conducive environments (2019)

video installation

conducive environments (2019) stems from an interest with internal environments, specifically the practice of landscaping tanks in order to house fish. Whilst a universal activity, it has a localised presence in neighbourhood fish / aquarium shops in HDB estates, associated with ‘uncles’ and retirees. Mimicking modern environmental landscaping, the landscaping and construction of environments within these tanks take on microcosmic attributes where the decoration and layout speak to desires of ordering and display, but also of idealisations, imitations and inhabitations. 

 

The video adopts a durational and affective approach, filmed through glass distortions and within the mirrored inner surfaces of these tanks. An empty tank is gradually filled and landscaped with multiple elements – sand, rocks, aquatic plants – water seeps in from the edges and engulfs all the elements; and its final inhabitants explore and inhabit the initially dry terrain, subject to a pre-constructed environment, but finding cracks and spaces within the landscape to claim, shifting rocks and sand. 

 

The work hints at a local obsession with sculpting Singapore’s natural environment, harking to an idealised, artificial vision of tropical wilderness that arguably is a lust for the pre-modern, contradictorily necessitating the destruction of the primary forest and existing environments. It is a meditation on the habitable and on the agency one has over the environments we inhabit. The seepage of water that floods the island-landscape within the tank draws on anxieties of environmental catastrophe and the inevitable complete submersion of above-ground, the dissolving of physical boundaries, until all is sea, all fluid.

© 2019, Seet Yun Teng

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