by Toh Ee Ming
SINGAPORE, May 23 (Xinhua) -- A castle in the sky, a vast suspended moon and a balloon observatory. These are among the collection of whimsical, inflatable objects that will spark the imagination of visitors at Floating Utopias, Singapore's ArtScience Museum's new exhibition.
Opening this Saturday, Floating Utopias takes a playful and poetic look at inflatable objects and explores how they have been used in art, architecture and social activism over the decades.
The four-month exhibition features more than 40 artworks, including eight dramatic larger-than-life inflatables. It is presented in five chapters, Balloon Fever, Display and Disrupt, Bubble Architecture, Solar Sustainability and Vertical Exploration.
ArtScience Museum's executive director Honor Harger said in the media preview that, the exhibition combines "play, poetry and politics" to explore the artistic and scientific story of inflatables.
The exhibition shows how inflatable objects were used as tools for ideological propaganda in socialist and capitalist mass parades during the 20th century, and how artists countered these tendencies by using them as playful tools of social activism.
It also charts a new generation of designers and urban planners who are turning to inflatable structures to look for new approaches of designing space and alternative ways of living.
And with climate change issues coming to the forefront, the exhibition shows how inflatable structures can provide lightweight alternatives to environmentally damaging systems, such as a solar sculpture that acts as an artificial cloud to bring water into the desert.
Honor noted, "Ever since the first hot-air balloon ascended into the skies in the 18th century, inflatable objects have inspired the public's imagination, generating utopian dreams of castles in the sky, floating laboratories and cloud cities."
Among the key highlights include WALTER by Singaporean artist Dawn Ng, a large, curious rabbit sculpture designed to be seen outdoors in Singapore's cityscape. By popping up in local settings like neighborhoods, hawker centers, shophouses and playgrounds, WALTER disrupts the familiar and brings magic into the everyday life.
In another exhibit, visitors are confronted by the sight of two enormous pink bunnies facing one another in a cramped space, in Somehow I Don't Feel Comfortable by Japanese artist Momoyo Torimitsu.
Seemingly playful in nature, the oversized bunnies loom over visitors, perverting and distorting the idea of cuteness and creating an unsettling effect.
This installation also acts as a social critique of the constricted nature of modern cities in Asia, such as Japan's small apartments which are often called "rabbit hutches".
Visitors will have a chance to see the moon up close and experience a sense of wonder through artist Luke Jerram's Museum of the Moon, which pays tribute to mankind's desire to explore the sky and to the new age of space exploration in the 1960s. Created using state-of-the-art scientific imagery, it was installed to mark the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by NASA astronauts in 1969.
There will be a series of outdoor performances and hands-on workshops that will invite the public to shape their own utopia, or their imagined perfect world.
The first of these performances will take place on May 25, on the evening of the exhibition opening at the Marina Bay waterfront promenade. The public will be invited to take part in a unique nocturnal performance that encourages new forms of assembly and communication using 19 large portable inflatable light sculptures.
Visitors are also encouraged to bring used plastic bags to the museum and work together to create a giant, colorful recycled plastic patchwork balloon to be launched into the air toward the end of the show.
Floating Utopias will run from May 25 to September 29, 2019.
The exhibition is organized by ArtScience Museum and Floating Utopias Foundation, in collaboration with the neue Gesellschaft fur bildende Kunst, a German art association.