Touch, feel, smell artworks

A new exhibition offers visitors a multi-sensory experience

Continuum Of Consciousness, 2012. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM
Unseen: Touch Field, 2014. -- PHOTO: ALECIA NEO
Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo having a go at The Overview Installation by Singapore artist Eugene Soh. The goggles she is wearing alters the way people see, making them walk around almost as if they are in a drunken stupor. -- PHOTO: SINGAPORE ART MUSEUM

A new exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum encourages visitors to get touchy- feely with artworks.

Sensorium 360°: Contemporary Art And The Sensed World, opens today. The three-month-long show offers a multi-sensory experience with a range of artworks that appeal to the various senses.

The idea behind many of the artworks is to look at different ways of feeling, experiencing and seeing the world around us. A quarter of the works by 11 artists - mostly from Asia - are newly commissioned and are complemented by others that have been adapted or expanded for the show.

Some of these, including photographic works by Singapore artist Lavender Chang, will evolve during the show. New photographs developed during the course of the exhibition will be added to a blank wall.

Dr Susie Lingham, director of the museum, tells Life! that the idea behind the exhibition is to "invite viewers to experience the complexity of our human senses through Asian contemporary art in this highly participatory experience".

Indeed, the museum encourages visitors to take off their shoes and jump right into Noon-nom by Thai contemporary artist Pinaree Sanpitak. A room is filled with soft, round sculptures that evoke the sensual and sacred form of the female breast. The highly tactile sculptures stress the need for touching and feeling, and how these shape human relationships.

You can also step into The Overview Installation by Singapore artist Eugene Soh. Images are streamed from closed-circuit TV sets and when you put on the video goggles, your vision is altered and you walk around as if in a drunken stupor.

Further exploring the various realms of our senses, Vietnamese artist Bui Cong Khanh reflects on how taste is linked to cultural and personal memory. His installation, which is a mix of paintings on wall, text and food ingredients, illustrates the evolution of Vietnamese Hoi An chicken rice.

To add to the sensory experience and satisfy the hunger pangs you are likely to feel when you step into this room, you can walk over to Food For Thought, a restaurant housed at SAM at 8Q, and get your plate of chicken rice prepared using the recipe the artist has documented.

The sense of smell is not neglected in Filipino artist Christina "Goldie" Poblador's presentation of a "keyboard" of perfume scents. In it, she creates scent compositions that respond to four songs and musical arrangements. She says she selected songs and musical arrangements that have deep personal or emotional resonance for her.

Echoing how music is scored and produced, the scents she creates are best experienced by making dabs on a length of paper which you can put in your bag. And just let the aromas waft through the space, instead of trying to take it all in a single breath.

Exhibition highlights


By Alecia Neo

(Braille drawings, book, video projection and sound, video duration 15 minutes)

The visitor steps into an almost dark room and feel what unfolds like an endless topographical illustration. Touch Field, which depicts Taipei's cityscape, is a tactile installation that unravels its complex layers with the feel of your fingers. Singapore artist Neo says: "It is a drawing meant to be 'seen' in the dark, by the hand instead of the eye."

It is part of an on-going project that she undertook with six blind or sight-impaired participants at the Eden Social Welfare Foundation in Taiwan. The idea was to explore how they see their world.

During her residency, Neo, 28, guided participants to create photographic self-portraits and images of their surroundings, which were turned into the "braille drawings" that make Touch Field.

She says: "They perceive things in very different ways and they want to document that world. As an artist, I was interested in continuing this exploration that offers us many different ways of seeing".


By Linda Solay

(Crystal glasses, sound, spices, scent dispensers, sound composition by Bani Haykal)

German-born Solay's installation is set within a darkened chamber. It draws you in instantly with a deeply meditative and multi-sensory experience that draws on the sense of sight, sound and smell.

Aromas waft through the air and have a deeply calming effect.

You are drawn to what looks like a single-line installation comprising 25 crystal glasses. Her grandparents, who lived in Austria, started collecting them during the war years.

These are stacked in the form of a shimmering column that rises from the floor to the ceiling, suggestive of a divine axis that connects Earth to the heavens. There is a subtle yet distinctive scent of spice that evokes Asia's position in the once opulent spice trade. Solay, 32, is known for her practice spanning fine art photography and installation.

ALE LINO, 2003 - 2014

By Melati Suryodarmo

(Durational performance with relics and video documentation)

In this performance, Indonesian artist Melati Suryodarmo leans against a 4m-long pole from a height, its point pressed against her solar plexus. Several different nerves radiate from the solar plexus and it is considered a vulnerable point, particularly in martial arts, for a blow there can incapacitate a person and even cause immediate death.

The 45-year-old draws on meditation practices from Javanese traditions, as well as her training with butoh and durational performance practitioners. She says the training helps "still her body and mind, resulting in an emptying out of the body that helps her go beyond feelings of pain and discomfort".

CAGE, 2006-2014

By Li Hui

(Installation with green iodide lasers and fog machines, site-specific installation)

Li uses green lasers to create two virtual cages that appear alternately. When you step into the room, you instinctively feel trapped and you are anxious to escape from the cages. The China artist says the work is an exploration of "imaginary boundaries" that we construct around ourselves. These, he feels are often based on perception, not reality.

Li, 37, graduated from the sculpture department of the Central Academy of Fine Arts in Beijing. He is best known for his evocative light installations which use technology to create art.

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