SINGAPORE: It is lunchtime and Cynthia Delaney Suwito is cooking a packet of instant noodles.
But it’s not for a quick meal. Rather, she’s using it to make a piece of art.
With her nifty knitting needles, the 23-year-old Singapore-based Indonesian artist is creating a small tapestry comprising strands of cooked instant noodles.
Her needlework - or noodlework, as it were - is called Knitting Noodles, and it’s a performance piece that can be seen at 2016 Untapped Discovery, a group show of emerging artists organised by the Visual Arts Development Association (Singapore). It is currently up at Shophouse 5 at Lorong 24A Geylang until Dec 23.
Every other day, she drops by the gallery to spend around three to four hours adding noodle threads, one packet at a time, to the edible scroll. The piece grows in length by around 20cm to 30cm each session, and by the time the exhibition closes, it will be a lengthy work.
(Photo: Mayo Martin)
“I’ve been knitting instant noodles since late 2014,” said Suwito, a recent fine arts graduate of LASALLE College of the Arts. “I was doing it because I wanted to contrast the idea of time. How I’m doing something very slow to something ‘instant’ like instant noodles. And by using this, I’m actually making the process of knitting slower than it should be. The purpose of it is actually to (make) people slow down and take a break from this ‘instant’ world.”
Exhibition designer and curator Wong Binghao said Suwito’s choice of material fits perfectly in the Singapore context and its fast-paced lifestyle.
“For her, it is indicative of how people cope with velocity and pressure. By combining this index of speediness with the activity of knitting, which is slow, craft-based and gendered, she’s providing a unique contrast,” he said.
(Photo: Mayo Martin)
Indeed, while the piece already looks delicate and intricate, watching Suwito slowly, and painstakingly, at work is a sight in itself. She says that the act of knitting can actually be calming - except when she sees a strand about to break.
Knitting noodles can be tricky, she said. “It took me a few months to actually be able to knit. It’s only recently that I’ve been able to make something this long.”
Suwito uses normal knitting needles and a couple of other tools of the trade: A small wooden box with holes to help support one of her needles; and a small, handmade comb-like object made of Epoxy Putty as well as a hairdryer to dry the noodles.
As for the type of instant noodles she uses, Suwito prefers the Indomie and Nongshim brands, which are thicker and easier to use. “But I can use different noodles as well and they will look different.”
(Photo: Cynthia Delaney Suwito's website)
This is not the first time she has used instant noodles - for the past couple of years, Suwito has been obsessing over the possibilities to make art.
“It’s an object that is used in so many different places - almost every country in the world,” she said. “It really defines what people are in their daily lives, like how they want something that is very instant, (something that is) very ‘comfort food’, regardless of its health benefits.”
She has used other objects in her works, such as plastic bottles and clocks; but perhaps not as much as instant noodles, which she has used in two other previous projects.
Taken from her work Instant Noodle - Specimen, this is supposedly instant noodles frozen in a chemical solution, found in the distant future from a noodle factory storage facility. (Photo: Cynthia Delaney Suwito's website.)
One of them, Instant Noodle - Specimen, is a mixed media work where she imagined noodles as archaeological artefacts. “I pretended to be an archaeologist from the future who finds these specimens that have stayed (intact) over a hundred years, and analyse these to see what the culture was like right now.” Another piece, Noodle Confession, is a collection of noodle packets with stories by other people in relation to instant noodles.
“What I usually think of when I’m making my work is I’m trying to take something that is simple and everyday, something we see as we live our lives, and give a deeper meaning to it,” she said.
As for her favourite instant noodles outside of work, it depends. “I like different types! Currently, my favourite is the Korean Nongshim spicy mushroom.”