Kent Chan (1984, Singapore) is an artist, filmmaker and curator based in Singapore. His practice revolves around encounters with art, fiction and cinema that explore the connections between aesthetic experience and knowledge production. His work Hot House: Five Stories On Heat is heated inside by hot, humid air, creating a completely different art experience than in the rest of the cool and dry museum.

Kent Chan

His work gives visitors the opportunity to meet one another, enter into dialogue with the artist and undergo a compelling encounter with art. Chan explores the links between aesthetic experience and knowledge production. What are the connections between the two and how can they reinforce one another? His work lies on the interstices of art and daily life. From 2019 to 2020, Chan was an artist-in-residence at the Jan Van Eyck Academy.

A central theme in Chan’s work is the concept and representation of “the tropics”, which he deals with in relation to colonialism, politics and identity. The tropics are a meteorologically and geographically defined area around the equator, where the position of the sun and the absence of winter and summer seasons keep the climate hot and humid. Throughout history, however, “the tropics” have acquired another major connotation in Europe. The tropics were also the colonies that brought wealth to Europe and were “exotically” beautiful, but which were also deemed culturally and demographically inferior to Europe. Even after the colonial era, Europe and North America (“the West”) have maintained their status as the centre of culture and civilisation.

In his oeuvre, Chan questions the Eurocentrism of the art world. With great subtlety, he tells how art history and the traditional art institutions are constructs that are founded on European colonial concepts. And how for a long time the inhabitants of the tropics have tried to gain full recognition by assimilating with European culture and leaving their own culture behind. Chan broadens art history by adding new stories to it and emancipates artists, culture and histories through his work.

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Hot House

Chan created the artwork Hot House as an exhibition space for his own work and that of his fellow pariticipants at the Jan van Eyck Academy. Hot House is heated by warm, humid air, creating a totally different art experience than in the rest of the cool, dry museum. In this work, Chan broaches the question of how tropical heat affects the way people think and act, thus making an original link between climate and culture. Which art forms are best suited to tropical conditions? Hot House brings together artworks and public in a paradigm centred upon the abundance of heat and humidity - not as constrictions to, but as companions in thoughts.

One of the works in Hot House is the video installation Five Stories on Heat. The videos, which were recorded partly in the Bonnefanten, is a performance by Chan where he tells stories of the tropics as a place and as a concept. Five Stories on Heat is a narrative work that ruminates upon the shared histories of art and heat, and their shared futures. How will Europe relate to art in the future, when global warming gives it a tropical climate as well? Will the climate-controlled museum be a reminder of former world views and ways of life? The work addresses art-making during the Vietnam war, Malayan and Hopi myths, and the first exhibition of Singaporean art in Europe. Like mosaic, Chan’s storylines skip from East to West, and from the past to the future.

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