Conducting Memories

History and cultural memory continue to be powerful themes that contemporary artists investigate, and reflect across a spectrum of mediums such as photography, film, narrative and painting. For Singapore artist Angie Seah, it is the ephemeral domain of sound that ignite the forgotten, bringing the past into present. Conducting Memories is an interactive console which the artist has created, programmed with 64 sound clips that range from historical sound archives to jingles from popular culture to sounds the artist recorded from everyday life. Whether it is the clatter of the karang guni man making his newspaper collection rounds, a 1980s Courtesy Campaign tune or a train service disruption announcement, each recording presents an aural vignette of Singapore life that encompasses daily encounters and the changing social landscape of Singapore. Recorded sounds such as those emerging from a tissue paper peddler or a foreign workers quarter, draw attention to everyday realities that escape may escape one's attention, allowing for moments of deeper reflection. Much of the material in this work come from the artist's personal collection of sound samples, which she has been recording for more than 10 years. Embedded in this selection of sounds are also the artist's records of more recent events that signify a shifting ideological landscape of Singapore, as well as atmospheric sounds from sites of significance, both existing and long gone. Not merely nostalgic, the artist uses sound as symbol of the traces of the past and can be seen as a reflection of what has been lost.Within this interactive installation, visitors are invited to create their own medley of memories by following the instructions provided and activating the console. Conducting Memories takes the form of a school assembly rostrum, and can be seen as a reference to the museum site as the former St Joseph's Institution, as well as the artist's ongoing series of Silent Conductor performances, which posits the rostrum as site to deconstruct as well as construct voices.