Ho Tzu Nyen (Singapore) on Mythical Tigers and Southeast Asia’s Communist Legacy, with guests Max-Philip Aschenbrenner (dramaturge, Vienna) and Robert Wessing (scholar and anthropologist, Amsterdam).

How do (im)mortal tigers continuously haunt the history and imagination of Malaya?

The philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm von Leibniz once claimed animals were incapable of death because the monads of which they are composed are continually reorganized into new beings. Animals, or “divine machines” as Leibniz called them, resemble immortal souls.

Ho Tzu Nyen follows the millenary path and the manifold metamorphoses of the mythical Malayan tiger, which continues to haunt Southeast Asia’s colonial and Communist histories. 10,000 Tigers trail begins with the central role of this animal in the cosmology and ecology of the Malayan world, followed by its near extinction in the age of colonialism.

The physical death of a tiger brings about its spectral returns in a number of unexpected forms, such as Japanese soldiers of the Second World War or guerillas of the Malayan Communist Party. The tiger’s trail leads deep into a fog-filled forest of shape-shifting symbols, a zone where the distinction between man and animal, hunter and the hunted, dissolves.

Co-commissioned by Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, 10,000 Tigers is a fragment of Ho Tzu Nyen´s Critical Dictionary of Southeast Asia, an atlas of motifs weaving across a region of bewildering pluralism, and is presented as part of an ongoing residency with Asia Art Archive.

10,000 Tigers is also part of Ho Tzu Nyen’s preparatory process for Ten Thousand Tigers, a live performance co-commissioned by Wiener Festwochen (Vienna Festival) and Carriageworks (Sydney) for presentations in 2014.