Of vibrations and flickering light
The title, I must admit, suggests a phrase lifted from a Japanese Haiku, poetic, suggestive, promising and mysterious. Perhaps inspired by minute observations such as blowing bubbles in water, tremors seen in the projection of the meniscus of water in two glasses, conversations muffled and buffered by walls, and Spanish Flamenco tapping of feet.
The 4 works presented here are collaborative site specific works by Ruben Ramos Balsa and Yuen Chee Wai, attempting to present how ‘microscopic details reflect universal laws’. Like the Chaos theory in Physics, where “the flap of a butterfly’s wings in Brazil can set off a tornado in Texas” and “the notion draws on the premise that a butterfly’s wings might create tiny changes in the atmosphere that ultimately cause a tornado to appear or prevent it from appearing. The flapping wing represents a small change in the initial condition of the system that triggers off a chain of events with momentous outcomes”. What is thought-provoking is the illustration of this ‘butterfly effect’, linking ‘sound’, and its invisible propagations through vibrations of air molecules, to produce ‘tremours’.
While not entirely interactive, the works do present a strong statement on the minute effects of sound, attempting to make visible the invisible. For example, The Standard Waveform, suggests the distortions when sound passes through the wall, and we are forced to look curiously at the spiral line on the wall till the gallery sitter tells us to listen instead of looking, if it was working. In Event Horizon, the bass generated from two subwoofers sets of vibrations on two glasses, which are then projected cross-sectionally, sending tiny ripples like miniature tidal waves in the ocean, or a simple science experiment that illustrates the effects of a pulsating physical wave. In Aqual Lungs, waiting 7 minutes will show you blowing bubbles to a designated sound pattern, perhaps like music or drum and bass to fishes?
The most interesting work in the exhibit is probably Pies de Plomo Zapateado Luz, a tiny projection of tapping feet on the surface of a singular bulb, to the sound of tapping feet. we often take sight and sound for granted, and when one of the pair is distorted, reduced in proportion here, it creates a discomfort, much like the bass in Event Horizon. The result is stunning, and you are almost coaxed to repeat the senseless, non-rhythmic feet tapping.
Like Bill Viola’s He Weeps for You (1976) the works here could be stretched to suggest ‘the passing of time’, ‘ephemeral nature of our lives’ compared with the Universe. But to the untrained eye, the works are ineffective to stir more than feet with vibrations and flickering light.
National Museum of Singapore
June 5 – July 13, 2008
admission free, 10 – 6pm.