Over the past year, NFTs have disrupted and confounded the art world. Among its many complex effects is a heightened attention on the rich, wide-ranging landscape of digital art, which has for decades struggled to gain traction in the art market. Gathering six artists from Singapore, Indonesia, and the United States who have made significant contributions to the art world, Gajah Gallery’s inaugural exhibit on NFT art Superfuture shines light on artists who have long-employed digital methods to realise their artistic visions, or have been starting to explore digital art, diversifying oeuvres that have long been built on conventional mediums. Superfuture thus showcases both traditional work alongside new ones that were created specifically to be sold as NFTs, revealing juxtapositions and parallelisms across the trajectories of the participating artists. Displaying works ranging from photography, video art, installation to former artworks transformed into animations, Superfuture engages the world of NFTs to offer a new lens in which to view the past, probe contemporary existential questions, and imagine a future complicated with the possibilities opened up by technology.
Drawn to abandoned spaces, everyday people and the intimacies of mundane scenes, Arron Teo displays 36 black and white photographs, presented through the unpredictable order of a Magic 8 Ball. His works offer glimpses into similarly random and fleeting, yet quietly moving moments in Singapore’s street life—valuing the anonymity of his human subjects by capturing them with their backs turned to the camera, or digitally manipulating them to replace their real faces with imaginary ones. In doing so, he focuses on the ironies of social scenarios, the “provocative realness” that are precisely what give the city its soul. Ashley Bickerton similarly immerses in his surroundings in Bali, critically aware of the social issues and paradoxes embedded in them. Fusing photography, painting and found objects in his work, he sardonically critiques a tourist culture built to feed western ideals of paradise. For this show, he revisits works in his iconic “Blue Man” series. Transforming previously still paintings into animations, the new works lend to his distinctly sordid, unsettling scenes through elements of sound and movement: a dog barking in the background; eyes slowly, chillingly rolling, for instance.
Like Bickerton, Suzann Victor returns to former work, transforming what was once an immersive, kinetic installation originally displayed at the National Museum of Singapore to a similarly mesmerising, digitally rendered video. Contours of a Rich Manoeuvre featured a row of eight red chandeliers that swing as pendulums to mark out a choreography of lit patterns in space, physicalising the indescribability of time by acting as the physical axis to portray movement over time. Its digital rendition likewise brings viewers into a meditative state, as contemplating time inevitably leads one into a deeper engagement with the present. Loi Cai Xiang’s otherworldly animations of human figures amidst the darkness of the cosmos similarly radiate existential themes, moving one to ponder the relationship between the earthly and transcendent, the individual amidst the largeness of the universe. Yet one particular work containing two figures that meet and intersect serves as a poignant reminder that human emotions and connections are eternally the foundations of our world, surpassing boundaries in space and time.
While Victor and Loi’s works seek to deepen our understanding of the present, Uji ‘Hahan’ Handoko Eko Saputra and Yeo Siew Hua excavate the past to help navigate the future. Hahan’s satirical works have long offered insight into the psyche of a post-boom Southeast Asian artist navigating the complexities and challenges of an evolving global art world. He furthers these investigations in his new digital piece Totem, where he uses the ancient totem symbol to articulate how institutions that were once considered sacred and powerful in the art market, are now being disrupted by new technologies that could potentially dominate the future. With a strong background in film, Yeo draws inspiration from archetypes and aesthetics in classic Malayan cinema to create haunting videos of landscapes that portray a posthumous earth. Yet unlike most bleak, apocalyptic scenes, Yeo’s landscapes are lush and filled with signs of life. In harkening back themes of rebirth and the reincarnation of nature, Yeo reimagines a future that is quietly hopeful.