About

THE MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT

 

THE MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT was founded in 2010 as an umbrella for art practice‐led inquiries into questions of culture and nature in Southeast Asia:

  THE MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT embraces concerned explorers, curious collectors, daughters of woodcutters, miners of memories and art by nature. The project evolves through and around past and present movements and migrations of naturecultures in art and life in Southeast Asia.  

 

MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT 2010-2013

The Secret Lives of Forest Products

 

The Secret Lives of Forest Products is an inquiry by THE MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT into human relationships to trees, forests and forest products in Southeast Asia—explored in terms of materials, metaphors, magic, ecological resources, and historical agency.

 

The project is a development of an earlier material-led investigation which had as objective to recast the form and content of the historic, 1950s-1960s Singapore/Malayan Modern Woodcut Movement in a contemporary context of macro-scale “Cuttings of Wood” (rainforest destruction). For a background to the “Wood:Cut/Cuttings of Wood” project click here.

 

Our current endeavour revolves around an attempt to trace the historic, material and poetic journeys of a 1950’s teak bed, found in a Singapore karang guni junk store, back to a location in Southeast Asia where the original teak tree may have grown. The endeavour brings together cross-cultural natural histories, micro and macro arboreal influences and DNA timber tracking technology. The exploration is guided by the following question.

 
How can one critically engage ecological questions in art in ways which are as poetic as they are provocative; as practical as they are philosophical; as magical as they are exacting, without merely documenting a problem, illustrating theory, or science or decorating the demise of trees?"
 

Recent applications of DNA technology have meant that it is possible to trace rainforest products such as timber back to the location of the original forest/plantation from which the wood originated. Each individual tree has a unique DNA identity, termed (with some anthropomorphic arrogance) a DNA “fingerprint”. This technology is being used by Double Helix Tracking Technologies in order to certify that timber purchased by consumers across the world comes from legal plantation as opposed to illegal rainforest sources.

 

The initial DNA sampling, testing and the development of art works, education and publication materials have been funded by a 3-year (2010-2013) ACRF Tier 1 research grant from the Singapore Ministry of Education and two International Development Grants from the Singapore National Arts Council.

 

Preliminary tests suggest a match between a DNA sequence from a sample from our bed and that of teak trees in South Sulawesi.  A team of artists and scientists journeyed to the scant remains of century-year old teak plantations on Muna Island Southeast Sulawesi, and have recreated an “ecology” of inter-dependent scientific, social and magic-realist stories, traced out from the grain of this one teak bed. 

 

The artistic media employed in this project are photography, stop motion animation and woodprint collage. Both the stop motion imagery and the collage are constructed from woodprints of the original teak bed. The exhibition works emerging from this research have been named Jalan Jati or “Teak Road”, which is the name of one the main streets in Raha--the central port town of Muna Island, Southeast Sulawesi.

 

 

CURRENT MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT COLLABORATORS:

 

ARTISTS:

Lucy Davis, Woodprint collage & stop‐motion (Singapore)
Shannon Lee Castleman, Photographer (Singapore)
Zailani Kuning, Composer/Artist (Singapore)
Zai Tang, Composer/Musician (Singapore)

 

SCIENTIST:

Dr Shawn Lum, Plant Biologist (President Nature Society of Singapore)
Shankar Lyerh, Head of R&D Double Helix Tracking Technologies (Singapore/UK)
Dr Andrew Lowe, Chair Plant Conservation University of Adelaide

 

CURATOR:

Lee Weng Choy (Malaysia/USA)

 

DESIGNER:

Hera (Singapore/Indonesia)

 

STUDENT RESEARCHER & WEBSITE MANAGER:

Farhana Ja'afar (Singapore)

 

STUDENT ASSISTANTS     

EDUCATIONAL STOP MOTION CREATORS (Singapore):

Sing Ting Xi Jemima

Ang Wei Tyng

Chan Phui Yung

Goh Wei Choon

Wee Jia Hui

Wee Nai De Mark

 

EXHIBITION STOP MOTION EDITORS (Singapore):

Jac Min

Edwina Ong Zhi

Michelle Yap Su Zhen