Artwork Focus | Gotong Royong | Kinetic poetry art by Nicola Anthony & Marc Nair

This series entitled Artwork Focus is written by Shireen Marican, giving her explorations of the artworks in the Intersection exhibition. Shireen is a writer, art assistant and visual arts organiser, who has gained unique insight through her visits to Nicola’s art studio, observing the creation process of the works. This article focuses particularly on the artwork After Oud.

Gotong Royong is a twisting, turning, tumbling, kinetic artwork, in which letters and words spill like loose sand. I am extremely proud to present this interactive piece in the exhibition, Intersection, a collaboration between myself and poet Marc Nair. Below I explain the art piece with a video and some insight into the creative process.

Gotong Royong, detail, by Nicola Anthony and Marc Nair, 2016

Gotong Royong, detail, by Nicola Anthony and Marc Nair, 2016

Marc’s words in this poem – which begins with the line “Loose sand shifts over time…” – really filled me with a sense of time passing and a sense of place being lost, dissolved, eroded, evolved.

Our research on the area in Singapore called Kampong Glam has led us to discover many shifting, blurring, intersecting layers of language, culture, and history.

The sculpture invites viewers to grasp it’s handle and turn Marc’s poem on a rotation axil. This enables the viewers to flip it upside down like an hour glass, and watch the letters and words spill like sand…until uprighted again and the poem can be read.

The poem and the artwork take a look back in time to the sense of community ‘kampong spirit’ of old: the memories, ingrained cultures, words and languages, the things which may have disappeared but also still haunt the area. 

The concept for this piece has been nesting in my imagination for a while. I have envisioned an artwork which is also an hourglass. As many of my artworks and subjects take a look at the sense of time passing, this seems like a very exciting and subtle way to present the concept.

The pending component of this idea has always been the correct text to use. As you may know, my artwork often incorporates text and stories. I write a lot, usually for my own development and creative process, but I tend towards the stories and writings of others in my finished artwork. ‘Found texts’ are still curated / chosen / edited by the artist so they of course still have a personal relevance and resonance, but using my own words seems to imbue a very auto-biographical feel to the artwork which I am less interested in: I believe my work should have a universal resonance, attempting to connect and relate to us all as human beings.

When I read the words of Gotong Royong by Marc Nair, I knew that this poem was a wonderful subject and concept to encapsulate in the metaphorical hourglass. And so it began.

Thank you for reading,


Find out more about this sculpture:

This artwork is part of a body of work entitled Intersectioncreated as a collaboration between poet Marc Nair and artist Nicola Anthony. See the full catalogue of visual artworks here. Artworks from the series available for purchase at Intersections Gallery.