What Do You (Not) See?

A new immersive exhibition by 32 international contemporary artists at the National Museum of Singapore allows visitors to interact with the intangible.
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Just because you don’t see something, it doesn’t mean it’s not there. While unnerving, this viewpoint is nevertheless thought-provoking and forms the cornerstone of an exciting and cerebral exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore entitled What is Not Visible is Not Invisible – a witty label that is ruminative and droll in equal measure.

The exhibition, which kicked off on 7 October, features 34 artworks by French and international contemporary artists from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC) and is curated in collaboration with Platform – the FRAC association that spearheads collaborative projects with the FRAC collections in France and abroad.

More importantly, the show presents viewers a rare opportunity to get acquainted with some of the most important and prominent contemporary artists of our time. These include British multimedia artist Martin Creed who won a Turner Prize in 2001 for his controversial piece, Work No 227: The Lights Going On and Off. In this exhibition, he presents No 262: Half the Air in a Given Space – a room filled with a monochromatic sea of green latex balloons that visitors can step into.

On show are works by 32 artists, including French artists Phlippe Parreno (who presents Speech Bubbles, a collection of helium-filled balloons that congregate on the ceiling above visitors, suggesting suspended discourse that may or may not occur); Philippe Decrauzat (whose mural, After DM, is a take on the Dream Machine, a stroboscopic flicker device that produces visual stimuli); and Julien Discrit (whose installation this exhibition takes its title and inspiration from).


What is Not Visible is Not Invisible runs until 19 February 2017 at the National Museum of Singapore. For more information, visit

Discourse with Discrit 
We speak to 37-year-old French artist Julien Discrit (one of the 32 artists showing) about the work that the What is Not Visible is Not Invisible exhibition takes its name from, the beauty of travel and Japanese rock gardens.


Your installation is a visual paradox made up of UV lights and UV paint, and can only be seen when the normal lights are turned off and the UV lights are turned on. What inspired this piece? 
“In 2008, when I created the piece, I was very interested in astrophysics and the fact that the physical universe is bigger than the visible universe (which refers not only to what we can see with our eyes, but also everything we can detect, like X-rays and particles etc.). This also gives an idea about the works in this exhibition and artworks in general. What you see is not the only thing there. There might be a shape, a form, but the art piece does more than what you can actually see. And this happens in everyday life. When you look at a teapot, you see a teapot – but it’s also the tea inside, the ceramic itself.”


Which artists have you been influenced by? 
“Marcel Duchamp – that’s an obvious choice, but I have to say it! He casts a shadow over this exhibition and much of the contemporary art we know now. And, when I was a student, I was – and still am – really fascinated by the work of French artists Pierre Huyghe and Philippe Parreno. I’m also very interested in conceptual American artists like Robert Smithson and the Mono-ha movement of Japanese art. I also have to admit that I really like a lot of the artists in this exhibition.”

“What you see is not the only thing there. There might be a shape, a form, but the art piece does more than what you can actually see.” JULIEN DISCRIT

Art is a transportive subject – it takes your mind places. What fascinates you more – mental or physical travel? 
Both. I believe it could happen at the same time. I like to walk a lot and when you walk, the action becomes automatic, and then your mind can travel in many different directions. But it’s interesting to travel physically. This is my first time in Singapore – and the first time you experience anything is very precious, right? I think artworks try to make you look at things for the first time, each time.


Where would you like to visit that you’ve never been to? 
Japan. It’s a romantic, occidental point of view, I guess, but I’m very attracted to the contemplative way they look at things through Zen Buddhism, through their crafts and karensansui (Japanese rock gardens).


What’s in the pipeline? 
I’m working on a new film project that I will shoot next year in Montreal, Canada. The film is set in 1976 and is about the fire that burned the Montreal Biosphère – the former pavilion of the United States for the 1967 World Fair, Expo 67 which was designed by the great inventor, architect and artist Buckminster Fuller. The film will take place on that particular day and follows Fuller’s journey and also explores ecological issues.

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