Conflict, Culture and Song

Jack Tan: Karaoke Court; image courtesy the artist

Are discord and disagreement necessarily divisive forces or can they be positive or formative – processes by which we learn to understand each other and move forward as a community? 


Artist Jack Tan, who trained as a lawyer, makes work that highlights the customs, rituals, habits and theories that guide human behaviour. Tan’s project Karaoke Court is a legally-binding karaoke dispute resolution process that draws on Greenlandic Inuit traditions of song duels, used to settle disputes. Tan will be in conversation with Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway, whose film Kuannersuit; Kvanefjeld focuses on issues of tensions and conflict within the small, mostly indigenous, community of Narsaq in southern Greenland.



Jack Tan uses law, social norms and customs as a way of making art. He creates performances, performatives, sculpture, video and participatory projects that highlight the rules that guide human behaviour. Recent projects include Karaoke Court (2014 – ongoing), his Singapore Biennale presentation Voices From The Courts examining the vocality of the State Courts of Singapore (2016), Law’s Imagination (2016) a curatorial residency at arebyte exploring legal aesthetics, his solo exhibition How to do things with rules (2015) at the ICA Singapore, and Closure (2012), a year-long residency and exhibition at the UK Department for Health looking at the liquidation of their social work quango.

Lise Autogena and Joshua Portway have worked together since the early nineties, developing large-scale multimedia installations, site-specific works and performances. In their work they have sought to transform aspects of cultural and technical history, which typically remains below the level of everyday consciousness, into a shared experience of open possibilities. Recent projects include Growing Cities Like Plants (2016), Black Shoals; Dark Matter (2016), Black Shoals Stock Market Planetarium (2000), and Most Blue Skies I + II: (2006-2012). In 2013 Autogena and Portway developed Foghorn Requiem, a requiem for a disappearing sound, performed by Souter Lighthouse foghorn, three brass bands and fifty ships on the North Sea.