Exploring the world through art: Prof Ute Meta Bauer

Credit: Christine Fenzl.

“The future of universities lies in knowledge exchange among their experts and across disciplines,” says Prof Ute Meta Bauer, Founding Director of the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art (NTU CCA), who uses art as a communication tool to bring social, cultural, political and environmental issues to the attention of policymakers and the public.

Before joining NTU in 2013, Prof Bauer was Founding Director of the Programme in Art, Culture and Technology, as well as Director of the Visual Arts Programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s (MIT) School of Architecture and Planning.

She has worked as a curator over three decades—most notably as co-curator of Documenta11 (Vienna, Berlin, New Delhi, St Lucia, Lagos and Kassel, 2001-2002); artistic director of the 3rd Berlin Biennale for Contemporary Art (2004); co-director of the first World Biennial Forum, Gwangju, South Korea (2012); and co-curator of the US Pavilion at the 56th Venice Biennale (2015), featuring artist Joan Jonas that received a special honourable mention.

In Singapore, Prof Bauer and her NTU CCA team recently curated a public art trail and education programme called “Culture City, Culture Scape”, which featured art installations of internationally renowned talents that were integrated into the landscape and architecture of Mapletree Business City II, one of Singapore’s newest and most prominent business hubs.

She also facilitated Quadra Medicinale Singapore, the Singapore edition of a conceptual art project by the late artist Jef Geys, which investigates wild flowers in multiple cities around the world. Through artwork and educational workshops, the exhibition shared the ecological and medicinal value of simple street plants or weeds, which are usually overlooked and not seen as useful elements of urban environments.

“The potential of curating—making information visible in a spatial way—lies in its very intuitive way of reaching out to people, in particular to audiences that are not experts in a given field,” says Prof Bauer, who is also a professor at NTU’s School of Art, Design and Media, where she teaches contemporary art and its relation to curatorial practices.

Through programmes that range from exhibitions and public programmes to research, academic education and artist residencies, NTU CCA translates expert knowledge to the wider public as well as to policymakers to assist them in understanding the multifaceted realities of our world.

“Art is a medium to tell stories,” says Prof Bauer. “I want NTU CCA to be a stimulator, a connectome. We seek to bring different elements together, from various places, disciplines and audiences.”

The article appeared first in NTU’s research & innovation magazine Pushing Frontiers (issue #15, June 2019). 

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