Interview with Cynthia Delaney Suwito

Born in 1993, Indonesia, Cynthia Delaney Suwito deals with concepts from her daily activities, while questioning the acceptance of these activities or routines imbedded in our culture. Her past works have included the application of a travel visa, the importance of instant noodles and the clock, creating a conversation of the daily objects that goes by unnoticed.

Her works have been exhibited in various places in Singapore. Such as “A American in Singapore 1960-70 (2015)” at Brother Joseph McNally Gallery, the “Orang Suku Laut: Trading Sea for Land (2015)” at National Museum Singapore and “Little India Art Walk(2015)” as part of Singapore Art week at Kerbau Road, Singapore. She was also a finalist at the “Harpers’ Bazaar Art Prize (2015)” at Robinsons, Heeren.


Q Could you please explain about your latest work? 

A My latest work is called “Holding Breath.” It is based on a made up theory that if you hold your breath you are giving away the oxygen that you are suppose to use for someone else to use. The work is set up in a manner where participants come and donate oxygen by holding their breath for as long as possible. Though the theory rings a plausible truth, it is still unproven causing the time and effort given while holding breath to be either useful or wasteful, causing a reflection on whether the time and effort was worth it.

Q I feel that you take on different roles in your works like a future archaeologist, a postman or a theoretician. 

A I never really felt that way. For the future archeologist, I have always felt like I have created a fictional character rather than seeing myself as the character. But it is true that in order to create a character and bring it to life I have to place myself in their shoes and pretend to be them. My role in my works will always be the artist, I don’t think I can ever consider myself as another profession in them as each profession have need their own knowledge, skills and training which I do not have.

Q What notions of time do you feel is important to you?

A The notion of time was not important for me at the start but it seems to always appear in my work to a certain extent. Now I find interest in the notion because of how ubiquitous it is even though it is something intangible. We treat it as important and always existing when the word time itself was a concept made by people and there was a time very long ago when the word and the idea didn’t exist.

Q Is it possible to have more than a singular interpretation of your work?

A To myself, there is only one interpretation but it is possible for other viewers to think of it as another. For “holding breath”, some think of it as a environmental work because of the idea of saving oxygen. People have different perspective and different approach to looking creating a diverse opinion to things and that’s okay.

Q By taking inspirations from your everyday life, do expect your audience to be able to relate to your work better and how so?

A The reason I take inspiration from everyday life is because everyday life inspires me. I feel that art making and thinking is part of everyday and I hope the audience can see that from seeing my work.

Q Are there any artists or authors that you find have shaped your work from the past few years?

A Artist that inspire me a lot are Francis Alys, Tintin Wulia, Sophie Calle and On Kawara.

Q What made you want to come to Singapore to study arts?

A I wanted to try to live alone in a new country and at the same time stay close to my family, that is why Singapore seems like a good choice.

Q For the past few years, there has been a growing interest in Indonesian arts in Singapore with many talks and workshops. Is there any Indonesian artist that you associate well with or enjoy?

A One of my lecturers in university is an Indonesian, Betty Susiarjo have been helping me for the past few years; giving me advice, mentoring and opening opportunities. I would say she is the closest Indonesian artist I associate with. Another memorable one is a 3-day workshop with Tintin Wulia a few years ago, she was very bright and courageous, her personality is very inspiring for me.


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