Spotlight on Sarah Choo Jing : Sovereign Asian Art Prize Interview

A closer look at the finalists for The 2022 Sovereign Asian Art Prize

This interview with Sarah Choo Jing is part of a series of interviews highlighting the shortlisted artists for The 2022 Sovereign Asian Art Prize – the 18th edition of Asia’s most prestigious prize for contemporary artists. Selected from over 400 entries, the finalists hail from 16 countries and regions across Asia-Pacific. Of the artists, 27 are new to The Prize – appearing in the shortlist for the first time. Read on to discover more about the finalists, their key points of inspiration, and why it is important to champion the work of artists from Asia-Pacific.

 

Sarah Choo Jing (Singapore) was shortlisted for her work ‘156 Emerald Hill’. A transitory site, the artwork sets the stage in depicting ignored seams and forgotten vistas, promising a utopian and apocalyptic site.

 

What initially inspired you about 156 Emerald Hill as a site to photograph?

Formerly a plantation land in Singapore, the area of Emerald Hill was subdivided for wealthy Chinese and Straits-Chinese merchants at the turn of the 20th Century for their place of abode. A space where families were seen to interact frequently with one another, dwellings were built as terrace houses of a variety of architectural styles ranging from Transitional, Late to Art-Deco; with most independent mansions having been demolished today. Now a conservation site, Emerald Hill houses new businesses ranging from restaurants, bars to small firms.

Towards the end of a stretch of shophouses, 156 Emerald Hill stands and remains as a residential block housing various individuals. This artwork presents a digital composite of documented moments, recorded during the Circuit Break in Singapore as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Hovering on the border between objective and subjective, public and private; the image presented is a culmination of momentary openings, pockets in between. A transitory site, 156 Emerald Hill sets the stage in depicting ignored seams and forgotten vistas, promising a site from which is either/or of utopian and apocalyptic.

 

How did you go about capturing your signature uncanny, voyeuristic style in this piece of work?

My artistic practice has always been centred on social alienation and isolation. I have been fascinated with the relationships, or lack thereof, between people; and the potential narratives that occur in The Everyday. In an ever changing and quickly evolving landscape such as ours, I am drawn to document what I observe, to preserve, re-present what I see; and have viewers pause, and think about what they are looking at. I see my practice as a process of conceptual enquiry and of making meaning.

A parallel to previous methods of compositing images, the process of manipulating and reconfiguring elusive moments between consciousness, document and space continues to intrigue me.

 

You were a finalist in 2020, congratulations on being shortlisted again! How have the past two years been for you?

The past 2 years have been tumultuous to say the least. I am, however, grateful to be offered opportunities to continue taking my practice to greater heights and to also bring my works to audiences both locally as well as internationally. Since 2020, I have developed 2 new bodies of work, 156 Emerald Hill – the said shortlisted artwork for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize this year; and another installation Zoom, Click, Waltz. 156 Emerald Hill was exhibited at S.E.A.Focus during Singapore Art Week 2020 and subsequently awarded an Honourable Mention at the 2020 International Photography Awards.

Zoom, Click, Waltz is a multimedia installation comprising 13 LED screens. A culmination of documented events, staged recording and found footage, this artwork depicts individuals in various states of “performance”, while isolated within separate window frames. What began as an attempt to communicate with neighbours during Circuit Break, developed into an imagined possibility of individuals connecting through dance. Over a period of 2 months, residents received mailed instruction requests to perform at an interval spanning 30 minutes. These recordings were at times effective, others, futile.

Various subjects’ responses range from active to passive; with individuals participating in modes of conscious performance, and others nonchalant, in contemplation. Juxtaposed and interspersed alongside found media, separate footages are stitched together to form an uncanny, seamless reality situated in the inter-spaces between interpretation and negotiation, truth and fiction, performance and chance. This artwork clinched the 3D Interactive award for the The Lumen Prize for Art and Technology 2021 and was subsequently exhibited at the 2021 Daegu Photo Biennale in Korea.

Another one of my recent works, Art of the Rehearsal was exhibited at the Chrysler Museum of Art following its acquisition by the museum and will be exhibited at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco later in the second half of 2022. Looking ahead, I am in the midst of developing a body of work for my upcoming solo exhibition in 2023.

 

How important is it to support artists from Asia-Pacific?

The Asia-Pacific art scene is developing and maturing each year. Within the creative industry, it is encouraging to see

continuous support for Asia-Pacific artists, in developing their technical abilities and creating opportunities for artists to engage in more critical discourse. Of course, all the more encouraging to observe efforts in recognising female artists within the arts industry. It is important for us to remain competitive on regional and international platforms.

‘Spotlight on Sarah Choo Jing’ courtesy of Sovereign Asian Art Prize, May 2022