a shapeless mass; a network of times



Quek Yu Han, Chia Pei Zhi, Tan Ying Yi, Kenneth Tracy

Berny Tan (artist and project lead), Singapore Art Museum

Art in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong

Science Centre Singapore, Level 2 Mezzanine Space

Created in collaboration with artist Berny Tan, a shapeless mass; a network of times takes a look at the Chinese Garden and examines how it exists in people’s memories. The Garden has been closed for redevelopment since 2019, and can only be experienced in fragments: viewed only from a distance, in photographs, and in memories, with all their gaps and imperfections.

Members of the public were invited to contribute memories of this iconic site of Jurong. The responses ranged from the detailed and heartfelt, to the brief, vague, and even inaccurate. The title of the work, taken from Jorge Luis Borges’s short story ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’, references how these responses evolved from a shapeless mass of data into a textured network of collective memories which, for all their differences, describe a common space.

The artist’s analysis of each response was visualised and converted into machine knitting instructions using algorithms developed in the Singapore University of Technology and Design. Inspired by the frequent references to lantern displays during Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋节) celebrations in the Chinese Garden, each of the 128 responses was knitted on a Shima Seiki knitting machine using polyester, acrylic, and thermal fusion bonding yarn, then heated over a mould to stiffen the knitted fabric into a lantern. The lanterns were hung to form two interlocking spirals that invite visitors to meander through this immersive installation.

a shapeless mass; a network of times was exhibited as the second cycle of Art in the Commons: Data Visualising Jurong, from 16 June to 11 September 2022. It was part of Singapore Art Museum’s collaboration with Science Centre Singapore to embark on community-based art programmes within the Jurong district. The initiative is supported by Tote Board Singapore.

The fabrication process video was filmed and edited by Kee Ya Ting.

Some photographs are courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.