Imagine gazing at a soothing, oscillating skyline through your window, the gentle to and fro rocking you into a calm state of mind. Royal College of Art graduate Phong Nguyen created a scale model of what he calls a “utopia for mental health” or the Oscillating Skyline. The project envisions the future endeavours we may undertake for the sake of mental wellbeing.
His installation consists of two parts, a swinging landscape and an architecture model. The audience observes the swinging landscape through the windows of the tiny model. As the “dreamscape” swings side to side, its hidden bottom becomes visible.
“This floating bilateral landscape is a metaphor for the human’s complex mindscape, and is based on Sigmund Freud’s ‘iceberg theory’ where different layers of consciousness are situated within the human’s complicated psyche,” writes Nguyen. “The top layer represents the conscious side, while the bottom stands for the subconscious. The internal conflict between them can lead to uncontrollable emotions and behaviours.”
The project forms part of Nguyen’s research into Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy (EMDR), where repeated eye movements from left to right have been shown to banish traumatic memories.
Nguyen believes that the impact of an individual’s surroundings is often overlooked when it comes to mental health. “It is little known that the collapse of one’s mind is an involuntary reaction that can be caused by several triggers,” he adds.
The project is further informed by Nguyen’s heritage. In his home country of Vietnam, the art of creating artificial landscapes is known as Hon Non Bo.
Oscillating Skyline was part of ShowRCA 2016, it was displayed in Stevens Building, Royal College of Art in the United Kingdom.