Aloft at Hermès serves up its latest thought-provoking exhibit inspired by the contrast between Singapore’s financially-driven culture that jostles against lush nature. Watch our interview with French artist Xavier Antin…
Aloft at Hermès is an art space that shines a spotlight on artworks by contemporary artists. We’ve let you in on intriguing installations that have taken place here before: those in the know head up a small staircase from Hermès’ Liat Towers store to arrive at this gallery. The rotational list of stirring creatives from around the world never fails to impress, and right now, we’re taken by Parisian artist Xavier Antin’s installation, Vanishing Workflows.
The tension between nature and technology
Antin has long been interested in the connection between humans and tech, but the inspiration for this installation was sparked during his first visit to Singapore. He told us he was struck by the coexistence of competitive business enclaves and tropical parks containing dense vegetation – think of the CBD’s towering skyscrapers dedicated to banking and finance versus the Botanic Gardens’ abundant greenery. He’d already honed a unique process for creating his large-scale fabric prints that were botanic in origin yet born digitally, but several layers of meaning came together for him right here…
Injecting craftsmanship into a digital process…
How did he do it? The artist started by intensively filming flowers at Singapore’s parks – for hours on end – in search of the right captures that would help him express his concept. “The fact that I spent so much time every day going to parks and looking for flowers that I haven’t filmed before… to look at the light and the colours… to wait for the clouds to pass and wait for the place to be clear so I could film the flowers so closely was really relaxing. It was a reconnection with nature, and interestingly, like a digital detox,” Antin told us.
Xavier projected the footage onto a flatbed scanner to create patterns, which were printed onto large swathes of fabric using a scanner that he hacked to make the production process as manual as possible.
The result? Expansive botanical prints – each one unique in its colours and imperfections. And the patterns strongly remind us of handwoven Ikat textiles that are Southeast Asian in origin. “It’s a beautiful serendipity,” says Antin. The fabrics are draped in an almost maze-like display in the gallery.
Machines and the fragility of life
Antin could’ve stopped there, but the way that he incorporated a decentralised trading system (inspired by the cryptocurrency industry) adds an extra thought-provoking layer to the installation.
A bitcoin ‘worker’ machine has been set up within the exhibit, and is programmed to send a bouquet of flowers to the art space with every profit made. Step into the exhibition at any moment during its three-month run and you can guess whether it’s a profitable day depending on the freshness of the flowers in the space… “The exhibit is going to evolve as the flowers will be replaced irregularly depending on the efficiency of the machine and fluctuations in the currency… The bouquets will certainly wither in the forthcoming weeks, and that’s normal. That’s life,” he explains.
Before it all vanishes…
Curious? Check out Vanishing Workflows from now till 10 March 2019. Admission is free and the gallery is open daily from 10.30am to 8pm.
Aloft at Hermès, 541 Orchard Road, Liat Towers, Singapore 238881
This post is in partnership with Hermès.