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
|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.|
One of the main areas of research by the MIGRANT ECOLOGIES PROJECT has been into stories of wood in Southeast Asia. An initiative called The Secret Lives of Forest Products 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” (r ainforest destruction). For a background to the “Wood:Cut/Cuttings of Wood” project click here.
In 2010 the project homed in on 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 with the assistance DNA tracking technology.
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, woodprint collage and animated shadow-puppets. Both the stop motion imagery and the collage are constructed from woodprints of the original teak bed.
The first exhibition of works emerging from this research was held at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh in 2013. The exhibtion was 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.
Further incarnations of the process were shown at FOST Gallery in 2013—a series of animated shadow citations of iconic woodblock prints, comprised of prints of our original Teak bed
The most rescent incarnation of stories deriving from this one teak bed was exhibited at the National University of Singapore Museum from June 2014-Feb 2015—an exhibition entitled "When you get closer to the heart you may find cracks" Stories of Wood by The Migrant Ecologies Project. This exhibition included a series of new works in response to Singapore's timber patriarchies and timber boom years. It also included a one room installation of animated shadow works; recast shadows of iconic woodblock prints from the mid twentieth century, all compiled exclusively from print fragments of the bed.
NUS Museum Exhibition
STORIES OF WOOD COLLABORATORS:
Lucy Davis, Woodprint collage & stop‐motion (Singapore) Shannon Lee Castleman, Photographer (Singapore) Kee Ya Ting Photographer (Singapore) Zailani Kuning, Composer/Artist (Singapore) Zai Tang, Composer/Musician (Singapore)
Dr Shawn Lum, Plant Biologist (President Nature Society of Singapore)
Double Helix Tracking Technologies (Singapore/UK) Dr Andrew Lowe, Chair Plant Conservation University of Adelaide
Leonardus Adi Prasetya
Lee Weng Choy (Malaysia/USA) RBGE Edinburgh
Jason Wee (Singapore) NUS Museum
Kenneth Tay (Singapore NUS Museum
Dennice Juwono (Singapore/Indonesia)
STUDENT RESEARCHER & WEBSITE MANAGER:
Farhana Ja'afar (Singapore)
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):
Edwina Ong Zhi
Michelle Yap Su Zhen