SINGAPORE: Fancy an encounter with Singapore’s lost tigers? How about following a surreal Japanese procession of walking frogs and rabbits, or having a massive pillow fight in a room full of traditional Thai pillows?
Ahead of the second edition of the Light To Night Festival, which kicks off on Jan 19, visitors to the National Gallery Singapore (NGS) can get a head-start to the festivities by checking out some of the museum’s specially commissioned indoor artworks, which are already open to the public.
Among these is One Or Several Tigers, a two-channel animated video installation by Singaporean artist Ho Tzu Nyen, which looks at the history of tigers in Singapore.
First exhibited in Berlin last year, it’s the latest tiger-themed work from Ho, whose fascination with the wild animal began in 2003 while working on a video about Sang Nila Utama’s legendary encounter with a lion.
“There was a lion that wasn’t supposed to be there – and then I thought about the tiger that should have been there,” he said.
He added that the tiger continues to be an important symbol throughout Singapore’s history, whether it’s accounts of supernatural weretigers (half-man, half-tiger beings), encounters with actual ones, or metaphors used to describe Malayan communists or Japanese soldiers during World War II – such as General Yamashita, who was known as the Tiger of Malaya.
One historical account – which finds itself depicted in Ho’s 33-minute video installation – is that of a tiger attacking Singapore’s pioneer colonial architect GD Coleman and Indian convict labourers during the 1800s. It was taken from an 1865 print, which is also currently on display at the museum.
“Right after that, tigers were wiped out within 60 to 70 years,” said Ho. “Their disappearance is also a way to think about how Singapore was transformed with British colonisation.”
Elsewhere at NGS, Japanese art collective teamLab is presenting Walk, Walk, Walk: Search, Deviate, Reunite, an interactive multimedia installation where visitors are encouraged to traverse a maze and interact with digital images of people, rabbits and frogs.
Inspired by Japan’s largest dance festival, the Awa Odori, the 15-minute work is teamLab’s most recent creation in Singapore following its interactive work at Marina Bay Sands’ former skating rink.
Another interactive work, The House Is Crumbling by Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak, comprises a room in which 4,000 khit cushions are stacked. Visitors – including children – are encouraged to assemble and reassemble these to create different shapes.
Two more interactive installations will be opened to the public once the festival officially opens in two weeks’ time: Filipino artist David Medalla’s A Stitch In Time, which encourages people to sew small objects onto a large cloth; and Taiwanese artist Lee Ming Wei’s Sonic Blossom, where an opera singer gives a one-on-one performance to passersby.
A marquee event at this month's Singapore Art Week, the Light To Night Festival runs for 10 days and features over 30 indoor and outdoor programmes across the Civic District. Aside from the NGS, which spearheads the festival, other participating institutions include The Arts House, Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall, Asian Civilisations Museum and The Esplanade.
Among the highlights are light projections across the facades of the different institutions, outdoor public artworks, a slew of performances, and a food and craft market at the Padang.