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ENCOUNTER: Sea+ Triennale 2016 at National Gallery Indonesia

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My Sunday Afternoon piece is hanging at Galeri Nasional Indonesia (National Gallery Indonesia) as part of their second Sea+ Triennale, ENCOUNTER: Art from Different Lands! The exhibition runs from 18th October to 10th November 2016 – so it is closing soon! (or if you are reading this later, already closed!) Don’t worry though, because I made a 360 walk-though video of the entire exhibition!

42 individual artists and 2 art duos were showing, mostly Indonesian artists. 33 Indonesian, 13 International. I was the only one from Singapore! #SgRepresent

The show was fun, one of the works is a video projection on a floor of the artist giving a lecture to dead people lol. 
The show was fun, one of the works is a video projection on a floor of the artist giving a lecture to dead people lol. (Photo from press release)

I shall tell the rest of the story with my photos, not very good photos though because my Samsung Note7 was banned on the flight to Jakarta. Samsung compensated me with a shitty Samsung Galaxy J Ace. Most of these photos were taken with my mum’s Note5. Photo quality still shys in comparison to the legendary exploding note7.

My work at the Sea+ Triennale in Jakarta
My recreation of Georges Seurat’s Sunday Afternoon at the Sea+ Triennale in Jakarta
Badrolhisham Tahir, Eugene Soh, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich at Zoe and Neil's Inflatable Love Tank
Badrolhisham Tahir, Eugene Soh, Zoe Walker and Neil Bromwich at Zoe and Neil’s Inflatable Love Tank

10 Difficult Questions about God(s)

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eugene_soh_religion_in_art_discussion_answer_interview-screenshot
Eugene Soh (me) talking about Religion in Art
Last week, this badass video interview about my practice was published by Khoo Guo Xiang from The Pitching Room! It is the second of their 1:1 Art Documentary series. It covers my practice as an artist and also talks about my recent Second Coming series and how it opened up discussions for me. 
I have been fortunate to have had many great conversations with open-minded theists, atheists and agnostics since the Second Coming exhibition with Chan Hampe Galleries. I thought I’d share some of our findings here. 

1. Do God(s) or Supreme Beings exist?

And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6

We are mostly past this question. Our general consensus is that we don’t know. No matter how we tried, we found no way of proving or disproving their existence.
Supreme beings could exist but they don’t necessarily care about us. They might care as much about us as we do the ant colony living in our kitchens.  
To be specific – we agreed that we are discussing the Biblical God because we are most familiar with him: For some reason, he does not want to make his existence undoubtedly clear and that is his prerogative. 
 

2. Why doesn’t he make his existence undoubtedly clear?

Jesus said, “Thomas, do you have faith because you have seen me? The people who have faith in me without seeing me are the ones who are really blessed!” John 20:29

We came up with several reasons, these are the most plausible/funny ones:
  1. It is more exciting this way! DUH! It keeps us guessing.
  2. He wants to filter out the faithful/gulible to worship him for eternity. The rest will be discarded and tortured forever! Critical thinkers will question everything and won’t be fun to hang with anyway lol
  3. He is a scientist and we are his experiments. Which begs the question of “What is he testing?”, “Isn’t he all-knowing? He should already know the result. Why bother going through the theatrics?”
  4. For reasons mere mortals will never understand.

 

The Second Coming

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The Second Coming by Eugene Soh, 18 Feb - 13 March 2016 at Chan Hampe Galleries
The Second Coming by Eugene Soh, 18 Feb – 13 March 2016 at Chan Hampe Galleries

My 2nd solo show is open at Chan Hampe Galleries now till 13th Feb! It is a photography exhibition about the second coming of Jesus! 15 new works. This is my most thematically focused show thus far. Many thanks to Benjamin from Chan Hampe galleries for believing in me. When I told him my concept for the show, he was like “Go for it!”, not even a a word of caution. I have no excuses not to realize the exhibition the way I want it. Please go check it out at Raffles Hotel – I turned the place into an “Art Chapel”.

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The Second Coming

By Eugene Soh

18 Feb – 13 March 2016

“They also never say where he will come back, mah.”

The Second Coming is an imaginative exploration into the question: what if Jesus chose present-day Singapore as the land of his return? Referencing both prophetic and historical scenes recorded in the Bible, Eugene Soh updates the narratives surrounding the life and death of Jesus, whilst presenting his own meditations on the nature of religion and faith.

This exhibition explores the dynamics behind how religion is made meaningful in society. Founded on the understanding that the events in the Bible are not significant in and of themselves; rather, events draw their significance from their representation in the Bible. By re-creating these events photographically, this collection of images engage in re-presentation, commenting on the fluid nature of how these Biblical events and prophecies can be understood. This exhibition further invites audiences to explore the text of the Bible as one that is comprised of multiple versions of histories, viewpoints, and voices, raising the ultimate question about the nature of religion and faith.

Press/Interviews/Reviews:
Book Of Eugene by Marc Nair on Mackerel
Interview with TimeOut Singapore
Interview with Asia City SG
Motherships.sg’s feature
Review by Artitute

Videos:
Behind the scenes video by Michael
Bible Stories with Ethnically Accurate Jesus (Walking On Water) 

1. The Second Coming (2016)

The Second Coming (2016) by Eugene Soh
“And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:10-11
Jesus second descent here on Earth was quickly captured by many residents of Singapore. As the image circulates worldwide through various media channels, this photograph becomes the classic symbol of hope for a better world. The exact location that Jesus descended upon is listed as Jalan Kembangan, Singapore. While there is a lot of speculation as to why Jesus chose that area for his second coming, one of the most popular explanations is that Kembangan means ‘expansion’ in Malay, alluding to the expansion of Jesus’ influence.

2. New Testament 2.0 (2016)

New Testament 2.0 (2016) by Eugene Soh
During his second time here on Earth, Jesus attracted a following of people in Singapore. He co-ordinated the creation of a new Bible, which integrated videos and photos of his lunchtime sermons with the written word. The new Bible was made accessible over the Internet; however, many disbelievers (mostly comprised of people from other countries who did not have the chance to view Christ in the flesh) decried the Bible as a falsehood, claiming that it was an effort on the part of Singapore’s tourism authorities. Amidst the controversy, Jesus’ followers continually reaffirmed their faith online, displaying their solidarity.

3. The Last Christmas (2015)

The Last Christmas (2015) by Eugene Soh
For his last birthday celebration on Earth, Jesus opted to celebrate in one of his followers’ flats at Tiong Bahru. During the celebration, he announced the Earth’s impending destruction, prompting a myriad of reactions from the followers gathered around the table. Jesus reminded his followers that Revelations had predicted the coming of the apocalypse after Jesus’ second return to Earth. The number of people to be saved is listed as 144,000 in Revelations. Jesus’ announcement was kept within this circle for three days before the news was released to the wider public, where it was met with skepticism and disbelief.

4. Happy Birthday & Merry Christmas, Jesus (2016)

Happy Birthday & Merry Christmas, Jesus (2016) by Eugene Soh
The popularity of Jesus’ birthday is a recent phenomenon that had only occurred in the past 200 years; in the book Christmas in America, Restad notes that the traditions that we associate with celebrating the season, such as card-giving and tree-decorating, only developed in the 19th century. Moreover, the meanings of Christmas have also shifted somewhat, with the conflicting values of charity and consumption co-existing next to one another. Although Jesus was known to have despised commercial activity in consecrated contexts, his reactions towards Christmas celebrations are not known.

How I became an accidental artist – Eugene Soh, TEDx talk Transcript

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I graduated two years ago from an art school here (Nanyang Technological University). Yes, there is an art school here. 

The_Last_Kopitiam_-Eugene_Soh_2010
The Last Kopitiam (2010)

You know like, if someone goes to an art school, you think “Oh, he is going to be an Artist”. That wasn’t the case for NTU. Most of the graduates here end up going a non-artistic kind of route, they become designers or something skill based. I wasn’t any different, I was on track to becoming a programmer, a game programmer, in an arts school. So, how that happened, was because of this picture [The Last Supper image].  

I am very glad that I had a lot of free time in NTU. Despite what you think and what art students will say, “Oh they have so many projects, oh this, oh that”. The truth is that we have tonnes of fun [Art school is the funnest school. There was a lot of free time because we could always bullshit our way through assignments that didn’t really interest us and still have a chance at an A.. the “Subjective & Contemporary” kind of assignments.] So, I did this piece in year one, outside of school.

Being open to opportunities

This was in collaboration with Campus Magazine, they are not affiliated with any school, their name is actually called “Campus” and they had a center fold page in the magazine.
They asked me, “Hey Eugene, you are a photographer right?” and I’m like “Yup”. “Do you want to fill it up with your work?” I was a freshman and had this attitude of opening my doors to opportunity, I said yes to everything. I said “Yes” and went to browse my portfolio of photography works.
I wasn’t impressed with myself. it was all like pictures of the shadow of the lamp post on the floor, I thought I was so deep! [Laughter] but those were not suitable for the center fold.

Dude’s top 5 favorite things in Lijiang, China

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Tigerair has resumed direct flights between Singapore and Lijiang for a cheap price of SGD319 (I checked myself)! They sent me and 4 others there last week so we can spread the word! I was sent as a Sports+Travel Magazine writer! 

Honestly, I never heard of Lijiang until tiger told me and thought it was going to be a “pass-through-city” to get to more famous places like Shangri-la up north. I’ve never been so wrong.

Pretending to be a model in LiJiang
Me pretending to be a model in LiJiang, with Jade Dragon Snow Mountain in the background. Shot and directed by Rina

Lijiang IS the place to visit and not just a pass through. The place is so famous for its beauty, it got my dad excited when I told him I was going. I must have been living under a rock (Singapore).

We traveled early November, it was autumn, temperatures were cold. No snow yet but I brought my puffer jacket anyway. It came in useful.

Here are my top 5 favorite things during this trip.

Singapore Artists Exhibit in Amsterdam

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CCTV goggles on the left and Lizard goggles on the right
CCTV goggles on the left and Lizard goggles on the right

Just came back from exhibiting in Amsterdam at A-Lab with three other amazing artists, Jacquelyn Soo, Marc Nair and Zul Mahmod. It was a two day exhibition (9th, 10th October) and I had so much fun watching people tackle my maze with my live CCTV goggles on. 

I made a video of my installation. The installation is now known as CCTV goggles; decided to name it what people are already calling it. 

This show was an eye opener for me because it took place in a city where marijuana has been legalized! There is weed everywhere! Viewers of my work were saying it was like being high on cannabis because of the out of body experience it was giving them. They went on to describe their trips and I listened inventively because I never smoked weed before.

Singapore has this law that bans us from trying weed even outside of Singapore (yes, even in Amsterdam). Damn it Singapore….  I guess my CCTV goggles would be the Singaporean way to get high lol

I also brought my lizard goggles there. I reserved it for those who proved themselves worthy in the maze. There were people who adapted really quickly and breezed pass the maze and there were a rare few who got stuck and gave up. 

Huge thanks to Stephane Blokhuis for helping us put the show together in Amsterdam – she got busy early this year sourcing for venues in Amsterdam while the rest of us were looking for funding. Speaking of which – thank you National Arts Council (NAC), Singapore International Foundation (SIF) and generous Indiegogo backers for supporting us!

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