Revisiting Imaginarium 2017

Singapore Art Museum’s Imaginarium 2017 is its latest offering of art targeted at children (not to be confused by children’s art). Dawn Fung shares her review. 

Don’t be fooled by what you think is “not enough” at this year’s Imaginarium. Comparing one Imaginarium to the previous ones, or wracking your brains on how much more interactive the exhibits can be, can short circuit your perspective : it takes a lot of work and money just to put up a good show for kids for months.

Film still from Way of Giants (2016). Image courtesy of SINLOGO Animation

Imaginarium – its previous incarnation was Children’s Art Garden – lies within the historical context of a decade of Children’s Season created by the National Heritage Board x Museum Roundtable. The significance of this is that the young (toddlers to tertiary students) is important the development of art in Singapore. If we allow our children easy (free since June 2010) access to our museums, especially events made for them, it should inspire them in ways beyond art making.

A look at this year’s Children’s Season shows how diverse the opportunities have become: “This year’s edition goes beyond museums and will encompass all aspects of art, culture, heritage and education”. For a home educator, the Children’s Season is a mine. Many activities are free, and thoughtfully catered for different age groups. If you have a big family, forgo the ticketed ones. Organise an independent homeschool outing for the community not during the school holidays. Just contact the organisation directly and see what can worked out.

The thing about Imaginarium? It continues past the end date of Children’s Season into August. Yay for us homeschoolers! Since visual art works are not as time-sensitive as theatre performances, they can be re-visited. Revisiting art without having to rush or jostle is wonderful, because it does something to the viewer : It allows the viewer to be familiar with the work. Homeschoolers who are well read in pedagogy know that environment is a key teacher. To be familiar with the same art work gives you time to know it more intimately; you observe different things at different times.

Hiromi Tango, Lizard Tail, 2016, 2017. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

New questions pop up. I revisited Imaginarium 2017 with my kids and some friends a few weeks after the busy Children’s Craft Fair. We were part of a once-a-month art co-op visiting various museums around Singapore. This time round at Imaginarium 2017, the art critic in me wanted to say something about what it didn’t have this year. When I asked my children, they thought the opposite. They only saw what children saw – glasses full. They loved hunting Calvin Pang’s mushrooms, Mary Bernadette Lee’s sensorial installation, and running across Nipan Oranniwesna’s floor instead of checking out the tiny details in his photographed dots stuck to the ground. Was it because they didn’t engage with the works as I would have? Then it’s because I thought nothing like a child. I desired to know more :

1. What if the artists gave children a tour and document feedback from the kids? What would the kids say? How would their feedback affect changes in the installation?

2. Could Imaginarium open up tours of some of those artists’ studios for kids to take a peek and ask questions?

3. Could there be a room dedicated to art making for kids instead of ad hoc craft activities? Getting parents to donate loose parts for play for free is not an issue, it would be entry requirement.

4. Could we access archives from the past Art Gardens and Imaginarium exhibitions? How would the information be catalogued and developed with students?

These questions surfaced only because I revisited the Imaginarium 2017 space; art sets us thinking, education gets us doing.

Mary Bernadette Lee, Wanderland, 2017. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum. 

Supporting SAM for its tireless efforts for children’s art appreciation and exposure is something we parents can easily do. The exhibition is centrally and conveniently located – right outside Bras Basah MRT Queen St exit. The entry is free for SG citizens, and visitor fees aren’t expensive since you can re-enter the building anytime that day. It’s air-conditioned, comfortable, blessed with clean toilets, water coolers and hand sanitizers on every floor. Breastfeeding mums can hide in the nursing room on the second floor. Homeschoolers : seize the opportunity to visit on a school day morning, because it’s quiet enough for a small co-op.

Preparation, execution and maintenance of the exhibition that is Imaginarium 2017 is no mean feat. What makes it work everytime is not just the team behind the scenes – a mind boggling combination of staff, artists, administrators, sitters, docents, cleaners, volunteers – but us, audience. Among the audience, the children. Within the children, the ability to see what we adults don’t see. That is a good enough reason to revisit. Don’t miss.

Imaginarium Links
(of which our Children’s Craft Fair has been a part of) :

Other Reads

The Environment is a Teacher by Karyn Callaghan

Article Feature Image

Calvin Pang, Where am I, 2017. Image courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.