ArtScience Museum - Singapore
21/10/2023- 03/03/2024

ArtScience Museum, Singapore presents New Eden: Science Fiction Mythologies Transformed.

The exhibition New Eden: Science Fiction Mythologies Transformed delves into the intersectionality of science fiction and Asian spiritual philosophies through the creative praxis of twenty-four Asian women artists and collectives. By confronting the masculine bias often present in Western science fiction—historically a male-dominated genre—New Eden: Science Fiction Mythologies Transformed reconfigures hegemonic narratives, embracing more democratic forms of storytelling and art-making. Intentionally foregrounding women artists and more diverse voices, the exhibition advocates for new futures that more genuinely reflect the heterogeneity of contemporary society.

Throughout the eight chapters of the exhibition synchronicities are explored between Asian religious or spiritual ontological concepts and the speculative ideas found in Western science fiction. Various belief systems of Southeast Asia, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Shintoism provide fertile ground for creative storytelling and philosophical exploration. For example, ideas found in Eastern philosophies—that question the inherent illusion of perceived reality—resonate with Western science fiction narratives that explore ideas such as simulated realities and alternate dimensions.

The juxtaposition of historical Asian artefacts, cinematic science fiction and a contemporary artwork by Shilpa Gupta spotlights how spiritual liberation, as epitomised in Buddhism and Hinduism, is a mirror of the science fiction concept of post-humanism and the digital uploading of the human consciousness. Works featuring sentient ecosystems and bioengineered organisms, by The House of Natural Fiber and Chok Si Xuan, explore the fundamental interconnectedness of all living entities and science fiction’s visions of a world in which technology and nature seamlessly intertwine. This parallels aspects of Shintoism, a Japanese religion which focuses on a deep connection with nature, and the belief in “kami”—spirits that inhabit the natural environment. South Korean artists Moon and Jeon spotlight the similarities between science fiction’s concepts of wormhole-like spatial anomalies offering fast interstellar travel and the ability to alter distances and connections between entities—manipulating the fabric of reality itself—as observed in the spiritual cultivation of “warping” or “folding” space found in Taoist philosophy.

Artists Patty Chang and Cao Fei—both known for their thought-provoking social commentaries—leverage their work in an examination of gender, urbanisation, and technology’s potential future impact on society. Sputniko!, Anne Samat and Soe Yu Nwe literally and metaphorically weave indigenous Asian motifs with contemporary sensibilities, a gesture that destabilises conventional art narratives and invites a more pluralistic engagement. Science fiction’s adoption of mysticism and Asian spiritual philosophies culminates in the exhibition’s final chapter, where Mariko Mori’s seminal work, Miko No Inori—a piece that materialises these complex intersections—is positioned alongside installations by Lee Bul and Astria Suparak—who interrogate the sometimes challenging sociopolitical structures of science fiction.

The artists in New Eden: Science Fiction Mythologies Transformed, drawing on their own Asian traditions, question what we see in the science fiction genre and confront preconceived notions, encouraging us all to seek out new narratives, aesthetics, and creative propositions.