For Alliance Francaise De Singapour
France+Singapore New Generation Artist 2011
Waterscape As A Third
On Ruyi Wong’s SeaCities
by Amanda Lee
“My first vision of earth was water veiled. I am of the race of men and women who see all things through this curtain of sea and my eyes are the color of water. I looked with chameleon eyes upon the changing face of the world, looked with anonymous vision upon my uncompleted self. I remember my first birth in water.”
– Anaïs Nin
So waxes lyrical Anaïs Nin in her 1947 Surrealist novella, House of Incest. So Ruyi Wong reminds us in SeaCities, of the strong, symbolic relationship we have with water in our lives, with her waterscapes that cut through city grids to reach out to and into us.
Traditionally, the river has always been a starting point for civilization, bringing life to the people, serving as the agricultural and economic impetus for a people to flourish. Yet, with the advent of technology in modern times, and the conceit of city-living, the importance of water is overlooked, its power forgotten.
As modern city dwellers, we view water as something automated, tamed; enslaved by pipes and faucets, exhibiting docility in droplets, bending to our will in weak streams. We forget the magnificent immensity, the roaring beauty of water. We forget the power of newly-revised manicured water systems that have integrated themselves with our lives, overlooking the whole new dimension they have added to our urban living.
SeaCities makes this fact inescapable, drawing our attention to the juxtaposition of free-flowing waterscapes with the stationary grid of the city.
Ruyi Wong systematically yet gracefully deconstructs modern day living into the classical elements of air, earth and water: aerial photographic scenes >> the tight grid of urban living >> the symbolism of a water form passing through/under. SeaCities goes beyond a superficial exploration of the artistic themes water calls to mind, and instead posits the waterscape as a third space, one both macro-social and micropsychological.
Conversing with Ruyi on why she chooses water as a thematic vehicle for her art, she speaks of the transcendence of water – when you are out at sea, when you are face-to-face with a gushing river or a seemingly endless ocean, the geographic coordinates no longer matter, as you connect deeply with the ephemeral quality of water. SeaCities engage the individual with a broader reflection about the nature of self and the sites it occupies in the world.
City dwellers may remove or loosen their identities. Social hierarchies can be dismantled, washed away. Urban recreational spaces, such as public pools, gardens, and parks, periodically create festive conditions by temporarily dismantling social hierarchies, allowing us to choose to be participants or spectators in the collective. This universal evanescence and beauty allows water to be appropriated as an imaginary space in SeaCities. In SeaCities, waterscapes are a new symbolism for, and build a strong relationship to, water. When tied to the specificity of Singapore (whose urbanity is the backdrop of SeaCities), the design of our city’s hydrological processes involves wise management of the catchments and water bodies as new community spaces, while continuing to safeguard the water quality and safety to the community.
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