Taking inspiration from the book “Invisible Cities” and poem by Marc Nair, this installation visualises a dream-like figure of a city. Part of Light to Night Festival 2020 Singapore, Floating Cities comprise of multiple ethereal towers suspended at different heights resembling skyscrapers in the city. The 27 towers hung in Padang Atrium of National Gallery Singapore– complementing the height of the space – being the first suspended installation in the 20-meter-high atrium. Layers of plywood frame with geometric patterns can be seen floating amidst the strings. The strings that made up the main volume of the tower consists of two different types. Some sections of the strings are straight and the others are crisscrossing. This composition makes the appearance of the towers vary with different viewing angles, appearing more or less see-through as visitors move around the installation. At level three bridge, the installation creates an ethereal envelope as visitors walk through the clusters of towers. 

Each tower is lit by DMX-controlled RGBW Spotlights. They are mounted at the bottom of each tower making the towers glow. There are six towers where the spotlights are mounted at the top shooting down to create pools of light and projections of shadow on the floor. The spotlights can be controlled in terms of their colour output, beam angle, and tilt. This allows us to pre-program a 6 minute lighting sequence ranging from dynamic rapid movement to slow colour changing which can be played on loop. During the performances, the lighting is manually controlled to respond to the music as it would be in a concert. 

A challenge well brought up from the beginning was how to install the hanging structures without any precedent to follow as this was the first time the gallery hung an installation in the Padang Atrium. Forklifts or scaffolding were not high enough to reach the structural beams above. Hence, The contractor had to manually hoist up individual towers, while making sure each string was not tangled and was in tension while being under a tight time constraint. Any adjustments to the lights had to be done mid air by experienced “spidermen”. Safety and conservation of the building were crucial, hence the artist, contractor, and client worked hand in hand to ensure the design were transportable, able to be installed in time, and safe to be hung for at least several months.

Overall, the scale of the towers and how they are lit allows us to transform a formal grand architecture into a space that creates a magical festival experience. It fills the space in a way that makes the museum feels more intimate to all visitors, whether they are art lovers, millennials with Instagram accounts, tourists, or children. It truly embodies the dream city, a city that inspires and brings joy to everyone, regardless of who they are.

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