Propelled by a love of music, Song-Ming Ang's wide-ranging practice comprises installation, video, painting, and participatory projects. Inspired by the rock band Radiohead to pursue music as a teenager, Ang explores the ways in which we experience sound in both our private and communal moments.Read More
For his project Piece of 350 Onomatopoeic Molecules (2003–ongoing), Ang installs electric guitars, amplifiers, drums, and cymbals in galleries and distributes 350 ping pong balls for visitors to throw at the installation. Regardless of their knowledge of rock and roll or of the instruments, any participant can make music if they are willing. The ensuing discordant sounds are testament to the inherently interactive and entertaining possibilities of music.
Ang further interrogates the social significance of music through Guilty Pleasures (2007–ongoing), another interactive project that takes the form of a listening party. In a welcoming and informal environment oufitted with sofas and cushions, members of the audience share songs that they enjoy in secret. In 2011, Ang turned the project into a book titled The Book of Guilty Pleasures, in which 100 artists, curators, musicians and writers—including Hans Ulrich Obrist, Ming Wong, Katie Paterson, and Carolee Schneemann among others—disclose their own musical guilty pleasures.
In other works, Ang revamps simple or well-known songs to examine the links between memory and music. During his residency as part of the ARCUS Project in Japan, the artist filmed graduates of a now closed primary school trying to sing their school song. The resulting video, Be True to Your School (2010), captures moments of awkwardness and embarrassment as middle-aged adults search their memory—with much difficulty—for a song they once managed effortlessly. In Backwards Bach (2013), Ang plays the German composer's C Major Prelude to the Well Tempered Clavier (Book 1) on the harpsichord. The two-channel video was filmed inside a Baroque-era mansion in Berlin; one screen shows a close-up of the artist, the other from a distance. When he finishes, he plays the same score again, this time with its notes in reverse order. Recited backwards, the uncomplicated piece of music sounds completely unrecognisable.
Over the years, Ang's concerns have expanded to include labour and craftsmanship in music- and art-making. Parts and Labour (2012), for example, is a 26-minute video based on the four months the artist spent in a Berlin piano shop learning to deconstruct and reassemble a used piano. In another video—Something Old, Something New (2015), which appeared in the 14th Istanbul Biennale—the artist meticulously constructs a glass replica of a double-sided 19th-century wooden music stand.
Exploring the potential for translating music into visual compositions, Ang created 'Music Manuscripts' (2013) for which he drew linear patterns onto the existing staves of blank, standard music manuscript paper with felt-tip pens. The patterns vary—one sheet is filled entirely with straight, horizontal lines, while another shows a group of diagonal lines intersecting each other to create a simple, ribbon-like shape in its centre.
Ang studied English Literature at the National University of Singapore (2001–5) and Aural and Visual Culture at Goldsmiths College, London (2008–9). Since relocating to Berlin for a residency at the Künstlerhaus Bethanien in 2011, Ang has been dividing his time between Germany and Singapore.
Selected solo exhibitions include Do-It-Yourself, Camden Arts Centre, London (2015); Logical Progressions, Fost Gallery, Singapore (2014); and Cover Versions, Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin (2012). Ang's work was also included in group exhibitions such as Festival of Live Art, Arts House, Melbourne (2018); The Part in the Story..., Witte de With Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam (2014); and Panorama, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore (2012). Ang participated in the 14th Istanbul Biennial (2015) and the Singapore Biennale (2011); in 2019, he will represent Singapore at the Venice Biennale.
Sherry Paik | Ocula | 2018