Immersive digital art at National Museum of Singapore

Talking Cheongsams, by Galina Mihaleva and Hedren Sum, features artistic interpretations of cheongsams from the National Collection and two mannequins clad in interactive cheongsams. Sonic Womb by Randy Chan is a structure bathed in deep red hues sus
Sonic Womb by Randy Chan is a structure bathed in deep red hues suspended from the ceiling. It allows people to explore the process of human gestation.ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR
Talking Cheongsams, by Galina Mihaleva and Hedren Sum, features artistic interpretations of cheongsams from the National Collection and two mannequins clad in interactive cheongsams. Sonic Womb by Randy Chan is a structure bathed in deep red hues sus
Talking Cheongsams, by Galina Mihaleva and Hedren Sum, features artistic interpretations of cheongsams from the National Collection and two mannequins clad in interactive cheongsams. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Seven projects by local and international designers are on display at DigiMuse Presents, an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore

Bewildered by the brave new world of futuristic technology?

Fear not, for you can seek the primal comfort of a womb at the basement of the National Museum, as part of a new showcase of digital artworks.

Sonic Womb, the brainchild of Singapore architect Randy Chan, is a structure bathed in deep red hues suspended from the ceiling. It allows people to explore the process of human gestation.

It is part of the second edition of DigiMuse Presents, an exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, which was launched on Jan 18 in conjunction with Singapore Art Week. Seven projects by local and international designers are on display in different parts of the museum.

This is part of the wider DigiMuse initiative, which was launched in December 2017 to nurture a cultural sector that embraces digital innovation.

Visitors to Sonic Womb can walk around in the womb-like, slow-moving structure made of VersiWeb - a material used to control soil erosion. Microphones hanging from the ceiling detect the noise created by the museum-goers, which are translated into a soundscape that mimics the sounds a foetus hears.

Chan, 48, became a father of twins three years ago.

"I wanted to have a project that marked that (period), before I forget," says the principal architect of Zarch Collaboratives.

People can also walk up a ramp leading into an "egg" and lie inside the cantilevered steel structure.

"It's part of the ritual of returning to our origins," he adds.

The ongoing showcase is presented by the National Museum of Singapore in collaboration with the French digital arts venue Centre des Arts (Enghien-les-Bains), the Bains Numeriques biennale, and The Little Arts Academy which offers arts programmes for children.

Another work is Co(AI)xistence, a video artwork by French artist Justine Emard, where Japanese dancer Mirai Moriyama and a robot interact with each other.

Then there is Face Of The Day, featuring about 400 photos of fashion designer Yang Derong dressed in all manner of costumes. Visitors can download an application on their mobile devices, and then point them at some of the photos, which come to life with the help of augmented reality technology.

Hanging from the museum's rotunda are 12 artistic interpretations of cheongsam from the National Collection. They are part of the Talking Cheongsams installation, which also features two mannequins clad in interactive cheongsams. Visitors can touch the conductive threads on those two cheongsams to listen to love letters written by members of the International Cheongsam Association of Singapore.

This speaks to a connection between text and textile, says the artist Galina Mihaleva, an assistant professor at the School of Art, Design and Media at Nanyang Technological University. She created the installation with colleague Hedren Sum, a digital humanities project manager at the Institute of Science and Technology for Humanity at the same university.

Curator Iman Ismail says DigiMuse Presents "explores the creative use of technology, art, and even sound, to create immersive experiences for museum-goers".

"The showcase demonstrates the exciting potential of marrying digital innovation with culture and the arts, to create playful and thoughtful interactions with our audiences."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 30, 2019, with the headline 'Immersive digital art'. Print Edition | Subscribe