Goddess of Mercy
Alecia Neo (Singapore)

Goddess of Mercy

15 - 26 February 2012, 11.00am - 7.00pm
The Substation Gallery
Admission is free

www.alecianeo.com | www.villaalicia.info

Fringe Commission / World Premiere / Co-presented with The Substation

In a huge rustic house in upper Bukit Timah lives Tan Ying Hsien and his mother Dr Nalla Tan. Nalla suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and her condition has deteriorated to the point whereby she is a stranger even to herself. While Dr Tan was an active member of church, her youngest son Ying Hsien calls himself agnostic, and unconvinced about life after death.

In a shophouse unit in Queenstown lives the Neo family. Filled with books about Buddhism and cooking, it reveals Mdm Tay Siew Hwa’s areas of specialties. After being diagnosed with breast cancer, she devotes more time to self-study about her religion and life after death, while undergoing chemotherapy. Her oldest son Alex Neo, builds his own shrine of beliefs with religious pendants and symbols from Thailand.

Guests are invited to participate and witness rituals of healing. Photography and soundscape installations will evoke the range of emotions experienced by the mothers (Alzheimer’s sufferer and Cancer patient) in trying to reach out emotionally to their sons, as well as the abstract phenomena of how religion functions.

Relationship to Art & Faith

The proposed installation brings together an unusual mix of personalities (middle class vs. upper class, Methodists vs. Buddhists, believer vs. non-believer), however, the revelations evolving from the project are significant.

Fear of death often motivates a person to devote time and energy to a religion, as most religions help the believer anticipate death, by teaching that there is life after we pass on, that death is not an end in itself. Hence, by preparing the believers for afterlife by equipping them with all the knowledge of what’s to come when the lights go out, religion alleviates the weight, fear and pain that we associate with death.

By setting up a space to contrast the two families and their rituals of faith and healing, the audience is equipped with a visual library to explore the following questions: How do we deal with disappointment (prayer, making offerings to God(s) in exchange for a wish, etc)? Is religion a solution to emotional bonding between people? How do we heal (physically, mentally and spiritually)? How do families strike the balance between faith in one another and their religious beliefs?

Religion is prone to change in the act of recollection and historical context; therefore, it is mutable. The faculties of the mind that supports memories and learning are also prone to deterioration with time, age and disease; it is therefore fragile. Through my installation, I hope to present to my audience ideas about how our faiths (in religion, in family, in the present) functions as a healing source. Healing of the body, mind and soul can be achieved by understanding our reasons for fear.

Publicity photos by Alecia Neo