by Dhwani ShanghviPublished on : Sep 17, 2022
Mental: Colours of Wellbeing is an ongoing exhibition at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore, in collaboration with the Science Gallery, Melbourne. The Moshe Safdie designed ArtScience Museum aims to bridge the gap between art and science by blending themes of art, science, culture and technology.
Since its inception in 2011, the museum has played host to exhibitions in collaboration with the American Museum of Natural History and Smithsonian, as well as artists like Herman Miller and Eric Valli. Mental: Colours of Wellbeing is a reflection of this alliance between art and science, with participation from artists and scientists alike.
It is the last exhibition in a year-long programme of exhibitions and events that are designed around raising consciousness and initiating exchanges about mental wellbeing. Additionally, it acknowledges the uniqueness of singular mental health journeys by celebrating differences and complexities. By extension, it deciphers the different ways of being, surviving and interacting, with an aim to confront societal biases and stereotypes around mental health.
The exhibition is a collection of 24 interactive exhibits, art projects and large-scale installations by international artists. Articulating a South East Asian perspective on mental health, are the works of seven Singaporean and South East Asian artists, interspersed with other exhibits across four broad themes – Connection, Exploration, Expression and Reflection. Central to all their work is the acknowledgement of the unique experiences of mental wellbeing in the 21st century, whether tangible or intangible.
The ‘Wheel’ – co-conceptualised by artist Hiromi Tango and neuroscientist Emma Burrows – explores the effect of exercise on human temperament. Working on the hypothesis that exercise is “mood medicine” for the human body, the vibrantly coloured installation is modelled to collect data to determine the effect of voluntary physical activity against memory loss, depression and anxiety.
While the ‘Wheel” involves physical activity, Emily Fitzsimon’s Cushions?  is a sensorial exhibit, consisting of cushions that are shaped like enlarged pills. The softness of the cushion is a metaphor for the cushioning that medication provides to the brain. Stemming from her personal history with medication, the question mark in the title is a symbol of the conflicting relationship between the artist and her anti-depressants.
Singapore-based artist Divaagar’s Model: Kitchen is a multimedia installation that throws light on the significance of care. Combining the format of the kitchen showroom and digital renders, the artist creates a kitchen space, to draw out the symbolic context between the spectator and the work of art. This scenography of kitchen spaces, complete with counters, appliances as well as a screen projecting an exterior scene (alluding to a window), has dedicated one wall to the question, “Did you eat today?”. 
This seemingly simple question throws light on the significance of care through the methods that are set in play in communal spaces, otherwise taken for granted. In doing so, the kitchen space decodes the intimacies of familial care. In Singapore, where food is seen as a unifying cultural thread, the kitchen is a communal space, a space that enables interactions during meal preparation – a process that organically effectuates an exchange of ideas (through recipes), oftentimes inter-generational. Thus the installation unfurls the various intimacies of food preparation, familial equations and care in the home, going beyond its functional and aesthetic value.
The Aesthetics of being Disappeared by Wednesday Kim is a collage of images, text and sound around the theme of pop culture and internet lingo. Using her lived experience of nightmares, intrusive thoughts and childhood trauma, Kim uses this medium to illustrate her introverted disposition, and the consequential preference for virtual spaces over their physical counterparts. The installation can thus be seen as a visual representation of her hectic mind-space – displaying a web of emotions ranging from nervousness to anxiety to humour.
With the establishment of art therapy in the 1940s, art came to be formalised as a form of therapy. The process of creative expression fosters healing and mental wellbeing. Formerly a medium for communication, self-expression and healing, it is now incorporated-along with dance, drama, music and writing therapy, as a conventional method of psychological counselling. By extension, even the art of architecture contributes to mental wellbeing and vice-versa. Architectural psychology is the science of human experience and behaviour in built environments. Mental: Colours of Wellbeing explores how art therapy, spatial organisation and science can be practised to understand, heal and enhance mental wellbeing.
The exhibition Mental: Colours of Wellbeing is on view at ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, until February 26, 2023.
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Dhwani Shanghvi
Dhwani is an architect and writer, and currently teaches at Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, NMIMS. She has a Masters’ degree in Theory and Design from CEPT University and an MA in Women’s Studies. She aims to incorporate the gender question in her readings of architecture and cities. She lives in Mumbai with her partner and two cats.
Dhwani is an architect and writer, and currently teaches at Balwant Sheth School of Architecture, NMIMS. She has a Masters’ degree in Theory and Design from CEPT University and an MA in Women’s Studies. She aims to incorporate the gender question in her readings of architecture and cities. She lives in Mumbai with her partner and two cats.
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