artist / participant
Shubigi Rao: Pulp III: A Short Biography of the Banished Book
59th International Art Exhibition
Singapore Pavilion at the Venice Biennale - Arsenale
Shubigi Rao, in collaboration with curator Ute Meta Bauer, will represent Singapore at the 59th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Commissioned by the National Arts Council Singapore, Pulp III: A Short Biography of the Banished Book is a lyrical manuscript that charts the breadth of human cultural endeavour through shared stories of humanity and communities of print. Pulp III marks the midpoint of Shubigi Rao’s evocative 10-year project, Pulp, which explores the history of book destruction and those who persist in its margins to protect the futures of knowledge.
Taking the form of a book, film and paper maze, the exhibition explores the precarity and persistence of endangered languages, the futures of knowledge, public and alternative libraries, and the cosmopolitanism of regional print communities that have blossomed and waned in historic centres of print, including Venice and Singapore.
As artist Shubigi Rao elaborates: “What are our testimonies, and what is it we affirm? Are our certainties just circles of rationalising, restless half-truths, vivid imaginings and cynical manipulations? Or can we ask where the smallest form can speak to larger testaments? Every mark we read or see was made to bear witness to brief life and briefer designs. Every text then is a testimony, not necessarily of truth, but illuminating of time, idea, of the facts and falsities of place and moment. So, the stories in the Pulp project point to different forms of courage, in action, speech, in documenting and in sharing. These stories also make visible the nuanced forms of resistance in print, and of lives lived surrounded by books, of breathing air heavy with the weight of unread but priceless knowledge, of risking everything to save texts that are not theirs, and may never be read, but are also more than mere symbolic representations of their civilisations, or some idealistic notion of humanness.”
Pulp III is a powerful encapsulation of the many interconnected threads that weave together the artist’s understanding of knowledge generation, ownership and dissemination.
As curator, Ute Meta Bauer explains: “Shubigi Rao employs the book and the moving image as formats of communication which tend to the parts in the story that have often been deliberately obscured by those in power and by the expediences of capitalism. The artistic research is deeply interested in the ‘keepers’ of culture, of histories, of herstories, of identity, wherein language becomes a home and a place of retreat to protect and yet lament that which is lost. At a time where the world is experiencing great loss—not just in terms of the human lives lost to the pandemic but also the forms and ways of life lost to the climate crisis—the exhibition at the Pavilion fosters an appreciation for what it means to persist, to productively and meaningfully live together.”
Rosa Daniel, Chief Executive of the NAC Singapore, said of the project: “The universal connections offered by art are valuable in the face of an evolving pandemic and the distinct voice of Shubigi Rao’s artistic practice affords the international public and arts community an opportunity to reflect on our shared histories. Pulp III takes visitors on a journey through accounts from diverse communities, drawn into the kinship of those who recognise the robustness of the book as a medium, as well as its fragility. We invite people to the exhibition to engage in wholehearted conversations and explore the human stories and perspectives that connect us in meaningful and sustained ways.”
This year marks Singapore’s 10th participation at the Biennale Arte. It is the first time the nation has selected a solo presentation by a woman artist, and the first ever women-led artist-curator team. The official opening of the Singapore Pavilion will be on Thursday, April 21, 2022 at the Arsenale’s Sale d’Armi.