A Day Without Trees by Yeo Chee Kiong

Melting the Museum from Within

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“The museum’s Rotunda becomes a personified living body and with global warming, the building melts into a white fluid. The purpose is to create surprising and subverting psychological moments so that the perceived solids are liquefied, and the liquids solidified.” (extracted from the exhibition text)

A title as suggestive as A Day Without Trees, is as apocalyptic as the movie The Day After Tomorrow (directed by Roland Emmerich, 2004). The transformation is subtle, except for the pool of white liquid on the floor. The artist has chosen to ‘melt’ the plinths and brass plaque commemorating the opening of the museum, like marsh mellows under the hot sun. This melting is surreal, frozen in the moment, or moving immeasurable slow to the human eye. The building is in an inextricable situation, doomed to perish. This site specific exhibition is interesting, beyond the context of the popular, and real issue of Global Warming (for more information on Global Warming, check out www.climatecrisis.net). Melting the museum from within, could be interpreted as the collapse of the traditional roles of the Museums, to be replaced by Andre Malraux’s concept of museum without walls, without barriers or even physical structure. The national museum is certainly such a site, curating and displaying contemporary art, as markers of history. This not only rivals the Singapore Art Museum for contemporaneity, but surpasses it in its engagement with architecture and virtual web space.

Unknown to many, the site specific installation has ‘morphed’ at least once, with the addition of clear acrylic boxes, labeled on top with the text such as ‘wet floor’, ‘spill’, ‘closed for mopping’, presumably to prevent viewers from stepping on the white latex. There are other subtle modifications, such as pools of water, a trademark of the sculptor Yeo Chee Kiong, just skimming the surface of the plinths surrounding the rotunda. Sadly, this portion of work is maintenance heavy, and not always brimming.

The water surfaces possibly inspired by British artist Richard Wilson’s 20:5o, are frills and idiosyncrasies of the artist, adding to the surrealism. The acrylic boxed signs, sadly dramatically changes the mood of the work from something serious to frivolous. It is almost like putting comic fonts on police vehicles. I would have preferred something more conventional, such as a plaster-cast pail with mop, and a real plaster-cast wet floor sign, making the link to sculpture more palpable to the public. Clear acrylic boxes, replacing vinyl stickers on the floor, are meant to allow the viewer to still see the work and to block human traffic; even a sign that says “molten liquid will stain your shoes”, in 4 languages in a deadpan fashion might be more effective and less distracting. The pseudo designer wet floor sign is too difficult to read for many, especially in that lighting condition.

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Despite the criticism one may have for the unnatural barricades, the raison d’être of the work is admirable, and timely with the United Nations Climate Change Conference, in Bali from 3 – 14 of December, 2007. For the sculptural intervention of the rotunda, the first rate construction over parts of a conservation building, the artist gets two thumbs up.

Site Specific Installation

A Day Without A Tree
By Yeo Chee Kiong (Singapore)
Thursday 8 November 07 – Sunday 6 January 08
10am – 9pm, daily
Rotunda
Free Admission

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