Diary of an NUS Museum Intern: Ker Wei Qi
Note: Diary of an NUS Museum Intern is a series of blog posts written by our interns about their experiences during the course of their internships. Working alongside their mentors, our interns have waded through tons of historical research, assisted in curatorial work, pitched in during exhibition installations and organised outreach events! If you would like to become our next intern, visit our internship page for more information!
Wei Qi is a third-year English Literature student at the NUS Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. Wei Qi assisted the collections team on various projects and exhibitions during her time here as our Collections Intern.
My inbox lights up with an email among the slew of assignments in the rush of reading week. I spare a quick glance, cursor hovering over the ‘delete’ icon. My gaze catches on the words ‘internship’ and ‘NUS Museum’. I pause.
‘I love art’ is what I think I should say, but that’s probably too broad a statement, and one that sounds much grander than it really is. I love drawing. I love reading. My ambitions draw to a stop there. Maybe working in a museum doesn’t quite fit my not-ambitions, but my recklessness is inspired.
One afternoon sees me sitting cross-legged on the floor of the Pattani prep-room-in-progress. The aches in my body map the behind-the-scenes progress of every exhibition. My arms -- from hauling and shifting the props and pedestals. My knees -- from staying crouched by the televisions, tuning the volume of the noise that will fill the space. My head -- from seemingly endless hours of staring at the space, drawing silk-thin links between the displays. What do these pieces want to say? Does that table look right in the corner? We would rearrange the floorboards if we could in our efforts to do the artists’ works justice.
I wander. Suddenly I’m thrown into observing an installation much larger, much rawer than Pattani. Ladders, drills, wires -- things that don’t seem to belong in a museum. I realise that it’s not that they don’t belong, but rather, we don’t think they belong. These tools, where have they not been that has been touched by man?
Have you thought about the programming that creates the words you’re currently reading? Behind each letter, there’s an entire system that creates the lines of each letter and spins them into words behind the screen. We read these words, but we never think about the words.
There’s a rush of discomfort and relief in noticing these details. It’s like being aware of your own breathing. It rattles your senses, drawing your attention to something you’ve always known but never actually thought about. Suddenly you can see after being blind, and you can’t take your eyes off it. My eyes will now always be drawn beyond the art pieces in galleries, watching the ghosts of the workers behind the physical set up of the space. They remain silent, invisible to the excited gazes of the visitors. Curtain call, and they rematerialize, leaving empty space to be painted in the colours of the next artist.
I spend one moment crouched behind a projector, brows furrowed, untrained fingers poking through the tangle of wires that the audience will never bother to notice. Another sees me rifling curiously through old scrolls and yellowed canvas in the storage spaces. Blink. I’m half-huddled into a small stool in the darkness of a studio, suffused in the sticky Singapore heat that invades the space – the space in which the artist carves their mark into the world and creates a world of their own. Blink. I’m at the end of the internship, typing out these very words.
It’s been a dizzy spin through these three summer-hot months, but I’ve come out with eyes much clearer. I’ve learned so, so much from this internship and met so many wonderful people. Everyone in the office and the museum has treated me with nothing but kindness, and for that, I thank you all.