The Skeleton of Makara (The Myth of a Myth), 2016
Fibreglass and metal
220 × 425 × 115 cm
Collection of the Artist
Singapore Biennale 2016 commission
One of the most prevalent mythological icons in Southeast Asia is the makara, which originated in Hinduism. Depicted as a hybrid of different animals, typically half-mammal and half-fish, it has penetrated cultural, religious and philosophical discourses. Based on the idea of conceiving a myth out of a myth, Tan fabricated a large-scale skeleton of a makara: an elephant-crocodile hybrid with the tusks of a wild boar and the tail of a fish. His intention is to provide a ‘scientific’ basis to myth through presenting paleontological ‘evidence’; the replica of a fossil is intentionally incomplete to make it more believable. The artist shows how the dissemination of an icon such as the makara has influenced our historical narratives, and reveals how our construction or representation of history is sometimes based on something totally chimerical and imaginary, even absurd.