Mental: Colors of well-being is a current exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, in collaboration with the Science Gallery, Melbourne. The Moshe Safdie-designed ArtScience Museum aims to bridge the gap between art and science by blending themes from art, science, culture and technology.
Since its inception in 2011, the museum has hosted exhibitions in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History and the Smithsonian, as well as artists such as Herman Miller and Eric Vallee. Mental: Colors of well-being is a reflection of this union between art and science, with the participation of both artists and scientists.
This is the latest exhibition in a year-long program of exhibitions and events designed to raise awareness and initiate exchanges for mental well-being. Additionally, it recognizes the uniqueness of individual mental health journeys, noting differences and complexities. By extension, it deciphers different ways of being, surviving and interacting in order to challenge societal biases and stereotypes surrounding mental health.
The exhibition is a collection of 24 interactive exhibits, art projects and large-scale installations by international artists. Articulating a Southeast Asian perspective on mental health are the works of seven Singaporean and Southeast Asian artists, interspersed with other exhibits under four broad themes – Connection, Exploration, Expression and Reflection. At the center of all their work is recognizing the unique experiences of mental well-being in the 21st centurySt century, whether tangible or intangible.
The Wheel – jointly conceptualized by artist Hiromi Tango and neuroscientist Emma Burroughs – explores the effect of exercise on human temperament. Working on the hypothesis that exercise is ‘mood medicine’ for the human body, the brightly colored installation is designed to collect data to determine the effect of voluntary physical activity against memory loss, depression and anxiety.
While The Wheel involves physical activity, Emily Fitzsimon’s Pillows? is a sensory exhibit consisting of pillows that are shaped like enlarged pills. The softness of the pillow is a metaphor for the cushioning that drugs provide to the brain. Stemming from her personal history with medication, the question mark in the title is symbolic of the conflicted relationship between the artist and her anti-depressants.
Singapore-based artist Divaagar’s Model: Kitchen is a multimedia installation that sheds light on the meaning of care. Combining the format of the kitchen showroom and digital renderings, the artist creates a kitchen space to outline the symbolic context between the viewer and the artwork. This scenography of kitchen spaces, complete with countertops, appliances, and a screen projecting an outdoor scene (hinting at a window), has dedicated one wall to the question “Have you eaten today?”
This seemingly simple question sheds light on the importance of care through the methods that are used in common spaces otherwise taken for granted. In this way, the kitchen space decodes the intimacy of family care. In Singapore, where food is seen as a unifying cultural thread, the kitchen is a communal space, a space that allows interactions during food preparation – a process that organically exchanges ideas (through recipes), often between generations. The installation thus unfolds the various intimacies of food preparation, family equations and care in the home, transcending its functional and aesthetic value.
The aesthetics of disappearance by Wednesday Kim is a collage of images, text and sound around the topic of pop culture and internet language. Using her lived experience of nightmares, obsessive thoughts, and childhood trauma, Kim uses this medium to illustrate her introverted disposition and the resulting preference for virtual spaces over their physical counterparts. The installation can thus be seen as a visual representation of her hectic mental space – displaying a web of emotions ranging from nervousness to anxiety and humor.
With the establishment of art therapy in the 1940s, art was formalized as a form of therapy. The process of creative expression promotes healing and mental well-being. Formerly a means of communication, self-expression and healing, it is now included – along with dance, drama, music and writing therapy – as a conventional method of psychological counselling. By extension, even the art of architecture contributes to mental well-being and vice versa. Architectural psychology is the science of human experience and behavior in the built environment. Mental: Colors of well-being explores how art therapy, spatial organization, and science can be practiced to understand, heal, and improve mental well-being.
The exhibition Mental: Colors of well-being is on display at the ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, until 26 February 2023.