During an ASN field trip to Caithness in the north of Scotland, in March, 2017, Mungki Dewi experienced a unfamiliar meteorological phenomenon with which she was unfamiliar – with the weather changing rapidly, there was an abundance of rainbows. In response, Dewi made ‘Echoes’, a projected work to replicate the experience. In the studio a series of photographs captured water droplets splitting the light into the spectrum, these were overlaid on landscape photographs which were sequentially projected.
In her following works, Dewi explored how to slow and calm people down in the urban environment. More and more people pay homage to speed and wish for everything to be done as soon as possible. One thing often forgotten is when we speed things up, we were missing our sense of mindfulness. Slowness is more than just slowing down the pace but it is a state of being. Being slow also means being more conscious of the surroundings and one’s inner self.
…“Have you pleasure from looking at the sky?
Have you pleasure from poems?
Do you enjoy yourself in the city?”…
To Think Of Time by Walt Whitman
Dewi started conducting research into how the natural environment had been proven to provide a calming sense to the viewers. Townsend and Weerasuriya (2010) mentioned that the sense of calmness, reinvigoration and rejuvenation of mind, body, and spirit during an experience in the outdoors relates to the rudimentary features of nature. Natural landscapes elicit the feelings of safety, opportunity, connection and pleasure in the environment.
Stephen Kaplan (1995) with his research on Attention Restoration Theory argued that scenes of nature can make people concentrate better and release mental fatigue. Kaplan claimed that people need effort to achieve focus and concentrate while performing actual task. These actions required direct attention which would weary people after a period of time. To restore one’s ability to focus their attention, Kaplan proposed the exposure of involuntarily attention associated with natural environment. Nature has abundant fascinating things which draw people effortlessly and act as a restorative environment. Kaplan suggested four characteristics that specify restorative environment which are fascinations, being away, extension and compatibility. These characteristics would be explored further through Dewi’s works.
She began exploring and recording steady movement in videos filmed in the landscape. In the cinema space, ‘Split Screen Slowness’ showed two split screens; showing the same film reversed across both screens. The films were slowed down the edge of the spectators’ perception of movement, engendering a new and calm reading of the imagery.
These ideas were tested further by developing works to be integrated into the urban fabric of the city, with buildings located in busy streets being specifically chosen. In ‘Blue’, mesmeric footage of waves was back projected on a monumental scale. In ‘In Time’ the movement of the leaves blown by the wind with sun rays glistening on the background was selected. In both these works, the exposure of natural imagery in the urban environment could be an conceptual alternative of ‘being away’. The presence of a ‘blue’ and ‘green’ in a ‘grey’ environment also act as an unexpected visual experience in the bustling street, generating awe for the pedestrians.
For her solo show in Tent Gallery, Dewi focussed on water as a principal theme. “We are beginning to learn that our brains are hardwired to react positively to water and that being near it can calm and connect us”, Nichols writes in Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do (2014).
In this exhibition, six analogue monitors were displayed within the gallery space to be viewed from outside. ‘Reflections on Surface Water’ explored the ideas of using watery moving images; reflections captured on a water surface, to stop and slow people down.
The framework of ‘Reflections on Surface Water’ was developed as a gallery based work for the Degree show by heavily pixelating the film to an abstract grid. Displayed on an old CRT monitor, ‘The Other Blue’ acts as an abstract representation and an extension of oceanic landscape at the same time.
The second work was made in collaboration with Asma Al Mubarak. Having a similarity of research interests and approaches in their previous works, they transformed an interior space, creating an immersive experiential work. ‘Flow’ is a sculptural installation, combining film projection on a suspended fabric and poetic text. Using natural landscape imageries, they create a calming ambience while delivering an interactive experience. By being in the space and walking through the installation, visitors would experience the journey of walking through the landscape. The works are without sound to allow the viewer to engage with what was presented visually; a phenomenon captured in the natural landscape, an unravelling moment in time. The works’ gentle pace and movement set a visual counterpoint to the frantic pace of life, both calming the spectator and raising conscience of the natural world.
- To Think of Time by Walt Whitman
- Townsend M and Weerasuriya R. (2010). Beyond Blue to Green: The benefits of contact with nature for mental health and well-being. Beyond Blue Limited: Melbourne, Australia.
- Kaplan, S. (1995). The Restorative Benefits of Nature: Towards an integrative framework. Journal of Environmental Psychology. Academic Press Limited.
- Nichols, Wallace J. (2014). Blue Mind: The Surprising Science That Shows How Being Near, In, On, or Under Water Can Make You Happier, Healthier, More Connected, and Better at What You Do. Little, Brown and Company. New York.