When the visual arts collides with the realm of sports, it usually conjures up images of classical representations of peak human physique. However for Torch Up, its official community arts partner (The Living! Project) has taken a more inclusive approach, by giving artists and the wider community the perfect opportunity to create their artworks in a collaborative manner.
Take for example the piece Fighting Flying Flight. For this piece, artist Amanda Lim has collaborated with students (from Spectra Secondary School) and persons living with disability (from Bizlink Day Activity Centre) to collect, fold, and fuse together plastic bags, culminating in an installation which drapes gracefully across from Bras Basah MRT Station.
Furthermore, within each of the birds are handwritten messages, expressing the hopes and dreams of everyday Singaporeans. Even more heart-warming is the inclusion of well-wishes for the SEA Games athletes, as well as wishes for Singapore.
Also another endearing and vivacious piece is Future Youth Abound by Florence Ng and Dawn Tam. Their colourfully quilted composition was made by joining together paintings on metal sheeting, each tableau showcasing how young people envisage Singapore’s future in the next 50 years. For their piece, they’ve worked with the students from My First Skool @ Marine Terrace and St Nicholas Girls School.
Some of the sculptures in Torch Up are nothing if not fun and playful. Tay Swee Siong’s piece is an LED light scupture which incorporates “art, design, craft and electronics”, a melange of elements that come together to pay tribute to the collective dreams and aspirations of Singaporeans, all in a visually whimsical manner!
Speaking of whimsy, do check out Sari Atiqa Ramli’s installation, #JumpForSEAGames, which invites viewers to get their picture taken by standing and jumping on a platform, triggering the installation which operates as a panoramic camera. Thereafter, the you’ll be invited to view your pictures on Instagram with the hashtag #JumpForSEAGames.
Perfectly fitting for an event like the SEA Games, #JumpForSEAGames is a fun and interactive crowd-pleaser for the selfie generation; Sari places the hashtag front and centre in her installation’s title, undoubtedly tapping on the collective participation and spectatorship for international public sporting events.
Also along Orchard Road, we have Reaching High, which takes centre-stage for the sculpture festival. This piece is made by Sun Yu-Li, a veteran of Singapore’s sculpture scene in collaboration with [email protected] (the Energy Research Institute at Nanyang Technological University). It incorporates clean lines characteristic of Sun’s sculptures, embodying his philosophical search for an almost Kantian ideal in a “Universal Language” or “Universal Truth”.
We see the artist bringing a kinetic element to his sculptures, and it encapsulates a running thread throughout most of the installations – the element of audience participation. Fun, no doubt. Here we have a kinetic light installation where people are encouraged to either cycle on stationery bicycles or turn a wheel in order to light up the sculpture.
Also achieving a similar sense of verticality is Sun I-Yu’s Celebrate the Extraordinary. The artist stays true to the spirit of the 28th SEA Games by naming her piece after the theme of this year’s Games. This piece functions more than just as a stationary sculpture to be admired from afar… go up to it and touch one of the hands, and its ‘heart’ will light up.
An interesting counter-point to Sun I-Yu’s piece is Beginning and End by artist Karen Mitchell. Mitchell transforms the humble newspaper into interlocking shell-like forms, alluding to journalism as a sport, creating its own figurative waves of data and information of the buzz and human activity of Singapore. Her use of newspapers published in different languages exhibits and acknowledges the multicultural nature of not just Singapore, but also international sporting events.
The curious use of such fragile materials for an outdoor installation (susceptible to wear and tear from exposure to the elements) keeps one grounded in the appreciation of bodily finiteness over time. It pays homage to the everyday and the common-place, and reminds us that sports is not just a domain limited to the select few, but a communal activity.
Speaking of communal activities, do check out the stunning Ouroboros by Nicola Anthony. The artist has joined forces with her community partner, IQKids, to shape 10,000 ping pong balls into an abstracted Ouroboros – the symbol of a serpent eating its own tail. Standing elegantly against the Singapore skyline, each individual ball has been inscribed with wishes, dreams, and aspirations. It takes a humble object and turns it into a gorgeous light piece.
From ping-pong balls, we move on to badminton shuttlecocks, which have been assembled together with other used sports gear for Nic Ong’s garden-like installation, Fields of Gold. Ong has collaborated with the Alzheimer’s Diesease Association Singapore for his piece, and gives his recycled objects a second life, referencing the hard work and countless hours that go into the craft of a sportsman. The work is a charming and unassuming piece which blends in well with Singapore’s garden-city surroundings and encourages the viewer to pay attention to the everyday objects that we often take for granted.
Indeed, recycling is a recurring theme for Torch Up. For artists Bartholomew Ting, Akmal Abdul Rahman, and Steven Chan, they’ve used recyclable materials to construct a sculpture that is instilled with a sense of play and celebration. Even its title, Everybody Builds a Torch Up! Structure, couldn’t be a clearer call to action for the country to come together and celebrate not just the 28th SEA Games, but also Singapore’s 50th birthday.
Phew! That was quite a trek through just a few of the pieces exhibited for Torch Up. The whole event is meant to be community driven, so to a large extent the artworks embody some of the ideas of the SEA Games – multiculturalism, hard work, and the human spirit. While we aren’t able to cover all the sculptures that are featured in this event, do take some time to walk through the areas of Bras Basah, Sportshub, Marina Bay and Orchard Road, and you might be surprised by what you stumble upon.
For a map of all the sculptures, check out their page here.
Also, visit their Facebook page, where they will post updates on community events during this period.
(Photo credit: All images by Richard Koh for The Living! Project)