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One Tiger or Another


Featuring a cannon, a contemporary video installation, eighteenth-century paintings and contemporary comic books, this exhibition explores history as the product of both fact and fiction.

Curated by Tom Eccles and Mark Rappolt, One Tiger or Another places a CGI animation by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen (b. 1976) alongside artefacts relating to the legend of Tipu Sultan, the eighteenth-century ruler also known as “the Tiger of Mysore,” one of the most famous and polarising figures in South Asian history.

Expanding on themes introduced by Ho’s two-channel video, One or Several Tigers, 2018, and anchored by the story of Tipu Sultan, the exhibition explores the creative potential of art and media as a means of storytelling and the shaping and reshaping of identity. It also questions the boundaries between fact and fiction and between coloniser and colonised, and it looks at how the same story can be told and retold. In doing so, it challenges the idea that both history and art are about fixed and stable perspectives and conventional notions of centres and peripheries of power.

More about the exhibition

Our story begins with Tipu Sultan [Sultan Fateh Ali Sahab Tipuor (1750–99) also known as the “Tiger of Mysore”], a figure who, over time, has been variously celebrated as a hero of Indian resistance to British colonialism and a cruel tyrant, bringing an alien religion and customs to the people under his care.

For some, his death at the hands of the British during their sacking of his capital Seringapatam, in Mysore, in 1799 is a moment to be celebrated, for others it is a tragedy to be mourned.

These contrasting opinions are traced through exquisite objects commissioned or owned by Tipu during his reign through to ephemera from more contemporary cultures that perpetuate one or another reading of his mythology. These objects range from the preparatory studies, dating from 1780–84, for a mural commissioned by Tipu to decorate his palace and celebrate his victory over the British at the Battle of Pollilur (1780), weapons promoting his identity as the Tiger of Mysore, twentieth-century postage stamps and comic books celebrating Tipu as a hero of independence and British cigarette cards illustrating the taming of the tiger over a century after his death.

Among these more recent artefacts is a souvenir paper model of the famous ‘Tipu’s Tiger’ automaton, a prized possession of Tipu Sultan from London’s Victoria & Albert Museum and perhaps one of the most celebrated objects in British museum collections. The original carved and painted wood casing represents a tiger savaging a near life-size European soldier.

By contrast, One or Several Tigers, a two-channel video work by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen (b. 1976) explores different versions of tiger mythology in Southeast Asia. The work takes its inspiration from a nineteenth-century print by Heinrich Leutemann titled Interrupted Road Surveying in Singapore, which, based on an event from 1835, captures (the imagined) moment in which a road survey is interrupted by a tiger attack.

On the one hand the scene might symbolise the moment at which modernity arrived to tame Singapore’s wild nature; on the other hand one might view it as the moment Singapore’s nature fought back. Ho’s interpretation explores the shifting shape of the tiger in national mythmaking, in the indigenous mythologies of Malaya and the seemingly opposite mythologies of the colonial, civilising and modernist urge.

Along the way difference becomes repetition, facts blend into fictions, the boundaries between what is human and what is non-human blur. What is the difference, we are left thinking, between one tiger and another?

A Rubaiyat Qatar Exhibition

Rubaiyat Qatar is a quadrennial exhibition that will explore the nature of art in its broadest possible sense. With pop-up exhibitions ahead of its inaugural 2024 edition.

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