Collaborative public performance project commissioned for Singapore Biennale 2013.
Throughout South East Asia, there is a tradition of bathing in a floral bath to dispel bad luck, mental malaise and fatigue.
I engaged over 100 people to take a public flower bath with me on the lawn of National Museum of Singapore.
Hoping to connect people in a deeper way to themselves and what we were about to do together, I organized workshops where they personalized their own sarong to wear during the bath.
Finally, documentation of the performance was shown at Singapore Art Museum. I gave 10 volunteers an Instax camera and asked each of them to take 30 shots of the event. These photos were shown along with leftover flowers and leaves from the bath.
I also made a zine to explain my motivations and approaches. This was given out for free as long as the copies lasted. You can read it online here. Below is what I wrote in the zine, and functions as a kind of anti-artspeak artist statement:
Mandi Bunga is a project I dreamt up in 2012. It came from my experiences taking part in Bersih2.0 and 3.0, two momentous street rallies calling for free and fair elections in Malaysia. Bersih means ‘clean’; yellow is the colour adopted by the movement.
This project has nothing to do with Bersih. I can’t deny that Biennale has allowed me to realize my dream; that I am here at the pleasure of the Singaporean goverment, and financed by the taxes of its citizens. To export my politics as if they are consumer goods would be both stupid and meaningless.
Yet it has everything to do with Bersih — without the experience of being part of a huge movement, and struggling not to lose myself in its flaws and contradictions, I would never have arrived at the questions that lie at the heart of this project.
Mandi Bunga consists of 3 simple parts: Gather 100 people to bathe together in public. Before that, everyone makes their own sarong to wear during the bath. Finally, an exhibition documents the process and outcomes.
All 3 actions ask the same questions:
“What does it mean to do something alone?”
“What does it mean to do something together?”
“How can we be ourselves with others?”
I believe these questions are ones we must all struggle with, in the face of rapidly changing times and a challenging future.
I offer this project as a way to ask them, to give them form, to make flowers bloom from the clouds of tear gas.