Sunday March 4, 2012
Veil for The Substation
By DENISE CHEONG
ONE of Singapore’s landmark arts centres has itself been turned into a work of art. Take a stroll along Armenian Street and you will find The Substation shrouded in interwoven black and cream plastic strips.
The arts centre-turned-art-installation was commissioned by the National Heritage Board and the Singapore Art Museum.
Singapore artists Grace Tan and Randy Chan created it to celebrate The Substation’s 20th anniversary. Their work, quite an artistic and architectural feat, is titled Building As A Body.
It is a 15m-tall and 10m-wide matrix of 471 PVC strips, each between 5m and 9m in length and 3cm in width. These strips are connected to steel poles using square rings and conceals the entire facade of The Substation building.
The 80kg structure was completed on Jan 10 and is on display till March 28. It is supported by steel scaffolding clamped to the building’s pillars, and took three days and 10 construction workers to build.
On why the artists concealed the arts centre, Chan said he was disappointed that since the National Library and a well-known char kway teow stall (Armenian Street Char Kway Teow, now at Block 303, Anchorvale Link Coffeshop in Sengkang) were relocated, the area was now often deserted.
“The idea was to personify the building. If you look at it one way, the veil represents a woman’s coming of age as a young bride. However, it can also stand for something more morbid, as a veil is also used to cover a corpse,” he said.
Tan added: “This is why we chose the monochromatic colour scheme instead of something more striking. The polarity is very symbolic. The image of a veil in itself is very elusive and mysterious. This can be parallelled to how The Substation means different things to different people.”
The Substation artistic director Noor Effendy Ibrahim, 38, said: “I hope the installation will activate a new imagination of The Substation, not only as a home for the arts but also as a platform for design and sculpture.
“The Substation already stands out in gentrified Armenian Street. This installation disrupts the clean lines of this neighbourhood. I like it and I think it’s an important statement.”
On the use of PVC strips, Chan said: “As this is a public art installation, we were very strategic about the materials used. Instead of just draping a big cloth over the building, which will eventually get wet and heavy, we went for this idea of weaving so that wind can flow through it. PVC material is water-resistant and also very light, making the veil structurally sound.”
This is the first time Chan, 41, and Tan, 32, are collaborating on an art project of this scale. He is an architect by profession, and she is an associate artist of The Substation’s research programme and the founder of kwodrent, an inter-disciplinary practice specialising in design and fabric works. – The Straits Times Singapore/Asia News Network