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Lee Mingwei's "Luminous Depths" is the first contemporary installation at the Peranakan Museum
Internationally renowned artist Lee Mingwei unveils a new project about memory and museums, inspired by his first visit to the Peranakan Museum.
SINGAPORE.- The Peranakan Museum is presenting its first major contemporary installation, Luminous Depths, by the international artist Lee Mingwei. Lee’s new project has been specifically conceived for the space and collection of the Peranakan Museum, and was inspired by his first visit to the museum in 2011.

Luminous Depths explores the idea of collecting, and raises questions about how a museum develops. The artist invites visitors to participate in his work in a unique way. They are inspired to think about objects, memories and how they are preserved.

The installation is a three story cylindrical structure within the atrium of the Peranakan Museum. On entering visitors are able to hear a Schubert Lied (art song) being played from the top of the atrium. Visitors can choose and purchase a ceramic object and walk with it through the museum. Once they reach the third floor there is a large hoop that is suspended over the void of the atrium. The participants are invited to toss their chosen ceramic object into the void.

The Peranakan Museum focuses on the visual culture of Peranakan communities in Southeast Asia, especially the intersections between Asian cultures and the world. The director of the Asian Civilisations Museum Dr. Alan Chong says, “Contemporary artists help us look at the past by raising questions and challenging our assumptions. Lee Mingwei is interested in memory and how we preserve history. Luminous Depths deals subtly with issues of collecting, archaeology, and the role of the museum. Mingwei invites visitors to participate in the creation of a new work of art, as they create their own experience. In the end, visitors will also contribute to the future of the museum in an unusual way.”

Luminous Depths differs from the previous exhibitions held at the Peranakan Museum in presenting a contemporary perspective on the past. Dr. Chong says, “Carefully developed contemporary installations and objects will become increasingly important in the museums and heritage institutions of the National Heritage Board. This provides new interpretations of heritage. Moreover, living artists might help introduce some visitors to the treasures of the national museums.” Luminous Depths will be followed in October by an exhibition that will be part of the Singapore Bieniale. This short season of new work is a reminder that contemporary art continues the sequence of artistic creativity, and contributes to future heritage.

Lee Mingwei shared that his visits to the Peranakan Museum triggered memories of his grandparents’ home, where light cascaded from the skylight, while sounds and aromas filtered in from different floors, “becoming a multisensory symphony in my mind”.

“This is a site-specific project. The Peranakan Museum is rich in architecture and history, I was immediately inspired when I walked in for the first time. Luminous Depths is about light, sound, memories and transformation. It allows one to reflect on how something beautiful could come from a seemingly disruptive gesture. The result of this interaction can be unique and transformative. This is also the thread that binds this installation to Peranakan culture and my own Han Chinese and Taiwanese Aboriginal heritage.”

Born in Taiwan and currently living in New York City, Lee received a Masters of Fine Art (MFA) from Yale University. He has staged solo exhibitions at major museums including Whitney Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York, and has been featured in Biennials such as Venice, Sydney, Lyon and Taipei. Lee creates both participatory installations – where strangers can explore issues of trust, intimacy, and self-awareness – and one-on-one events, where visitors explore these issues with the artist himself through eating, sleeping, walking, and conversation.

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Lee Mingwei's "Luminous Depths" is the first contemporary installation at the Peranakan Museum

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