Down the Rabbit Hole

The Singapore ArtScience Museum has recently launched a new exhibition involving a rabbit, a mad hatter, and a girl named Alice. Wonderland is an interactive exhibition running from 13 April through to 22 September 2019. And it has been a while since an interactive exhibition has gotten us interested and excited. Thankfully, Wonderland does not disappoint. Well, maybe it’s a bit too short, but that’s it.

Our journey began with a very long queue. Ys, this is what happens when you go to an anticipated exhibition near the dates that it has just started. On the other hand, you would probably see most of the exhibition in prime condition before wear and tear has a chance to wear it all down. But, I digress. We were given the Lost Map of Wonderland while we were on the queue and these maps were registered on the system before you follow Alice. Each map follows a character from Wonderland, the Queen, the Mad Hatter, the White Rabbit, and the Cheshire Cat and they each have their own unique artwork to find.

Right off the bat, you are given a choice to use the normal door, or a shrunken door just like in the book/film. Of course, we took the small door. It’s perfect for small kids but a bit of a squeeze for bigger kids (like, adults). And from there, your adventure begins as you follow Alice through her adventures in Wonderland. Actually, you would be following several adventures seeing as there have been over 40 films, over 30 television programs, pop-culture references in books, music, video games, and even fashion. So, if you venture forth, follow your map and learn more about the world of Alice and the various interpretations of her adventures.

The Hallway of Doors is where we began our journey. Quite a few doors were around and each one holding bits and pieces of the tale of Alice. Behind the doors are concept art, manuscripts, drawings, and more inspiring works that have led to the pop-culture icon which is Alice. There is one particularly interesting corner here which is the glass table with the key that Alice works so hard to reach since she had been shrunken down after drinking the potion in the bottle that was labeled, “Drink Me”. Soon after though, we find ourselves in The Pool of Tears. Of course, in the book, this pool was actually created by Alice when she cried so much during the time that she had grown nine feet tall. This room houses early image projectors that were called magic lanterns. Think of it as early animation techniques. And through those technologies, Alice made her appearances in film with better special effects as the years moved forward. The Looking Glass House takes us deeper into the special effects that were used on the olden day films of Alice and eventually, the sequel to Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass. As the name implies, most of the effects are done with trickery using mirrors. A very old, but very ingenious way of basically superimposing images on top of each other to create an effect.

Over at The Rabbit Sends in a Little Bill, Alice’s adventure takes a detour from the normal stories that we may have heard. This is in part due to the interpretation of the story by a Czech filmmaker named Jan Svankmajer. In these bits of Wonderland, the world becomes surreal and everything becomes eerily interesting that you would do a double-take on the things that you see. You would then seek Advice from A Caterpillar. The Caterpillar is one more character that makes up the Wonderland crew and is represented in all sorts of ways by different characters and interpretations. But it is the question that is significant here, “Who are you?” asked the caterpillar to Alice. The Queen’s Croquet Ground is a small activity area where you turn yourself into one of the Queen’s guards. Yes, you will become a playing card. After croquet, it’s time to sit down to have tea with the Mad Hatter. You are invited to attend A Mad Tea Party which is an animated 3D tea party made especially for visitors of Wonderland. An amazing concept, but nothing really new if you have been coming to Singapore’s Art Festivals for the past few years. Who Stole The Tarts? This place showcases the Queen in all her mean and nasty glory. It is one of the smaller, but nicer places to visit before heading over to see Alice’s Evidence. This last room is where you realize how much Alice and her Adventures in Wonderland has influenced our culture. It has been one of the many stories that many know and remember, but some have only just vaguely heard of. But the influence of the many films show just how much Alice has been a part of our lives.

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iLight Marina Bay 2019

2019 marks the Singapore Bicentennial commemoration. Bicentennial meaning 200 years since the arrival of Sir Stamford Raffles onto Singapore shores. Not to be confused with SG50 held back in 2015 where Singapore celebrated its 50 years of Independence. Therefore, iLight Marina Bay will also be in Bicentennial edition despite only having started in 2010. Leave it to Singapore to have something to celebrate and spend money on. So let’s not get into too much detail over those things.

This year’s iLight Marina Bay was a wet one. That being said, we were not really able to enjoy some of the installations due to the inclement weather conditions the night that we went. Still, you can’t let a good night go to waste so we made the most of what we had. The route we took started from the Prudential Marina Bay Carnival and the light only started coming on from the Promontory.

City Gazing Singapore
City Gazing Singapore

“City Gazing Singapore” is a suspended map of Singapore at night. Albeit upside down. However, it portrays a Singapore that is both “grand and humble” according to the artist/s (VOUW). It would have been better for us to see the installation in full if it wasn’t raining so I will leave it to the artist’s interpretation. Over on the other side of the Promontory were these lit up squiggly lines which apparently were named “Squiggle”. There were joysticks for visitors to use to interact with the installation which is an abstract reflection of the multicultural world that we live in according to artist Angus Muir. Again, the rain didn’t help much with our experience here. Trying to get away from getting sick, we passed by “Les Footballeurs” which looks simple with only a bunch of LEDs but when you see the fluidity of the movement that they managed to set with these LEDs, you just go “wow”. Kudos to the artist Remi Brun for this one.

Dune
Dune

Still trying to be in shelter from the rain, we reached the installation “DUNE” next at OUE Bayfront. According to artist Daan Rosegaarde, visitors become a part of the artwork, enhancing social interactions between themselves and the landscape. This happens as the light fibers brighten (or dim) as visitors pass by and touch the installation.

Over at The Fullerton, the “Time Traveller” stands between the old and the new as a bridge between generations according to the artist Eko Prawoto. It was inspired by bamboo fish traps from the past which is what makes this visitor in the present a time traveler. It looks nice but unfortunately, I still don’t get it.

Flower Clock
Flower Clock

Our plan was to grab dinner at Over Easy, but it was closed. And so was P.S. Café. So we walked along the “Flower Clock” in search of actual food. The design was inspired by the relationship between blooming flowers and time which also celebrates Singapore as a Garden City. This was an entertaining piece while looking simple so props out to the group of students from the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts (China).

The Merlion has always been an integral part of iLight Marina Bay. This year, the lights are from Loom Prod of France and are called “The Cat in the Garden”. Viewers will travel through seven colors of the light spectrum which is a poetic bridge to nature reminiscent of a rainbow. Yeah, we didn’t get this either. Last iLight’s take on the Merlion seemed to have been better executed and was better in terms of overall design as well. Not saying that this installation is bad, maybe it would just appeal to others.

Sebastien Lefevre decorated the Jubilee Bridge with hundreds of vertical flags animated by kaleidoscopic lighting in an installation called “Oriflammes”. As the flags wave in the wind, the colors and the lights play along with it creating an interesting display. I guess the word is festive.

Time Frame
Time Frame

DONIS, on the other hand, lit up the Esplanade Bridge with his “TIME FRAME” exhibit. Using information from http://www.worldmeters.info, TIME FRAME displays various information under the Esplanade Bridge like a ticker box. Some information is surprising, some relevant and some are just nice to know. Being Singapore’s Bicentennial, this display shows information represented by numbers in Singapore compared to numbers in the world. Interesting and informative is what I would say about this.

We managed to score a very late dinner somewhere between Makansutra and the Esplanade. And we decided to take the long route home by going back to Marina Bay Sands just so we could pass through “The Time Vortex”. This installation by Paul Vendel and Sandra de Wolf is easily our favorite. Set up on the Helix Bridge, you will be drawn to the light like a moth to a flame. Our only gripe is that the transition seems to hiccup in order to reset the journey. It would definitely have had more impact if the lights did not seem to switch off and reset in between sequences but this is still one of the best, if not the best that this year’s iLight has to offer.

Less Lights, More Energy for Sustainability

It has been a few years running and the main theme remains the same for iLight Marina Bay, and that is art in sustainable energy. I’ll be honest about being skeptical at how turning on a bunch of lights become a practice in sustainability when we are asked to turn off the lights during Earth Hour. But then again, it may make sense if we actually try and understand the different displays. And now should be a good time as any other time to do this.

Earlier that night...
Earlier that night…

Surprisingly, it was not so crowded the night we came to the festival. It may have been due to the rain earlier or we could be missing out on something. I really hope it was the former.

Octopoda
Octopoda

We started off from Marina Bay Sands The Shoppes where I met up with Judy and Matthew for dinner. We were greeted by the Octopoda when we stepped out of The Shoppes. However, Matthew was not interested in the rythmic drumming that Octopoda was offering. Walking along the boardwalk, we were supposed to go through the Passage but it was under maintenance. I needed to remind myself that it had just rained and we were talking about lights that are powered by electricity, so, safety first. As we continued along the boardwalk, we ended up at Light Play. A supposedly interactive installation that asks you to use a torch to get a reaction from the display. However, we never got it to work and no interaction with the people around us happened that night. Let’s not forget the side trip to the MADD flea market (which was an exercise in restraint from buying fantastic home-grown goodies that you may or may not actually need).

Klouds
Klouds

Turning towards the Promontory, we passed through some Klouds. It is another interactive installation where Geomag like clouds change colors when touched, tapped or otherwise banged on. We then gandered at some Chandelier of Spirits, well, cold brew coffee spirits. These brown bottles were turned into giant chandeliers giving off a soft amber hue in the night. We ended up at the MailboX where we sent some interactive emojis via Twitter with the hashtag #ilightmarinabay. It was actually fun seeing your message shown at the MailboX. Whareatua was not what we expected (because really, we expected more) so let’s just leave it at that. We continued walking around the Marina Bay area going towards The Esplanade where the rest of the installation should be. We realised that there did not seem to be as much as before (or the installations have become smaller) but at the same time, having less crowds make it a better experience overall. And you also realise how tiring it is walking around the bay which brings us to a pit stop at Starbucks.

Love is...
Love is…

Moving along after a perk-me-upper, we listened to the pulse of the city from the installation With Love… It was actually neat to see how the red glow from this heart illuminates the night, especially the façade of The Fullerton Hotel. The heart trail brings us to the Merlion which has become an installation called the Elements of Life. The projections over the Merlion were absolutely gorgeous showing the elements of earth, fire, water and air making it the base for the present and the future. Across the bridge then down towards the Esplanade area, we hit Transistable Plastic. It basically allows you to swim in plastic waste like some of our endangered sea creatures in a maze of vacuum packed plastic bottles. This however, paved the way towards Urban Rice Fields which is supposed to have been inspired by Singapore’s sustainable development. You really need to turn on your camera flash to get the full effect. Dancing Grass is just beyond this installation, where you shrink to the size of ants walking along blades of lit grass in the night. The night was turning late though so we were soon finding our way back to the MRT to go home.

Just some dancing grass.
Just some dancing grass.

But not before we were invited to see Flawless where the word is photoluminescence. The installation supposedly absorbs light energy in the day giving them the bright green glow at night. Unfortunately, we were looking at UV lit “falling leaves” here. We were about to call it quits when we were then mooved to have a look at some cows in the middle of the city. Milk Bottle Cows. It does promote recycling and up-cycling of everyday materials such as used milk bottles and they were kind of cute. We ended the night with a slow walk towards the train station to go home.

 

Going back to my initial thought, there wasn’t really any sustainability in the installations by any measurable means. The thought is there, or I should say that the message is there but it certainly does not show with all the pretty lights blazing across the bay. So, the art is there and the message is there, but the sustainability part needs to be worked on because honestly, it is the message that needs to be conveyed. Come for the art and appreciate the lights, but when you come home, remember that sustainability really should begin with each of us.