Children’s Biennale blends and bends the physical and digital
Gallery Children’s Biennale empowers children to learn through play. (Photo: National Gallery Singapore)

Children’s Biennale blends and bends the physical and digital

The first ‘phygital’ Gallery Children’s Biennale at National Gallery Singapore showcases nine installations exploring the theme, ‘Why Art Matters’ as it delights children with a variety of immersive installations with tactile experiences. Access is free and ticketless.

The physical installations complement digital artworks first presented on the Biennale’s microsite and share similar themes and imagery – hence the ‘phygital’ portmanteau. The artworks throw fresh perspective on issues related to Home, Diversity, Environment and Time in a way that’s easy for little ones to understand.

The idea is to nurture curiosity and critical thinking as they learn through play, so they are encouraged to touch, move, and generally interact with the installations.

Gallery Children’s Biennale also features on-site programmes by artists and partners, including sessions by master storyteller Kamini Ramachandran and sonic exploration workshops by LittleCr3atures™. There are also somatic movement workshops by award-winning movement artist, writer, and Singapore’s only registered Somatic Movement Educator and Therapist, Vincent Yong. In these special sessions, he’ll lead parents and children alike through interactive movement exercises that encourage them to experience selected artworks with their bodies.

The digital aspect of Children’s Biennale continues, including a series of audio-visual treats for children under three years, in which performer and educator Natalie Alexandra Tse from LittleCr3atures™ goes on a nature trail with her family to discover the sonic possibilities found in our natural environment. Families are invited to create their own soundscapes and share them with other digital festival-goers.

For kids aged 4–7 years, there are eight fun projects to try at home, including What’s Your Story?, which asks kids to watch the Calling For Rain video, cut out story cards and arrange them to tell a story, then add their own cards to personalise the storytelling. Calling For Rain is now also a physical installation at National Gallery Singapore.

For the 8 to 12 year-olds, there are another eight digital programmes. One of them, Honeycomb Card, shows kids how to make a special pop-up honeycomb card which ties in with the BEHOME physical installation at the Gallery. Write in Code suggests ways to have fun writing a day-diary in special code, making a connection with Joyce Ho’s physical installation, A Day’s Book. Gallery Children’s Biennale 2021 really is ‘phygital’!

Read on to hear (and see) what you can expect to find at the National Gallery during the Children’s Biennale.

Calling for Rain

Khvay Samnang (Cambodia)

Calling For Rain by Khvay Samnang

Calling for Rain offers an immersive viewing of a short film inspired by Reamker, the Cambodian version of the ancient Sanskrit epic Ramayana. Journey through the beautiful landscapes of Cambodia following Kiri the Monkey on his quest to save the dying forest from the irresponsible behaviour of Aki the Fire Dragon.

A Day’s Book

Joyce Ho (Taiwan)

A Day's Book by Joyce Ho

Stories sent in by children from all over the world to the Biennale microsite have created an online repository of daily 24-hour diaries, now transformed into a physical library dotted with secret doors. Opened doors reveal shelves of books containing completed 24-hour diaries, symbolising a look into the past. Behind the locked doors lie empty shelves awaiting future contributions from the microsite. Workstations with iPads are on hand so that children can add their own stories to the repository.

Illuminated

Nona Garcia (Philippines)

Illuminated by Nona Garcia

Four life-sized landscapes transport visitors into an otherworldly space filled with an intriguing array of magnetic shells, fossils and bones. Kids can create their own scenes by positioning these magnets anywhere on the backdrops. They can also view and add on to scenes made by other children, co-creating with them in real time.

Conversations with an Octopus

Sandra Lee (Singapore/Spain)

CONVERSATIONS WITH AN OCTOPUS by Sandra Lee

Drop in on an ongoing conversation between The Girl with the Red Shorts and her wise old friend, The Octopus, as they embark on fun activities together and discuss climate change and other environmental issues.

Because It Makes Me Feel…

Nandita Mukand (Singapore/India)

Because It Makes Me Feel by Nandita Mukandhy

Simple acts like holding hands, chatting together and visiting one another’s homes – all crucial to a child’s physical, cognitive and social development – have been curtailed and sometimes stopped altogether by pandemic lockdowns and restrictions. This whimsical installation is a reminder of the value of visiting different houses to socialise and have fun.

Head/Home

Isabel and Alfredo Aquilizan + Fruitjuice Factori (Philippines/Australia)

Wander through a towering, intricate cityscape conjured up out of cardboard collected from migrant communities around the world and community groups in Singapore. Encouraging co-creation with the artists, the installation has a ‘makerspace’ where children can build their very own cardboard structures.

BEHOME

Speak Cryptic X ADDADDADD (Singapore)

BEHOME by Speak Cryptic X ADDADDADD

Drawing inspiration from honeybees and their iconic hexagonal hive architecture, BEHOME speaks to topics of gratitude, support, community, and the building of connections in a world split apart by the pandemic. Interlocking hexagons form an imaginary beehive-treehouse hybrid augmented by holograms, perspective-bending infinity mirrors and interactive games.

Voices from The Centers

Dinh Q Lê (Vietnam)

Voices from the Centers by Dinh Q Lê

This installation employs clever digital filters to weave images into a seamless 60-second video that introduces children to 60 artworks from the National Collection in a fun, playful way. Children can then make their own videos and explore different image-making techniques.

Superstar

Jeremy Sharma (Singapore)

Superstar by Jeremy Sharma

Created by local artist Jeremy Sharma in collaboration with his two sons, Superstar is a clickable, speculative world; a truly immersive experience complete with dioramas and motion-triggered interactive videos.

Intrigued? Find out more and explore Gallery Children’s Biennale here.

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