Time Out Singapore: ‘Terms and Conditions’ Review

This group show presents a debate on how history and social realities are represented, with a focus on the Arab world. Gwen Pew gives it a solid four stars.

Raed Yassin's stunning piece, 'China', at Singapore Art Museum.

Raed Yassin’s stunning piece, ‘China’, at Singapore Art Museum.

27 Jul 2013: As the wildfire that is the Arab Spring continues to rage (with recent headlines from Egypt), there’s no time like now to stage an exhibition that examines the representation and consequences of that region. Divided into rooms and grouped by countries, Terms & Conditions features a collection of very high quality artworks by 15 international artists that creates a thought-provoking conversation with each other, and presents a broad survey of the range of issues they are confronting.

One of our favourite works is Raed Yassin’s ‘China’, which depicts scenes from key battles of the Lebanese Civil War (1975-1990) painted onto common traditional Chinese vases to raise questions about the way brutal events tend to be flattened and glamourised in history books.

‘Three Love Songs’ by Adel Abidin, on the other hand, explores the notions of misrepresentation and misinterpretation. Consisting of three screens facing each other, each shows a video clip of a beautiful female singer performing what at first appear to be love songs – until you read the subtitles and realise that they are in fact propaganda tunes commissioned by Saddam Hussein.

Shifting to something a bit more abstract – but equally visually arresting – is Mona Hatoum’s ‘Plotting Table’, which shows a table with the world map made up of drilled holes and illuminated by a ghostly, radar-hued green light from underneath, as societies and civilisations are reduced to nothing but a cluster of targets.

While their themes are diverse, one thing that all the works ultimately have in common is their emphasis on conflicting perspectives – the one their governments want them to believe, the one the rest of the world sees – and the one they live in. The show is also excellently guestcurated by Mandy Merzaban of the Barjeel Art Foundation (which co-organised it with SAM) with clearly written descriptions for each piece, and would not look out of place in much larger international art galleries.

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