Shubigi Rao

Born in Bombay, India. Lives and works in Singapore.

Artist and writer Shubigi Rao makes layered installations of books, etchings, drawings, pseudo-scientific machines, metaphysical puzzles, video works, ideological board games, and archives. These often immersive and tongue-in-cheek works demonstrate her diverse interests in subjects such as archaeology, neuroscience, libraries, archival systems, histories and lies, literature and violence, ecologies, and natural history. Her current texts, video, photographs and artworks concern ecological and human interactions through the movements of objects and language. She looks at multiple historical and contemporary crises to plot cascading effects – from the celebration of scientific ignorance as a cultural right, to the ascendancy of certain language forms dovetailing with cultural exports as ‘softer’ imperial expansionism. These flashpoints are perspectival shifts to examining contemporary crises of displacement, whether of people, languages, cultures, or species. It also addresses a key argument in her current research – that current geo-politics is invariably influenced by language, cultural shifts and destruction in a proportion often underplayed in history. Her current decade-long film, book, and art project, Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book, is about the history of book destruction. The first portion of the project, Written in the Margins won the Juror's Choice Award at the triennial APB Signature Art Prize 2018. The first book from the project was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize (non-fiction) 2018, and won numerous awards, including AIGA (New York)’s 50 best books of 2016, a D&AD Pencil for design, Certificate of Typographic Excellence, from Type Directors Club, New York, and was included in ‘Best books from Singapore in 2016’ (Business Times Singapore).

Rao graduated from Delhi University, India, with a BA (Hons) in English Literature, and a BA (First Class) and MA in Fine Arts (First Class) from LASALLE College of the Arts, Singapore. She recently completed a residency at Khoj International Artists’ Association, New Delhi, India, and at Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany. She has presented solo exhibitions at Objectifs Centre for Photography and Film, Singapore; Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany; Grey Projects, Singapore; and the Institute of Contemporary Arts Singapore. She has also recently participated in notable group exhibitions at National Museum of Singapore; Villa Vassilieff, Paris, France; DUCTAC, Dubai; Sundaram Tagore Gallery, Singapore; Curating Lab, NUS Museum, Singapore; Bermondsey Gallery, London, UK; and NTU-CCA, Singapore. Rao has also been featured at international biennials and festivals such as the March Meets 2019 as part of the 14th Sharjah Biennial, 4th Kochi Biennale, India (2018), 10th Taipei Biennial, Taipei, Taiwan (2016); 3rd Pune Biennale, Pune, India (2017); Singapour Mon Amour, Paris, France (2015); Digital Arts Festival, Copenhagen, Denmark (2013); and the 2nd Singapore Biennale, Singapore (2008).

Her publications include Pulp II: A Visual Bibliography of the Banished Book (2018), Written in the Margins (2017); Pulp: A Short Biography of the Banished Book, Vol. I of V (2016); and History’s Malcontents: The Life and Times of S. Raoul (2013) chronicling ten years of artwork and writing under the pseudonym S. Raoul, Useful Fictions (2013), three pseudo-art history books (2006), Bastardising Biography (2005), and a number of limited edition artist books. Rao has also authored numerous essays and reviews and regularly conducts talks and performance-lectures. She was a featured writer at the Singapore Writer’s Festival (2018, 2016, 2013).

Her recent newly commissioned films were featured in the 4th Kochi-Muziris Biennale, India, in December 2018, and in Asian Film Archive’s State of Motion, Singapore, in January 2019. Rao is also currently filming a new instalment of her Pulp project. The third volume of Pulp will be released in 2021.

Shubigi Rao was recently named the Artistic Director for the 5th edition of the Kochi-Muziris Biennale 2020.

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