The Last Chance

…to see the display that nearly was not to be

For almost the whole of last weekend, we thought that the most hyped exhibition on this island of the pandemic years was not happening. And then it was. Before we could caw KAWS, the blow-up doll basking in the blazing sun shall be no more. Today is the last day of the eight-day display, and a lie-down defiance against an injunction issued against it. If the organisers had taken the cross-eyed Companion and his look-alike companion down (the court order had initially demanded that the exhibition stop taking place), we may not be able to benefit from a re-installation. But Companion was destined to enjoying his spot on The Float @ Marina Bay. And we were able to watch him without further disturbance.

The wise would say great art challenges us. But who would have known that even the great Companion would be challenged? And of all places, on this little red dot, a barren land of art on a monumental scale; his first legal obstacle after having been to half a dozen or so places around the world, sometimes floating in the sea rather than lying on dry land. Hitherto, not many people know what truly happened last weekend that led to the initial closure of the seemingly harmless display. Was it an absolutely necessary action on the part of those who filed the court papers? What did it suggest about the future of staging world-class exhibitions here?

It is often said that the KAWS sculpture is a figure of our age, a personification of the Mickey in us all. Yet, to us, Companion does not appear to be jolly even if in other settings he seems to be clowning. Distressed? His eyes are a pair of Xs, as if crossed out, or cancelled. Is he hiding his unhappiness—even tears—from us, keeping us away from his eyes, the windows to his soul? When we did finally see him up-close, he quietly reminded us of the very surface-only world we are inhabiting; the artificial and the artifice. In both the physical and digital world, clever fakeness and artful contrivance come together to hold sway over us. Perhaps, Companion is an image of our modern selves: all plastic and hot air. Happy to have met him.

KAWS:Holiday Singapore opens at 2pm and closes at 9pm. Photo: Chin Boy Kay

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