Singapore’s National Arts Council announced today that Zai Kuning will represent its country at the 2017 Venice Biennale. June Yap, the first curator for the Guggenheim Museum’s UBS MAP Global Art Initiative, will organize the pavilion.
Zai, the son of a Malay-Muslim father and a Chinese mother, typically examines the collision of differing cultures in his work, in various mediums. While that may sound like a broad topic, Zai’s work is usually fairly specific in its approach, sometimes taking as its inspiration elements of Malay history and culture.
For the Venice Biennale, Zai will stage a project called Dapunta Hyang, which borrows its name from Dapunta Hyang Sri Jayanasa, the first Maharaja of the Srivijaya region. The work will go into the early history of the Malay language, though it’s still unclear what medium Zai will use for this project. He has been researching the topic for the past few years.
“Zai’s proposal stood out strongly, as it spotlights forgotten stories of a people whose culture influenced what we recognize as Southeast Asian today,” Kathy Lai, the CEO of the National Arts Council, said in a statement. “The uncovering of forgotten histories will, I believe, strike a chord with the international audience at the Venice Biennale.”