SAM x Shentonista: Novel Ways Of Dressing—Open Mind

The beauty of art lies in the joy of exploration—though you may see from a certain perspective when you perceive it for the first time, the hidden layers of meaning and alternate point of views unravel the more you learn more about the work. For Faris, whose work at Singapore Art Museum (SAM) is intertwined with his background as an artist, the satisfaction of sharing about art doesn’t come from passing down the message and intended impact of the artwork in question, but rather, seeing people come to their own conclusion and interacting with art on their own terms. Being part of the Visitor Experience team, Faris’ role extends beyond creating a space where people can experience art, but also to leave the space with a newer perspective. Read on as he shares about how his own worldview has been shaped by his diverse background and the lessons he’s learnt over the years from art and beyond.

From now till 30th November, you can also seek fashion inspiration from the ongoing Time Passes exhibition by SAM and stand a chance to be rewarded with $500. Continue reading on till the end of the article to find out how you can participate in our Novel Ways Of Dressing open call.

Shentonista (S): You’re part of the Visitor Experience team—what does that role entail?
Faris (F): My role in Visitor Experience is slightly different from my other colleagues because of my background in fine arts, and the fact that I’m a practicing artist outside of SAM. I’m passionate in educating people about contemporary art and the art museums we have here in Singapore. At the same time, I conduct trainings for our museum visitor officers (also known as gallery sitters) on art knowledge and customer service so that they are well-equipped with the knowledge to assist visitors with queries.

I’m also on the ground a lot to ensure that the exhibits are in good condition and that visitors are having a positive experience in the museum. Another part of my job is to manage feedback and perform service recovery if need be.

S: What was it about Jason Wee’s No More Tears for Mr Lee that stood out to you, and how did this artwork inspire your outfit choice?
F: What stood out to me was the simplicity yet intricacy of the work. The work is made completely out of only one item: shampoo bottle caps. Yet, with the precise placement of opened or closed bottle caps, we’re able to see a portrait of a person. To me, beauty comes from the simplest gestures and details. It’s very much like how I pick clothes—I wear simple white tops a lot but if you take a closer look, they’ll always have one or two intricate details; it could be the mix of materials or an unconventional sewing detail. I am in yet other white t-shirt made with two different materials. I felt that it gives off the same feeling of opened and closed bottle caps in Jason’s work. I picked grey for the pants, as it is the colour of the pedestal the artwork is placed on.

Jason Wee, Self-Portrait (No More Tears, Mr. Lee), 2009, as part of The Learning Gallery. Collection of the Singapore Art Museum.

S: As someone working in Visitor Experience, we’re sure a big part of your work revolves around the space you work in. With SAM closed for a prolonged period, how has your role changed?
F: My role hasn’t changed much, honestly. Now that SAM is closed, we have exhibitions in other locations, like the regional libraries and other museums—instead of SAM, I do my work in these locations. So the only thing that has changed is, before I was working in my own home, and now I am working in someone else’s home (laughs).

S: What are some interesting questions you’ve received from visitors?
F: “How is this art? I get that one a lot. And yes, it does spark an interest in me because I can then explain to them how what we are seeing is art.

S: How do you think one should experience art in a museum?
F: Come in with an open mind. Let go of all the preconceived ideas that you may have about art and you will be sure to have a wonderful experience in the museum.

S: This artwork references an iconic moment in Singapore’s history—how do you think art can play a role in documenting our past?
F: Artists have always been making visual (and other sensory) records of people, places, and the events happening around us. We certainly have history books and other forms as documentation but art gives forms to feelings, thoughts, and other intangible forces like spirituality and faith.

Jason Wee, Self-Portrait (No More Tears, Mr. Lee), 2009, as part of The Learning Gallery. Collection of the Singapore Art Museum.

S:  Your name is an interesting amalgamation of different cultures—how do you think this has shaped the way you view the world?
F: I grew up with my mother and I eventually took up her maiden name. My name seems to confuse people and they tend to be even more confused when they see me or hear me speak. It’s something I never quite understood—it’s almost like people were expecting me to be a certain type of way. Because of this, I never assume things beforehand or judge a person or a situation too quickly.

S: When people think about art, paintings or photographs usually come to mind, but this piece shows how shampoo bottle caps can be art too. What do you think about the evolution of art in the modern day?
F: It’s about time that people accept that art can be anything and everything because art is essentially the expression or application of human creative skill and imagination. That means, art should have always been about creating things with whatever we can get our hands on and our imagination.

S: Where do you see the art scene in Singapore progressing over the next few years?
F: The art scene in Singapore has progressed to the point where art shows are not just held in the typical white cube of a gallery space or a museum anymore. I’ve seen amazing shows held in unconventional spaces and locations one would never think of before. With the recent pandemic, the way of presenting art was pushed even further with what can be done online, virtually. I’ve always said to people: you can’t ask me about what I think would happen in years to come because I can’t see the future, not even the slightest. Yet whatever it may be, I am confident that the art scene will adapt, modify, and continue to thrive.

Be fashionably inspired by the artworks that are part of the ongoing Time Passes exhibition and stand a chance to be rewarded with $500—to participate in our open call for Novel Ways of Dressing, simply follow the steps below:

1/ Visit the Time Passes exhibition either digitally (at the link here) or in-person, from now till 30th November
2/ Find your fashion inspiration from any work on display and dress up
3/ Snap a photo of yourself in your curated outfit next to the artwork that inspired it, and tell us why you were inspired by it. If you’re visiting the exhibition virtually, simply tell us in your post which artwork you’re referencing.
4/ Share it on either Facebook or Instagram (or on Stories!) and remember to tag the Singapore Art Museum (@singaporeartmuseum), Shentonista (@shentonista) and add the hashtag #NovelWaysOfDressing to your post!

This is a content partnership with Shentonista and the Singapore Art Museum.

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