The Arts

BAB Escape Routes - Ho Rui An

02 Mar 2021

“We don't "adapt" our work to art-historical shifts; we produce these very shifts.”

Ho Rui An a Singaporean artist and writer, working in Singapore and Berlin, focuses on the Asian Econo-political environment presented through contemporary art, cinema, performance and theory.

For BAB 2020, he presents two pieces at BAB Box and at @ONE BANGKOK. Asia the Unmiraculous (2018–) is a lecture and video installation that questions the aura of a “miraculous” Asia by examining the historical context (state and market forces) that led to the 1997 Asian financial crisis. Student Bodies (2019) reflects on the forces that shape the student body to become both the embodiment of the pedagogical system that produces it, and its contradiction. Thailand 2020?

He talks to The Futurist about his work.

For your exhibition at BAB 2020, can you please describe the need for escape, and how you have approached this theme?

I would think that the desire for escape arises when a situation we find ourselves in becomes unlivable. The unfortunate reality is that even before the pandemic, things were already very difficult for so many living under an exploitative and increasingly untenable global system. Personally, in my own artistic practice, I prefer to resist the inclination towards escape, which sometimes might only amount to a flight of fancy and not a genuine exit from the system as we know it. I think it's important to dwell in the present and unravel its tensions and contradictions so as to finally transform it. Escape in itself almost sounds too easy.

What events of 2020 have influenced your work, and how? 

For sure, the pandemic has reshaped both the form and content of my work. My work often examines history, but the way we understand history is necessarily retracted by our present realities. Given this, I reworked some sections of my performance, ‘Asia the Unmiraculous’, for its staging at BAB 2020 to speak to the strange and difficult times we are living through.

What are the hardest things that an artist has to get past to create an art piece?

For me, it's really being sure that the work you put out into circulation is making a difference to how we perceive and understand the world.

The future is unknown, what do you look most forward to? Are you hopeful for the future?

Perhaps one of the lessons that this year has taught us is that sometimes it's better not to keep your hopes up. Of course, hope is a very empowering effect, but I think learning to dwell with disappointment and frustration can also create certain forms of agencies which can help us to not simply look forward to the future but also to actively construct it.

What is the one thing you would tell the younger generation looking to make their way up the ladder in the field of arts?

Stay away from the ladder!

What's a major lesson you've learned while growing your career?

Drink plenty of water.

In your opinion, how does art in general shift or change from period to period? And how do you adapt it into your work?

We don't "adapt" our work to art-historical shifts; we produce these very shifts. Ideally, at least.