In the second section, Deliberation, teacher-artists examine the motivations, processes and effects of making choices among options. Deliberation involves carefully weighing the value of options based on the clarity of purpose, through various lenses, often in dialogue with others, and hopefully arriving at an optimal solution (since the perfect one is usually illusory). Yet, too much or too long a process of consideration could lead to missed opportunities, inaction and fatigue. How does one decision affect others? Who gets to decide, and who bears the brunt of bad decisions? What kind of deliberative process fosters community involvement, social resilience, and long-term good? Artworks in this section are about making decisions in light of social expectations, distractions and problems, and in relation to sets of opposite attributes: mundane and extraordinary; rational and instinctive; standardised and flexible.

I’ll sit with you. explores compassion as an existential need. Two chairs are locked in a literal dialogue, one calling out for help and the other offering it. Through this work, Muhammad Firdaus Bin Hernawan aims to bring awareness and encourage discourse about the adequacy of help offered by society to the marginalised in society. With statements such as “I’ll ____ with you”, “I’ll ______ for you” on one chair and words like “comfort, believe, support” carved on the other, the work acts as a reflective tool: although the words are simple and much needed, they are sometimes difficult to utter.

After her maternity leave, Martina Ismail’s faced people who remarked on her weight gain. Though she knew they didn’t mean harm, she still felt the pressure to conform. Yet she realised that social expectations don’t stop once they’re fulfilled. “I was under the illusion that [losing weight] alone would make me feel lighter and perhaps more happy,” she shared. “But the fear remained eminent.” The pressure built, affecting her mood: “That’s when I told myself, I shouldn’t care about what they think, it is not my business. And you know what? I’ve never been happier.” The Best Weight You’ll Ever Lose features watercolour paintings of Martina’s personal vignettes marked with the symbol ‘x’—for instance, a pair of feet on a weighing scale, a chained ankle, a person walking on a tightrope, a body with explosion for a head—amounting to a “visual diary” as she calls it, pointing to her conscious decision to defy social pressures. The work is a palpable reminder about both the unintended effects of casual remarks and the function of art as an outlet of expression, reflection and self-care.

Desiree Tham’s Resonance of Control is an updated version of a 2018 video installation featuring her performing with everyday objects. She observed that the accumulation of things among humans often goes beyond necessity and instead is used to maintain a sense of comfort and routine. In this work, Tham disrupts the familiar mode of treating these non-living entities as dispensable by bringing them “into action”. In one shot, she lies down with her back on the floor whilst using her feet to prop up a wooden board mid-air to keep a balloon still. In another, she moves sideways gingerly with a plank of water-filled glasses placed on her back. Tham sets up risky situations she tries her best to fulfill with control, tension and patience. But alas, due to gravity and human limits, these endeavours were doomed to fail from the onset. By meshing serious intent with absurd humour, intimacy and distance, success and failure, Tham wants us to reconsider objects in ways beyond function and logic.

Teacher-curators Victor Gan and Maisarah Kamal, with Guest Curator Michael Lee

View the artworks here.