Plastique Kinetic Worms (PKW)



Formed in 1998, Plastique Kinetic Worms (PKW) is a contemporary art collective co-founded by artists Vincent Leow and Yvonne Lee.1 By showcasing Singaporean contemporary art at its gallery as well as at local and international arts festivals, the non-profit art collective has raised the profile of Singapore artists in the region. The group is currently operating without an art space following the closure of its gallery on Kerbau Road in March 2008.2

Establishment
In 1998, the ground floor of a shophouse at 98 Pagoda Street was offered to artists as a rent-free art exhibition space for three months.3 Managed by a team of artists, PKW thus began as a three-month project that exhibited contemporary art.4 It comprised a series of five art exhibitions, displaying works by Leow, Stefan Johnsson as well as young Singaporean artists such as Baet Yoke Kuan, Chua Chye Teck and Lim Poh Teck.5

When the project ended, Leow and his wife, Lee, co-founded and led an art collective named after the art space and the project. With the aim of promoting contemporary art in Singapore, the 10-member art group continued to manage the art space on Pagoda Street. The rental cost of the gallery and administrative duties were shared among the members.6

Key developments
In 1999, PKW became a non-profit society, and the status enabled the group to take on additional art initiatives as they could now access grants and funds for non-profit organisations.7

PKW kept its art gallery on Pagoda Street at a reduced rent for two years before moving to a new location on South Bridge Road in March 2000. In 2001, PKW received a grant of S$75,000 from the National Arts Council (NAC) in recognition of its work and achievements in Singaporean contemporary art. The Artist-in-Residence programme was one of the more immediate results of the financial aid from NAC. The French Embassy provided additional support to the group when Christine Monceau, a French installation artist, became the collective’s first artist-in-residence. NAC’s continued sponsorship also enabled the art collective to move beyond local shores by participating in art initiatives and events overseas.8

In April 2001, PKW started publishing a contemporary visual art quarterly titled Vehicle.9 The journal aimed to provide information on contemporary art in Singapore and the region through reviews and articles. It also served as a catalogue for an international audience on the works by PKW artists.10 However, the journal was not sustainable and ceased publication in 2002.11

On 31 December 2001,  the art collective moved to 61 Kerbau Road, a location allocated to the group by the NAC under the Arts Housing Scheme. It was the first visual arts group to be awarded a space under the scheme. The art space was offered to the group at a 10 percent discount off the market rate for the first three years. The new location provided opportunities for multidisciplinary collaborations as other art groups, such as Sri Warisan Performing Arts and Spell#7, were situated in the same area.12

However, high operational costs and depleting funds forced PKW to close its premises on Kerbau Road in March 2008.13 The art collective was losing artists and audience support, especially with the growing number of artist-run galleries in Singapore at the time.14 The group, however, decided against disbanding.15

Leow and Lee subsequently took up teaching positions at the University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. Lee was said to have been looking for a curator to take over her duties in her absence.16

Achievements
PKW played a significant role in the development of contemporary art in Singapore by providing a platform for Singaporean artists to showcase their works.17 The group organised regular exhibitions each year at its art gallery, and provided local artists with exhibition space without the pressure of having to sell their works to cover exhibition costs.18 Following the closure of Artist Village in Sembawang, Singapore’s first artist “colony”, in 1990, PKW was the only artist-run Singapore gallery when it opened in 1998.19

Besides its art gallery, PKW’s annual Worms Festival provided another avenue for showcasing contemporary visual art and the performing arts. The inaugural Worms Festival in 1999 was PKW’s first foray into other art forms as it featured art installations, short films and performances.20 The multidisciplinary arts festival succeeded in attracting overseas performers, thus promoting international awareness of the Singapore art scene.21

For about 10 years, PKW’s art initiatives helped to promote young artists such as Francis Ng. Recipient of the Young Artist Award in 2006, Ng had held his inaugural exhibition at PKW’s art gallery.22 The art collective was also instrumental in raising the profile of Singaporean contemporary art by bringing the works of local artists to international festivals. PKW participated in art festivals such as the Gwangju Biennale in 2002, and worked on multiple collaborations and exchange programmes with arts groups in countries such as Australia, Germany and Thailand.23 PKW’s members also took part in international forums like the “Art Spaces Managed by Artists” held in Hong Kong in 2001.24



Author
Hong Xinying



References
1. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
2. Cheong, J. (2008, February 18). … but PKW stays open. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
3. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Oon, C. (1998, July 20). Art finds a haven. The Straits Times, p. 3. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Leong, W. K. (1998, April 4). Artists get offer of free space. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
7. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
8. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
9. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
10. Tan, H. H. (2002, January 25). Reading art. The Business Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Chia, A. (2007, February 15). Cash-strapped arts mag needs help. The Straits Times, p. 51. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Cheong, J. (2008, February 18). … but PKW stays open. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Cheong, J. (2007, May 24). Plastique Kinetic Worms to close. The Straits Times, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Cheong, J. (2008, February 18). … but PKW stays open. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Cheong, J. (2008, February 18). … but PKW stays open. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
17. Cheong, J. (2007, May 24). Plastique Kinetic Worms to close. The Straits Times, p. 64. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
18. Do not squirm at these worms. (1999, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 7; Leong, W. K. (1998, April 4). Artists get offer of free space. The Straits Times, p. 42. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
19. Tan, E. (1990, March 7). Artist Village closes. The Straits Times, p. 20. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20. Do not squirm at these worms. (1999, October 21). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22. Cheong, J. (2007, May 24). Plastique Kinetic Worms to close. The Straits Times, p. 64; Tse, K. (2007, May 24). No money, no Worms. Today, p. 58. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
23. Cheong, J. (2008, February 18). … but PKW stays open. The Straits Times, p. 45. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
24. Nayar, P. (2002, January 5). New home, new beginning. The Business Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



Further resources
Jacques, R. (2001, March–April). Renewal painting: 14 Dec–7 Jan, Plastique Kinetic Worms. Esplanade: The Arts Magazine, p. 75.
(Call no.: RSING 791.095957 E)

Wong, S. (2002, July–August). Fusion strength [on plastique kinetic worms]. Esplanade: The Arts Magazine, pp. 76–77.
(Call no.: RSING 791.095957 E)



The information in this article is valid as at 2010 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

 

Subject
Visual Arts
Arts>>Visual Arts
Arts
Art--Singapore