A look at the why and how of this year's Stories That Matter

Objectifs’ annual programme focused on non-fiction visual storytelling is back this year with the theme of Myths. We speak to programmer Chelsea Chua on the choice of theme, and what audiences can expect from this year’s edition.

How did you decide on the theme MYTHS for Stories That Matter 2019?

When I started thinking about this year’s theme, it was from the position of how it’s often said that we now live in a ‘post-truth’ era. The fact is that we have always lived in a ‘post-truth’ era. Our understanding of reality has always been shaped by popular narratives, legends and urban myths, which goes far beyond what we read or see in news reports or social media. As such, our programme this year seeks to explore the complex ways in which myths have informed and influenced our perceptions throughout time.

The photography and film works featured in the programme explore the theme of Myths in inventive and unexpected ways. Is formal experimentation a strong consideration for you when programming, and if so, why? 

It was important that this year’s programme not only look at myths in a topical sense, but also in a formal sense, in that it gives a starting point from which to question narrative structures and ways of seeing. When we talk about representation in documentary, it’s often within the framework of ethics, but the documentary work that I find most interesting is one that creatively re-imagines reality to present a new point of view.

ICONS by Jojakiim Cortin and Adrian Sonderegger, which is being presented as part of our outdoor exhibition, does precisely this, in the artists’ humorous questioning of what it means to capture the ‘decisive moment’, if iconic photographs can be re-created within the confines of a studio. Many of the films that we are showing also play with form; the hybridity of Ex-shaman, Island of the Hungry Ghosts and Snakeskin brings tension to the line between non-fiction and fiction, but it’s used to incredibly meaningful effect to drive home the filmmaker’s point of view.

How did Kelvin Kyung Kun Park’s work come to your attention?

We’re excited to have Kelvin Park in Singapore for a seminar and a post-screening discussion with Singapore artist Loo Zihan.

We were firstly impressed by how Park’s documentary film, Army, presented a no-holds barred portrayal of a young man’s experience serving in South Korean military, which immediately parallels the Singaporean experience. The film not only looked at the young man’s own experience, but also became a lens through which Park recounted and reflected on his own time in the military. This made the film much more complex and nuanced; to build an army is to create and enforce a collective identity, but at what cost to the individual?

This preoccupation with identity runs through Park’s body of work (A Dream of Iron, 30,000 Portraits), particularly how it is bound up with military and industry, and how the individual struggles to define itself within the collective. Park also very adroitly straddles the line between the visual arts and filmmaking, which is something very few practitioners can claim to do well.

This is the fourth year that Objectifs is presenting Stories That Matter. In your view, how has the programme evolved from year to year?

This year has many more opportunities for our audience to be part of the dialogue we hope to generate around the programme, through post-screening discussions and panel discussions about the artworks and films. In Myth-making/Art-making, four Singapore artists will speak about how their work disrupts or takes inspiration from contemporary and traditional mythology, while in Myth and Image, Robert Zhao Renhui and Ore Huiying will speak about the construction of images from two very different perspectives on photography.

Stories That Matter 2019: Myths runs at Objectifs from 27 Feb to 14 Apr. View the full programme on our website to purchase your screening and seminar tickets, and RSVP to free events now.