Cosy up in a regenerative seed pod, immerse in soundscape and song atop a grass mound, or unveil new meanings through literal shifts in visual perspectives. From now till 6th June 2021, the public can encounter 14 larger-than-life art installations along the 36km-long coast-to-coast trail, commissioned by the Public Art Trust (PAT) under the National Arts Council (NAC). Titled Rewritten: The World Ahead of Us, this first-ever public art showcase installed across eight nature parks from Punggol to Jurong sees our artists draw inspiration from Singaporean writers and works in the conceptualisation process.
The multi-sensory project was conceptualised during Singapore’s circuit breaker last year, as a spirited response from the arts community to concerns and experiences caused by COVID-19. Stepping out of their studios and into nature, homegrown artists responded to an open call by NAC with their messages of hope and resilience for the public to share in. Rewritten presents an opportunity for the public to discover works by Singaporean artists and develop a deeper appreciation of visual arts in our daily lives. Progressively installed in phases since Singapore Art Week 2021 in January, the full suite of public artworks is now available for public viewing just as Singapore welcomes a further easing of restrictions this month.
Tay Tong, Director of Sector Development (Visual Arts), NAC, said, “Just barely a year ago, arts spaces went dark and a hushed silence enveloped the nation at the height of COVID-19. Artists started to look inwards and seek new avenues of expression, and Rewritten presented an opportunity for them to push their creative boundaries and create works that inspire. We hope that the artworks will spark curiosity and open dialogue in the daily lives of our Singapore public, as we reflect and step bravely into a new post-COVID world.”
Rewritten is a rethinking of language, narratives and expression as artists inject their creative energies into the environment and surrounding communities.
The project features artworks that were drawn from existing bodies of work by known Singaporean poets. This includes Robert Yeo’s poem Those in Urban Yellow (2012), which inspired immersive “viewing curtains” YELLOW by lighting designer James Tan and scenographer (Lighting & Set) Petrina Dawn Tan; and Yong Shu Hoong’s poem Fan Fiction from his collection Anatomy of a Wave (2021), which was referenced in art collective Vertical Submarine’s striking audio cassette [ ] With Dual Possibilities.
Other works such as Hello Stranger by visual artist Dawn Ng and BOND by architectural artists Jerome Ng & Zed Haan feature prose and poetry exploring concepts of human presence and connections, whether conceptually or physically.
The natural environment was another main source of inspiration for some of the artworks, where there were coincidentally two creations – When A Tree Becomes A Forest by photography and installation artist Ang Song Nian and 間 Jian by interdisciplinary artist Cheryl Chiw – that played with ideograms based on Chinese characters.
Capturing the ephemeral concept of time, 2010 Young Artist Award recipient Robert Zhao Renhui presents a site-specific, durational artwork that follows the growth of a single tree. Over the course of the presentation, the 11 light boxes on display will reveal different stages of the tree’s growth, a conduit for the idea that it takes time for nature and mankind to reset and rebuild ourselves before moving ahead.
Taking the idea of contemplation into the wider community, artists such as social artist duo Hunny and Lummy (Hun Ming Kwang and Quinn Lum Fu Loong) and street artist Sam Lo carved out spaces which served as encouragement and reminders for the public to smile and heal together. Going a step further beyond individual reflection, the works bring forth the wider consciousness of empathy and self-confidence during challenging times.
Rewritten represents the resilience of the arts community during COVID-19 pandemic, where artists are not only thinking out of the box to elevate or pivot their practice, but also committed to making art that is widely visible and freely accessible to all. Besides experienced artists such as Sam Lo, Dawn Ng and Robert Zhao who have been contributing to Singapore’s public arts landscape, Rewritten saw artists experimenting in this field for the first time, such as Ang
Song Nian, Hunny and Lummy, who have presented exhibitions in gallery settings.
The result is a concerted effort by a diverse mix of emerging and established artists to create meaningful art that inspires the rest of society to overcome challenges creatively. Over the next few weeks, PAT will be launching virtual engagement content to enhance the physical art experience and promote visual literacy in public art.
Director Tay Tong added, “Partnering with artists and colleagues from public agencies to bring art closer to Singaporeans, NAC seeks to transform our urban spaces to host art that resonates with the public. The recent COVID-19 Arts Consumption Survey revealed that Singaporeans have shown a strong appetite for digital arts and blended deliveries during the pandemic, signalling that the arts provide essential relief and have a role in improving emotional and mental wellbeing.”
“NAC will continue to work with artists and industry players of various backgrounds and expertise to find innovative ways to sustain our vibrant arts scene. This will help future proof Singapore’s arts scene as we hope to consistently bring art to the public.”
Rewritten: The World Ahead of Us runs till 6th June 2021 at various locations. For the full list of artworks and participating artists, visit the PAT website or follow the latest updates at @publicarttrustsg on Facebook and Instagram.