artists' Bio