Commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum
5 Stars: Art Reflects on Peace, Justice, Equality, Democracy and Progress is the Singapore Art Museum’s (SAM) salute to Singapore’s Golden Jubilee and the five stars on the Singapore flag, which represent universal humanist values.
Along a maze of copper pipes that hug the walls, wrapping around the gallery space, a staccato, metronomic orchestra of clinks and twangs tap out the rhythms of a melody that seems all too familiar, yet somehow eludes immediate recognition. The sounds are produced by solenoid valves and e-bows, devices which activate when an electromagnetic current runs through them, while pre-recorded singing issues forth from the speakers. Zulkifle’s Raising Spirits and Restoring Souls draws upon and reimagines Singapore’s national anthem, Majulah Singapura (Onward Singapore), and in the process, much of the song has been distilled to its percussive beat. Composed by Zubir Said in 1958, Majulah Singapura – which is sung daily by every school child in Singapore – contains the phrase “Sama-sama menuju bahagia”, which translates as, “Let us progress towards happiness together”. This sentence was of particular interest to Zulkifle, and in examining the idea of ‘Progress’ and what it signifies to Singaporeans from across the social and economic spectrum, the artist collaborated with children from disadvantaged backgrounds to record their vocal rendition of the phrase, and this is the only line that is ‘sung’ in the sound installation. Zulkifle asks, “Does the song really resonate with Singaporeans? What is progress in this context? Most of us believe that progress is a linear path; perhaps it is anything but.”