Art for all ages at Children's Biennale

The inaugural Children Biennale and Imaginarium exhibition aim to catch the eye of kids and also provide food for thought for adults

Children are taken so seriously as art audiences that there is now a biennale - the art world's favourite format for high-profile, highbrow contemporary art showcases - dedicated to them.

The first Children's Biennale, which opened last Saturday with the theme of Dreams & Stories at National Gallery Singapore, showcases 10 installations aimed at children of all ages. While the works may be brightly coloured or interactive - which is typical of art aimed at a young audience - they also often have strong conceptual underpinnings.

In Duplet, by Singapore artist Lynn Lu, 43, two people sit under a "cloud head" and respond simultaneously to 10 open-ended questions, one after another, within three minutes. The questions include "What makes you happiest?" and "What do you dream of doing and why haven't you done it?"

Another installation, Firewalk: A Bridge Of Embers, by Filipino artist Mark Justiniani, 51, invites children and adults to walk across a 16m bridge and experience what it feels like to be suspended in space and time. The bridge comes with a seethrough floor which looks into an "archaeological site" that seems to - thanks to an optical illusion - stretch endlessly into the ground.

The biennale aims to create a deeper experience by "connecting with both the child and the adult, without compromising the art experiences for both", says its project director Suenne Megan Tan, who is also the gallery's director of audience development and engagement.

Finding the delicate balance between catching the eye of children and providing food for thought for all is the aim of another show taking place during the June holidays.

The annual Imaginarium exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum's SAM at 8Q, which opened on May 6 and is in its seventh edition, has both the child and adult in mind.

Ms Andrea Fam, 29, who cocurated the show, says it does not shy away from more mature themes such as war.

"We feel it is important to engage adults and also introduce these themes to children, who are going to be our next generation of art appreciators."

For instance, the artwork Lie Of The Land, by Laotian artist Bounpaul Phothyzan, 38, showcases two 4m torpedo-shaped metal planters filled with pots of ferns.

The artist refashioned these from bombshells found in Laos, said to be the most heavily bombed country in the world, with thousands of undetonated bombs still scattered across its land.

Also launching this month is the annual Children's Season by the National Heritage Board. Renamed Children's Season Singapore this year, it opens tomorrow with more than 120 programmes. For the first time, it is partnering non-heritage institutions such as Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Esplanade and the Singapore Chinese Orchestra.

Festival director and National Museum of Singapore director Angelita Teo says: "Through these meaningful activities, we hope to cultivate in our young ones fond memories of growing up in Singapore and inspire a lifelong love of learning and of our rich culture and heritage."


Ten exhibitions and workshops to check out


Lea Chia, five, hitting a colour-changing orb with her father Chia Ming Chien, 59, at National Gallery Singapore. PHOTO: MARCUS TAN FOR THE STRAITS TIMES

1 GALLERY CHILDREN'S BIENNALE

Dreams & Stories is the theme of the inaugural Children's Biennale and, accordingly, visitors can enter a magical world created by 10 interactive installations that appeal to audiences of all ages.

In Homogenizing And Transforming World by Japanese art collective teamLab, visitors can tap on suspended glowing orbs which change colour and produce sounds when touched, or run their fingers over woodcuts re-created from the works of Cultural Medallion recipient Chng Seok Tin.

The works are located at public spaces within National Gallery Singapore across the City Hall and former Supreme Court buildings.

Where: National Gallery Singapore, 1 Saint Andrew's Road

When: Till Oct 8, 10am to 7pm (Sundays to Thursdays), 10am to 10pm (Fridays and Saturdays)

Admission: $20 (standard), $15 (concession); free for Singaporeans and permanent residents

Info: For all ages. Go to www.childrensbiennale.com


Marine creatures made with ocean debris and recycled plastic materials to raise awareness of ocean pollution. PHOTO: LYNNETTE GRIFFITHS, ERUB ARTS

2 FUN-TASTIC FRIDAYS: GHOST NETS OF THE OCEAN

Held in conjunction with the Ghost Nets Of The Ocean exhibition, this show features an oceanscape, inhabited by marine creatures made with ocean debris and recycled plastic materials, to raise awareness about the dangers of ocean pollution.

During the programme, children can make their own sea animals, listen to stories and watch an interactive performance to save Flipper the sea turtle from a web of ghost nets. 

Where: Asian Civilisations Museum , 1 Empress Place

When: Till June 23, 1 to 5pm on Fridays 

Admission: Free 

Info: For children aged seven to 12


PHOTO: NUS MUSEUM

3 FAMILY FUN WITH PRINT-MAKING

Ever wonder how Singaporeans lived in challenging times in the 1950s? Find out from woodblock and linoleum prints (above) from NUS Museum's collections. Participants can create some of their own prints too. 

Where: NUS Museum, 50 Kent Ridge Crescent 

When: June 3, 10 and 17, 2to 4.30pm 

Admission: $30 a parent-child pair 

Info: For children aged seven to 12. To register, go to kidslinoprint.peatix.com

4 IMAGINARIUM: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH

Mushrooms blossoming in odd corners, a robotic drawing machine and a "wanderland" made of teepee tents and textile birds are part of this exhibition.

In its seventh edition, the show focuses on the land and its inhabitants. The works invite visitors to take a closer look at the environments they live in, from urban and natural to digital and even imagined ones. Some exhibits come with activity corners. There are also guided tours, workshops on eco-living and toddler art and short film screenings.

Where: SAM at 8Q, 8 Queen Street

When: Till Aug 27, 10am to 7pm (Saturdays to Thursdays), 10am to 9pm (Fridays)

Admission: $6 (adults), $3 (students and senior citizens); free for Singapore citizens, permanent residents and children aged below six, as well as every Friday from 6 to 9pm

Info: For all ages. Go to www.singaporeartmuseum.sg


The yarnbombing at Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall is reminiscent of Chinese lion dance. PHOTO: NATIONAL HERITAGE BOARD

5 UNLIKELY DWELLERS OF THE URBAN: YARNBOMBING 

Crochet artist Kelly Lim is a yarn bomber, that is, she adorns public objects with colourful crocheted or knitted yarn, creating soft sculptures over urban architecture that make for fun pictures and tactile experiences for children.

At the Indian Heritage centre, her yarnbombs are inspired by Hindu mythology and the Indian community, while at the Malay Heritage Centre, they are influenced by traditional wayang kulit characters and motifs from Malay culture.

Her multi-hued tassels and decorations at the verandah of Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall are reminiscent of the costumes and movements of Chinese lion dance. 

Where: Indian Heritage Centre, 5 Campbell Lane; Malay Heritage Centre, 85 Sultan Gate; Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall, 12 Tai Gin Road 

When: Till July 2; Indian Heritage Centre: 10am to 7pm (Tuesdays to Thursdays), 10am to 8pm (Fridays and Saturdays), 10am to 4pm (Sundays and public holidays); Malay Heritage Centre: 10am to 6pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays ; Sun Yat Sen Nanyang Memorial Hall: 10am to 5pm (Tuesdays to Sundays), closed on Mondays 

Admission: Free 

Info: For all ages


Children can learn Yan calligraphy and Confucius’ teachings at Gan Heritage Centre. PHOTO: GAN HERITAGE CENTRE

6 BEGINNER'S GUIDE TO YAN CALLIGRAPHY BASED ON DI ZI GUI

At this workshop conducted in Mandarin, children can learn more about Di Zi Gui, a book filled with the teachings of Chinese philosopher Confucius. They can also brush up on their Chinese writing skills by learning Yan calligraphy, named after Yan Zhenqing, a leading calligrapher from the Tang Dynasty.

Where: Gan Heritage Centre, 18 Bukit Pasoh Road 

When: June 3, 3 to 5pm 

Admission: Free

Info: For children aged seven to 12. For a full list of Children's Season Singapore programmes and registration details, go to www.museums.com.sg/cs17

7 VINTAGE TOYS: MATERIALS & CREATION

At this workshop, children can find out the different materials that toys in the past were made of. They can also make their own vintage toy from polymer clay. 

Where: Mint Museum of Toys, 26 Seah Street

When: June 3 and 12, 11am to 1pm; June 20, 3 to 5pm 

Admission: $7.50 a child (includes museum admission, tour and workshop materials) 

Info: For children aged seven to 12. To register, go to emint.com/product/make-play-vintage-toy-materials-creation


A Cinderella stamp from Switzerland is among the fairy-tale stamps on display. PHOTO: SINGAPORE PHILATELIC MUSEUM

8 A LITTLE MAGIC

At this exhibition, children can enter the fantastical realm of fairy tales through beautiful stamps from all over the world and engage their senses with interactive exhibits. 

Where: Singapore Philatelic Museum, 23B Coleman Street 

When: Tomorrow to Oct 8, 10am to 7pm

Admission: $8 (adults), $6 (children); free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents 

Info: For ages four and above. Go to spm.org.sg/exhibitions/data/a-little-magic


GosTan Back tells the story of a young boy who gets the chance to save the future by going back in time. ST FILE PHOTO

9 GOSTAN BACK (A TIME-TRAVELLING ADVENTURE ON WHEELS)

An interactive theatrical journey through the National Museum of Singapore's Singapore History Gallery which tells the story of a boy who gets the chance to save the future by going back in time. Along the way, audiences will experience local history and artefacts. 

Where: National Museum of Singapore, 93 Stamford Road 

When: Till June 25, 10.30am to 12pm (Saturdays and Sundays) 

Admission: $8 a parent-child pair 

Info: For ages five and above. To register, go to cs2017gostanback.peatix.com


Children can learn about print- and papermaking as well as make their own paper in all colours and shapes at STPI. PHOTO: STPI

10 PAPERMAKING WORKSHOP 

Children can find out what it takes to create their own sheet of handmade paper in all colours and shapes at STPI. They will also get to visit the paper mill at the institute, learn how it works and find out about print- and papermaking. 

Where: STPI, 41 Robertson Quay 

When: June 10, 9.30am to 12.30pm and 1.30 to 4.30pm 

Admission: $40

Info: For children aged seven to 12. To register, e-mail education@stpi.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2017, with the headline 'Works for all ages'. Print Edition | Subscribe