2 or 3
Tigers

Edited by Anselm Franke and Hyunjin Kim

This website presents a range of mostly newly written texts in relation to the exhibition 2 or 3 Tigers. Departing from the symbolic uses and iconographies of tigers in modernity, several articles discuss particular artworks in and beyond the exhibition while others delve more deeply into historiographies of colonialism and modernization processes. Texts by artists, art historians, and writers of other disciplines outline subterranean histories in the shadow of geopolitical divides, militarization, the mobilization of tradition, and changing conceptions of media, and provide a critical analysis of political and cultural contexts where the actual presence and the mythology of tigers are historically entangled.

The Tiger and the
Theodolite:
George Coleman’s
Dream of Extinction

Kevin Chua

Taking an engraving of George Coleman surveying deep in the jungle of nineteenth-century Singapore as its starting point, this essay—published here in a slightly abridged version—examines global capitalism on the frontier, the figure of the tiger in the British colonial imaginary, and the ways in which the Malay weretiger unravels the relationship between colonizer and colonized, human and animal, tradition and modernity.

Unruly Mediations

Anselm Franke

The term “medium” carries considerably more facets than the current use of (communication) media allows for—from invisible transmissions between organisms and their environments to a condition of being-in-a-medium, bound by a common language. Taking up this thread, the essay reads the works of Ho Tzu Nyen and Chia-Wei Hsu as putting forward an expanded notion of media and mediality against the backdrop of colonial modernity. Their juxtaposition of “old” and “new” media points to the colonial unconscious undergirding their separation, but it also stresses that the colonial assault on non-modern cosmographies and non-capitalist economies, is ongoing and intensifying.

Every Cat in History is I

Ho Tzu Nyen

Cats have played a vital—and viral—role in the history of Singapore, from the lion as mythical founding figure to the culling of cats in the wake of the SARS epidemic in 2003. Lions, tigers, and other cats have experienced myriads of metaphorical appearances, linked to diseases, communists, colonialists—and even becoming the national mascot. “Every Cat in History is I” traces the ways in which these metaphors have been employed to serve strategic interests of identity- and nation-building.

The Mind and the Body:
A Chinaman’s Chance

James T. Hong

Western understanding of the world is based on a few fundamental tenets, such as free will and truth. Employing metaphors of spiritual and corporeal illness this essay probes into these tenets, reading them against the grain and holding them up against notions of the East such as harmony and—as concerns China in particular—sameness. If people do not differ individually, might not their nation-state—by differing from a wavering USA—stand out?

On a Possible Passing from the Digital to the Symbolic

Yuk Hui

It is often said that the symbolic no longer holds its proper place in a digitalized world, which having lost its contact to nature relies completely on signs. This essay, however, suggests a passing from the digital to the symbolic through a reflection on the notion of cosmotechnics.

A Thousand Asian Tigers:
Contested Modernity and the Image of History

Hyunjin Kim

The tiger occupies and embodies the spaces in between the human and the animal, between conquering and venerating nature. Furthermore, if considered such an embodiment of liminality, the tiger is in a perpetual state of becoming. Based on this proposition, the essay analyzes the works of this exhibition against the background of Asian societies in-between becoming and unraveling, with the tiger being the medium, fused with the image of resistance, valor, and nationalistic spirituality by the colonized people.

The Phantom of
“Minjok Art”

Park Chan-kyong

Categorizing “Oriental” art, in our times of enduring cultural colonization, is not an easy task. Traditional or, for that matter, national art, may prove an effective antidote to Western culture ruling over the world. And while, on the other hand, the critique of “Orientalism” is certainly legitimate, an Orientalist perspective may help the “Oriental” artist to define his own attitude. Taking Korea as its point of departure, this essay endeavors to disentangle the different strands of traditional, national, and post-Orientalist art to reach a more differentiated picture of these terms.

Three Tigers

Filipa Ramos

Three Tigers considers three artistic renderings of tiger‒human encounters—Heinrich Leutemann’s lithograph Road Surveying Interrupted in Singapore (c.1885), Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s film Tropical Malady (2004), and Phillip Warnell’s film Ming of Harlem (2014)—to investigate the entanglement of human‒animal relations at the crossroads of cultural and environmental histories. I will take into consideration the relations these animal-images establish with the sites they occupy and with those who traverse them—how Road Surveying Interrupted in Singapore depicts a leaping tiger surprising an urban planner and his team; how in Tropical Malady a weretiger haunts his feverish lover across the jungle; and how Ming, a Bengal tiger, becomes one with the house that hosts him—echoing Donna Haraway’s appeal to make kin across species and beings and constitute zones of refuge where these alliances can become stronger.