“Unearthed” revisited

Due to the lack of time, we could not finish appreciating the exhibition during our first visit to Unearthed (Read the blogpost on our first visit to Unearthed here: http://wp.me/p48223-re). Hence, I brought Baby E back to the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) again.

SAM profile

Unearthed is an exhibition that presents almost about 30 artworks of various media that range from installation, photography and audiovisual presentation.  The theme of Unearthed dwells on the responses of artists who reside within the urban landscape of Singapore, of how they react to the natural environment as it changes to make way for urbanisation. As a result, the exhibition uncovers motifs and topics that run the gamut from natural history to memory.

As the elevator door opens

This time, we started our museum tour from where we left off. As the elevator door opened, we were greeted once again by the Wish Tree at the end of the corridor, nonetheless this time, it’s crowning glory exudes more volume of colourful “leaves”, that are actually the wish notes hung onto the branches by SAM visitors. Just one week ago, this same tree could have passed for dead. Now, it’s dressed up in a colourful frock of blossoms and evergreen leaves. As I stood there with Baby E this time, I imagined us back in Canada where we stood underneath a tree that seemingly threw pale confetti onto the ground, as if it was celebrating the arrival of spring. The thought brought back fond memories that made me grinned from ear to ear. Just as how this once-bare tree came alive with colours, just the pure reminiscing of Canada brought life into my soul. O’ Canada, I miss you so much…

The Wishing Tree

For the sake of comparison, here is a picture we took during our first visit on 18 April 2014.

Wish tree on first visit

Today, we entered the exhibition rooms. The first artwork we examined was artist Debbie Ding’s mixed media installation which consists of “Ethnographic Fragments of Singapore” and “Here the River Lies”. I particularly liked the former – the artist’s collection of unassuming rock fragments that reveal the history of Singapore’s changing landscape. Each one of them were also meticulously labelled.

Rock fragments

It is interesting to note that in her attempt to document civilisation in Singapore through its rock fragments, none of these rock samples are from natural earth: they have all been taken from man-made constructions — the corner of a pavement, a bit of a building, a slab from a sidewalk etc. attesting to Singapore’s highly urbanised environment. Also noteworthy is the fact that these samples are all relics of sites that have already ceased to exist, as Singapore’s cityscape continually renews itself. These cast-off rocks and the sites they come from – many of sentimental or cultural value – paint a portrait of the tug-of-war of values and interests playing out in Singapore society.

Here the River Lies

In “Here The River Lies”, the same artist created an interactive art piece that allows the public to mark out familiar points on the platform where the geographic map of the Singapore River locale was drawn on in red ink, by placing placards along the winding river that recount their own personal stories associated with that site. The public is also invited to peruse the placards placed by others, and decide if the stories are fact or fiction by voting on the respective cards, thus contributing to a collective history and mythology of the Singapore River.

Bukit Brown exhibition

Within the same room, there is another room that leads to another mixed media installation titled “Bukit Brown Index”. This is part of an outreach of the documentation project at Bukit Brown Cemetery (BBC), that aims to share its findings and to educate the public on the heritage value of BBC. As many may know, BBC is an oasis of greenery in the heart of Singapore, home to the graves of many Singapore’s pioneers (including my paternal grandfather) as well as several species of flora and fauna. But due to the need to make way for better infrastructure, part of the graves in BBC would be affected. Hence, the BBC documentation project was conceived by a committee of activists and interest groups (e.g. the Nature Society and the Singapore Heritage Society) in an attempt to document the graves, the exhumation process and the social history, memories and rituals associated with the cemetery. This multi-faceted installation presents an index of Bukit Brown by capturing the spectrum of interests and agendas invested in this contested terrain, ranging from the political to the spiritual.

Pulling At Grass T o Make It Grow

A long green structure spans the height of the next room we entered. This installation constructed out of elastic strings and food dye, is titled “Pulling at Grass to Make it Grow”. The structure simulates green grass being pulled beyond their capacity to hasten their growth. Metaphorically, this Art piece mirrors the local young and tender students who are constantly stretched under pressures and demands foisted by the education system in Singapore. Although the rigours of contemporary schooling in Singapore aims to help its students reach their maximum potential, the system instead wears down the energy and spirit of youth, stretching them thin, like tender young blades of grass which have been compelled to grow too quickly and before their time.


After this, we went out and around the exhibition rooms, arriving at the balcony of SAM where they hang the advertising posters of the current exhibitions. This was where we captured an aerial view of the centerpiece of Unearthed, showing the gaping square patch of earth that has been repotted and encased within the gallery of SAM at level 1. Details about this Art piece can be read in my previous post titled “In the Name of Art” (http://wp.me/p48223-re).

Once again, my baby and I did not have time to finish our self-guided SAM tour of its Unearthed exhibition. We will return to complete it before it wraps up on 06 July 2014.

Dates: 21 March – 06 July 2014
Venue: SAM and SAM@8Q

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