This work involved a rewiring of Block 72E, which used to be a dental centre in Tanglin military medical camp. About 4 years ago the plug was finally pulled on Tanglin Camp, a former colonial military installation. The plumbing, electrical and other infrastructure was effectively left to die...until the Biennale planned its re-use as an art site. This artwork’s recovery of Tanglin’s electrical ‘body’ is a tentative mirror of the Biennale's recoup... the original switch locations are rewired to things that are perhaps, still, "good for you".
About 30 individual connections are drawn from old switch and dimmer locations. The switches are now given labels to aid the user. The effects of audience interactions with this recovered system is of several types:
# The discovery of hidden texts that formed part of the original waiting room experience.
(for eg. The God who gave us Teeth will also give us Bread – Czech proverb)
# Recovered locations/ apparatus such as the airconditioner (here replaced by a fan and blind system) and TV.
# Simple exercises involving you and the electrical system (count, stretch, look behind you, look around the corner and so on.)
# A section where electrical instruments allow for the measurement of self-doubt (give yourself a massage, or watch yourself magnified, turning switches on and off).
# A section on image and identity (starring 3 fans: Booney, Sona and Toyomi- that are otherwise exactly the same, but sold as different brands in Singapore. For different prices, aimed at different ethnicities, perhaps.)
# Other electrical acts and observations: a bug killer, a ‘make your own holes’ drill, the fact that ceiling tubelights come on in random order, an infrared heat-light, and so on.
This ‘therapeutic’ set of arrangements asks art audiences to participate in a reopening or reboot of our customary relationship with electricity. We are filled with new doubts and new hopes of electrical life, as we look back at our shared history with this technology.
In the back room, which was likely the dental surgery, we find a monitoring station with a signal board showing activity on the electrical circuits, as well as video and audio surveillance. ALL the electrical circuits are routed here (invisible to the outside audience), and so the board is a real-time "behaviour map" of the space outside. Even as we doubtfully press switches and enjoy occasional moments of electrical pleasure, the circuits are listening, and the walls can count (one display counts the time between switch presses, much like some office monitoring systems count keystroke intervals as a measure of productivity).
The “therapeutic institution” in the title also refers to "popular" American art critic Dave Hickey’s criticism of institutional art as basically therapeutic (telling us that art ‘is good for you’). The clinic acknowledges its own recovery and that of Tanglin as a whole, for the biennale’s therapeutic purposes. The control room provides a context from which to assess this condition, a space from where the people watching the "art" can be watched.