14 – 25 January 2015, 10am – 8pm
The Concourse, Level 1
National Museum of Singapore
The Wedding Guest’s Tale is a multi-sensory, interactive installation that interrogates how we construct home, family and community. It consists of nests/imagined dwellings of various dimensions knitted out of yarn, found materials and discarded textiles.
Tucked amongst the nests are objects/artefacts associated with community and domesticity, several of them donated by the people who shared their experiences of home and family for the soundscape included in the installation. Functional, necessary and useful for daily tasks, many of these objects also hold the potential of threat and violence, mirroring the ambiguity that sits at the heart of our constructs of home and community.
To further explore this ambiguity, knitting needles and yarn, as well as scissors of various sizes will be incorporated into the installation. Innocuous in and of themselves, these objects hold the potential to build or destroy the imagined dwellings of the installation. As part of the experience of this work, viewers or “guests” are invited to knit available materials, or materials they bring to the museum, to be added into the installation. Conversely, they may use the scissors to cut into the work, taking parts of it away or simply weakening the structures. The structures themselves have taken hundreds of hours to create, and the nature of knitting, which is essentially a series of knots from a single string, means that if one section is weakened, the entire structure of the piece is weakened or destroyed. In this way The Wedding Guest’s Tale explores the ambiguity of community and homebuilding in a visceral, experiential way. As we build our nests, there is always the threat of destruction, rejection and loss, and sometimes all it takes is the weakening or cutting away of one part of it.
The soundscape developed around the nests includes interviews with Singaporeans and other people living in the country discussing their experience of family, home and community. As guests interact with the installation, they may listen to these discussions. In this way, each day of The Wedding Guest’s Tale becomes a unique opportunity for joining the discussion by building, or destroying: the growing or shrinking number of nests evidence of a new, if fleeting, kind of community.
The idea for this work came from two completely different sources. The first was the act of knitting: its history in the domestic arts and textile industry, and the sense of community that arises naturally when people sit together to make something with their hands.
The second was the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge. In the poem, there is this very odd construction of a story within a story, with no obvious link between the two. An ancient mariner shows up at a wedding reception, singles out one of the guests and tells him a terrible, supernatural tale. The mariner’s tale takes place at sea, completely away from conventional society, and a similar kind of isolation envelopes the guest and the mariner as the story is told. Although the guest has no interest in hearing the tale, he is compelled to listen, and through it he is changed. He is removed from the fabric of family and friends celebrating a relative’s nuptials, but becomes wiser for it. Story telling is framed as a transgressive, but ultimately redemptive act for both the guest and the mariner.
The Wedding Guest’s Tale explores the duality of our desire to build and belong to a community, and the fear of losing what we have built or knitted ourselves into. In the act of selecting what we will weave into our social units, there is also a process of de-selection and rejection, and there is always the potential for destruction through carelessness or design. Consequently, at the centre of our carefully constructed security there is an absence, or a binary world of what we are not and what we could lose. With that knowledge comes the continual threat that at any given moment, if we display or indeed are in some way part of the rejected world, we will lose our home and our security.