The EOS ART Projects
The EOS ART Projects 2010-2013 includes six artistic projects that resulted from an innovative program of interdisciplinary collaboration between regional artists and EOS Earth scientists. The completed artworks were exhibited in a public show at the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) between March to July of 2014.
The projects include Coastline by Zhang Xiao, Lupang by Clara Balaguer and Carlos Casas, Sound of the Earth by Sai Hua Kuan, Sudden Nature by Isaac Kerlow, The Possibility of Knowing by Zhao Renhui, and When Need Moves the Earth by Som Sutthirat Supaparinya.
Coastline is a photographic project that presents human life along the Chinese coast as well as some of its negative impact on the natural environment. Zhang Xiao visited dozens of urban and rural areas that sit on the coastline between the Yalu River mouth in the Liaoning nothern province and the Beilun River mouth in the Guangxi southern province. The artist seeks to capture the great changes that take place everyday since China bagan opening up thirty years ago. He is also interested in portraying emotional conflict and exploring the consciousness of his generation.
Rapid construction and its side effects are apparent everywhere along the coastal areas. At times the new buildings seem out of proportion with their simple surroundings. Land reclamation and seaside construction are abundant.
In the middle of this rushed growth ordinary people continue their lives, adapting their routines to the new conditions. A couple hugs at an abandoned seaside pool. Inland construction workers encounter the sea for the first time. Traditional fishermen work around the new developments. School children play in new but deserted facilities. Swimmers share the landscape with new factories or ports. The environment and the new population have yet to adopt each other.
Lupang is an eight-screen installation that portrays the life of the Ayta people who are thought to be the earliest inhabitants of the Philippines. The Ayta were displaced from their ancestral lands by the 1991 eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano located in Luzon. Clara Balaguer and Carlos Casas collaborated on this project with the intention to develop, along with the Ayta people, a better understanding of the causes behind the eruption and possible solutions to its aftermath. The video installation presents scenes of everyday life in the Ayta communities who relocated to the highlands and the lowlands. The former is shown in Lupang screens 1-4 by Carlos, the latter, in screens 5-8.
The non-narrative installation draws some of its inspiration from Udlot-Udlot, a 1975 musical composition by Filipino composer and ethnomusicologist José Maceda. The musical piece is meant to be performed by an ensemble that can range from dozens to thousands of non-trained musicians playing different types of traditional musical instruments.
The artists believe in the integration of social responsibility into the practice of art, and the intention was to create something that could be a source of stability and empowerment for Ayta participants. The overall project seeks to help the Ayta revisit and analyze their identity under their new surroundings and circumstances.
Sound of the Earth is an experimental sound installation that uses the power stored in wet soil to produce sound. Chen Sai Hua Kuan made use of a technique for collecting electricity commonly known as an Earth battery. The basic idea consists of using pairs of electrodes made of different metals to collect the small Telluric electrical currents that can be found when the electrodes are buried in soil. The artist started these experiments in the cities of Padang and Banda Aceh in Indonesia, both of which sit in a region exposed to earthquakes and tsunamis.
For this installation, the artist extracted soil from Seletar in northeastern Singapore. The soil was placed in an array of glass bottles and used to produce sufficient electricity to vibrate two small metal plates against each other. The impact of the metal plates creates a small hammering sound against clay bowls made from the same soil and fired in a kiln. The fired clay shapes amplify the small hammering sounds powered by the Earth battery array.
The artist says: "I wanted to find out how the earth sounds like and whether it has a sound. That was the question. I started making recordings and playing around with them, trying to understand what i want to do. It slowly evolved into working with electricity, and producing electricity from mud that will resonate back to the mud itself."
Sudden Nature by Isaac Kerlow, Mexico/USA
Sudden Nature is a project about the uneasy relation between man and Nature, and how this inescapable relation often oscilates from nurturing to destruction. The project includes a variety of media ranging from visual artworks and stenciled text to interactive installations with image and sound. The Dialog of Monologs audio installation, for example, uses ultrasonic sensors to trigger statements by Man and Nature about each other. Stenciled on the wall above the sensors are words describing some of the destrictuve actions typical of natural hazards. The typographic style of these words is inspired by multi-lingual signs that are common in construction sites throughout Singapore, where English, Chinese, Malay, and Tamil are de facto languages.
The interactive installation I think he loves me invites the viewer to interrupt a video loop that presents a metaphor for the human destruction of nature. Isaac Kerlow was inspired by conversations with survivors of natural disasters in communities throughout Southeast Asia, which have endured for centuries earthquakes, tsunamis, volcano eruptions and lahars. The shock, the loss and the recovery are overwhelming emotions that most humans do not encounter in the course of a lifetime. Some of the disaster survivors were explicit about their feelings while others would let their silence for speak for itself.
The Possibility of Knowing focuses on the before and after of a natural disaster, and examines the tensiion and fragility of landscapes in areas that are subject to such hazards. Robert Zhao Renhui gets some of his inspiration from the methods and techniques used by Earth scientists to interpret the natural forces behind Earth hazards. The artist traveled to the Indonesian cities of Padang and Banda Aceh, both of which sit on an area with many active faults and significant tectonic plate action. The artist says: "I am interested in representing landscapes of disasters. There are some people in the photographs but they are not the main subjects. They appear to be consumed by an unknown natural force."
The photographs of closed beachfront restaurants in Padang evoke a tense absence, a post-disaster desolation in the making. "These restaurants, all 145 of them will be the first to be swept away by the tsunami. I guess it's important to photograph them, as well as everything else that I saw while I was there."
When Need Moves the Earth by Som Sutthirat Supaparinya, Thailand
When Need Moves the Earth is an artwork that reflects on the impact of altering the natural environment during the course of human activities such as mining or the creation of hydroelectric power. More specifically Sutthirat Supaparinya presents a visual exploration of a coal mine and a water dam, both of which are used to generate electricity. Her video installation combines documentary and experimental techniques to create a unique narrative of the Srinakarin Dam and the Mae Moh Lignite Mine, both sites administered by the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand. These two large-scale sites are located along or near natural active faults, which are deep or shallow fractures that give expression to the dynamic Earth.
In addition to drastically altering the landscape, coal mining and dam building are also known to be a potential cause of man-made earthquakes. Most of these are small in scale compared to the most destructive natural earthquakes, but they can influence the stress load stored in natural faults. This artwork also encourages viewers to consider our high consumption of electrical power and proposes that communities and societies improve their sustainability planning and hazard reduction efforts.