The Art of the Universe

Is there a relationship between art and the universe?

 

History tells us, yes.

Map of the stars
Map of the stars

It would seem that we, humans, have had a fascination with the universe from probably since the time we asked what those lights in the sky are. And some of our ancestors have tried to tell their stories and theories through drawings, scribbles, dabbles, poetry and music. While most people may not have understood what they were trying to say back then, it is amazing to see now that we still ask practically the same questions that our ancestors did. Thoughts about the universe has always been vague. Truth be told, we probably know only a fraction of what the universe is all about in the two centuries that we have been around.

Time space warp!

One thing that we can agree on is that we believe that the universe is mostly made up of space. Lots and lots of space. In fact, in some scenarios, time and space are used interchangeably. There are even arguments that time and space can be bent. And with this bending, unbelievable things can occur. Not that we actually have proof of it, but if the theories and dreams do come true, we may be looking at infinity. Would it have a price? definitely. But we also hope that whatever the shape of the universe turns out to be, they would be beautifully tangible as the art that it has inspired. And art is truly unbelievable as it gives our imaginations shape and form. It may turn out weird or downright bizarre, but in today’s open-minded (well, some anyway) society you may be able to get away with putting together utter garbage -err, recycled materials- and sell it off as art.

Sexy Robot

Now, if time and space are intertwined, are we living in the past or the future? According to our species, the so called human race, we are in the present. And if we look at it the way we are now, then it would make sense. But if we imagine for one minute that we are not in the present, then things would be much more interesting. Looking at how others interpret the future is both interesting and fun at the same time. Surely, at some point we have probably imagined the same thing or was in the same train of thought as the other people that have expressed in their art.

 

And finally, outer space. Our greatest achievement as Terrans. We imagined travelling to outer space, beyond the confines of our Earth. And truly, some of us (myself included) used to imagine flying off into the unknown in our spacecraft (mostly made of cardboard and other junk) and discovering alien worlds. I used to wonder what people out in space were doing while they were out there. I mean, you can’t just go for a run or a swim or even just chill by the pool. Some were doing scientific stuff and others were doodling. And thus we have the art that was inspired by the void of space.

Man on the moon

Where imagination soars, there is always a thought behind it. A thought that would want to change the imagination from a thought to reality. And it becomes a cycle of art becoming science and becoming art again. Obviously, not all art and not all science become successful relatives. But those that have are in front of us now and it is continually shaping tomorrow for us mere mortals.

 

The Universe and Art exhibition in the ArtScience Museum takes us to that journey. A journey centuries in the making. From the minds of artists and scientists is a plethora of thoughts brought to life by the sheer will of humanity.

We are Human

How fictional is Science Fiction in this day and age?

I see you
I see you

HG Wells, Jules Verne, Neil Gaiman. There are numerous influences that have fed our minds with stories and theories of what the future will be like. In the past few decades, we have already seen some of these come true. Maybe not what we expected or imagined, but you have to admit that it is pretty darn close (self-lacing Nikes? Hoverboards? Jetpacks?). Where have we come in terms of human evolution?

 

It is not that difficult to see that the future is now. We are living in a world with cyborgs and artificial intelligence. We live among people with mechanical limbs or otherwise augmented body parts. We are now being driven by driverless cars. Robots now assist in various medical sciences and are doing a pretty good job it. The possibility that we may be replaced with machines are as real as it gets. But let us not jump to conclusions just yet. As I mentioned earlier, it was science fiction that fed our imaginations and drove us to develop the things that we are seeing today. That means that we have the power to choose how the future will be.

Go faster
Go faster

We should already be aware of people with prosthetics that have augmented body functions such as Amy Mullins’ Cheetah legs. And then there is the antennae implanted on Neil Harbisson’s skull which allows him to perceive colors as sound waves. I couldn’t understand how and why he did it, but I respect him and his work. Being recognized as a proper cyborg by the British government has to count for something. The first section of the exhibition is dedicated to all of these things. And seeing how the history of prosthetics go far into our past, it could only mean that the gap between now and tomorrow is getting shorter and shorter.

 

The exhibition also teaches us how the technology we have now are changing the way we interact with one another. We sometimes take things for granted, but the way the things we use have evolved have all been because of our desire to communicate, to respond, to say something. We saw optics embedded in robotic eyes that follow a persons movement. A robot arm that responds to a baby’s voice and rocks the cradle. We saw devices that allow us to interact in such a way that a machine mimics what a real person would have felt. Beyond this, even the simple use of Skype or Messenger that allows me to connect with my family is already a big change from what we had when I was Matthew’s age.

When green runs out
When green runs out

And then there is the correlation between us, the environment and the technology of our time. Some technological advancements give us the jump in productivity and efficiency immediately when it is implemented. But what happens in the next few years? Or in the next decade? Is the technology that was introduced ten years ago still relevant today? Or is it sustainable and helpful to ourselves and our environment? Our survival pretty much depends on our relationship with the Earth. And we need to be smart enough and co-exist with the world around us to live on through the next generation.

 

If the future is now, is there still tomorrow? Well, duh!

I am

A new future awaits the next generation. And the future is weird and wonderful and scary. Imagine being able to choose a better future for your children free from a hereditary disease, free from a physical deformation, free from a life threatening condition? Life should not be toyed with, but there is a future where correcting “mistakes” and “malfunctions” become a ready solution for those who would choose to have it. Surgically modifying an infant to avoid a potential future problem. Engineering genes to make people smarter, stronger or faster. With all the Gundam movies that we’ve seen, this future will be flawed because of human greed. But who knows, the future is yet to arrive. And we have our free will to choose how it affects our lives. How far we live into our own future also becomes a subject of people’s imagination and with a rather comical presentation, it becomes light-hearted. And while it would be nice to be together for longer, it does have challenges of its own.

Nadine

We bid farewell to science and fiction with Nadine. An android construct that was made in Singapore. She was built to be a realistic humanoid social robot. She will listen to you and answer your questions as much as she can. And while her actions are still limited, it is amazing to see how she interacts. Think of Siri, in a humanoid body and you have Nadine.

 

In the end, the future is still ours to choose. Some of us are too old now to even be bothered, but our children and our children’s children all have the chance to be part of shaping that future. How much they influence that future will be a good legacy. And I do wish from the bottom of my heart that I will be alive to see that in my son, Matthew.

2017 iLight Marina Bay

We have always tried to attend the iLight Marina Bay event whenever it comes around. Although there was probably a year or two that we skipped it for one reason or another, it has always been a fun experience. The event has always been about sustainable energy for the future and the art/light installations should reflect that idea. And while some of those installations show their intentions in an obvious way (those bicycle powered light installations come to mind), some are not so obvious. And while I sometimes doubt the sustainability of some of those light installations, they always (well, almost always) manage to give a proper show.

 

And while we were not able to go through every bit of art this year, we did manage to walk around the general Marina Bay area. Some of the notable ones that caught our attention were the following:

You lookin'at me?
You lookin’at me?

You Lookin’ At Me?

With giant glowing eyeballs popping out from the ground, who would not be looking? I mean, the giant eyeballs seem to snap to attention when you pass near enough and attempt to scare the heck out of you with those moving life-like pupils. At one point, the green eyeball that I was taking a picture of slowly turned to an eerie shade of red like that Eye of Sauron from the Lord of the Rings.

 

(Ultra) Light Network

It is worth noting that this installation (as it says in the brochure) produces a dynamic display of light patterns when there is an activity of people nearby. If lighting up different bars of light was dynamic, then the faulty fluorescent light at the office is truly artistic. There was a similar installation in the last iLight where you trigger a flash of lightning by pressing a button on one end of the tube. That made more sense than this to be honest.

Ocean Pavillion
Ocean Pavillion

Ocean Pavillion

Apparently this installation was inspired by microscopic diatoms and radiolarians found in the rivers and seas around Singapore. Diatoms are algae and radiolarians are protozoa for those of us not in this field. The figures themselves are made of plastic bottles which means they were re-cycled and is actually good publicity for re-cycling and up-cycling.

 

Relocation Locality

This is another installation made of re-cycled materials like wood and bamboo and made to resemble the heartlands of Singapore via a series of interlocking pavilions. Or so the brochure says. On the outside, it looks like a mix and match of materials that were strewn together by the artist. The work is supposed to act as a mediator between the urban and the natural found between the gaps.

Moonflwer

Moonflower

The garden of luminescent flowers catches your eye the moment you see them. It is a sea of LED powered flowers that has been thoughtfully scattered around The Promontory. Each flower is powered by its own solar panel that stores the power to light up the flower through the night. This was one of the better installations in this year’s iLight.

 

Kaleidoscopic Monolith

This piece incites curiosity through light, reflection and form. It looks like an alien poop. Alien poop with lights coming out from its crevices. And from the concaves of those lights are mirror-like surfaces that reflected in nearly every direction. If you look at it, you’ll know what it feels like to be in a kaleidoscope, hence the name I assume. It isn’t the most beautiful thing that night, but it was an interesting piece nonetheless. As I said, alien poop.

 

I Light You So Much

They say that it aims to share a life experience of an object using light. It does this by using kinetic energy from the wind and the positive energy from bamboo, the wind blows and moves the object in the direction of the wind. The light helps to visualize this hidden energy.

 

Northern Lights

Most of everyone should know the Northern Light (Aurora Borealis). It is one of the mysterious phenomenon that occurs in the northern hemisphere where beautiful light formations show up in the sky in waves of ever changing colors. Using a carefully programmed light story through 100 vertically positioned light lines equipped with LEDs, the dynamic movement of the light emulates the northern lights. With the iconic Marina Bay Sands hotel in the backdrop of the Marina Bay skyline, the northern lights installation is one of our favourites.

Horizontal Interference

Horizontal Interference

The installation is formed by colourful cords connecting trees in the Marina Bay area in a simple looking manner by interlocking them with colors. A simple illumination at night merges the natural and constructed elements moving in the wind. Think of it as rainbows close to the ground zooming across a small patch of concrete in the city.

 

The Urchin

We thought they were jellyfish to be honest. Humongous jellyfish. Instead, they were urchins made of lace (artistically woven if I do say so myself) and displayed in such a way that it creates light patterns against the dark sky. If you stand inside, it feels like you have just been swallowed by a jellyfish and your friends can see you through them inside the light. It’s cool.

 

Secret Galaxies

The last light installation in our route turns out to be from the ArtScience Museum. Year after year, the fa├žade of the ArtScience Museum turns into a canvas for light art to be projected on. It becomes a walk-by movie theatre showcasing the latest interpretations of art that modern multi-media artists love to show off on. Secret Galaxies presents a confluence of visual imageries based on humanistic relationships with the night sky. Yeah, if you don’t read through the description, you wouldn’t have to bang your head thinking about the meaning behind it all. Just appreciate the artwork for what it is and enjoy the night.

Art-Zoo
Art-Zoo

We made our way across the Helix Bridge to find our way home from the Esplanade (and hopefully find something to eat). It’s here that we passed by Art-Zoo. It was an experimental inflatable playground meant for kids. But in Singapore, that means it’s fair game for everyone. The inflatable playground emerges as an interactive zoological garden with giant spiders, whales and carnivorous plants (ok, no, there were no carnivorous plants). Being inflatable means that it was going to be hot. Being lit up by giant floodlights means that it was going to be even hotter. But kids don’t care about those things so Matthew ended up dragging mum along for the ride.

 

That was the end of our iLight adventure for 2017. We still look forward to the event year after year, but we are hoping that something new and exciting really comes along to surprise us soon. And let’s not forget that Philips is exchanging LED lamps for your incandescent bulbs to help increase awareness and promote long term sustainability.

 

River Hongbao 2017

Singapore is a melting pot of culture and heritage and we start off the new year with 2017’s River Hongbao (RHB) as a celebration of the Lunar New Year. According to Chinese horoscope, this year is the year of the Rooster under the fire sign. In the spirit of the River Hongbao which has been around since 1987, this year’s event is lined up with lights, sounds, smell and taste. Larger than life lanterns light up the night. Fireworks make noise in the quiet skies. Delicious food abound usher in the new year. And nightly performances ensure that every one is entertained.

Our baby rooster
Our baby rooster

We didn’t have enough time to watch the show, not that the earlier rain helped to dampen our spirit. But we did enjoy the food. Actually, to be honest, that is really what we always come down for the RHB. We brought a couple of relatives down to get a feel of the RHB and while the rain played its part in lessening the fun, it did not keep us from coming around. The Nitro-Pop became the highlight of our visit, for sure. The lanterns seem to be getting smaller and less extravagant, but it still serves its purpose of giving the people a shimmer of light that their horoscopes tell. We aren’t really people who believe these outright, but it is fun reading up and thinking how true (or false) the predictions are.

There are Tigers
There are Tigers
Dragons too
Dragons too

We shouldn’t forget the carnival that came to visit as well. Surprisingly, Uncle Ringo wasn’t the default choice this year but it isn’t bad at all. While we didn’t go through everything that the night had to offer, it was enough for us to enjoy the display and watch the fireworks from afar. Hopefully, the RHB had blessed us with a good year ahead together with the people in our community.

No chickens here
No chickens here

Gong Xi Fa Cai! Huat Ah!

Re-parenting

Late last year, we decided on becoming foster parents. After eleven years with Matthew, we thought that maybe it was time. We started to foster a dog from the shelter in December of 2016.


At the shelter, the dogs were (most of them anyway) trying to get the attention of practically anybody that is a potential adopter. In our case, we were already contacted by SOSD (Save Our Street Dogs) before we went to the shelter. So our re-homer already knew what type of puppy we were looking for and proceeded to show us a litter of pups. The siblings were quite big for puppies, but it didn’t take long for two of them to catch our eye. One was a feisty little girl but was really keen on being with people. The other one was a bit shy and timid but looked to be okay around people as well. Of the three of us, Matthew was the one with the least experience with dogs so my wife and I decided on the puppy based on what we thought would be good in our first meeting with the puppies. We took home a timid little girl named Kuching. Yes, we know. It was odd to name a dog a cat, but we didn’t really have a choice in the matter.

In the first few days, we had to get comfortable with having a canine in the house. She had to get comfortable living with us instead of her siblings and she had to start learning a few things. We were either lucky or I was a very good trainer because we managed to teach her to poo and pee outside in the grass. She had only had one accident peeing in the house and that was only because we were out for too long and we didn’t get her cue that she needed to go out urgently. We also managed to stop her from chewing on everything in sight in the house. It hasn’t been smooth nor perfect in that regard. She still chews on new things that she sees from time to time. And these are only items that we leave (accidentally, or not) on the living room table. So far she stays away from shoes and slippers which is good. We also managed to stop her from sleeping in the couch (that was a pain and it took as a while to do). The only real problem we have right now is that she tries to nibble on our living room carpet and turn it into spaghetti.

Coming to terms that we now have a puppy, our lifestyle did change quite a bit. The biggest change was that we could no longer stay out late or be out of the house for too long because there was a puppy waiting for us to let her out. And she needs to be let out to relieve herself. She has also been added to our budget as we no longer share our leftovers with her like we did with our dogs in the Philippines. She now has her own budget for food. Matthew also had us buy toys for her (and she now has a lot). And a bed too. At the moment, we seem to have covered the basic necessities in keeping the whole family satisfied. The puppy is happy, Matthew is happy and we don’t really have any major problems with the puppy. She has been an ideal companion for us and Matthew had repeatedly spoken out how good it was for us to have a dog in the house.

Which now begs the question. How long should we be fostering this girl before we decide on fully adopting her. It goes without saying, adopting a dog here in Singapore is no short feat. The cost alone is not something that you can consider in a whim (unless you have money sprouting from a tree). And taking care of one requires patience and dedication to make it work. We are in a happy relationship right now, and we are leaning more and more towards fully adopting her. We’ll probably decide on it soon. But right now, I’m satisfied with how both Matthew and Kuching have grown to be great friends.

The Year of the Rooster

In 2005, Matthew was born. That would be 12 years ago (if we don’t count the months and days, but bear with me). When he learned that 2017 would be the year of the rooster, his face lit up and he said, “Mum, I think its going to be a good year because its my year”. We couldn’t help but smile and agree with him that it will be a good year. All the better since this is the year that he would take on Singapore’s notoriously infamous PSLE (Primary School Leaving Exam).

PSLE has been getting attention all to itself year after year, but this will be the only time that we will actually be going through it. All the best to everyone taking it this year then.

PSLE aside, I do feel that it is going to be a good year. It will be what we make it for sure, so having a positive outlook from the get go would probably be a good idea. And we believe that we should nurture Matthew all the way through with positive vibes starting with day one of 2017. As we look forward to the best of the days to come, we wish everyone the same.

One December in Singapore

December has almost always been associated with Christmas. In fact, for the most part, the whole of December is Christmas. Or at least it feels like it. We had quite a good adventure this December. We may not have left the country for a big holiday escapade, but we did try and make the most of what was here in Singapore.

It is Christmas
It is Christmas

There was the customary stroll to get re-acquainted with Orchard Road and its Christmas lit streets. You know it has not been the best year when there are hardly any lights on Orchard Road, and this year seems to be that year. It had only been as bright as any normal night. The only real Christmas display was at the Centrepoint mall with it’s sweet Gingerbread theme. The bakery and the sweets shop at Centrepoint was very nicely done. It was a picture perfect little corner that occupied quite a bit of sidewalk. And, of course, Matthew being Matthew, he didn’t want any photos taken (at first). Which meant that quite a few grumpy moments were there.

Pokemon Christmas at Changi Airport
Pokemon Christmas at Changi Airport

We went to Changi airport to experience a Pokemon Christmas at one point. And since the Pokemon GO fever has not completely died down just yet, the Pokemon theme was still a welcome attraction in Changi airport. We didn’t get to meet any of the Pokemon mascots, nor did we chance upon the fleet of Pikachus. We did get some pretty postcard pictures with the Pokemon that were around the airport public areas though. Yes, Matthew was still being all moody like someone being chased around by a paparazzi, but maybe I did get a shot or two that made the trip worth it.

dsc_8575
A Christmas Wonderland

Gardens by the Bay brought about its own Christmas Wonderland to town as well. Meeting up with Matthew’s cousins, we took in the lights and sounds of the Gardens. There was a carnival that featured kiddie rides and some games. The games were pretty generous, considering you do win. The so-called Luminarie was all over the Super Trees and so was the Festive Market. It was at the Luminarie gazebo that people flocked at the scheduled “snow” times. Yes, they made it snow in Singapore. Okay, no, they didn’t. It was just suds. But heck, if you lived in the moment, you can pretty much imagine sweating as snow fell. Our night was practically filled with food from the Festive Market, which wasn’t such a bad thing. It did leave a hole in my wallet, but the grub was definitely worth it.

Out of curiosity, we decided on having a Cheese Board Christmas dinner. Since I can’t drink alcoholic beverages anymore, we got non-alcoholic sparkling whites to go with our cheeses. We had water crackers and some ham to liven up the table as well. Matthew and mummy exerted some effort in fixing up the dining table with a white Christmas theme which worked rather well with our dinner.

When the clock struck twelve, the three of took our places at the table. We poured our sparkling white wine and set the cheeses with the ham and crackers. We sat down and prayed. We sent out thank yous and our wishes and wished Jesus Christ a happy birthday. We had a good time exploring the possibilities of cheese and wine and how the combination made us all fart. And we had a good time. A simple, quiet dinner surrounded by family sharing our love with one another. We couldn’t have asked for more.

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Bringing the cousins home

We have been celebrating our Christmases in Singapore since eight years ago. Most of the time, it was Matthew, mummy and me. That is unless we have visitors or we went back to the Philippines to spend Christmas there. It would be fair to say that we are already used to spending small family Christmas dinners. It didn’t look like this year was going to be any different, yet somehow it felt different. And we had a good family Christmas, just like always.

S.T.A.T.I.O.N.

STATION stands for Scientific Training and Tactical Intelligence Operative Network.

We were granted access to one of the Avengers’ high-tech headquarters in south-east Asia, right here in Singapore. Okay, that may be overdoing a bit. Marvel’s Avengers’ STATION is an immersive experience into one of the Marvel cinematic universe’s most recognisable heroes, (you guessed it) the Avengers.

What is STATION exactly? If you want the full experience then you had better get yourself hyped up, otherwise you will probably just think of it as a glorified Marvel exhibit. You come into the STATION as a recruit for the final battle with Ultron. You need to download the STATION app by the way for either iOS or Android to complete your training (and exit the facility). It is mostly a question and answer type of app and all the answers will be inside the STATION itself so you really shouldn’t fail at being a recruit.

The Tesseract
The Tesseract

So, you get ushered in to STATION by a SHIELD agent and is greeted by Maria in the briefing room who will explain what STATION is all about as well as hand out your mission to help save the planet from hostile threats. Inside, you get the chance to get an in-depth look at the history, technology, genetics and personal profiles of the Avengers. Well, those files that are not classified at least.

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The red, white and blue

The overall experience is quite good. in fact, it was a great experience overall. They made a pretty good impression that you are in a high-tech, top-secret facility hidden somewhere from the public view (in reality, it is at the Annex of the Singapore Science Centre). The wall-to-wall digital screens are there working in conjunction with touch screen panels and motion sensors making you feel like you were a SHIELD operative. Captain America’s shield was there of course and the motorbike that he used as well. An anatomy of the Hulk’s enormous hands were there as well as Black Widow’s batons and Hawkeye’s curve bow. Various information were available on the panels lining up the gear so you know what they were. Other points of interest are Vision’s creation casket and Falcon’s Wings. Thor’s Mjolnir was there for you to try and see if you are worthy of wielding its power (I already kind of guessed that I wasn’t worthy). And the coup de grace, Iron Man’s Hall of Armor. Which, was kind of a disappointment for me. With the numerous movies that Iron Man was in, you would have expected that at least one Armor was actually there. But nope. All that was there were statues of Iron Man’s armors. And they aren’t even the best of the best (the one’s displayed at hobby shops are better in my opinion). At least they are there, including the humongous Hulk Buster Armor. Let’s not overlook the bad guys either where samples of these nasties are lying around in cryo containment chambers along with some of their weapons.

The Hulk Buster
The Hulk Buster

In terms of being interactive, you can’t get any less interactive by swiping your hands and tapping over the touch screen panels to get all the nifty information on the Avengers. You can get a digitized Hulk to perform action moves on a similar touch screen control pad and you can test your grip strength against Captain America. Over at Thor’s Observatory, you can explore the galaxy and perhaps find a school bus floating in space. You can chase ants around while trying to understand Ant Man’s suit and tech too. Around the Iron Man wing of the exhibition was a testing facility where you can experience the Hulk Buster armor in action by remotely controlling it with a motion sensor. They probably use a proprietary application to run the simulation, but the sensor was definitely Xbox One grade. It has been used by other exhibits before so its no surprise that it works rather well.

A movie is also included in the entrance price and you cannot opt out of it. Being a superhero fan, we have already watched these films (some more than once to be honest). So it was a bit of a waste going in without watching the movie. The schedule of the movies can be checked from the Science Center’s website just for reference. After getting our fill of techno mumbo jumbo (which was presented in one of the coolest ways possible), it was time to leave the premises.

This was where it got tricky as we couldn’t find the exit. It turns out that you have to participate in the final battle with Ultron before being certified as a STATION recruit and getting around to the exit. So after playing a short game where you fight as one of the Avnegers, you get to defeat Ultron and save the day. And that was the STATION. If you really get into it, the experience will be worthwhile. It does have some quirky downsides if you’re picky, but like I said, the overall experience is beyond good. Have a go at it while it’s still at the Science Center until January 2017.

A Bouncy Birthday Party

Matthew has just passed the decade mark by a year. Yes, he is now eleven and things have been awesome so far. Awesomeness aside, one birthday wish that was granted was for a party to be held with select friends. Once that was decided, it was off to Bounce.

Bounce off!
Bounce off!

It turns out that birthday parties at Bounce were quite easy to pull off. We chose the date, we chose how many were going to be involved and we paid our dues. When we arrived at Bounce, all we had to do was wait for the guests to arrive. When everyone was there, the people from Bounce handled the rest. Which was pretty cool and we were quite happy with how they handled everything. From keeping up with the kids to bringing them around and giving them ample time to enjoy the venue. Not surprising, the kids had a good time.

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More bounce, more fun!

After bouncing around for a good hour or so, we gathered the kids (and their parents) to the birthday room for refreshments. Food and drinks for the party were served and it was pretty good. The portions were generous enough that there were even leftovers. The cake at the end of the party was good as well. It looked simple enough but tasted rich and creamy. With the happy faces of the kids after bouncing and eating, we were happy to rate the birthday party a success. We thank everyone who came and celebrated Matthew’s birthday with us. Hopefully you went home with fond and fun memories just like we did.

Happy Birthday to you!
Happy Birthday to you!