Suzann Victor

Born in Singapore. Lives and works in Sydney, Australia.

The works of Suzann Victor prospect the contours of human sensorial experience, perception and phenomena by mining materials from the body, the elements of light and water to the science of physics, alongside engineered components and the readymade. Through performances of vulnerability, acts of collective labour, installations or public artworks, Victor emboldens the significance of sites, spaces and architecture by transforming them into immersive environments that draw awareness to the viewer’s own body as an investigative tool for apprehending the world at large.

The first female artist to represent Singapore at its inaugural showing in the 49th Venice Biennale (2001), Victor was the concept-developer of 5th Passage, one of Southeast Asia’s earliest feminist artist-initiative (1991-1996) to generate new art audiences from Singapore’s de facto community centre – the shopping mall – by tapping two resources at hand: the readymade public within the readymade public space. As the country’s first corporate-sponsored art spaces (Parkway Parade and Pacific Plaza), 5th Passage also set the precedence of reaching out to the public long before “outreach” became a mainstay of local art institutions to come.

The aftermath of a tabloid-incited controversy that led to 5th Passage’s dissolution and Singapore’s decade-long proscription of performance art in 1994 compelled Victor to re-materialise pain into power by attending to the body in absentia, decolonisation and inverting the abject. A trilogy of works within an empty shop at Pacific Plaza culminated in His Mother is a Theatre (1994) -an iconic installationthat reeked of the body’s presence by the fact of its very absence. Still Waters, a trojan critique of this state of affairs was notably smuggled as a performance inside the drain of the Singapore Art Museum in 1998 whilst the ban was still in place, hence its illegality, only to be honoured 21 years later as the theme of the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival in 2019, attesting to the work’s enduring currency.

Environmentally, Victor’s “objectless art” employed an outdoor heliostat to redirect sunlight into the National Museum’s rotunda for casting upon a screen of falling water droplets, a meteorological feat that manifested the first double rainbow arcs to ever appear indoors during the 4th Singapore Biennale (2013). Its solar panels were turned into the public’s first pop-up solar charging benches stationed conveniently along the footpath. In a cultural inversion, the chandelier-pendulums in her Rich Manoeuvre series kinetically performed 12 changing time signatures in a mid-air calligraphy, one of which being the swaying movement of an Asian red dragon that captivated audiences physiologically and psychologically at multiple international venues.

Victor’s works have been commissioned for presentation beyond Venice in notable exhibitions including the 6th Havana Biennale, 2nd Asia-Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art, the 6th Gwangju Biennale, the 4th Singapore Biennale, Shaping Geographies: Woman | Art | Southeast Asia (Gajah Gallery), Text and Subtext (2000-2005) Sydney-Stockholm-Oslo-China and Thermocline of Art (ZKM Center of Art and Media, Karlsruhe). Her public artworks are sited in high-profile locations including World Square, Sydney and the National Museum of Singapore. In 2009, she was awarded the New York-based Civitella Ranieri Foundation Fellowship Residency (Umbria, Italy). Victor was singled out from the Sunshower Exhibition (National Art Center Tokyo & Mori Art Museum) by the Fukuoka Asian Art Museum for two special artist residencies in 2017 and 2018. She received her MA & BA (1st Class Hons) and completed her doctorate in 2009 at the University of Western Sydney, supported by the Australian Postgraduate Award & the UWS Top Up Award. Victor’s works reside in numerous public and private collections worldwide.