Andrew: Dearie and I were at a friend’s wedding yesterday and a friend from Malaysia lamented that there was ‘nothing to do’ in Singapore except shopping (which for Dearie, is definitely a lot to do. Heh). We took this chance to completely geek-out and gush about the many exciting art exhibitions we had been to lately. Well, Dearie was the one ‘gushing’ and I was the one merely describing in a rather matter-of-fact way about the vibrant arts scene in Singapore.
Jasmine: Speaking of which, Andrew had been asking me to go for this children’s art exhibition but I had kept putting it off, and had managed to distract him successfully on more than one occasion by telling him we’d go shopping for his stuff instead.
Children’s Season at the Singapore Art Museum
Andrew: I had been meaning to go for this exhibition for a long, long while, but my plans kept getting delayed due to other more important agendas, i.e. shopping (Yes I admit, I’m kind of getting into this shopping thing too. I got over-excited about my TANGS 20% Birthday month discount when I received it in the mail and even emphasized to Dearie that we ‘must go to TANGS’ on our next date. Oh no, getting distracted by shopping again).
Although Dearie and I are not big fans of contemporary art, I was particularly interested in this exhibition because it featured contemporary art in an interactive, immersive and imaginative setting which made these art pieces accessible to even young children.
I must say that we were both extremely impressed by the way in which the artists created spaces of ‘play’ for children, yet if you spent more time analysing these ‘spaces’, the artists’ philosophy and artistic vision became clearer and you realised that there was much more than just ‘child’s play’ at work in these spaces.
We spent the most time at The Enchanted Forest exhibit by Sandra Lee.
Andrew: There was really something for every age group in this exhibit. The museum guide asked the little children to count the number of tigers in the forest and it was indeed a very fun activity for them because there were tigers in various ‘concealed’ forms all around the forest. There were a few where only the tails could be seen and some where the paws were visible. The kids had lots of fun looking for them and evidently, so did I. I think I counted 8 tigers, more than any of the kids could find. Yay!
Jasmine: So that’s how Andrew gets his kicks.
Of course, being the geeks that we are, we observed that there were elements of the absurd in the art, where the realism of forest animals was mingled with the fantastical world of fairy tales and Asian fables. We saw running fork and plates, a cow jumping over the moon, a gingerbread man, of course the Merlion, and many other fairy tale elements.
There was also interesting tableaus where the animals were staring at soft toy animals (like teddy bears) in interest and curiosity, blurring the line between play and seriousness. The exhibit also evoked a sense of mystique as there were elements which were potentially scary, like a huge footprint on the floor, which could fit almost an entire adult, stimulating our imagination to think about what time period this forest existed in. (Okay, I know most of you were bored by this paragraph. Jasmine was rolling her eyes as she watched me type, but seriously, she would have written the same.)
Jasmine: Firstly, that was the worst caption ever, Mr Chong. Andrew’s pretty much said it all (read: stole my lines, heh) so I thought I’d just talk about how there was a children’s activity corner next to the Enchanted Forest, and bunches of paper butterflies that children had coloured in were strung up from the trees in the Enchanted Forest. This seemed to symbolise the room for children’s imagination and creative expression in this art exhibit. Note also how the artist has transformed these four blank walls into a Surrealist bricolage, playing with scale (giant mushroom as tall as me), references to Asian tradition (pagoda in the far right corner) and individual flights of fancy (children’s butterflies hanging in front of me).
Andrew: Another exhibit that we spent a lot of time (we meaning Jasmine) was the Funky Forest at Level 4. As opposed to the Enchanted Forest which was pictorial and very tactile, this was a digitally ‘created’ forest but extremely immersive nonetheless, which offered abundant opportunities for interaction with the environment.
What we had to do first was to step at the bottom of the screen below, and a sapling (the brown one in the picture below) would shoot up from where we were standing.
After the sapling had shot up, we would use two ‘bolsters’ on the floor to direct the flow of a ‘digital’ stream of water towards the roots of our saplings so that it would grow and bear fruit (like the other plants you see around the brown one.)
If the bolster is insufficient, brute force thru ‘kicking’ the digital stream would work too 🙂 The trees would wither away and die if you didn’t manage to water it adequately.
Jasmine: The great thing was that the stream would respond even to our shadow and was diverted even when it sensed our shadows on the floor. Besides ‘growing trees’, another interactive element of the display involve reaching out to touch the butterflies and dragonflies in the forest which would quickly flit away.
Andrew: Evidently, Jasmine had way too much fun ‘swatting flies’ and stamping on the digital stream. We stayed there even longer than the two kids who were there when we arrived. I think we kind of annoyed them and chased them away by killing their ‘trees’.
We ended up spending a good 4 hours at the exhibition. Of course, we couldn’t leave without taking a picture of the mascot of the exhibition, Walter the big inflatable bunny.
Jasmine: The minute we approached the building and saw Walter crouched on top of 8Q, I was sold on the exhibition. I even told Andrew that if he had just told me there was a bunny on the roof, we would have come two months ago. I wouldn’t have had to keep making up excuses like, “Hey, want to go buy some funky t-shirts for yourself?”.
(Andrew: For those who are keen, next week will be the final week for the exhibition. It officially ends on 18th July. Find out more about the exhibition here.)