Traces of Loss — kinetic installation 2008
January 2009
National Museum Singapore
 
The idea or fear of loss and the memory traces that this loss leaves us is expressed with arching poetry in the installation’s use of chance and indeterminacy. This is one of those rare art-
works that have failure built into its core and indeed, its aesthetic power to move viewers is
a direct result of its susceptibility to failure.
Due to the fragility of the bubbles, any sudden air movements or even slight variations in the turning of the mechanical arm of the work would cause the bubbles to burst even before they are fully formed, which was quite frequent. To the gallery visitor, this indeterminacy was what made each bubble, when it does happen, all the more precious and moving. In essence, the visitor waits for the moment when the universe aligns itself to our desires and wishes. The installation demands patience and a will-
ingness on the part of the viewer to see how particular elements slowly add up and mesh together into a sublime whole. Since the middle of the 20th century, ‘duration’ has been ac-
cepted as one of the features of art alongside the spatial dimensions of width, height and depth (Sayre: 2006;118). As in some seminal video works by artists like Bill Viola or Shirin Neshat, the temporal unfolding of the work’s meaning is here a primary source of suspense and pleasure, and not of boredom. We are transfixed by not what we see in the artwork
at any moment but what comes after, by the unending series of moments coming into being.
The use of this common children’s toy as the model for the artwork allows the artist to tap into an already rich source of memories and attendant recollections of the joys and sorrows of our childhood. Loss and hope for the fleeting moment of realization thus lie at the heart of this artwork. The pleasures that art make possi-
ble are felt keenly here while at the same time, it is clear that these aesthetic pleasures derive from the context which the visitor brings to
the experience of the work. As Wendy Steiner argues so eloquently in her ode to aesthetic pleasure The Scandal of Pleasure (Steiner: 1995; 80), art is valuable and enjoyable because view-
ers treat it with special value, not solely because this value is inherent in the art object. She could have been referring to this work.

Tan Boon Hui
Curator, Art-On-Site
National Museum of Singapore

References
Buchholz, I (2005) Like a Tear in the Ocean, documentation of film installation work in Brussels, Stuttgart, 2005

Danto, A.C. (1997) After the End of Art: Contemporary Art and the Pale of History, Princeton University Press: New Jersey, USA.

Danto, A.C. (2007) ‘The Transfiguration Transfigured: Concluding Remarks’, Online Conference in Aesthetics: Arthur Danto’s Transfiguration of the Commonplace-25 Years Late’, http://artmind.typepad.com/onlineconference/2007/02/arthur_danto_co.html" http://artmind.typepad.com/onlineconference/2007/02/arthur_danto_co.html

Perl, J (2000) ‘The Art of Seeing’, Drawing Us In: How We Experience Visual Art, eds Chesman D. & E. Chiang, Beacon Press: Boston, pp. 51–67.

Sayre, H.M. (2006) ‘1990–2005: In the Clutches of Time’, A Companion to Contemporary Art Since 1945, Jones, A. (ed), Blackwell: Maldon,
pp. 107-124.

Steiner, W (1995) The Scandal of Pleasure:
Art in an Age of Fundamentalism
, Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
Acknowledgements
Alain van Rossum
Frank Fuhs
Maier Elektrotechnik, Reutlingen, Germany
Pustefix, Tübingen, Germany