Art in the Commons: artist Berny Tan reimagines Chinese Garden through data visualisation
a shapeless mass; a network of times by Berny Tan is the second cycle of Art in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong.

Art in the Commons: artist Berny Tan reimagines Chinese Garden through data visualisation

Look out the MRT while pulling into the Chinese Garden station on Singapore’s East-West line, and one will immediately see the iconic park that the station was named after.

The picturesque pagodas and lush greenery of the Chinese Garden have long held special significance for Singaporeans. Today, most of it is covered in scaffolding since it was closed in 2019 for redevelopment. That means the beloved park can only be experienced in fragments: seen from afar, in pictures, or through people’s memories.

The second edition of Arts in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong is offering a chance to reimagine the park through a new installation by Singapore artist Berny Tan.

Singapore artist Berny Tan at the art installation, located at Science Singapore Singapore’s Level 2 Mezzanine Space.
Singapore artist Berny Tan at the art installation, located at Science Singapore Singapore’s Level 2 Mezzanine Space.

Titled a shapeless mass; a network of times, the installation examines how the Chinese Garden exists in people’s memories. The installation comes in the form of 128 lanterns, each one representing an individual’s memories of the park. The lanterns take the shape of a hexagon, echoing the silhouettes of the pagodas at the Chinese Garden.

They were designed by layering different ways of interpreting data received during a public consultation, which led to a range of responses – from the heartfelt and detailed to the brief and vague.

They were then written into code and fed into a knitting machine to produce the lanterns.

The lanterns, knitted using data collected from the public, are inspired by the pagodas of the Chinese Garden.
The lanterns, knitted using data collected from the public, are inspired by the pagodas of the Chinese Garden.

“I wanted to think about how memories filled the space of the Chinese Garden when the location is now blocked off,” said Tan.

As an immersive and meditative space, the installation stands out from the other exhibits at Science Centre Singapore. It is part of the Singapore Art Museum’s collaboration with the Centre to embark on community-based art participatory art programmes within the Jurong district, in a bid to uncover community interests.

A total of 128 memories were converted into machine knitting instructions, using algorithms developed by the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and then knitted on its Digital Manufacturing and Design Centre’s Shima Seiki knitting machine.
A total of 128 memories were converted into machine knitting instructions, using algorithms developed by the Singapore University of Technology and Design, and then knitted on its Digital Manufacturing and Design Centre’s Shima Seiki knitting machine.

This installation is on at the Science Centre Singapore’s Mezzanine Space on Level 2 until 11 Sep. Access is included with general admission to Science Centre Singapore.

(Photos: Singapore Art Museum)

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