Canopy, a shelter by FARM, Singapore
Going forward and thinking ahead, should all public art be functional and meaningful instead?
In an article by Penny Balkin Bach titled ‘Public Art in Philadelphia’: Public art is not an art “art”. Its size can be huge or small. It can tower fifty feet high or call attention to the paving beneath your feet. Its shape can be abstract or realistic (or both), and it may be cast, carved, built, assembled, or painted. It can be site-specific or stand in contrast to its surroundings.
In our context in Singapore, we could find Public Art in form of sculptures in the atrium of the shopping malls, bridges or pavement, or paintings, photography installation in platform of train stations. These might have serve its purpose to rejuvenate the surrounding landscape but to some, they are a form of healing and feeling, to some, they could be just a decoration and serves no other function.
TOP: Christopher Fennel‘s Bus Stop (2007), Athens, GA. Source: http://cfennell.org.
BOTTOM: An installation by Vertical Submarine, Singapore
Bus Stop (2014), Baltimore, USA. Source: http://mmmm.tv
Bus stops in the earlier years in Singapore
Sculpture by Lim Soo Ngee, Singapore
What if you put the same kind of art into design? Will it redefine how function these kind of art could be? Could our bus stop shelter designed like Lim Soo Ngee’s Bird? Or instead of having ads on the roof of the bus stop shelters, could we say, let’s see what if Jeff Koon’s floral art is up there instead? Or could Vertical Submarine’s chainsaw-ed be applied to a bus stop or a bench? Or could the big stone of Eng Tow be a bench in the park? One of an recent good example is Canopy by FARM, a shelter walkway in the fringe of the Civil District in Singapore.
The question of how to improve everyday life in an urban environment is closely connected to the transformation of public spaces into public places. To quote Marc Auge in his ‘From Places to Non-Places’, he defines a place as meaningful for people but a space, a non-place, is meaningless.
Maybe we should redefine what Public art could be we could do so much with bus stops, shelters, lamp posts to even rubbish bins. We ought to review and rethink and also encourage art to be in the public spaces instead of being enclosed in museums and galleries.