Art that connects the gut, heart and head
Sonic Womb, an immersive multi-media art installation by artist-architect Randy Chan, is part of the National Museum of Singapore’s latest DigiMuse Presents showcase. (Photos: Claudio Chock for The A List)
Mention the word “womb” and it might conjure in one a sense of awe about the mystery of life, an appreciation for the beauty of growth, as well as some disquiet about the pain and terror of birth.
So it was with a mixture of excitement, intrigue, and mild trepidation that I approached Sonic Womb, an immersive multi-media art installation by homegrown artist-architect Randy Chan, which explores the process of human gestation.
The work, on display at the National Museum of Singapore, is a suspended, womb-like structure that allows the audience to walk, crawl, sit or lie within the exhibit.
Chan, 49, says the installation was inspired by his wife’s pregnancy with twins in 2016. They had discovered parenthood late in life, having been busy with work and other commitments earlier on.
Sonic Womb is one of seven works on show as part of the museum’s latest edition of DigiMuse Presents, a periodic showcase that highlights collaborative projects where technology is used to spur creative experimentation in cultural expressions.
The thought of experiencing the seemingly impossible – a return to a mother’s “womb”, had piqued my curiosity, and the work, I am glad to say, did not disappoint in person.
The large-scale installation occupies the spacious basement atrium of the museum. Surrounding the suspended fabric pod are undulating, web-like polyethylene sheets with a honeycomb pattern, their movement powered by motors. All of this is bathed in light in shades of red, as well as light projections of circular patterns.
The cushioned pod, a key feature of Sonic Womb, is made with materials such as fabric, cling wrap, and plywood.
To enter the “womb”, I walk up a ramp, which has two microphones placed enroute that the audience can speak into. The voices that the microphones pick up are processed by computer software and piped into the pod, such that the resulting sounds approximate what a foetus might hear in a mother’s womb.
Inside the cushioned pod, which is made with materials such as fabric, cling wrap, and plywood, soft, echoey sounds fill the space and a sense of peace washes over me. The “womb”, at once both soft and resilient, evokes a sense of being comfortably cocooned.
The meditative environ of the pod reminds me of my mother and all the months she carried me in her tummy. I also can’t help but wonder what my parents might have said to me while I was still in my mother’s womb.
Who would’ve thought that art and technology can allow one to have a visceral experience and inspire a sense of intimate feeling for one’s family.
DigiMuse Presents launched on 18 Jan, in conjunction with Singapore Art Week 2019, an annual celebration of visual arts in Singapore. Details about the exhibition here.