What IS a tetra? To the unenlightened, it is a small tropical freshwater fish that is typically brightly coloured. It is native to Africa and America and is a popular aquarium fish. Its Greek origin, tettares also means four. And in chemistry, it relates to compounds containing four atoms or groups of a specific kind like tetracycline. This is erudite stuff.
The Fondation d’entreprise Hermès’s new exhibition at their Third Floor space in Liat Towers is literally a smorgasbord of tetra-themed objets d’art. Tetraphilia by Hong Kong-born installation artist Nadim Abbas narrates the story of a word but it does more than simply string words together; the exhibition combines objects, images, tastes and sounds. We are bombarded by a slew of “tetra-trivia” in a space that is surreal, sublime and kitsch all at once.
Tetragrammaton is a set of 16 composite images where Abbas has superimposed various recognisable pyramid structures, such as the Louvre Museum and the Luxor hotel, Las Vegas into different landscapes. Printed on Duraclear film and affixed onto a light box, the inkjet prints are luminescent and arresting.
Various CRT television sets scattered around the space play a video loop of three dimensional atoms rotating in a dance across the screens. The featured atoms are Tetrahydrocannabinol, Tetrahydrogestrinone and Tetrasodium pyrophosphate.
Abbas inserts an edible and interactive element through Holy Mt II, a tetra brik pyramid of drinks and Holy Mt III, a plentiful pyramid of marshmallows sitting on a clear plastic platter, placed on a plastic outdoor table surrounded by chairs. Gameboy handsets are part of the installation and visitors are encouraged to sit and play, you guessed it, Tetris, while nibbling on a tasty treat of marshmallow and washing it all down with a refreshing drink.
On a wall, a curious photo of a preserved puffer fish stares out sightlessly while selected recordings of opera diva Luisa Tetrazzini float in the background. On closer inspection, Lady Sings reveals that the puffer fish is a part of a family of tetraodontidae consisting of primarily marine and estuarine fish.
Tetraphilia is an almost pathologically obsessive collection, a multi-sensory mind-trip that plumbs the disconnection between what we see, our memories and its true reality.
Tetraphilia runs till 23 June 2013.
Third Floor – Hermès
541 Orchard Road
10:30 am to 7:30 pm daily