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Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Feasting the Senses: A Review of Sensorium 360° by the Singapore Art Museum

Everywhere in Singapore will be crowded during the quarterly school holidays. That was our assumption as we headed to the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) for its special exhibition - Sensorium 360°: Contemporary Art and the Sensed World. We were, thankfully, proven wrong, and apart from pockets of overseas guests and student groups, the visit was relatively peaceful. This is some information about the exhibition as provided by SAM.

Sensorium 360° is an exhibition of Southeast Asian and Asian contemporary art that calls upon the complexity of the human senses, and explores how sensory experiences locate us in understanding the world and knowing the self. While the five senses of sight, hearing, taste, touch and smell are the most commonly known, other identified senses include the ability to detect movement, pain, balance and even time. Oft taken for granted, these physiological capacities are indispensable in enabling us to apprehend the world within and without – taking in its pleasures and pains, even as we absorb data and information.
What is a sense?
And the visit was certainly a feast for the senses - our two boys definitely thought so, as they bounded from room to room and enjoyed one exhibit after another. For instance, 2-year-old E really enjoyed the Continuum of Consciousness by Linda Solay. The exhibit comprises a single column of crystal glasses collected by Solay and her family during the war. This was the centrepiece of a large dark room which E enjoyed visiting.
I was surprised that my 2-year-old simply sat on a bench for more than
5 minutes at one stretch just admiring the crystal column.
Another dark room experience was one entitled Cage, presented by artist Li Hui. The numerous green laser lights shing throughout the room were a fascination to many, including myself. I could almost imagine being entrapped in a "cage" of laser lights!
The virtual "cage" of lights. Are we truly trapped in our little cages?
Our 4-year-old son Z was not a fan of the dark rooms, being more of a "touchy-feely" kind of boy. He did however enjoy the exhibits which incorporated more of the sense of touch.
Exploring the sense of touch.
What is in the box? Labels depict possible emotions that you may feel
once you put your hand in the box. Do you dare to accept the challenge? 
Then there were the lovely scented exhibits which brought us into different places just through the sense of smell.

Anyone fancy a fresh whiff of the ocean or the comforting scent of a champagne in the evening?
Getting hungry? Allow the sense of taste of overwhelm you. Vietnamese artist Bui Cong Khanh explores the provenance of Hoi An Chicken Rice in Vietnam, telling the story of how early Chinese immigrants to Vietnam brought in a dish previously known as Hainanese Chicken Rice, and how this eventually evolved into a local Vietnamese version.
The globalisation of food and culture in Hoi An, Vietnam
A particularly interesting exhibit was one by Goldie Poblador, who attempted to connect the senses of sound and smell. Our boys particularly enjoyed the music of La Paloma, while imbibing fragrances pleasing to the senses.

Our little musician deep in concentration.
One of the most enjoyable exhibits was entitled Twinning Machine 4.0 by Tad Ermitano. A camera captures the image of the audience, and this is then projected onto a screen to form a type of "anti-mirror".
A rather interesting experience to watch a reflected image of yourself appearing on the screen
moments after you carry out the action - experiencing a kind of time delay effect.
Arguably we are certain that the boys enjoyed the breast exhibit best! This unique display, by Thai artist Pinaree Sanpitak, is meant to simulate the intimate bonds forged between mother and child during a baby's early stages, during which he or she suckles at the breast for nourishment and comfort. 
2-year-old E jumps from "breast" to "breast". Made of organza, the rotund soft sculptures
were the perfect playground for our two boys.
Mummy shares an intimate moment with the boys.
Brothers at play.
In all, Sensorium 360° was a fantastic experience for the entire family. There's so much to learn for the children (although we felt that they seemed to have more fun than actually partake in the learning per se). As for the adults, there were special moments when we were able to immerse ourselves into the exhibits and allow our senses to take over. Truly a feast!
Two contented children at the end of the day!

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