T. Sasitharan - The geometry of public institutions

by T. Sasitharan

The site in question lies at outer edge of two premier spaces which Singaporeans like to call the "Orchard Road area" and the "District 10" precinct. At the almost perpendicular intersection of Bukit Timah and Sarkies Roads, stands a relatively new building that is dedicated to the continual global presence of French culture.

The new Alliance Francaise building is modest in size; but this modesty of scale is more than amply countered by a boldness of architectural design. Its imposing glass atrium in the front and its solid, clean lines on the other three sides mark out the structure; giving it a post-modern distinction particularly in the presence of the other, mostly staid and nondescript, residential buildings around it.

The material and architectural character of the new building is of course consonant with the confidant and forward-looking attitude of the Alliance Francaise itself. At least, this appears to be the preferred self-image that Alliance wants to project in public.
Interestingly, this architectural projection, and by implication the representation of the Alliance itself, will be subjected to a temporary transformation thanks to the intervention of a French artist residing in Singapore.

Visual artist Nathalie Junod Ponsard will attempt to reclaim for the individual person a fragment of the globalised public projection that is the Alliance. She will do this essentially through projections of her own.
It is both the irony and the simplicity that is resident in her act of art which gives this project its critical significance.

Nathalie uses projections, in this case projections of light, to reclaim for herself the projected image of a public monolith. The monolith in question of course is both the form of public architecture that is this new building and the form of public institution that is the Alliance Francaise.

This is not to say that all artistic enterprises should have a critical significance, that is certainly not true. But it is my view that no significant artistic enterprise can come out of an uncritical creative context. In this respect Nathalie's project of architecture and light, of line and space and, ultimately, of the geometry of public institutions, passes muster admirably.

October 1999
T. Sasitharan
Artistic Director, The Substation Arts centre, Singapore