Transforming pipe dreams into reality | A List
Sound Like 20, an art installation in the Esplanade Concourse by Chen Sai Hua Kuan, invites people to speak or sing into suspended sewage pipes. (Photo: Esplanade — Theatres by the Bay)

Transforming pipe dreams into reality | A List

For many of us, pipes in our everyday life mean building fittings hidden away in corners; out of sight, out of mind. For artist Chen Sai Hua Kuan, however, sewage pipes represent an opportunity to make sound art – the sort that brings you back to moments of child-like play.

His Sound Like 20 art installation in the Esplanade Concourse invites people to speak or sing into suspended sewage pipes. We picked the brains of the mind behind the larger-than-life tube-like sculpture for some sound bites.

What was the inspiration behind your work?
As a child, listening to myself make sounds was a surreal and enjoyable experience. So, the Sound Like series of work began with me making listening toys for fun, as if it were child’s play. Eventually, the idea grew and the series of work became participatory, allowing audiences to speak to themselves and listen to their inner voices.

Why did you want to use sewage pipes to make your artwork?
Sewage pipes are among the most commonly used industry material. They exist almost everywhere but they are practically hidden most of the time. Their overlooked nature inspired me to create works that would allow people to play with them and make their everyday existence visible.

Why did you want to make the work interactive?
I don’t usually set out to deliberately create an interactive work of art. Whenever I create an artwork, it has to intrigue me or speak to me in a personal way. For me, it is sheer joy to be able to offer the audience something playful and meaningful, something they can interact with, and an experience they can enjoy and reflect upon.

What challenges did you face making this work?
The site-specificity of Sound Like 20 was the most challenging part of creating the work. Due to the complexity of existing structures, such as the platforms and stairs in the Esplanade concourse, as well as the height of the concourse, the pipes and holding systems had to be carefully fabricated to specific measurements. A big shout-out to the Esplanade visual arts team and my assistants; they played a great part in overcoming this challenge.

The replies have been edited and condensed. Details about Sound Like 20 here.

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