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Art for Kids: Reviewing ‘Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea’ at SAM

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Art for kids – whether they’re making it or learning to appreciate it – is vital to encouraging imagination and play. Find out what our museum-loving mama thought about the newest contemporary art exhibition for children at Singapore Art Museum.

Recently, my family and I attended the media preview of Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea at Singapore Art Museum at 8Q. Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea is SAM’s sixth annual contemporary art exhibition for children and features works by artists from Singapore and the region, all who were in attendance at the opening.

It was our second year visiting Imaginarium, but unlike last year, I felt only some of the art works encouraged adventure, discovery, and new possibilities. In fact, I told co-curator and our tour guide Andrea Fam this—that Over the Ocean, Under the Sea didn’t really feel like an exhibition for children at all! Many of the installations and murals on display were incredibly beautiful and complex, but only one or two allowed children and families to interact and play. (In fact, the children on our tour were told several times to NOT touch the art).

sam singapore art exhibition

That being said, Over the Ocean, Under the Sea might be suitable for older children with a penchant for art history and a greater understanding of environmental stewardship. For example, Thai artist Krit Ngamson’s three kinetic sculptures—Damian, I’m Famished (After Damian Hirst), Bryde’s Fountain (After Marcel Duchamp), and Surrealism Spiced (After Salvador Dali)—reflected on issues considering the sea, but hinged on the assumption that the viewer would know the referential Western works and the art historical concept of “readymades.” It could certainly present a good launchpad for exploring the works of artists like Hirst, Duchamp and Dali, perhaps prompting further museum visits or a trip to the library.

IMAGINARIUM Papermoon puppet

Indonesian collective Papermoon Puppet Theatre’s multimedia installation Suara Muara (The Sounds of the Estuary) invited audience on a fantastical, aural journey of the Lasem River and Lasem, a tiny Indonesian trading port. In August, the theatre company will make the the exhibit “come alive” with a performance, but until then, Suara Muara is a haunting, but unanimated, work.

IMAGINARIUM mogus

As I wrote above, only two art works are play-full, but only one installation—Dimana Mogus? (Where is Mogus?) by Mulyana, a mixed media installation with yarn, cotton, felt, synthetic fur—is suitable for the very young. The Mogus is an imaginary octopus monster, and the artist’s alter ego. Dimana Mogus? invites the young to frolic amidst whimsical sea monsters set in colorful dream seascapes, and to interact with Mogus and his underwater friends; his soft, tactile sculptures encourage play, imagination and exploration.

IMAGINARIUM Karina Smigla-Bobinski

A second, ADA by Karina Smigla-Bobinski, is perhaps suitable for older children, but not for those with sensory disorders or asthma. ADA is an interactive art-making machine. “She” is a massive helium balloon with charcoal studs affixed to her surface. As she is pushed around the room, she makes indelible marks along the walls, ceiling and floor of the gallery. This mother found this interactive installation to be rather dangerous, to be honest – too many children were emerging from the dark room with charcoal markings on their faces! – but many older children did seem to enjoy it. Just make sure to dress accordingly.

Imaginarium: Over the Ocean, Under the Sea will run until August 26, 2016.

Singapore Art Museum, 71 Bras Basah Road, Singapore 189555, Tel: (+65) 6589 9580, www.singaporeartmuseum.sg

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