Asha Prihar

Christa Donner and Andrew Yang — multidisciplinary artists who focus on art that relates to people’s relationships with the natural world — will be Yale-NUS’s inaugural artists-in-residence.

The Singapore-based liberal arts college announced the program in a January press release. According to the press release, the program will last three years, with five additional artists joining incrementally until the end of its run in 2022. Among the program’s goals is to encourage engagement between the artists and the community to cultivate a vibrant arts community in Singapore. The college intends to feature artists who work in a variety of disciplines ranging from film and installation art to theater and photography. Donner and Yang, who practice a variety of media, plan on collaborating extensively in their work in addition to co-teaching a course at the college.

“At Yale-NUS, we are investigating the garden as a cultural form through two lenses: the Chinese Scholar’s Garden and its contemplative power as a place of individual imagination, where the relationships between human and more-than-human realms are pictured in a classical sense, and community gardens as sites of everyday interpersonal and interspecies intimacy created through the cultivation gardens as small ecosystems,” Donner and Yang wrote in an email to the News. “Singapore is an ideal place to do this, since the entire country has been developed as [a] city-in-a-garden in its own right.”

In the past, they have worked on projects that merge their interests in biology and interview-based zines.

The pair wrote in their email that there is an “urgent need and opportunity” for humans to reconsider their relationships with the environment, given current threats like climate change and mass extinctions. They added that the visual arts allow for observers to engage ecology and the environment, a concept they hope to explore through gardens.

Yale-NUS Dean of Faculty Jeannette Ickovics was quoted in the press release saying that the college believes in innovating to benefit students and Singapore through new means of exploration.

Donner and Yang added that artists pursue positions like theirs at Yale-NUS for the opportunity to explore creative work that would not otherwise emerge. They hope to activate awareness of “extraordinary things” that day-to-day life relegates to the background. In doing so, they hope to further interrogate the relationship between humans and their environment.

Vice Provost for Global Strategy Pericles Lewis, who served as the school’s first president from 2012–17, emphasized the importance of the arts in the Yale-NUS curriculum.

“The art studios, dance studios, maker spaces, performance hall and music practice rooms all provide great support for the arts, and I have been delighted to see how Yale-NUS has engaged both Singaporean and international artists in working with students across the campus,” Lewis said.

Yale-NUS plans on welcoming its next round of artists-in-residence this August.

John Besche | john.besche@yale.edu