Atmospheric Affair

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To continue where I left of, this is one of two climaxes of my play. By now those who have been reading are familiar with my work Tabula Rasa. Exhibited in Asia’s only sustainable light festival, iLight Marina Bay Singapore, Tabula Rasa is a light installation piece within a shipping container. The container was part of nine other containers stacked up one on top of another to form a three-by-three square grid to form an artwork by the New Zealand art collective/studio Storybox. In order to make their work more interesting, they invited various schools in Singapore to submit proposals on installation pieces that could utilize the space within the two containers that sat on the base layer. One of the schools was Laselle, College of The Arts and the other was mine, representing School Of The Arts, Singapore.

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This piece was a major turning point of my artistic process for many reasons. For one, this piece made me think beyond the physical aspects and elements of a space, forcing me to look beyond into metaphysical elements such as sound, wind and light. In many ways, I feel that most developing and practicing artist forget that these invisible elements play crucial roles in the interpretation of an artwork. I, for one, look at all works with this in mind. Ingrained deeply in me are the words “respect the space” and with that planted a seed that continuously tells me to be aware of the space that I am in. This has allowed me to perceive environments in more ways than the usual first impression and contemplate the possibilities of that space whether I use it or not in the future. In addition, the fact that this piece was to be put under the public eye made both the journey and the final product things that had to be carefully considered. Questions like “how will the audience respond?” and “what would people think?” constantly haunted me during the process. As a student artist, audience may be forgiving on some level, however, the fact that it is open to the elements means that you are attempting to impress an idea upon people, who will in turn project their response whether it be desirable or not. Ultimately, your passion for the idea will show through, and, as I believe, people will see into that piece of your soul which you have laid out to the public eye and choose to accept it or not. It is the moment that YOU or I can make an impact. It was a turning point of change for both maker and viewer.

In this piece I used light and a smoke machine to create walls of light, much like the light curtains used in technical theatre. In contrast to those in theatre, I created these walls to be horizontal rather than vertical. This was achieved by constructing a false wall that was flushed to the left side of the container which housed both the LED lights as well as the smoke machine. After fixing the lights and the smoke machine in place, a curtain draped over the gap and the entrance in order to conceal the fixtures whiles simultaneously preventing the excessive escape of smoke from the container. Other than these four components, the rest of the container was left empty for people to walk in and immerse themselves into the installation. From the entire duration of the exhibition, the lights would be left on and the smoke machine was programmed to release burst of smoke at regular intervals to maintain the atmospheric effect within the container.

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The objective of this installation was to sensitize people to the space that they were entering and to make them question “what exactly was the artwork?” By this atmospheric effect within the container, I wanted to see if people realized that as they stepped in, they became part of the work. I hoped that they would be able to “feel” their bodies being severed from their heads and legs due to the walls of light and realise the impact of lighting on any space, thereby emphasising how simple, minimalistic metaphysical elements can change not only a person’s impression of the space, but also change the impression of how others view them in that space.

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As can be seen from the images above, a children may have been the only ones who manage to fully experience the environment created. I believe that with their imaginative capacity and sense of playfulness, they saw exactly what I intended the artwork to do. This brought to mind yet another revelation – sometimes we need not be so serious in viewing works that we have to judge them whenever we see them merely because we have the capacity to do so. Being perceptive and fully aware is one thing. But being quick to judge and criticize falls under an entirely different category. Let us first soak in the atmosphere, the piece’s and our surroundings before we start to analyze and attempt to appreciate what lays before our eyes. Mind you, that I said “attempt to”, as I know that to honestly appreciate something  is easier said than done.

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All in all, this work gave me an opening and also opened my eyes by exposing me more to the world of an artist. Not a “student artist”, but a full, practicing one. I could go on and on with the epiphanies and revelations that flooded my mind and have continuously been doing so, but I shall leave it at that and hope that you take some time to decipher my almost cryptographic handwritings in the following posts that they may both enlighten and inspire you as those revelations have greatly inspire me.

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