Past Programmes


Still somehow, it's illusions we recall

Film Programme curated by Jeremy Chua

2 OCT - 4 NOV 2021

Still Somehow, It’s Illusions We Recall was a film programme presented by the Singapore Art Museum in conjunction with the exhibition, The Gift. Drawing on the exhibition’s theme of affinities and entanglements, the programme featured responses to our current state of unprecedented disruption and isolation. The series of films conjured and reconfigured familiar aspects of life in ways that are intimate, yet alienating. The intertwining themes found in these filmic narratives presented an avenue for collective introspection, and opened up possibilities for the reanimating of a new and future self.

The film programme ran from 2 October to 4 November 2021, with on-site screenings in the Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium and Level 5 Theatrette at National Gallery Singapore. It featured the Singapore premieres of feature-length and short films, as well as pre-screening introductions hosted by film curator, Jeremy Chua.

More Information

Feature Films

City Hall Wing, Level B1, The Ngee Ann Kongsi Auditorium, National Gallery Singapore 

The feature film programme aimed to complement the exhibition’s broader themes on the nature of relations, affinities, and influences through a curated selection of films. Produced mostly during a period of lockdown and isolation, the diverse stories of fiction and documentary on the disruption and melancholia experienced by a world in catastrophe offered a moment of respite and a shared avenue for introspection towards an uncertain future.

Southeast Asian Premiere

Director: Jafar Panahi, Anthony Chen, Malik Vittal, Laura Poitras, Dominga Sotomayor, David Lowery, Apitchatpong Weerasethakul

Year: 2021

Runtime: 121 min

Country: USA

Language: English, Farsi, Chinese, Spanish, Thai (with English subtitles)

Rating: NC16

Jafar Panahi, Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Laura Poitras, Anthony Chen and other heavyweights of world cinema reflect on 2020 in this sweeping auteur anthology film for the age of COVID, premiering at Cannes Special Screenings.

Shot in secret during the pandemic, The Year of the Everlasting Storm comprises seven shorts from some of the filmmaking firmament’s most acclaimed names. Billed as “a true love letter” to the storytelling power of the moving image, these collected tales are deeply personal responses to life under lockdown and, together, make up an extraordinary cinematic journal chronicling human existence during what was an unheralded historical moment.

“This portmanteau project achieves something remarkable … reconnecting us to a world inevitably transformed by the pandemic – a world where art lives on.”– Variety

Southeast Asian Premiere

Director: Alexander Koberidze

Year: 2021

Runtime: 150 min

Country: Germany / Georgia

Language: Georgian (with English subtitles)

Rating: PG

One summer afternoon, Lisa and Giorgi bump into each other in the street. It’s love at first sight, but they quickly part ways—only to cross paths again almost immediately. When they run into each other for a third time, they decide to go on a date. Unfortunately the pair are cursed; on the morning of their big day, both wake up and find themselves transformed into someone else. But even with new faces and new lives, Lisa and Giorgi still yearn for one another.

This Berlinale FIPRESCI Prize winner is a romantic, Kafkaesque fable full of poignant quirkiness and playful imagery. As writer-director Alexandre Koberidze follows the couple’s journey towards reunification, he also takes the audience on a leisurely and witty detour through daily life in the historic Georgian city of Kutaisi, where human, canine and inanimate-object populations are in the grip of World Cup fever. Saturated in colour thanks to Faraz Fesharaki’s artful mix of 16mm and digital cinematography, What Do We See When We Look at the Sky? is an expansive, eloquent love letter to romance, to the mundane and the magical, and to the art of cinema itself.

"Alexandre Koberidze’s joyously elusive flight of fancy … is a slyly inventive, free-ranging adventure in cinematic possibility."– Screen Daily

Southeast Asian Premiere

Director: C.W. Winter and Anders Edström

Year: 2020

Runtime: 202 min [PARTS 1 & 2]; 130 minutes [PART 3]; 149 minutes [PART 4]

Country: USA / Sweden / Japan/ UK

Language: Japanese, Swedish, English (with English subtitles)

Rating: To be advised

The first rule in farming is that you are never to hope for an easy way. The land demands your effort. The Works and Days (of Tayoko Shiojiri in the Shiotani Basin) follows Tayoko Shiojiri and his family, who live in a valley in Kyoto Prefecture in Japan surrounded by fields and mountains. In a community where hard work bears fruit (as long as nothing diverts its course), their lives are strictly regulated by the requirements of the land and the particularities of the seasons. Filmed over 27 weeks, the film adheres to this same regimen, with the editors constantly re-weaving the narrative threads as diligently as farmers would till their land.

A geographic description of 14 months of the work and non-work of Tayoko in the mountains of Kyoto Prefecture, Japan, this documentary feature is a stunning ode to the pastoral in five books. The film won the Best Film of Berlinale Encounters Competition in 2020.

“This is a marvel of cinematic immersion…Now more than ever, The Works and Days speaks to the power, beauty and necessity of the theatrical experience.” – Film Comment

Southeast Asian Premiere

Director: Michel Franco

Year: 2021

Runtime: 83 min

Country: Mexico, France, Sweden

Language: English, Spanish (with English subtitles)

Rating: To be advised

When a distant emergency disrupts the wealthy Bennett family’s vacation on the Mexican coast in Acapulco and summons them back to the UK, simmering tensions rise to the fore. In the process, the delicate balance between siblings is irrevocably upset.

This film continues writer-director Michel Franco’s explorations of individuals and societies under pressure, revealing the hidden heights and depths of a city and a family. Sundown unfolds in short, sharp bursts, playing out in the sleek hotel suites and scruffy tourist haunts of a seaside locale, and across the psychological battlefield of a family dynasty.

Sundown is a mystery, but it's also a Rorschach test. No two people will see the film the same way.” – Variety

Short Films

Supreme Court Wing, Level 5, Theatrette in UOB Southeast Asia Gallery, National Gallery Singapore

The short film section consisted of personal works made by multidisciplinary artists Elysa Wendi, Min-Wei Ting and Robert Zhao over the past two years. They explored sensations relating to the transience and fragility of living in the physical or natural world. Each of the films investigated a different aspect of the subconscious reality of life in Singapore, and reminded us of the invisible forces of change that threaten erasure both on and off screen.

The short film programme ran from 2 to 31 October 2021, every Saturdays and Sundays between 3 – 7pm. While these films are not available online, read about them below.

By Elysa Wendi, 36min

While Elysa Wendi searched for a copy of her old dance solo performance from 1998, she found that her feelings resonated with the plight of the last Javan Rhino, which passed away in 2010 after walking in the forest alone for years. The film navigates her personal memories and broader questions of extinction from different perspectives.

By Min-Wei Ting, 40min

A sensorial journey of time and space, If For Nothing Else Than For Sunday presents a first-person walk through the Little India district of Singapore, punctuated by jumps in time. The camera looks, listens, and moves straight ahead, breaking the flow only to cut back and forth in time. It takes the viewer into streets and alleyways that are quiet and deserted one moment, before cutting to the same locations at a different time, bustling with migrant workers from Bangladesh and India who have gathered for relaxation, friendship and freedom on their day off. In doing so, for however brief and limited a time, they remake this space into a place of their own.

By Robert Zhao Renhui, 31min

On Dec 22 2019, thousands of birds appeared in front of the Robert Zhao Renhui’s home, darkening the sky and covering the open field next to a construction site. They were Asian openbill storks, birds foreign to Singapore and which had travelled a long way. Their appearance was a sign of something, but what of, Zhao was unsure.


Already one of the largest urbanised areas in the world, the Pearl River Delta continues to urbanise at an alarming rate. When Zhao first arrived in Shunde, Guangzhou, he was worried because he could not see or hear any birds for the first hour. Where had all the birds gone?

In recent years, birds have been used as indicators of possible changes in the environment. By looking closely at the types of birds and the number of birds, we can learn more about the current state of the environment.


The wetlands in Yalu River, Dan Dong, is an important bird migratory site for the godwit and great knot. These birds migrate between New Zealand, China, North Korea and Alaska every year. In fact, the godwit’s migratory flight is the longest nonstop migration of any bird in the world. As more wetlands and coasts in South Korea and China become concretised, the wetlands in Yalu River remains one of the last sanctuaries for these birds.

Zhao visited the estuary in April 2019, during the time of the migrations, and spent time talking to a researcher who tracked the numbers of birds. Every year, their numbers dwindle. Yet, to see the birds in flight was a spectacular sight, and witnessed by huge crowds of onlookers.

Public Programmes and Resources

The Gift was accompanied by a series of public programmes and resources, which included talks, guided trails and family-friendly activities. Find out more about these programmes below.

Art & Wellbeing

Art can help us to connect with our feelings, promote empathy, and show compassion to ourselves and others. This mindful journey through art [and] history explored slow-looking techniques and reflection.

Led by Danielle Gullotta from the Art Gallery of New South Wales (Australia), Professor Katherine Boydell from the Black Dog Institute (Australia) and Dr Lim Chye Hong from the Singapore Art Museum, Cross-Cultural Art Dose was an online art experience with well-being as its primary focus. These programmes were not recorded.

I: Tuning into Nature

Observing the natural world closely with all of our senses can have significant healing effects. Participants were offered a selection of artworks from The Gift, the Singapore Art Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, to discover how to focus their attention on being present.

Saturday, 25 September 2021

Online on Zoom


II: Give and Take

Taking time out to contemplate familiar relationships and shared experiences can nourish us physically and emotionally. Participants reflected on the acts of giving and taking through exploring a selection of artworks from The Gift, the Singapore Art Museum and the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Saturday, 2 October 2021

Online on Zoom


III: Embodiment

Viewing the body as an embodiment of memories helps us to become more aware of our ability to feel our experiences. Participants became more attuned to bodily sensations and developed their emotional awareness through an exploration of selected artworks from The Gift, the Singapore Art Museum as well as the Art Gallery of New South Wales.

Saturday, 9 October 2021

Online on Zoom



Collection and Connection was a series of talks that explored the role of gifts in global diplomacy across cultural boundaries. These gifts, exchanged within the context of institutions that acquire, conserve and exhibit the tangible and intangible heritage of humanity, have complex stories to tell.

The Giant Panda and The Power of Cute

Pandas are so adorable that it is difficult not to fall in love with them. Undeniably one of the most successful ambassadors that express China’s soft power, their cuteness has an immense hold on us. Beyond that, presenting pandas as gifts conveys notions of guanxi 关系 (connections), mingming 命名 (naming), and conservation. These values offer a glimpse of understanding self and others. Join Dr Graeme Smith from The Australian National University and Dr Lim Chye Hong from Singapore Art Museum as they shine a spotlight on panda mania.

Thursday, 21 October 2021

Online on Zoom


A gift is almost always bound up with anticipation. Unwrapping a gift—be it a physical or conceptual one—reveals feelings of reverence mixed with wonder, or even fear. SAM UNWRAPS invited two or more explorers of culture to team up to unpack, unveil, and unmask an artwork through their personal interpretations, whether verbal, visual and/or performative.

I: BRUCE NAUMAN | Yeow Kai Chai, and Sarah and Schooling

Experimenting with sound, film, video, photography, neon, language, performance and other media, American artist Bruce Nauman continually tests what an artwork can be. In this edition of SAM UNWRAPS, poet and editor Yeow Kai Chai, and graphic designers Sarah and Schooling took on his 1974 performance piece Body Pressure by teasing out the relationship between textual and visual narratives. Riffing on notions of deconstruction and reconstruction, Yeow wrote Under Pressure, an anagrammatic response to Nauman’s original script, using all 752 letters contained within it. In turn, Sarah and Schooling offered video outcomes of both Nauman’s and Kai Chai's texts using kinetic typography.

Thursday, 16 September 2021

Online on Zoom


Contrasting Memories—A Reading Group on Colonialism and Decolonialism

Takao Fusayama’s account of his time in Sumatra in A Japanese Memoir of Sumatra, 1945-1946: Love and Hatred in the Liberation War offers an intimate look into post-Independence era Indonesia. By 1945, the country had already experienced multiple changes in command—from the Dutch, to the Japanese, to the then newly-formed Indonesian government.

In contrast, Teresia K. Teaiwa’s paper “bikinis and other s/pacific n/oceans” focuses on the forced migration experienced by the citizens of Bikini Atoll. Between 1946 and 1958, the Marshall Islands atoll was used by the United States as a test site for nuclear weapons.

How might we gain a more nuanced understanding of the relations between the Indonesian, the Dutch and the Japanese communities during the liberation war in Indonesia, specifically in Sumatra? How might we articulate and relate to the trauma and dispossession of Pacific Islanders brought by American neo-colonialism? Must the notion of the gift always be read through the lens of expansive generosity, or might it be better understood as a dual-edged sword that could have unforeseen consequences?

Friday, 29 October 2021

Online on Zoom



Featuring selected artworks from The Gift, this trail presented guiding questions aimed at encouraging young people to think critically. The resource served as an introspective exercise: to contemplate, reflect and/or relate to our personal experiences. Alternatively, it could also be used to generate fruitful discussions with friends.

Read Educational Trail: Journey of Giving (PDF)

This workshop by artist and illustrator Candice Phang (also known as Puffingmuffin) explored the spirit of friendship (and how to draw cute characters!) through crafting a friendship card inspired by Donna Ong’s The Caretaker. The workshop aimed to teach children that the act of gifting is more than just a physical exchange.

Saturday, 4 September 2021

Online on Zoom


Artist and illustrator Candice Phang of Puffingmuffin led a hands-on workshop with children to craft a meaningful card that commemorated a lasting friendship. This workshop hoped to spread the spirit of friendship through crafts inspired by artist Donna Ong’s The Caretaker, an artwork featured in The Gift.

Thursday, 23 September 2021

Online on Zoom

Drama / Audio

Be enthralled by four fascinating stories plucked from across the space-time continuum. Some originate from Earth, others from dimensions beyond. Each dramatized tale presented a unique perspective that draws from themes of the exhibition. Feel free to listen to them in any order.

Steve The Suit

Written by Krish Natarajan, and performed by Krish Natarajan and Dennis Sofian. Music by Bennett Bay.
Read Transcript

The Grandma and The Mountain Spirit

Written by Krish Natarajan, and performed by Krish Natarajan and Grace Kalaiselvi. Music by Bennett Bay.
Read Transcript

The Impending Anniversary

Written by Krish Natarajan and performed by Tan Rui Shan. Music by Bennett Bay.
Read Transcript

The Alien Artefact Collector

Written by Krish Natarajan and performed by Dennis Sofian. Music by Bennett Bay.
Read Transcript