Imagine walking into the National Museum of Singapore and being confronted by outdoor environments such as a mound of lush grass, or a beach inviting you for a tan. How about unexpectedly having artwork appear in front and around you, or actually being part of the final puzzle piece to an installation? These are among the experiences visitors will encounter at the National Museum’s latest exhibition, What Is Visible Is Not Invisible. Featuring selected artworks from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC), this contemporary art exhibition is also a parallel project of the Singapore Biennale 2016.
Overall, What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible presents over 30 artworks by French and international artists from FRAC, one of the most important public collection of contemporary art founded in 1982 and anchored by 23 institutions across all the regions in France. The show is curated in collaboration with Platform1, the network of FRACs, and marks the first time that this selection of the collection is being presented in Asia Pacific.
“History inspires art, and art develops our understanding of history and ourselves. This collaboration between our museum and Platform presents significant artworks of our time from the FRAC’s collection to audiences in Singapore, and encourages our visitors to engage with contemporary art which is relevant and often inspired by history.” — Angelita Teo, Director of the National Museum of Singapore.
An Experience for the Mind and Senses
What is Not Visible is Not Invisible broadly surveys the imaginary and the temporary, and takes visitors on an experiential and progressive journey of the mind and senses through the artworks specially selected from FRAC’s collection of 26,000 works. Through the use of unconventional approaches in art-making, the exhibition of multi-media installations invites new ways of perception and brings each visitor into a new state of mind through personal interpretations of the presentations, its surrounding space, and context.
The title and design of What is Not Visible is Not Invisible takes inspiration from the artwork of the same title by French artist Julien Discrit, which walks the line between physical and philosophical. At first glance, three infrared lightbulbs are strung from the ceiling in front of an unassuming blank wall. When triggered by the viewer’s presence, the bulbs light up to reveal the ultraviolet text on the wall: “What is not visible is not invisible”. The work only appears when it is seen, highlighting that to express the invisible, one needs to paradoxically have to make it visible.
The visual paradox initiated in this modest yet profound works sets the premise for the themes and artworks that visitors will engage with at the exhibition. Artworks such as Grass Grows by Hans Haacke where a mound of grass greets visitors to the exhibition, and Repulse Bay by Dominique Gonzalez-Foerster, where a beach is recreated indoors instantly captures the audiences’ attention through the displacement of what is expected to be outdoors, suddenly appearing indoors. The recreation of environments in unassuming spaces creates new perspectives and transports visitors into a new state of mind.
“As a former Ambassador of France to Singapore, I welcome the opening of this exhibition which enhances cultural dialogue between France and Singapore, one of the most dynamic countries in the world focused on research and creativity,” said Mr Bernard de Montferrand, President of Platform. “This exhibition presents a selection of works from the FRAC network located in all regions of France that is committed to making contemporary art accessible to the public, encouraging them to discover and understand it through the eyes of the young artists and designers.”
A Showcase of Pioneer Contemporary Artists
FRAC counts 5,400 French and international artists in its collection, and is credited to be the starting platform of many established artists and presents many household artists in its collection such as Gilbert & George, Andy Warhol, and Subodh Gupta, whose work will be presented at the National Museum of Singapore’s rotunda as part of Singapore Biennale 2016.
What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible is an opportunity to be acquainted with prominent contemporary artists of our time – pioneers who pushed boundaries to set the scene for we know today. For example, visitors will be presented the much-celebrated Work No262 by British multimedia artist Martin Creed, an installation that engages with the mind and senses as it invites visitors into a space of balloons, to contemplate and respond to the idea of the physical space. Martin Creed is most known for his controversial Turner Prize-winning piece Work No227: The lights going on and off – in which an empty room with lights flickers on a timer – which made international headlines.
Contemporary art aficionados will also be thrilled to be in contact with Anthony McCall, through his renowned 2005 work You and I, Horizontal. The British-born, New York-based artist is synonymous with solid-light installations, and is considered by many to be a pioneer who created works before his time in the 1970s. His art is immediately recognisable, and lauded for how fundamental audience’s direct sensory experience is to his work.
Involving Audience and Environment
The artworks in What is Not Visible is Not Invisible are curated to encourage audience interaction, and to leave room for personal interpretation. Many of the artworks call for the audience and the environment to play a key role in the artwork and its presentation. For example, Speech Bubbles by Philippe Parreno is an installation where a space is filled with helium balloons in the shape of speech bubbles, bringing to life what a person’s thoughts would literally look like – animating visitors as though were part of a real-life comic strip once they step into installation.
The National Museum of Singapore’s own collection also plays a part in an artwork, with the lithograph of the original steel engraving of the Plan of the Town of Singapore, as the centrepiece in Définition/méthode 131. Entourant le tableau by Claude Rutault. This everchanging piece from the FRAC Auvergne collection, specifies a set of instructions for the presenting institutions to create the artwork, resulting in a different outcome each time. Responding to the ideals of Rutault’s approach in his piece, the Plan of the Town of Singapore too functions as a set of instructions and guidelines that determined the layout of the city.
What Is Not Visible Is Not Invisible
7 October 2016 – 19 February 2017
Open Daily | 10am to 7pm
(Thursdays – 1pm to 7pm)
Details on admission and guided tours are available at The National Museum, Singapore.