Feature image: Unconsciousness: Consciousness by Lavender Chang

Sometimes visual art is not simply visual.

The Singapore Art Museum’s exhibition Sensorium 360° last October was also about the aural, tactile, kinaesthetic, olfactory, and even gustatory.

You could create your own perfume (although they were not meant for application onto human skin), walk through a cage of laser beams, cuddle up to a roomful of (organza) breasts, or navigate a maze with goggles that mess with your perception. After a while, you forget that you are in the art museum and not the science centre.

Unlike a typical exhibition on contemporary art, Sensorium 360° was less about the historical social context of the pieces or technicalities of art-making. It was very simply about how our senses help us, well, make sense of the world, both externally and within. This includes the way in which we associate smells, tastes, touch, and sounds with memories.

It was not just about the science either. The captivating pictures of fast asleep subjects over the course of the night, the multi-coloured bottles of scents, and the chandelier-like installation of crystal glasses all made for aesthetically pleasing displays of artwork.

Some works were about the less commonly identified senses, such as position (propioception), pain (nociception), and time (chronoception), however not all senses were easy to explore. For instance, it was difficult to fully convey the sense of pain without actually inflicting it.

Art can be enjoyed just by engaging the senses, even without the scaffolding of theories and histories.


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