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February 15, 2019

Artist Tan Zi Xi On Her Installation That Brings Together Nature And Technology

Text by Zaral Shah. Photographs by Pranav Gohil

On the eve of Singapore Weekender 2.0, we chat with Singapore-born, London-trained artist Tan Zi Xi aka MessyMsxi about memorable collaborations and her work in the capital city

A collaboration between the Singapore Tourism Board and St+art India Foundation in Delhi will give art aficionados in the capital city the opportunity to view the works of various renowned artists who have been flown down from Singapore to create pieces for this year’s Singapore Weekender 2.0. Spread across three different zones – The Lodhi Art District featuring the Singapore Lane, F(r)iction at KONA in Jor Bagh, and antiSocial at Hauz Khas Delhi – the three-day experiential festival will be held in Delhi from the 15-17th of February.

Tan Zi Xi, winner of the ‘Most Inspiring Award’ in the Great Women of Our Time 2013, will be creating an installation that explores how nature and technology connect within urban landscapes. Inspired by nature, her works delve deeper into the different ways our environment is changing. In conversation with the multimedia artist, Verve chances upon the inspiration behind her installation, collaborations she holds close to her heart and more.

The story behind her moniker MessyMsxi
It was coined when I was in college in the UK. My classmates couldn’t pronounce my name, so I shortened it to just Ms Xi. And I am a rather messy person, so I thought it rhymed. That’s how it came together as MessyMsxi.

On her work bringing together nature and technology
In today’s day and age, technology has become pretty much imperceptible and we aren’t really aware of the influence it has on our lives. For example, we look at our clock or watch as a way to tell time, we no longer look at the sun to determine the time. Such habits have become very invisible and even though our landscape is changing vastly, we may not really be aware of it. The mural communicates to the audiences that the terrain on earth will have changed a few centuries from now. Pollution is another cause that I am passionate about; this has impacted my understanding of our planet, especially after seeing natural and manmade disasters affecting land and making it inhabitable and toxic. These changes made to our landscapes are what I wanted to drive focus on with the second piece, which is the installation I have created at the Singapore Weekender 2.0.

The thought behind this installation
The mural outside is anamorphic and can be viewed from a singular point of view only. From any other perspective, it is completely distorted. So it actually communicates how mankind may never see eye-to-eye, that we will never come to an agreement about how we have to look into taking care of our individual parts. I created Plastic Ocean two years ago at the Singapore Weekender with St+art in Mumbai because I felt like people weren’t talking about this issue enough. We are now more aware of environmental concerns that are plaguing our planet and any form of discussion on this is very important to make sure these are resolved. Hence the mural actually brings us to this singular perspective that the image only works if we are able to see eye to eye.

On working with diverse media
Installations are the most challenging medium when it comes to art because anything that is 3D involves a lot of planning in terms of space and lighting; how the viewer sees it when they step into the room. The main purpose is to create the experience, and to do this there are a lot of uncertainties that occur while putting it together. Especially with the project I’m doing at the Singapore Weekender with St+art Delhi – it is completely new and has been quite challenging in terms of the planning.

What she wishes people will take away from her work
I think the human species is myopic; we don’t really look at how we are treating the environment cruelly or not using our finite resources judiciously. I want to communicate a more futuristic perspective on how our habits now will determine the future and on the kind of legacy we will be leaving behind. Mankind has the capability to recreate a new space, but we will be stuck in a terrain that is covered with toxic waste.

Collaborations of the past, present and future
My absolute favourite and most memorable collaboration is Plastic Ocean – which we created at Sassoon Dock in Mumbai for the first edition of the Singapore Weekender with the St+art India foundation in 2017. More than the work, it was the experience of working with a team, including volunteers that was unforgettable. We personally went to slums and markets to purchase material and learn about the process of recycling in India. My dream collaboration would be to design upholstery covers and carpets for hotels. I feel like in such places we can actually create an experience, and so far, it has been quite underwhelming for me.

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