Text: Neo Hui-Lyn

Returning for a fourth run and spanning the duration of the much-anticipated Singapore Art Week (SAW), the Light to Night Festival illuminated the civic district from 10th to 19th January. This year, the festival, themed Invisible Cities, brought artworks ranging from light projections to installations done by artists of varying backgrounds in response to Italo Calvino’s novel of the same title.

In Quarter Architect\’s Between Two Worlds at the Esplanade Park, viewers obtained a reflective take on Singapore\’s past and present, mirroring the installation\’s use of mirrors. “Memory pools” made from mirrors elevated from the ground were cut into shapes which resembled the top of tree stumps. Phrases, such as “Beneath the remnants of the trees that once remembered this place”, were inscribed onto these pools to engage viewers into contemplation on the costs of Singapore\’s rapid urbanisation – in this case, the erasure of nature and memories. Uncomfortably similar to the likes of a graveyard with writings on polished markers, the installation was said to dissolve into its surroundings in the daytime, much like how we tend to forget about these losses in our daily lives. The mirrored corridors that stood beside the memory pools, too, resembled catacombs, and featured phrases which depicted two sides of a scenario on its walls, the first visible in wire and the second in the shadows casted. Like the memory pools outside, these also nudged viewers who walk within the passageways towards the consideration of both sides in every scenario, leaving them with food for thought as they exited the installation.

Yet another popular exhibit was Floating City by Nipek and KNOTS – a crystal lattice of structures that suspended from the ceiling at varying levels. The lace-like towers were illuminated by lights that changed colours in accordance to the music played by live bands. Casted mostly in blue and purple glows, the artwork seemed to transform the Padang Atrium of the National Gallery into a luminescent underwater wonderland with trails of hanging strings bringing to mind elusive deep sea creatures. Even so, the structures that bookended the string towers were reminiscent of space-age architecture with their geometric patterns, ultimately transporting the viewers into a fantastical sci-fi urban jungle.

Perhaps the most iconic of works was City States of Mind’s Art Skins on Monuments – whimsical projection mappings that were casted upon the facades of landmarks in the area. Although characteristic of the festival every year, the projections this time came with an interactive twist: at the National Gallery’s Metapolis Art Skin, for instance, viewers were encouraged to scan the QR codes at the sites of the artworks to personally alter the colours of the projections via their phones. In doing so, they got to experience the art-making process as a community since each individual had a direct impact on the aesthetics of the work – and can view these effects on a colossal scale. The steps of the gallery, too, were lined with rainbow-coloured neon lights, attracting viewers to get up close with the work as they made a beeline for photographs. Whilst the Interpolis Art Skin of the Victoria Concert Hall did not invite similar degree of public interaction, the projections responded to specially composed music, staying true to the nature of the building it was exhibited on as a centre for music.

Along with a great many other artworks and interactive art installations, the Light to Night Festival 2020 fulfilled its promise of being a brilliant event for audiences of all ages and walks of life to experience in its full glory of an art festival.