Vong Phaonphanit and Claire Oboussier

Apart, we are together

2013

Singapore

© Phaophanit and Oboussier Studio 2013


A signifying site on the surface of the earth

 

Concept

A new social space – civic and global in scope, intimate and cosmic in scale.


Singapore is characterised by “legacies of layering and sedimentation within the varied communities”.  Within this cultural geology there is a co-existence of multiple narratives of place. Such narratives persist, play and evolve both within the fabric of subjectivity: personal narratives of identity; and within the fabric of place: through the physicality of the environment, the space we inhabit and the space we create.

The proposed work Apart, we are together offers a place of suspension, a non-place (a-topos). It offers a stilling of the clamor of narratives, a reflective/reflexive space where people can simply stop, pause for breath. It may offer the intentionality of a considered, habitual experience for those who live or work locally, or a singular, incidental experience for those visiting the city and happening upon the space.

The work makes oblique reference to diverse cultural archetypes: the sweep of the collective space of a roman amphitheatre, the curve of a pagoda roof, the intangible ‘presence’ of mist in the air. Yet it avoids an illustrative or narrative approach to its surroundings and acts rather as a silent, reflective cipher of the city of which it is a product. It is Singapore, in all its complexity, that will create and bring meaning to the work, meaning that can transform and be re-imagined in a continuous process over time by those who pass through and pause in the space.

Apart, we are together has been conceived as a contribution to the forthcoming Singapore Biennale and as a ‘legacy’ work that endures beyond the Biennale and becomes embedded into the city for years to come. It is hoped that this piece would encourage and generate critical debate in a non-didactic way: the concept of the work itself is ‘counter-narrative’ aiming to function as a precursor to and producer of ‘new meaning’ rather than as a repository of ‘old meaning’.

Hiatus

New space, new substance, new sense

 

Materiality

Apart, we are together embodies this sense of suspension both at a conceptual and a material level. It proposes the transformation of the Waterloo Centre Plaza into a collective space of reverie, of imagination.

A floor of pale stone stretches out and up to an ‘inclusive’ curved sweep of stepped seating: an open configuration accommodating both solitude and togetherness. Above this architectural empty stage float three slatted ‘screens’, angled to allow the gaze to pass through to the surrounding architecture. These breached ‘screens’ give shade to the collective space without enclosing it. Their surface tilted towards the sky is mirrored  aluminium which captures fractured images of the surrounding built environment and the sky-scape. The surface that is tilted towards the ground is a warm yellow that radiates its colour into the space. Between the breeched screens hover three clouds of fine mist, intangible, paradoxical ‘roofs’, offering refreshment to the users of this unnameable urban space, respite from the heat, revitalisation.

After sunset each cloud is traversed by a horizontal ‘plane’ of light that intensifies the core of the cloud and diffuses out towards it’s edges. The mirrored golden fins that have a strong presence during daylight hours recede at night leaving the suspended luminous clouds to inhabit the space. The use of RGB LEDs would be considered since it would allow a rich palette of colour.

 

Mist    -    Wood    -   Pale Stone    -    Mirrored surface    -   Pigment    -   Vegetation   -  Light

This work connects across borders and shares an ethos with other works in public space such as Mute Meadow (N Ireland), Outhouse (Liverpool, UK), Urban Firefly (Toronto, Canada) and Light Veils (Weymouth, UK).  It is an extension of a studio practise of 25 years whose impulse has been to allow materials to ‘speak’ their own language, beyond connotation, beyond identification and towards aesthetic community. As a ‘worldly’ space, Apart, we are together points at the possibility of fellowship beyond identification – it is a ‘dis-identified’ space in the midst of a global city, a silent marker towards “the hope of a world less imprisoned by illusion” (Amartya Sen)

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