On Feb 18, Amanda Heng will unveil a number of narratives in a one-off casual exchange between her collaborators as they reflect on the process behind the project, “’We Are the World – These Are Our stories’ (2016).
Unlike previous performances and audience participation, this latest work sought an active investment in the creative journey from the negotiations to output.
“This act of stepping aside is a calculated risk: the project relies on the collaborators to perform their storytelling, or the work could not be completed. The long process of negotiation, which involved the letting go of full artistic control while building mutual trust, enabled the artist to elicit these highly personal narratives, and to encourage the collaborators to lead the creation of the work. The paraphrase Bauman, Heng’s giving up of some element of her own artistic freedom enabled her at the same time to build a stronger sense of security for her collaborators. And security, Bauman argues, is “a necessary condition of dialogue between cultures. Without it, there is little chance that communities will open up to each other and engage in a conversation which may enrich them all”. – Rusell Storer, STPI exhibition catalogue, 2016.
Heng's latest engagement is part of her first solo exhibition entitled, We Are the World – These Are Our Stories, at STPI Gallery which is celebrating its 15th anniversary and included in Singapore Art Week (SAW2017) events.
In this unique presentation of a single work made up of 24 prints and their digital extensions, Heng applies her collaborative and process-driven approach to printing and papermaking techniques to highlight the power of storytelling and collective art making.
This is the first time that both Heng and STPI embark on a project that extends beyond the traditional artist residency and the physical institution itself.
Heng worked with the STPI Creative Workshop and twelve individuals of diverse backgrounds and communities to produce this truly collaborative piece that encompasses performance as well as visual elements.
During her first residency at STPI, Heng conducted her seminal performance piece Let’s Chat with the collaborators. Using treasured object or heirloom chosen by each individual as a starting point for an exploratory process of sharing performances as Heng calls them, Heng took a back seat and listened in order to build the mutual trust necessary for her participants to lower their personal barriers and perform their storytelling with the utmost honesty and vulnerability possible. Each individual then had the creative freedom, under Heng’s guidance and direction, to explore and reconstruct his or her memories using printing and papermaking.
The resulting prints are intensely private, personalised, yet undeniably relatable and universal, woven by the pathos of nostalgia into a tapestry of shared human experience. Yet the collaborative element of the work doesn’t end there, as for the first time in her practice Heng pairs an arresting QR code with each print to transport the work from the gallery space into the digital realm at the viewer’s wish. More than just a tool that lends a multi-layered dimension to the work, for Heng, the QR codes are also an integral part of the viewer’s experience that transforms their passivity into active “participants,” as they enter and delve deeper into each storytelling experience beyond the boundaries of the physical space through short videos, interviews, and slide shows online.
As Russell Storer, senior curator of the National Gallery puts it, “We Are the World – These Are Our Stories” is “a bold statement about agency. It expresses that we, collectively, define the world around us, and that this task can be undertaken with the most modest of means, and in the most fundamental, universal way the telling of stories.”