Suspend your Disbelief II is a development of my analogue midterm project. It incorporates sound and light to create an immersive and trance-like audiovisual environment. By introducing strobe light effect and a jarring soundscape, the work is an intervention of a typically peaceful and relaxing play environment. It also aims to distort movement and our perception of time and progress.
Some alterations were needed to customise the swings for the new space (Truss room). I chopped the longest swing into two pieces and made additional reinforcements to the centre. I also shortened the length of the sticks for a sleeker look and to allow for more movement.
The soundscape consisted of a low-frequency drone in the background and 10 randomised accents. These accents were either
created or edited using Ableton Live. I adjusted each accent to make it sound as jarring and ‘noisy’ as possible while remaining unified as a soundscape. Each accent or delay also had a unique light pattern which emphasised its sound.
Some accents had a gradual circular panning effect or sudden jumps between corners but that was not included in the end due to technical difficulties in the space. Multichannel panning would have enhanced the effect of movement and confusion in the space, however, overall I think the result was alright without it. Oh well! 🙂
Interestingly, when pairs of friends experienced the space together, they often wanted to hold hands and swing in unison. Their response was unexpected, but nonetheless very endearing.
What started as a working title became surprisingly apt when I had doubts about whether this project could be materialised. It reminded me of an article in the local newspaper a few weeks back about Christo and his 2 decade long project in Colorado. Interestingly, he mentioned in the interview how getting permits and approval was an integral element of the spirit of the project.
Variations between Planning and Execution
Initially, I intended the swing and larger hammock to be closer together. However, the larger hammock had to be placed further to the right, down the stairs so as to not obstruct the fire sprinklers.
Making a Prototype
Before getting loads of rope and fabric, I made a prototype using scrap materials such as wires, shoelaces and some spare cloth.
I tied this makeshift hammock onto my bed post and experimented with the placement of ropes (3 points vs. a single pivot) and the motion it created using each method.
Trying out these prototypes was very useful as it allowed me to gauge the strength of cloth needed and shorten the width of the hammocks based on the wood flexibility and strain. Instead of winding the fabric around the pole, I opted for sewing as it would be more secure and able to bare more weight.
Creating the Components
As the forms in the installation become increasingly open from right to left, I choose 3 different earth tones to emphasise this gradation and complement the space underneath the stairs. The darkest fabric corresponds to the shallow hammock which is wedged by the stairs and forms an enclosed private space.
First, I cut the fabric to width. I initially intended the hammocks to be at least 1 metre in width. But due to the flexibility of the wood, this had to be reduced quite a bit.
For extra security, to bare heavy weight, and to prevent unravelling in case of wear and tear, I sewed several lines over a large area and ‘locked’ the sides.
Problems and Revisions
During the initial setup on Sunday, 1 of the sticks broke in the middle after some use. Oh the horror! Each hammock/swing had 2 points of support on each side (4 points in total to share the load). To prevent excessive flexing and bending, I revised the design by adding an additional point of support at the centre of the wooden pole.
I cut out a gap enough for the rope to go through and coil around the pole and reinforced the stitching with… more stitching!
This video walk leads the viewer around the familiar and routine school space. Along the way, they will encounter an unexpected spectacle of moving balloons which seem to appear from nowhere.
After a few hours of bicep curls, I pumped about 60 bright pink balloons and positioned them in 3 locations around basement 1, the lift lobby and outdoor shallow pool. This is a development of an initial idea which involved the addition of objects to alter the space. Instead of using static objects which the participant would walk around, I opted for balloons as they have an organic movement i.e. they float down slowly when released from a height. With force, balloons can also make dynamic and quick movements and
Documentation of video walk experience
(The documentation shows 2/3 locations featured in the video walk)
Original video participants’ view while going through the space
This weekend we visited teamLab’s ‘Future World’ exhibition at the ArtScience Museum. We were kindly guided by Takasu, a member of teamLab.
The ‘blackbox’ exhibition space has a linear structure; we walk through and view the different works in a planned sequence, starting from the floral room and ending at Crystal Universe. The exhibition almost mirrors an entire universe as visitors navigate through various environments (garden, city, ocean, space).
The floral room (comprising three works, ‘Flowers and People, Cannot be Controlled but Live Together’, ‘Ever Blossoming Life II’ and ‘Flutter of Butterflies Beyond Borders’) engages our senses on multiple levels— sight, sound, smell, climate etc.— to create an immersive space. The projections react to our presence and vary with the current climate. This is a thoughtful feature as galleries often seek to create a sense of ‘timelessness’ which disconnects the space from the outside environment. However, the changing flora and fauna makes the work feel like an extension of the real world.
The digitally rendered Universe of Water Particles recalls East Asian landscape paintings. The massive cascading waterfall has a strong sense of gravity and vertical dynamism as the water particles flow down. Its large scale makes us feel small in comparison and aptly captures man’s humility before nature and the elements. I like how the work incorporates Eastern aesthetics and retells classical subject matter like landscape painting.
Many of the works employ soundscapes to intensify our experience of the environment. In 100 Years Sea, the soundscape becomes more solemn and severe as water levels rise, submerging the islands. Similarly in Crystal Universe, sound is used to emphasise the movement of the lights as they rise and fall to form constellations. It also uses mirrors and repetition to mimic the effect of infinite space, lending an impactful ending to the exhibition.
Future World does not explicitly deal with divisive issues commonly discussed in contemporary art such as politics, gender or race. Instead, it highlights the importance of play through relatable topics which are common to everyone such as our way of living, transportation, nature and collaboration. Perhaps in our increasingly tense and divided world, we need some collaborative ludic play to let our opinions and intellects take a step back and let our senses come forward. The works are easy to appreciate, if not for the ideas and concepts they embody, then at least for their beauty as a visual spectacle. Spectacle isn’t a bad thing. TeamLab aims to make people happy and I think they succeed in doing so.
WHAT IS NOT VISIBLE IS NOT INVISIBLE is an ongoing exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore featuring works from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC). The space is set up as a black box and presents 34 works by 32 French and international artists. The exhibition is titled after Julien Discrit’s work What is not Visible is not Invisible (2008) which is strategically displayed in front of the exhibition entrance.
The exhibition features a diverse body of video, sculptural, immersive and interactive installations. For example, Martin Creed’s Work No. 262, Half the Air in a Given Space (2001) is a room filled with large green balloons till waist-level. From Here To Ear (2008) by Celeste Boursier-Mougenot and Ariane Michel shows the video documentation of an interactive installation where songbirds ‘play’ music on electric guitars. The selected works are very accessible, in terms of content and as a visual spectacle, making the exhibition a great introduction for viewers who are new to interactive art.
The work that most inspired me in the exhibition is You and I, Horizontal (2005) by Anthony McCall. I first encountered a similar work by McCall, titled You and I, Horizontal II (2006), last summer at the Australian Centre for the Moving Image in Melbourne, Australia. I was mesmerised by it then and am thankful to be able to experience his work once more in person.
The installation setup is relatively uncomplicated and comprises a computer, computer script, a video projector and haze machine set in a very dark room. The video projector on one end of the room projects white curved lines onto a blank wall. The curve patterns slowly morph between ‘S’-shaped curves, full circles and colliding lines (visualised from math equations) in 50 minute cycles. A curtain is installed at the entrance to block out external light, creating an intensely dark environment.
The hazey atmosphere (due to the smoke machine) sharpens the projected light beams and forms an ephemeral membrane-like space. The darkness further distorts our sense of space and we likely perceive the room to be much larger than it actually is.
Starting out as an experimental filmmaker in the 1970s, McCall is known for his iconic ‘Solid Light’ installations which combine installation, sculpture and the moving image. I think these works are brilliant as although they use relatively simple materials and methods of intervention, they are impactful and compelling. The space naturally encourages interaction and participants would try to tests the limit and boundary of this artificial space.
These immersive ‘Solid Light’ installations seem contradictory; they present the sculptural potential of light and its ability to create and define space, despite being intangible. The experience is also very sensuous and engages our senses of sight, touch, smell and time.
Week 3 updates: Installation setup & similar works
You and I, Horizontal is setup in an enclosed ‘blackbox’ space. The size of the room may vary depending on the gallery, but should be approximately 6 – 9 metres long to allow ample projection space.
The space should be extremely dark and only illuminated by the projection itself. A heavy curtain should be installed over the entrance to block out external light.
The vents of the projector also emit residual light which can be distracting in a dark room. Hence, the projector body should be covered up either using a plinth and box, or behind a hoarding wall with an opening for the lens as seen in the diagram above. This may vary depending on the layout of the room.
A smoke machine is used to reinforce the light beams. It should be placed on the floor in the far corner to prevent participants from accidentally tripping over it.
The wall opposite the projector is the projection surface. It should be blank and primed so the projected image will be crisp.
Comparison with other interactive light installations
Assmeblance(2014) by Umbrellium is a collaborative and interactive light installation. It is similar to McCall’s work in its sculptural use of light to create space. Created by the participants’ gestures, the boundaries are more fluid as they can be built up or disrupted by the interaction between participants.
Similarly, Test Pattern (2008) by Ryoji Ikedais an audio-visual installation that visualises data into black and white barcode patterns. The flickering images react to a soundtrack and change at rapid speed. The largest edition of this work has been installed in a large 100 metre runway space.
Although both McCall’s and Ikeda’s works are immersive, the latter engages our auditory and visual senses more intensely due to its highly-synchronised soundscape and rapidly changing contrasting projections. However, McCall’s work is arguably more intimate as the participant’s interactions have greater influence over the space as they move within the projection. The large expanse of Ikeda’s Test Pattern creates a very different atmosphere and instead makes viewers feel smaller and thoroughly immersed in a fast-paced artificial environment.
It was an interesting read to see someone lay out varying definitions of these 4 terms (some more familiar than the rest), discuss them in depth, highlight the overlaps and limitations before eventually tearing apart the very definitions and explanations he had built. It felt like we know these words, yet not really.
What struck me most was the point regarding play. Zimmerman urges creators not to forcefully direct a play experience but rather to design a system and structure with the potential for play. We as creators cannot incite play but can instead create an environment which encourages and supports it.
Zimmerman also highlights how there is a narrative to be found in all media, games and creations. It teaches us a new way of viewing creative products, searching for the overall stories and ‘micro-narratives’ in each move, sequence and activity.