If you were in Raffles City at all last year, chances are you’d have come across Danny Yung’s Tian Tian Xiang Shang exhibition displayed all around the mall, showcasing various forms of his signature Tian Tian character. Now, Tian Tian is back with more friends than ever before, this time located at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre (SCCC).
From now till June, the SCCC will play host to the biggest collection of ‘Tian Tian’ figurines yet, taking the ones displayed at Raffles City and adding even more new designs of the mouthless boy pointing at the sky from various people and groups from around Singapore, not to mention three giant 3 metre tall sculptures that have been set up on the ground level.
Originally starting as a showcase to commemorate the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s handover to China in July 2017, ‘Tian Tian Xiang Shang’ (天天向上) is a commonly known Chinese saying that encourages children to work hard and achieve their dreams, and a common sight at the front gate of every primary school in China during the 1950s. Due to the lack of critical discourse within education and cultural institutions, experimental artist Danny Yung was then inspired to create the always curious Tian Tian in the 1970s, a conceptual comic and cartoon character to inspire both children and adults to question and remain curious about the world around them. Danny is a founding member and co-artistic director of leading Hong Kong experimental arts collective Zuni Icosahedron, and Danny himself was even in Singapore last year as part of Emergency Stairs’ inaugural Southernmost Festival.
In the SCCC’s exhibition, the collection has expanded to over 120 figurines, and is still set to introduce even more as they await the completed Tian Tian figurines from other groups. Used as blank canvases to showcase the dreams and aspirations of the Chinese community and beyond, the exhibition will even feature designs made by members of the Malay, Indian, Eurasian and Peranakan communities to showcase our wide variety of local culture and heritage.
One of the key reasons for the SCCC has decided to showcase this family-friendly exhibition is to promote inclusivity and creativity, and to start a dialogue about the various people that live in Singapore. Not simply an exhibition about Chinese culture, the SCCC aims to attract visitors from all backgrounds, and will include designs by artists as varied as filmmaker Boo Junfeng to even Ezzam Rahman, an artist known for his sculptures created from fingernails and dead skin.
The exhibition will also feature a series of free public talks and creative workshops, aimed at students and members of the public, who will get a chance to design their own Tian Tian mini figurines to be added to the collection. Said SCCC Board Member Alvin Tan: “One of the key takeaways from these talks and the exhibition is to promote greater cultural exchange, and we hope workshop participants can gain a greater sense of self-expression with the endless possibilities in designing their figurines.”
Come and see for yourself what weird and wonderful ways these Tian Tian figurines have been designed and reimagined, and witness how a single character can be the key to unlocking so much culture and discussion at the SCCC this month.
Tian Tian Xiang Shang (TTXS) is on display at the Singapore Chinese Cultural Centre Gallery (Level 2) from 3rd March – 3rd June. Admission is free. For a full schedule of upcoming workshops and talks, visit the SCCC website or follow the SCCC on their Facebook.