‘Eden’, a fake garden?
Placed conspicuously near the busy crossroad of Stamford Road and North Bridge Road, the commissioned work by Donna Ong for the Singapore Arts Festival turns more than heads, improvising brooms, paint brushes, toilet brushes, hair clips, plastic ware in the latest make-believe-world work “Eden”. Improvisation has always been Donna’s obsession and methodology, last seen at the four works in the Singapore Biennale 2006. It is encouraging to see commissions of this grand nature (sic), bearing continuity and interest.
The strength of the work seems to lie in turning everyday objects, in a surrealist/Dada fashion into a completely unexpected idealised garden, where our imaginations do the filling in like a child playing make-believe. Yet there’s something disturbing about the work, like Guillermo Del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH, where the lead character finds herself shot but finding her ‘imaginary’ underground kingdom, while the viewer possibly reads the ending the other way and weeps as the girl lay dead. Similarly, we question what we see, nothing more than toilet brushes masquerading as tulips. I’m reminded of the fairy tale Cinderella, where objects are transformed magically; the reality hits the viewer when another person steps onto the platform. It may be interesting to consider the work by comparing it to Singapore’s tourism tagline, Singapore the garden city. Is Singapore the metropolised ‘Eden‘ or a fake garden? How many Singaporeans actually have green fingers, and keep plants larger than $2 cactus? While these rhetorical questions linger, I am certain the work will be enjoyed by many in this busy area, especially those who have no time to stop and smell the flowers to appreciate art.