Assignment 2: ‘The Oceanic’ Exhibition Report

“Tue Greenfort, Tamoya Ohboya, 2017.”

Stepping into The Oceanic exhibition at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, the Tamoya Ohboya, an installation by Tue Greenfort, caught my attention. The neon cyan light that glows beyond its display with the very organism that the piece was named after, hovering and floating inside the aquarium was a visual ecstasy. It exposed me to the feeling of calmness yet a certain degree restrain as it immerses its viewers into an artificial habitat.

The Tamoya Ohboya is a species of box jellyfish that is native to the waters of the Dutch Caribbean islands. The species have been in existence for over 500 million years, and thrives only in ideal temperatures and water conditions. Due to the warming of the ocean’s temperatures, researches have observed an increase in the migration of these organisms to new geographical waters.

Greenfort, a Danish artist mostly known for his works revolving around the themes of ecology and the environment, delved into replicating the ideal habitual conditions to sustain the Tamoya Ohboya. By combining art and technology, he was able to create an artificial habitat for these jellyfishes with a tank that was designed to closely resemble the ocean, and devices that maintains and regulates the perfect temperature. This piece was a response to how the environment is changing and proposes a way we, as humans and as a community, could take to preserve delicate life-forms like the Tamoya Ohboya from dying out due to years of destructive human interventions with nature. The concept ties in well with other pieces in the exhibition that urges environmental and economic issues.

Although I find the work compelling in its ways of creating awareness to the mass while highlighting the importance of conserving the environment and how it correlates to the human society, stripping the jellyfishes off its natural habitat and confining it in a small aquarium in the name of art is not an appropriate measure to take. Greenfort’s attempt to display these creatures could be seen as an adverse response to the problem itself rather than the message that he initially intended to tell.

But is there an ethical issue here that needs to be straightened out when it comes to having works like this publicly displayed? Was it necessary for the artist to take live specimens of the creature itself to bring across a message? With the concept of tapu being discussed in the lectures and how we are very informed that there are certain rules and prohibitions practiced in the Polynesian culture concerning the conservation of the very home we live in, are we really protecting the environment? Or is this just another evidence that we are simply causing more harm to it?

Reflection: Human+


It was an incredible experience at the Human+ exhibition held at the ArtScience Museum. They displayed an array of inventions, innovations and installations that pushed concepts and ideas that we thought would only exist in the science-fictional world. From physical augmentations to emerging technologies, and even genetic and body modifications, the projects explore future possibilities for humans in terms of survival, social interactions, and artistic expression.

I was particularly drawn to a piece called ‘The Optimization of Parenthood, Part 2‘, done by artist and mother Addie Wagenknecht. It consists of a robotic arm that substitutes the role of a parent by rocking the cradle every time it hears the baby cry.

Photo taken from the ArtScience Museum

Photo taken from the ArtScience Museum

What I find most interesting about this robot is that it came from a simple idea of tackling an issue that most parents, especially mothers, have go through when it comes to caring for their infants while having to balance work and other activities. Wagenknecht’s concern came from how artists like her, who are mothers too, could possibly lose the creative practice they have earned when they get too preoccupied in raising their babies. This machine not only eases the job of the parent, but also helps the crying child to put them to sleep in a consistent, time-efficient and effective manner.

Beyond just being a tool, I feel that this robot is a small step in eliminating the social stigma that women get when they choose to work instead of staying at home to take care of their children and their household. This invention could pave the path for more innovations in the future that would substitute many other tasks in parenting that consumes too much time and effort.

Imagine having robot nannies taking over the job of parents while they focus on their careers and continue to build a better home for the family. Life would be so much easier and the pressure of raising a child would be lighter. However, even with the most complex designs and advances in technology, there are always margins for errors in AIs and machines which could do more damage than good, and put us all at a disadvantage.

So where do we draw the line? How far do we go to replace human abilities with artificial ones? And could we trust these machines enough to progress to a better future for our species? Those were the questions that popped into my head when I was going through the exhibition. And frankly, even though I am all for future innovations in technology, I do fear the extents that they could surpass.

Here’s a video showing how the robot arm works:

Reflection: Adobe Connect

Adobe Connect was a great way to conduct our class in because it was a whole new experience for all of us. With the exception of some technical difficulties in the initial part of setting up the online portal and minor connection problems along the way, I felt that it was an effective way to get everyone to participate in the lesson.

We took turns to speak and each of us were given time to share our opinions about The Collective Body project that we worked on over the week leading up to the class. I felt that it was a step forward from the static photographs that were posted on Flickr, especially since we are able to see each other live in a cohesive space, interacting with one another. The participation was unlike the ones we have during class in the physical world because with Adobe Connect, we were all in the comfort of our own homes/location in front of our computer screens.

Perhaps the third space could possibly be the future of the modern classroom setting. All of us were able to stay engaged and conducive despite being in remote spaces.

Here’s a screenshot of all of us in our “masks”:

We can’t possibly achieve this in our usual physical space, now can we? (;

Reflection: 4 Concepts of Interactive Narratives

3In his short text, Eric Zimmerman attempted to break down the terminologies of game-story while reconstructing the two by introducing four new concepts – narrative, interactivity, play and game, that were essential to bridge a connection between narrative and interaction. He began with raising the issue that concerned people’s dissatisfaction with the current state of game-story. His aim was to provide a deeper understanding to the relationship between game and story while resolving the problem we face to integrate the two.

I particularly loved how he juxtaposed narrative to a game of chess. When he started to break the concept of chess down was when I realize how much of a story it is rather than a game just by itself. Chess consists of a beginning state (the setup), changes to that state (the gameplay), and a resulting insight (the outcome of the game). He then went on to further explain how chess is a stylized representation of war. Upon this realization, I noticed that all, if not, most games could be a conceptualization of a story.

I also loved how he managed to distinguish the four modes of interactivity as well as how he unconventionally described play as something that opposes the bounds created for a game. Play does not only act as a utilitarian function of the system but also as an expression of the system. He even mentioned how when we take part in a game, we are submitting our behavior to the restrictions of the game.

What struck me most was that he did not raise the debate of whether a game should be considered a narrative or not, but instead he questioned how a game by itself can be narrative and how it can be narrative systems in ways which other medias could not. This excerpt from his text broaden my perspective on what narrative and interactive are and how they correlate.