“Imaginarium”: 9 artists explore new ways of seeing and experiencing the world at SAM

Held as part of its family-focused programme, the Singapore Art Museum supports the life-changing capacities of art.

Art Radar speaks with Co-curator Andrea Fam and examines some of the highlights of the exhibition “Imaginarium”.

Children checking out the 'Floating Mountain'. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Children checking out the ‘Floating Mountain’. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

From 6 May to 27 August 2017 the Singapore Art Museum holds the exhibition “Imaginarium: To the Ends of the Earth” as part of the seventh edition of their family-focused programme. The exhibition focuses on the evolving, ever changing environment around us, considering how humans are more connected than ever and yet take the earth’s resources for granted.

The show involves site-specific adaptations and specially commissioned artworks from nine artists from the region, extending across South, Southeast and East Asia. Several of the works are interactive, encouraging visitors to delve further into the themes of the exhibition.

Child at 'Lizard Tail' installation. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Child at ‘Lizard Tail’ installation. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Recognising the importance of education

Interactivity, as well as special activities such as short films and immersive storytelling sessions, are aimed at increasing engagement from young audiences. As Co-curator Andrea Fam observes about the importance of engaging with these young audiences,

Coming to museums and visiting exhibitions from a young age would signal a generation of future art-appreciators. But more than that, it could signal a society more in touch with the world at large.

Art Radar had a chat with Andrea Fam about the role of education in the art context.

Why is it important to have education programmes in the museum context and what role does art play in education?

Education programmes, within the framework of museums and museum exhibitions, present visitors with different entry points into understanding contemporary issues and appreciating culture through art.

The programmes and education team at Singapore Art Museum create content to supplement and facilitate the understanding of the concepts behind the exhibitions and/or contemporary artworks. One such example of content creation can be seen in this year’s Imaginarium Ranger’s Handbook. With activities tied to every artwork in the exhibition, this handbook acts as an extension to the exhibition and encourages visitors to continue to think about the works on display even after their museum visit.

Parent and child at the 'Lizard Tail' activity corner. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Parent and child at the ‘Lizard Tail’ activity corner. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Art plays a critical role in education by introducing to audiences a variety of themes through an array of mediums.

For Singapore Art Museum’s annual family-friendly “Imaginarium” exhibition, we curate contemporary artworks around ‘big ideas’, such as the ocean in 2016 with “Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea” and our relationships with ever-changing environments this year, with “Imaginarium: To the Ends of the Earth”. In these exhibitions, visitors find themselves immersed in tactile and interactive artworks that present alternative ways of thinking about the ocean around us or the land on which we tread.

Through these interactive exhibits, hands-on workshops and accompanying educational programmes, children take ownership of their learning process as they grow and explore their curiosities. Art plays an important role in opening people’s minds to different ideas and perspectives that could be relevant to their lives. This helps to lay the foundation for higher critical and creative thinking skills, which are integral to their individual and collective growth.

Hiromi Tango. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Hiromi Tango. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Could you explain a bit about the Children’s Season, how it came about and why it is an important initiative especially in Singapore?

Over the years, the National Heritage Board (NHB) has been working with different organisations and partners to put in place several initiatives to make the museums and heritage spaces more accessible, and inclusive, to all visitors. Coupled with the launch of the Children’s Biennale this year, there are increasingly more art programmes that are aimed at a young audience. “Imaginarium” is SAM’s annual family-focused exhibition, which overlaps with NHB’s Children Season. The exhibition invites explorers of all ages to take a closer look at our surroundings and the environments we reside in through immersive, tactile and interactive artworks. Often featuring site-specific adaptations and specially commissioned artworks, “Imginarium” invites visitors to explore the world through the eyes of contemporary artists.

Why is it important to get audiences engaged with museum exhibitions from an early age?

We believe that by engaging with the arts from a young age, we give minds (both young and mature) the opportunity to unearth different ways of seeing, feeling, doing and knowing.

Laotian artist Bounpaul Phothyzan’s Lie of the Land, currently on show in “Imaginarium”, is the perfect example of how art can be used as a vehicle to present more complex notions of geography, history, contestation and the human spirit. Lie of the Land features the shells of two decommissioned bombs that have been converted into planters. The work presented the artist with the opportunity to highlight how Laos is the most heavily-bombed country in the world simply due to its geographical location yet in the face of adversity, the human condition finds a way to not just heal but to grow.

Nine highlights from “Imaginarium”

The nine artists in the exhibition each view changing environments from a number of perspectives. Here Art Radar highlights the works on display at “Imaginarium”.

1. Bounpaul Phothyzan

Laotian artist Bounpaul Phothyzan (b. 1979) trained in painting, but his practice has since evolved to include land art, performance and installation art. Issues of environmental degradation run through his work. In an interview with ArtAsiaPacific, he explains:

People claim to be cutting down trees to sustain their livelihood, but it is not necessarily the case anymore. It has become an excuse for their commercial agendas… In the case of Laos, if one province is cutting and burning trees, it will also affect neighboring countries. Our actions are not just limited to ourselves, but will affect others.

Bounpaul Phothyzan, Lie of the Land, 2017. Image courtesy Singapore Art Museum.

Bounpaul Phothyzan, ‘Lie of the Land’, 2017. Image courtesy the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

In this exhibition, Phothyzan shows the work Lie of the Land (2017), in which metal bombshells have been repurposed as planters filled with flowers and shrubs. The piece questions Laos’ history as one of the most bombed countries and at the same time, recognises the resilience of humans and their environment.

2. Hiromi Tango

Hiromi Tango (b. 1976) is a Japanese-Australian sculptor, photographer, installation and performance artist. Recently her interests lie in investigating neuroscientific concepts through art, with the aim of creating a space for increased healing and well-being.

Hiromi Tango, 'Lizard Tail', 2016, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf.

Hiromi Tango, ‘Lizard Tail’, 2016, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Sullivan+Strumpf.

In the piece Lizard Tail (2016), Tango creates a colourful and interactive soft-sculpture environment. The work explores concepts of adaptation, taking as a starting point many lizards’ ability to shed their tail when in danger. This process of regrowth demonstrates a spirit of hope and healing in the face of challenges.

3. Calvin Pang

Singaporean artist Calvin Pang (b. 1986) has a 3D art practice, as well as documenting his practice through photographs, drawings and words. He explores the ordinary in everyday life, ranging from individual experiences to encounters with others.

Calvin Pang, 'Where Am I' (detail), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Calvin Pang, ‘Where Am I’ (detail), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

The recent work Where Am I (2017) investigates the fast pace of the modern world and the overwhelming amount of information to which people are exposed. The whimsical piece displays colourful mushrooms, observing that magic can be found in unexpected places. Through close observation, Pang urges the viewer to slow down and become more aware of and curious about the world around us.

4. Nandita Mukand

Indian-born and Singapore-based Nandita Mukand (b. 1975) examines themes of connection and spirituality through an attention to nature and materiality within her practice. She often looks at the relationship between city dwellers and the natural world, questioning how urban life impacts the way people see the world.

Nandita Mukand, 'The Unborn', 2017. Image courtesy of Pragya Bhargava.

Nandita Mukand, ‘The Unborn’, 2017. Image courtesy of Pragya Bhargava.

The Origin: The Tree and Me (2017) is a site-specific installation inspired by trees along Singapore’s East Coast Park, where the trees carry stories of generations. The other work, The Unborn (2017), was inspired by plants at the other end of the spectrum, and is made up of 25,000 seeds and pods she gathered in Spain. The seeds tell the story of hope for a future and the potential for new life.

5. Eko Nugroho

Eko Nugroho is as well-known Indonesian artist with a background in street art and comics. His practice draws upon community connections and humour in order to comment on the political and social context in Indonesia. His creative works incorporate aspects of paintings, murals, installations, sculptures and embroidery.

Eko Nugroho, 'My Wonderful Dream' (detail), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

Eko Nugroho, ‘My Wonderful Dream’ (detail), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist.

My Wonderful Dream (2017) is a fantasy land without borders, in which the similarities between people are highlighted. The piece, which incorporates strange floating characters and diverse islands and continents, contrasts the complexity of humanity with the desire for peace and tolerance and asks if it is really possible to achieve a harmonious world.

6. Mary Bernadette Lee

Singaporean artist Mary Bernadette Lee (b. 1985) is an illustrator who works with children and underprivileged communities in Singapore. She investigates the relationship between the physiological and the psychological, centering on “the visceral qualities of emotional complexities and spontaneous individual autonomy in art-making”.

Mary Bernadette Lee, 'Wanderland' (installation), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

Mary Bernadette Lee, ‘Wanderland’ (installation), 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

The artwork Wanderland (2017) 
is a composition of objects that create an interactive and immersive environment. It evokes a tropical rainforest or park environment, bringing forth rich imaginings of experiences that have had a lasting impact.

7. Nipan Oranniwesna

Thai artist Nipan Oranniwesna (b. 1962) develops mixed media works that are influenced by social memory and history. With a background in printmaking, his works have been exhibited at many international exhibitions including the Venice Biennale (2007), the Busan Biennale (2008) and the Singapore Biennale (2013).

Nipan Oranniwesna, 'Another Island', 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

Nipan Oranniwesna, ‘Another Island’, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

Another Island (2017) 
is made up of 598 photographs of Singapore embedded in the floor as small bubbles. These small sites are almost too small to notice from a distance and as such, they invite the viewer to come in close to see the details of the urban landscapes. The change in perspective invites questions about what changes and what is recognisable in a city environment.

8. UuDam Tran Nguyen

Vietnamese artist UuDam Tran Nguyen (b. 1971) works across choreographed performance video, sculpture, drawing, drone painting and installation, incorporating his transnational experiences in his creative practice. Specifically, he draws on issues such as crowdsourcing as well as regional conflicts and their impacts.

Uudam Tran Nguyen, 'LICENSE 2 DRAW', 2014 - 2017. Image courtesy of Phan Huy Long.

Uudam Tran Nguyen, ‘LICENSE 2 DRAW’, 2014 – 2017. Image courtesy of Phan Huy Long.

LICENSE 2 DRAW (2014 – 2017) investigates the ways in which the internet rapidly connects people around the world. The robot drawing machine is operated via a downloadable app and can be activated from anywhere in the world. The work muses on how we connect, communicate, interact and negotiate, but also on what responsibilities come with this increased connection.

10. Unchalee Anantawat

Thai artist Unchalee Anantawat (b. 1982) is an illustrator and animator who produces mystical creatures in a child-like or naïve art aesthetic. Her practice crosses borders, and she explains that

For me, it doesn’t really matter whether my work represents ‘Thai-ness’ or any particular traditions, so long as it conveys my ideas. It may be a bit of a cliché, but I consider myself to be a citizen of the world, so I don’t see any great need to show my own culture in my work.

Unchalee Anantawat, 'Floating Mountain', 2013, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

Unchalee Anantawat, ‘Floating Mountain’, 2013, 2017. Image courtesy of the artist and Singapore Art Museum.

Floating Mountain (2013, 2017) 
is inspired by dream-like landscapes of floating mountains and an azure blue sea. The work crosses between dreams and reality, finding similarities between the two and questioning if there could indeed be other worlds yet to discover.

Claire Wilson

1761

Related topics: South Asian, Southeast Asian, Singapore, installation, painting, sculpture

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