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Thursday, September 10, 2020

A Conversation with the Southeast Asia Artists-in-Residency Program Alumni: Jennifer Teo

Our third special feature on the Southeast Asia Artists-in-Residency Program (SEA-AiR) focuses on 2019 participant, Jennifer Teo, from Singapore. She represented the Post-Museum, an artist collective she co-founded in 2007. The Post-Museum’s mission, as Jennifer states, is to “get people to participate, come together, and work to make a better world. It’s not just about the art, it’s the social part of the art, creating culture from the ground up.” 

Rachel Parikh, our Assistant Curator of Asian and Middle Eastern Art, caught up with Jennifer about her time at WAM and what she’s currently working on. 

2019 SEA-AiR alumna, Jennifer Teo.

Rachel Parikh (RP): Why did you want to participate in WAM’s SEA-AiR Program?

Jennifer Teo (JT): Since the Post-Museum is about community, I thought it would be a great way to connect and engage with one in the United States, particularly one with such a strong American-Southeast Asian presence.

RP: What are some highlights of your time during the residency?

JT: I really enjoyed the trips Vivian Li (former Associate Curator of Asian and Global Contemporary Art) organized, especially the day trip to MASS MoCA in North Adams. I also made some lifelong friendships during my time in Worcester.

RP: How, if so, did the residency impact your art and artistic practice?

JT: With Post-Museum, I work mainly on social practice projects and I hardly have time to make things in a studio space. This residency provided a lot of time, a big studio, and a lot of material to start thinking about making things again. I was able to work on some solo projects and generate ideas for the Post-Museum. I also had the opportunity to launch Worcester’s first Really Really Free Market. It is a temporary market system based on an alternative gift economy.

RP: Can you tell me more about the Really Really Free Market and its outcome at Worcester?

JT: The point is not to acquire goods or find a deal; it’s about challenging how we assign values to objects and services and building ties within our community. It was great to see something that the Post-Museum has executed throughout Southeast Asia take root and shape in the United States. I thought the event was successful. We had people offering all types of things—including guided meditation for 20 minutes! 

Worcester’s first Really Really Free Market in September 2019 at WAM,
organized by Jennifer on behalf of the Post-Museum.

RP: That is great, and I am sure you found it insightful, especially when comparing the experiences of the Really Really Free Market in different communities.

JT: Yes, and it was wonderful to represent the Post-Museum in this way.

RP: I know your work is more community-based, is very interactive, and is a social experience, but were there objects in WAM’s collection that inspired you or were your favorites?

JT: Honestly, I found WAM’s collection very inspiring, and I love various pieces in all the different sections. For example, Nam June Paik’s Robert Goddard, 1995 (1997.108]) Edward Hick’s The Peaceable Kingdom (1934.65), John La Farge’s Peacock Window (below), and Benjamin West’s Pharaoh and his Host Lost in the Red Sea (1960.18) by Benjamin West, and the ancient Egyptian Ibis with Priest (1947.8). 

John La Farge (American, 1835-1910), Peacock Window, 
1892-1908, stained glass (leaded and plated opalescent glass,
colorless glass, cloisonné glass, fused glass, copper coil,
copper foil, cold paint and glazes, various colored putties and resins).
 Museum Purchase, 1909.11 

RP: What have you and the Post-Museum been working on since your residency?

JT: Post-Museum participated in the 2019 Singapore Biennale with an installation of our Bukit Brown Index. Bukit Brown is a historical cemetery that has been on the brink of destruction due to the new construction of roadways. Various works, ranging from performance art to large-scale installations, addresses the cemetery from various perspectives. At the Singapore Biennale, we had a performance-based installation.

Currently. we are busy working on a new social practice project, which involves upcycling old clothes and planting rice. I've also been working on some paintings, installations, photography, video, and text-based works.

The Southeast Asia Artists-in-Residency Program is supported by the IAP Fund at WAM, the Southeast Asian Coalition of Central Massachusetts under Ahn Vu Sawyer, The Crawford Foundation, and Robert and Minh Mailloux.

—September 10, 2020

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