Bus.Stop.Art – Reaching the Everyday Singaporean Through the Daily Commute

Beyond the world of literature, my experience with the arts has been fleeting. But not from lack of trying – I have gone to many a festival or event of fine arts yet found myself standing awkwardly in a room of paintings, sculptures or designs.

My encounters with art installations or exhibitions often leave me with varying reactions: confusion (“What am I supposed to looking at?“), disappointment (“That’s it?“) or blatant disinterest (“Oh, that’s nice.“). Once in a while though, I will come across pieces of artwork that pique my curiosity, and my emotions beyond nonchalance will come alive. I often can’t put my finger on why I am moved, but I take it as a good thing and leave quietly with fluttering questions in my mind I do not have answers to.

Yet I return again and again to these scenes – because despite finding certain artforms too chim, I am drawn to spaces where creativity flourishes; where an artwork can salute its maker, even if the intent of the work goes over the head of an observer like myself.

So when I heard of Bus.Stop.Art, one of the many events at this year’s Singapore Art Week (SAW), I thought it was pretty genius. Some people may not go out of their way to visit a stuffy museum – a venue they may feel out of place in – but artworks sited along a typical bus route allows everyday Singaporeans to encounter art in their daily lives – a non-invasive, less daunting approach for the uninitiated.

The experience of Bus.Stop.Art, takes place at bus shelters along Singapore’s 175 route going across the city from Geylang Bahru to Gillman Barracks. While I didn’t complete the full journey, I took the chance to visit some of the artworks in Geylang Bahru and Bugis. Here’s how it went.

READ: Three One-day Itineraries to Explore the Singapore Art Week this Weekend

Opp Blk 66 Kallang Bahru

busstopart

This stop, the first listed within the downloadable map, is by Merryn Trevethan, an artist who focuses on human perception as she examines urban landscapes and public spaces. A splatter of colours can be seen on the transparent notice board situated behind seats at the bus stop; a familiar sight of QR codes designed in various sizes.

My immediate thought: TraceTogether! Then the realisation that these scannable codes, which I’ve hardly accessed before the pandemic, has now become a staple in my life, willingly or otherwise. I don’t know how I feel about that but I have the bus ride to the next stop to ruminate.

READ: Seniors Contemporary Art Exhibition Sees Seniors Co-create Artworks

Blk 16 Kallang Bahru

busstopart

I didn’t have enough time to get answers before I reached the next stop, where I was visually attacked by a photo of a classical figure standing in an SBS bus and staring longingly out the glass window. I chuckled; it is so brilliantly absurd that anyone who passes would have to look twice.

The stark contrast is layered: a comparison of the past and modern-day, western and eastern, elite and common. It’s also meta – I am waiting for a bus, looking at the image of a lady in the bus – a reflection of the intelligent work by The Next Most Famous Artist who uses his skills in photo-manipulation to explore this series touches on the democratisation of creativity.

Bef Crawford Bridge

busstopart

YOU WILL NOT FEEL THIS WAY FOREVER, screams the bus stop ad – only it’s not an ad. Or is it?

The visual isn’t unlike many Instagram posts that now uses bold fonts and colours to capture attention and send across a message, and I am both comforted by the words and the familiarity of the artform.

Regina De Rozario, one half of the duo that makes Perception3, shared in the Virtual Tour Launch live on Facebook yesterday that the conceptualisation of their artworks came about as “almost as a stealth kind of campaign, […] an alternative ad”. She shared that the works hope to inspire people at the bus stop; to get them to think twice when they look at the advertising billboard.

READ: Local Art Meets Retail: Creative Unions at Funan

Opp Natl Lib

busstopart

I haven’t had many encounters with virtual art, but we can thank the pandemic for lowering its barrier to entry and allowing me to access this work, located just opposite the National Library in Bugis — the final stop in my journey. After cultivating a habit of scanning QR codes wherever I go now, I didn’t flinch when the artwork at this bus stop required a scan and a download of the free app, Artivive; more than a year ago, I would have walked away because two steps are two steps too many.

On the notice board, an abstract painting of a myriad of greens that turns into a simulated showcase of colour strokes once you run your phone’s camera over it through the app. Called Canopy For The Masses, multi-disciplinary artist Andy Yang’s works are transformed using Augmented Reality and urge commuters to ponder about the shelter under which they stand in relation to its natural counterpart, forest canopies.

As I leave, a line from the song “they paved paradise to put up a parking lot” comes to mind, and I think it’s no wonder that art plays such a vital role in a society. Our encounters with it, intentionally or otherwise, spark an awareness and necessary contemplation regarding ourselves and the world we live in. Whether or not the questions that arises in our mind get answered is secondary.

It is evident in Bus.Stop.Art that reaching the masses through the daily commute allows art to be experienced — through confusion or enjoyment — by everybody.

Bus.Stop.Art is on view until 3 February 2021 along the 175 bus route from Geylang Bahru to Gillman Barracks. View the self-guided tour map here.

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