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​Young Artist Award: ALECIA NEO

Published on: 20-Oct-2016

​Straits Times

Published: Oct 4, 2016, 5:00 am SGT

Relationships are at the heart of Alecia Neo's work. The photographer creates installations that lets viewers experience life through someone else's eyes.

Her debut project, Villa Alicia (2011), allowed the public into the soon-to-be-demolished home of late Singaporean feminist Nalla Tan. It was an intimate encounter with Dr Tan's history and her battle with Alzheimer's disease.

Neo says: "The work was important because she was a critical and strong voice for women in society, and her voice had been largely forgotten. For me, the work came alive through the audience's presence and the meaning they derived from their experience in the space and the meeting of others."

Most striking are her Unseen series of photographs. The first was showcased at the M1 Fringe in 2013 and led viewers into the everyday world of visually impaired people in Singapore and Taipei.

In 2014, the Singapore Art Museum commissioned her to create Unseen: Touch Field, a sensory experience that included Braille drawings, sound and video.

And last year, Objectifs Gallery showcased Unseen: Constellations. Visually disabled students under Neo's guidance created immersive experiences to share their hopes and dreams.

Neo says: "I would like to think of myself as an artist working with people. Relationships are at the heart of all the work that I do."

No wonder, given her upbringing. Her father owns a hardware store and she grew up "watching him build a community around his work". Her housewife mother influenced her with the thought and care with which she relates to people.

Neo studied at Nanyang Technological University's School of Art, Design and Media. She has also done overseas residencies, including in Biella, Italy.

She plans to use the grant of up to $20,000 from the Young Artist Award for a new project about education and climate change. She wants to start people thinking about "excessive consumption and waste, which are largely invisible in our daily life".

She adds: "I am most interested in understanding how an artist can potentially contribute in generating shifts or transformation in society through negotiating difference."

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