I’m not a big fan of museums, but I don’t dislike them either. Those ones focusing on either history or anthropology are cool. Art museums, on the other hand, don’t really tickle my fancy. It’s just that art is a rather subjective field. Unless I’m in the mood, I don’t really prefer any kind of mental stimulation. Some art pieces are straightforward, while some need some imagination and interpretation to make sense. And so what happened when I found myself at the Singapore Art Museum? I actually kind of enjoyed it.
As long as you don’t drag me along every week, I’ll be fine. I’ve been to SG many times now that whenever I feel like dropping by, it would most likely be for the purpose of chillin’. There are still a lot of attractions that I haven’t seen or experienced. I haven’t been to the Botanical Garden. I haven’t been on the Singapore flyer. I haven’t visited the bird park or the zoo. Spending a night by the river at either Marina Bay Sands or Clarke Quay is the usual activity for me. An afternoon at SAM was something new.
I guess the good thing about art museums is that they offer something different every time. You might visit today and then come back three months from now. The exhibition would probably be something distinct. In a way, if you go there and blog about it, you are contributing to history by sharing your experience about that specific exhibit. For us, it had a lot to do about mirrors, interpreted both literally and figuratively. But first, the entrance fee? I think the normal rate is SGD20 (~PHP700).
I got in for half the price using my University of Wales library card. I mean, I’m technically on leave of absence and I’m just an online student, but I’m still a student. Besides, the card is valid until 2018. It’s cool that I got a discount. The SGD10 (~PHP350) I saved, I added to pay for the lunch menu we feasted on at Food Republic. I guess both my brain and my stomach got tired of all the abstract art. They give you a fluorescent green sticker which says I AM MADE FOR SAM. Make sure it’s visible on your shirt.
The first hall displayed something about the world’s islands. There was a large map of sorts on the wall, and then there was a book at the middle which I suppose was an atlas or something. The room next to it had a large wall to wall glass which turns into a mirror. When it’s not reflecting your image, it becomes transparent and yields some sort of a table inside, littered with papers with red marks on them. It felt like someone got stabbed a hundred times in there. Or maybe my mind is plain morbid?
Another room leads to a wall art shimmering in blue and gold. What’s special about this room is that it plays a recording. If I remember it correctly, it was supposed to let you feel the hurly burly of the city life. Of all the exhibits in that hall, this was my favorite. It’s also dark in there so if you close your eyes and meditate, then the experience might be worthwhile. Heading out to the hall, we noticed two videos of the same guy trying to balance himself while standing on a ball. In a way, the two are mirroring one another's moves.
The description says that the video to the right is where the guy actually falls down. The runtime of the video is rather long, though, so we no longer waited. The hall on the other side was also unique. You are greeted by different maps of Sri Lanka interpreted based on the country’s history. It’s informative, to say the least. On the far left corner is a giant book with letters overflowing from its pages onto the floor, which I captioned as “Verbal Diarrhea” on Instagram.
A mini hallway then led to another exhibition meant to tickle your nostrils. I could only describe it as some type of blinds made of wood, pink, and scented. So far, my eyes didn’t have the monopoly of the interpretation. My nose and my ears also took part! I guess this just wasn’t a typical for-your-eyes-only experience! Going upstairs, you have to climb a spiral staircase with oval mirrors fitted on the wall. This area creates a unique experience playing with your sense of sight.
A dinosaur skeleton serves as the centerpiece of the foyer. The hall to the left plays host to yet another wall to wall map by a Chinese artist who thought it would be fun to name the islands based on mankind’s monsters, both literal and conceptual. The adjoining mini hall features a wall adorned with different sizes of small shells, each painted with an eye. This one was made by a Filipino artist. It’s minimalist, but the intended mysterious effect is achieved, as if ore than a dozen pairs of human eyes were watching you.
The connecting mini room on the other hall also features a Filipino artist, this time exhibiting the life in coastal areas through a combination of video clips of the roaring sea as viewed from a ship’s window. An audio recording accompanies the exhibit, making you feel like you’re on a boat ride that never ends. The grand hall on that side is reserved for a Thai or Cambodian artist, featuring an avant-garde Buddhism inspired piece which appears to be saying something about industrialism.
Going out of the hall to the other side, you will end up in what was once a chapel during the colonial period. There you will find a hall of revolving mirrors adorned with artificial corals of varying colors. The experience was quite surreal, and you have to watch out for the giant rotating mirrors too unless you want to get hurt. I had to sit down on the bench and relax my brain after that. It was visually appealing alright, but it was also sensory overload for me.
The upper floors as well as the museum annex across the street house more exhibitions, many of them of the audio-visual kind. The focus is more on Asia as a region, with some specific country-related themes at play. I want to describe all of them, but my brain is overheating just trying to recall the experience. As such, I suggest that you run to the Singapore Art Museum now and experience it yourself. Hopefully, this particular exhibit is still there. If not, then I assume it’d be a different yet worthwhile experience nonetheless.
[SINGAPORE] What's Up, Sam?