A Photography Exhibition & Installation by Ernest Goh
Objectifs Gallery, 10 June – 19 July 2015
Breakfast at 8 Jungle at 9 is an installation that engages with the public through an interactive sticker-pasting process to ‘wrap’ the world in nature which utilise repetitive motifs from the natural environment to propagate the his eco-utopian vision of the world. While at first glance a nod to scientific photography and the detailed study of specimens, Ernest encourages the viewer to appreciate these insects, butterflies, flowers and birds through a lens of wonderment and fascination.
The show draws its title from a letter written by famed naturalist and explorer Alfred Russell Wallace. Wallace spent eight years in the Malay Archipelago studying its flora and fauna, and collected more than 125,000 specimens of insects, birds and mammals including hundreds of new species. His persistence led him to realize the theory of natural selection, for which Charles Darwin and him are jointly credited with discovering. In this letter to his mother in 1854, he shared his daily work schedule when he was in Singapore:
I will tell you how my day is now occupied. Get up at half past five. Bath and coffee. Sit down to arrange and put away my insects of the day before, and set them safe out to dry. Charles mending nets, filling pincushions, and getting ready for the day. Breakfast at eight. Out to the jungle at nine. We have to walk up a steep hill to get to it, and always arrive dripping with perspiration. Then we wanted about till two or three, generally returning with about 50 or 60 beetles, some very rare and beautiful. Bathe, change clothes, and sit down to kill and pin insects. Charles ditto with flies, bugs and wasps; I do not trust him yet with beetles. Dinner at four. Then to work again till six. Coffee. Read. If very numerous, work at insects till eight or nine. Then to bed.
“The central element of the exhibition, the interactive installation Time to Wrap Up, provides an opportunity for the viewer to respond to Goh’s meditations on repetition, re-ordering and the exquisite strangeness of the insect or animal form. The artist presents a hodgepodge of objects, most of them everyday items from modern life: a table and chairs, a supermarket trolley, a piano, a vehicle, models of animals, icons of East Asian culture, and other items. In a deliberate homage to Yayoi Kusama’sObliteration Room (2002), all the objects have been wrapped completely in white, and visitors are given sheets of stickers – bearing animal motifs from The Gift Book and Breakfast at 8 Jungle at 9 – which they can stick anywhere on the white objects.
Like Kusama’s work, Time to Wrap Up invites the visitor to create an environment that reflects the artist’s vision – in Goh’s case, a world that is wrapped up or covered in nature. Given the objects he has chosen for the installation, Goh is extending the assertion that nature is not merely a decorative layer, but a claim upon the landscape. We would like to believe that the things of humankind are eternal, but nature eventually overruns all man-made structures and institutions, as well as animals and plants, be it in the rapid surge of a tsunami or the infinitesimal path worn by an insect creeping up from the ground.
The act of placing stickers onto the white canvas of the objects also implicates visitors in the act of creatively ordering the natural world. What does it mean to wrap, or re-wrap, the world in nature? Perhaps it prompts a degree of care and reverence, even protectiveness – but there is also the potential for liberation, a child-like exultation and fun, until the object is finally plastered over and obscured.”
– Excerpt from exhibition text by Yu-Mei Balasingamchow, 18 May 2015.