How a Thousand Tiny Figurines Will Connect Strangers All Over the World

With an upcoming art installation, anyone can "adopt" a tiny figurine online and wait for it to be found in Singapore. 

Imagine the thrill of finding a "message in a bottle," except in urban public spaces. Foundin, an upcoming installation in Singapore, will attempt to do just that, dispersing a thousand tiny message-bearing figurines all over the city.

images via Foundin on Facebook 

While living in Tokyo, artist Wei Keong Tan couldn't shake the feeling that even though the streets are always packed, people aren’t really seeing each other anymore. That's how Tan got inspired to disrupt public spaces and preoccupied minds with miniature figurines. 


A time-lapse of how the figurines are made. 

The premise is fairly simple: anyone anywhere in the world can adopt one of Tan's figurines online. Each figure is a hand-painted 2-cm Preiser scale model, infused with details that create distinct characters, such as superheroes, businessmen, or housewives. “Adopters” will also leave a short message and indicate whether they’d want the figurines' "Finders" to contact them through email. All the adopted figurines will be dropped around public spaces like libraries and shopping malls by the time the 2014 Singapore Fringe Festival begins in January 2014. 

0655 - The figurine I adopted. 

While the art festival runs from January 8 to 19, adopters can check back online to see whether their figurine is found, waiting, or lost. All figurines will be considered "lost" if they go seven days without being found. People who do find a figurine, which will sit on small wooden cards bearing a unique URL (also given in a QR code), can log their find online. Finders will then see the adopter’s message and contact information, if given. Here’s a sample of the messages adopters have left so far — just as all the figurines are waiting to be found, all adopters were prompted to enter messages that begin with "I am waiting..."

I am waiting for the day when everyone realises that love is blind to colour, gender and faith… A day of great celebration instead of mere tolerance.

I am waiting to become a father.

I am waiting … heck, no! I make my own adventures! When are you starting yours?

Working with producer Samuel Woo and technical director Ryan Tan, Wei Keong Tan began developing Foundin this past January. Last week, the team finally opened up figurine adoptions online. Already, more than 600 people have adopted figurines and over 150 of them came from 24 different countries outside of Singapore. The team has 900 figurines ready to go and plans to reach 1,000 painted figurines by the time the festival begins.

The team hopes Foundin will inspire people to explore the city in detail and connect with others in the process. Tan writes in an email, “All figurines in Foundin are individuals seeking to be found in one way or another, just like every one of us.”

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