Controversial Video Art Installation

What is a video installation?

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No! It’s a contemporary art form that combines video technology with installation art, making use of all aspects of the surrounding environment (space) to affect the audience.

David Wojnarowicz’s A Fire in my Belly (1986–1987) –

Screened at the National Portrait Gallery, a Smithsonian museum in Washington, it was withdrawn after the president of the Catholic league described it as anti-Christian hate speech. The 13-minute video, featuring images of ants crawling over Christ on the crucifix, is about death, social inequality, faith and desire. It attracted controversy not only over its use of religious iconography but also because the art world was angered when the museum pulled the exhibit – accusing it of stifling artistic freedom. The artist made the artwork in a time during the AIDS crisis of the late 1980s to early 1990s. According to the museum, the artist himself was diagnosed with HIV and was the artwork was probably a reaction to that. Personally, I think that the casual use of religious icons in artworks can be quite powerful, though it would most definitely anger religious folk. I imagine that there would be two schools of thought in Singapore: 1. Outrage from the religious community. 2. “Aiya this artist purposely do this to attract attention one.”

Bill Viola’s Anthem (1983); or Nope. Nope. Nooooooope. –

Body parts being picked at. Ew. Cannot.
Whether this piece if good or bad, it is definitely going to be difficult to stomach. I didn’t manage to sit through it because I don’t enjoy watching gruesome images. I couldn’t find where exactly it was screened, though I imagine that it was probably at a museum. The artwork has to be presented as cinema: screening has to take place in an isolated dark room with seating for the audience as opposed to an open “walk through” gallery. It is played on a scheduled basis, not on a loop. It seems that it was the artist’s intention for this to be viewed from start to end and not experienced in an installation space. This artist focuses on the theme of life and death, and their relationship, not only in Anthem but throughout his works. Anthem is supposed to be an evocation of “our deepest primal fears, darkness, and the separation of body and spirit.” For me, it is communicated quite clearly, at least for the parts that I watched. I respect that it dared to show graphic content. Personally, I would have approached the matter entirely more subtle. This makes me think that it comes off as a very emotive piece in contrast to the way I would have approached it.

On the topic of controversy, I’m going to do something controversial and talk about a video installation that isn’t necessarily controversial but one that I want to talk about to contrast with the rest which makes a clear argument for being controversial. Is it even necessary to make controversial works? (Ooo controversial)

Apichatpong’s Primitive (2009) – 

Primitive is a multi-screen video installation displayed within a gallery – 7 videos with different durations and eight projections (two being the same video, titled Primitive, in sync). The artist re-imagines the history of Nabua, Thailand, as an elusive science fiction ghost story rooted in Thai folklore.

According to the artist, “Primitive is a reincarnation of presence (and absence). It’s also a reincarnation of cinema as a means of transportation as it was in the time of the early cinema innovator Georges Méliès: the “motion picture” carries us from our own world. Primitive is a meditation on those voyages in fabulous vehicles that bring about the transformation of people and of light”

The artist’s works tend to make use of the supernatural or the surreal to create artworks that dreamlike and tend to be difficult to explain in words – the experience is communication.

Nabua was a place of violence and oppression from the 60s to the 80s when the Thai army occupied the place in order to curb those who were accused of being communists. What makes this work of art controversial could be that it was made in a time of political turmoil in Thailand.

The video installation was exhibited in Germany and UK, but I could not find if it was exhibited in Thailand. If it was then that would definitely be cause for controversy but perhaps it was in not exhibiting it in Thailand which makes it controversial – controversy in the absence of it.


The nature of controversy these days seems to border on the line between controversy for controversy’s sake or for purposely artistic expression. When thinking about controversy in art, I thought about how these artworks take some form of current affairs and their own opinions to create. I don’t think it has to be controversial as long as the message is powerful, or if the experience leaves a lasting impression.

4D II Project 2 – Soundscape

Artist Statement

Whilst trying to create a sound for what resembled the experience of Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence, the artist realised that he was not achieving anything close. It would always feel like something was missing; something that could not be expressed. As a result, what came out was a sonic portrait of attempting to perceive something that was unperceivable, i.e. Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence.

The ordinary world makes sense to us. It may not always be explainable, but it makes sense. Some questions beget more questions, ad infinitum. That was the case with Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence.

This sonic portrait is about the descent down the rabbit hole, getting some idea, but mostly getting more questions and eventually, being overwhelmed by the experience.


I wanted to create a sound for something that could not be seen. Somehow, my mind wandered into Omnipresence, specifically, Omnipresence Sans Omnipotence.

I researched on all the given sound designers and decided to reference Chong Li-Chuan who made The Bowing Plant’s Dream. I thought about Bani Haykal’s work as it seemed like a relevant style, but for the life of me, I just could not understand his art.

I recorded all the sounds used in the submitted work. I knew that I wanted to use musical instruments to create a variety of sounds of different quality so that I could experiment on them in Audition. Apart from that, I seized the opportunity with the H4 zoom to record what I could from my surroundings before I had to return it.

Up to this point, I only had a vague idea of what Omnipresence was to me. I was hoping that through listening to the different sound qualities that I had recorded, I would form a better understanding of what I wanted. However, I still formed no impression of the idea. I then told myself, “Just make a rough cut. Maybe then it’ll make sense.”

It didn’t. Perhaps it might convey the idea of Omnipresence to someone, but I could not convince myself.

After taking a break and returning, I listened to it again and it dawned on me that it sounded like someone attempting to perceive something unperceivable. From there, I aligned the sonic portrait to fit the new idea.

Sound Design: Your first ideas are shit.

What is a sonic portrait even?

After thinking about it for a bit while feeling sick over the Recess Week…in Phuket. I came up with a simple idea about happiness. Sure, I didn’t feel as much for this, but time was tight and there was a part of me that wanted to take a completely different approach and idea as compared to Project 1. I thought about the last time I was happy and was immediately pointed to the zoo trip for Foundation Drawing on the Monday of Recess Week. Sometime after lunch, while I was 80% done with my submissions, I felt a rumble in my tummy, a churning of the belly; a desperate need for release.

I thought about the last time I was happy and was immediately pointed to the zoo trip for Foundation Drawing on the Monday of Recess Week. Sometime after lunch, while I was 80% done with my submissions, I felt a rumble in my tummy, a churning of the belly; a desperate need for release. 😐

Knowing that it was just about after lunchtime, the restrooms near the food court would be crowded. Thinking I was the very smartboi, I went in the other direction, to where more animal enclosures were, believing that I would find another toilet.

Then another rumble, and another churning, and this time: a sharp pain. Quick as a bunny with nothing on it (no clothes, no fur or anything) I sped back to the food court, passing by tranquil sun bears and the lazing Orang Utans – and my classmates, painting.

(This story has gone on for quite awhile, hasn’t it?)

So there I was, rushing to the restroom, knowing that I might break at any moment- knowing that I would face the most dreaded Singaporean thing: a queue.

Upon entering the restroom, I saw kids and adults walking about or doing their business. Let’s not go into detail about that. The point is: all the cubicles were occupied – except for one. “Don’t get your hopes up,” I told myself. “It’s going to be clogged or…have ‘murals’.”

Hesitantly okay no that’s not true, I barged in. AND IT WAS CLEAN! And there was toilet paper.

That is true happiness.

TL;DR I needed to poop and there so happened to be one empty cubicle that was both clean and had toilet paper, in the zoo, just after lunch.


So that was how I came up with the initial idea– and also my fallback idea.

Now, after vomiting out this idea/concept, I thought of a new idea, albeit just the idea. I want to explore the sounds of omnipresence sans omnipotence. I expect that it will be near impossible to depict the sounds experienced, literally. As such, I might attempt to take a metaphorical approach.

For now, I imagine immense pain, which makes me think of the ringing in the ear (tinnitus or something like that). Just a place to start for now.

Zine Research

After weeks of gruelling assignment after assignment after assignment after assignment, I was forced to leave the Technological University of the Nanyang in search of something majestical to capture within the vicinity of the Land of the First Men – Pioneer.

It took awhile for my eyes to adjust to the new surroundings.  I saw, lying on the patch of green, a crimson orb that has been keeping the secrets of an old tree.

I saw many more wonderful things.

I saw many different portals to new worlds. I saw the moon.

There were people who had been around the Land of the First Men, but all that was left was their chairs to tell their stories.

I looked up the concrete towers of fabric and saw paradise. The wind would blow and I would hear what each line of fabric had to say to me. They were reaching out to me and I was thoroughly entranced.

10/10 would definitely come back.