I always love old places, whether its abandoned or not. I love the stories and memories that is attached with it.
Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei currently has an exhibition on Alcatraz, the notorious island used as a military fortress and federal penitentiary. Among the many works presented is “Blossom” which caught my eye and definitely peak my interest. The work was installed in several hospital ward cells and medical offices. And as its name suggests, intricately detailed ceramic flowers are blossoming out of sinks, toilets and tubs that were once used by hospitalized prisoners.
A possible interpretation of the work is perhaps a symbolic offering for the prisoners that used to stay in the cells and the immortalisation of that offering through ceramic flowers (ceramic is one of the most lasting material on Earth and have survived to tell many stories and histories). But at the same time the odd marriage between the plumbing and ceramic flowers have also sparked a conversation about growth and tenacity. I may be confined but I’m not dead.
In other news, a similar project titled “Bloom” involving 28,000 potted plants was installed in a health centre in Massachusetts. Artist Anna Schuleit was commissioned to conceptualise and produce a large scale public art in memory of the building. After an initial tour of the facility she was struck not with what she saw but with what she didn’t see: the presence of life and color.
With a limited budget and only three months of planning, Schuleit and an enormous team of volunteers executed a massive public art installation called Bloom. The concept was simple but absolutely immense in scale. Nearly 28,000 potted flowers would fill almost every square foot of the health centre including corridors, stairwells, offices, and even a swimming pool, all of it brought to life with a sea of blooms. The public was then invited for a limited 4-day viewing.
In both projects, flowers (as offerings) were use to illustrate the transitional phase for the buildings but mostly importantly using art as a closure.
Similar local projects include Displacements 13 Wilkie Terrace and An Eminent Takeover at Eminent Plaza. Both which I had the pleasure attending and even taking part in one of them. Displacements is a community art initiative that is set in a soon-to-be demolished 77 year-old house in the Mt Sophia area. It showcases artists debuting newly-commissioned work across a range of media (painting, ceramics, photography, installation, performance, sound art). Whereas An Eminent Takeover is a potently reactive and multi-disciplinary collaboration that activates creativity through art and music set in the notorious ‘vice mall’, Eminent Plaza.
Especially in context of Singapore where the cityscape is changing rapidly and many old buildings and spaces were cleared to make way, plus Singaporeans inclination towards nostalgia, I personally think that such projects like these are essential to break such misconceptions, to allow the larger audience to appreciate the true beauty of old places.
Today’s post is definitely not so much about recycling and upcyling or any form of sustainable design. But perhaps looking back and appreciating what is before and bringing the best out from it could be a starting point in looking at alternative materials and opening up to many possible green projects.