Posted by: danguard | June 15, 2009

Day 7 – Arts and sparks

Well, it’s Sunday, which means it’s my day off. I started in typical fashion with a lie-in, as I’ve been feeling tired all week and been prone to drifting off in the afternoon either in the archives or another embarrassing public place. This was only made possible thanks to the earplugs I finally remembered I’d packed and which make a world of difference when you’re sharing a room with 5 other people. After finally getting up around 11, I logged on to check my emails only to find that someone had broken into my account and sent scam emails to my entire address book (sorry if you feel left out for not getting one). I must say, I was thoroughly ‘hacked’ off!

ComasNow that you’ve recovered from the hilarity of my pun, I’ll continue. I decided to investigate the Singapore Art Museum not sure quite what to expect. It turns out its a contemporary gallery displaying artists reflective of the wider region, and it housed some really good stuff. The main focus currently is on their ‘TransportASIAN’ exhibition, advertised as part of the art festival. Two artists stood out in particular for me from this, Xavi Comas and John Clang. Comas’ work, titled Pasajero (Passenger), constituted a video installation documenting a collection of photographs taken on the Tokyo rail network and explores how moments of chance encounter, silence and emptiness can carry meaning. I’ve posted three of my favourites here. The humour of the first situation is quite clear. In the second picture, the man with the paper is physically trapped in the train, squashed up against the window. Upon the window is a sign, with the image of a man crossed out, as if behind bars. Like the image, the man with the paper is physically confined within the space he inhabits, he is a prisoner. Perhaps metaphorically too, a slave to modern work and living. In the third image, two women are displayed, one holding a mobile phone, and one wearing a white top. Only the woman with the phone and the passengers behind her are in the camera’s field of vision when the picture is taken, the woman in the white top does not physically exist within that space. She invades it, and in doing so, Comas is drawing our attention to the things around us that we don’t normally see as we speed forward through our busy modern lives.

ClangJohn Clang’s piece, called White Book, took the form of a raised white box which you stepped inside to view, as the title suggests, a white book containing the artist’s work. With use of montage, his work looks to invert space by removing people from their original surroundings and placing them in an abstract setting. He also invades the ‘real world’ with sculptures he has fashioned which simultaneously seem to fit and yet are at odds with their environment. Such scenes, though they perhaps initially seem surreal, become eerily believable. I would argue that in such pieces, Clang is commenting on the phenomena of global migration and social displacement, particularly when one considers his Singaporean roots and the fact he lives and works in New York, two places fundamentally shaped and defined by immigration. In a world constantly in flux where borders have become increasingly blurred, Clang’s distortion of reality challenges us not to accept things at face value, and to shed our preconceptions.

I ended the day by attending a firework show, Crackers?, arranged to bring to a close the 2009 Singapore Arts Festival. We were all herded into a large circle enclosure (all 12,000 of us), with a large totemic cylinder at the centre, and with edifices of human figures situated around the perimeter. The cylinder beamed out some arty video montage of explosions, accompanied by pumping music and discovery channel-style scientific commentary, like some pyromaniacal geeks rave. Slowly the cylinder ascended into the air, a projected spark moving with it until it reached the top and triggered fireworks to launch from the summit. Like wicker men the edifices burst into flame, and for the next 20 minutes we were bombarded by pyrotechnic bombs which seemed to rain down on us from all sides. Around the perimeter, with the wicker men, a dozen huge catherine wheels spun. It was quite an impressive show, and inspired by the photography I’d witnessed earlier, I desperately tried to document it all on camera. Doing so though only served as a distraction which prevented me from fully experiencing and enjoying the display, of which a photo is ultimately a pale imitation. At the end I felt a little hollow, like I’d missed out on something big even though I was physically there. Sometimes it’s better to just live in the moment.



  1. “Sometimes it’s better to just live in the moment.”
    Agree totaly we can be so busy documenting and cataloging our lives and experiences we lose sight of our experiences.
    Worth the trip just to learn this, which of course must be a difficult lesson for a historian to learn when they spend theri lives documenting and cateloging!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: