HUMAN OF THE WEEK ⋆ DIVA AGAR
This week’s Human of the Week features Diva Agar, a Singapore-based visual artist. They go by ‘he’, ‘she’, and ‘they’ pronouns. Diva Agar’s practice explores the relationships between desires and spaces through installation, space-making and performance. They work at the intersections of bodies, identities and environments, proposing alternative economies and ecologies through engaging with localities, methods of display and re-routing gazes.
Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours) in Fine Arts from LASALLE College of the Arts in 2018, Diva has exhibited both locally and internationally since 2010. They have had two solo presentations thus far; Between a rock and a hard place, as part of a Summer residency in Untitled Space (Shanghai) and The Soul Lounge, soft/WALL/studs (Singapore). Other notable exhibitions include Not the norm: On conjugal blisses and misses, Goodman Arts Centre (Singapore), The Lands Of, The Reef (Los Angeles), and Space Oddities, The Substation (Singapore). They also work as a freelance interior decorator and designer.
We spoke with Diva and asked them a few questions about their life and work:
As an artist, what topics are you concerned with?
I’m interested in spaces, and their relationships to people. I think, especially in thinking of the formation of spaces, what that can possibly include/exclude especially in terms of sexuality, race and behaviour.
What are the inspirations behind your work?
In terms of content, I’m influenced by the environments around me. I think a lot of it stems from observing my surroundings and listening to the people who inhabit them. As for the more visual elements of my works, I’m inspired a lot by camp, interior design and architecture.
What aspect of creating art do you value the most?
In a few projects I’ve done, I’ve been able to create environments of empathy. Art can seem purely aesthetic sometimes, but I think it has the ability to create spaces for engaging difficult and necessary issues.
Tell us about your ⋆ recent work - The Sun Rises in Molten Gold. What's the story behind it?
This performance was the third in the series Contemplation/Reclamation. In each edition, we were responding to the exhibition we were performing in, and often in response to specific works. For this performance, it was in response to the exhibition 2219: Futures Imagined by the Art Science Museum, in which we were invited by Priyageetha Dia, who also participated in that exhibition.
For this performance, we were responding to many of the works that speculated upon many futures, but we couldn’t find ourselves in most of the exhibition, except in things meant to simulate relics of the past. In response, we featured our individual voices and bodies in imagining futures for ourselves, responding to our present, and finding comfort through this collaboration.
Contemplation/Reclamation: The sun rises in molten gold, presented as an performance activation for 2219: Futures Imagined, Art Science Museum, in 2020
If you had no limits (of time, resources, or space), and you can create anything you want; what would you like to create?
Honestly, I wouldn’t know where to start. I think a lot of good things come from restraint and I can’t imagine making a lot of work without that learned sense of resourcefulness. I’d use this opportunity to build a house instead probably.
What was your process of self-discovery like? Both as an artist and as an individual?
Without delving into too much detail, I’ve always known who I am and what I want to do, but didn’t have the confidence to speak it into existence. Confidence comes with age and a great support system so I’m grateful to have been given that. I’m very headstrong, and I can be very critical to myself, so learning to become aware of what you can and can’t control was very freeing for me, in both my personal and professional life.
Who are some (local or international) queer artists/creatives that you follow or look up to?
Tania De Rozario, Khairullah Rahim, Norah Lea, Zeha H., Godwin Koay, and Denise Yap. There are a lot more but these are some of the ones closest in proximity!
Diva Agar in Contemplation/Reclamation: The sun rises in molten gold
Diva is definitely one to watch. From our short exchange over email, we already felt, through their words, the passion they had for their work in the arts, and wished we could have spoken with them in person over coffee instead. Diva Agar is a shining young talent in Singapore’s arts scene, and their artistic commitment and achievements are remarkable and inspiring.