FUTURE WORLD: ArtScience Museum’s Funnest Permanent Exhibition To Date

Imagine, play and explore in ArtScience Museum’s new permanent exhibition, Singapore’s largest permanent digital art gallery.

Funnest is a very troublesome superlative adjective to use, but I really can’t find a better word to describe my recent visit to the ArtScience Museum’s latest permanent exhibition. Enter FUTURE WORLD: Where Art Meets Science. The permanent exhibition which also happens to be Singapore’s largest permanent digital art gallery marks the ArtScience Museum’s fifth anniversary and runs from 12 March 2016 onwards.

True to the ArtScience Museum title, the exhibition is the culmination and interplay of art and science; despite both being commonly acknowledged as opposite ends of the spectrum. Collaborating with ultra-technologist group teamLab, the two establishments have created a massive digital playground (1,500 square metres or a quarter of the museum’s total gallery space) consisting of 15 major art installations for both adults and children to play and explore.

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The museum also sought to create an exhibition for visitors to reflect and contemplate their own position relative to the natural world, other people and the universe. I was given a guided tour by ArtScience Museum associate curator Jerry Gunn.

Unlike most exhibitions where any attempt to come into contact with the artworks warrants a boot out of the exhibition space, Future World invites the young and old to engage and even co-create art. Future World is organised into four themes: Nature, Town, Park and space.

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The adventure begins – in Nature – with a stroll through an interactive world of flora and fauna created entirely by digital technology. Once in the garden of sorts, flowers begin to form at the flooring where I stood. When I trample on the flowers, the petals begin to dislodge from the flower bud. I was also told by Gunn that any contact with the butterflies on the animated walls will ‘kill’ them. While many people simply come to the gallery to snap photos, the broader objective is for visitors to reflect on the intricate relationship we share with our surrounding environment.

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In Town, kids and adults are invited to collaborate and create their own artworks. In a fictitious town based on Singapore, we are invited to fill the landscape with cars, buildings and spaceships of our own design. The kid in me emerged and I got to work with colouring my own spaceship in ridiculous hues. Upon doing so, we can have our drawings animated on screen, and turned into paper craft patterns! How cool is that? Occasionally, a dragon pops out to destroy the city. Visitors can collaborate to defeat the dragon by touching on the spaceships.

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Moving away from the Town into Park, I was mesmerised by the Universe of Water Particles – a seven-metre tall waterfall created by digital programming. I was told by Gunn that this installation was made possible after months of programming and collaboration among physicists, programmers and artists.

The water particles are digitally programmed to produce an accurate water fall simulation that flows in accordance to the laws of physics, hence the uncannily real waterfall.

Finally, I ventured into the most-talked-about section of the exhibition – Space. In many ways, outer space has and will always be mankind’s final frontier (I quote Star Trek). Step into the heart of the universe in Crystal Universe and witness from within, the illusion of stars and galaxies in an elaborate light show. This installation is powered by 170,000 LED lights. Think Interstellar and imagine yourself in it. Thanks to teamLab’s interactive 4-D Vision technology, visitors can also ‘change the fabric of the universe’ using their smartphones.

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Standing before the artwork, I found myself drunk as I lapped up every detail in the Crystal Universe. It’s one of those moments where you feel so insignificant in the vastness of the universe, so tiny in the grander scheme of things. But I’ve never felt more alive, and filled with hope. A quote from Paulo Coelho’s The Alchemist came into my mind; “And, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.”

Frankly, I can’t think of any reason to dissuade readers from visiting the Future World exhibition. Catered to both kids and adults alike, there’s something to interest all age groups. This could be the best S$16 you will be spending, but be sure to read the descriptions at each of the installations so that you can have a deeper understanding and appreciation for this remarkable exhibition.

One of my takeaways from this exhibition was also the intrinsic relationship between art and science. American playwright Wilson Mizner once wrote “Art is science made clear”. Science can be used to create art (as seen in Future World) and at the same time, there is a certain artistic aspiration in mankind’s pursuit of science. Hence, we see that both art and science have roles to play in their respective habitat – they are not mutually exclusive.

Many thanks to ArtScience Museum associate curator Jerry Gunn for taking time off to give me a private tour. I enjoyed it terribly and I’m sure everyone else would.

P.S. I got over my embarrassing post and did eventually meet Julia Vasko in person. She seem to have gotten prettier. I shall not embarrass myself further (Laughs).

Ticket Pricing:
Adult : S$16
Concessions and discounted prices available for Singaporeans, senior citizens, students and children. Visit ArtScience Museum’s official website here for more details.

 

2016 Prudential Eye Awards Review

 

PHOTO: Courtesy of ArtScience Museum | Artificial Theater-The Leader (2011-2014) | Photo Rag | Photography (Finalist) | Zhang Wei

The 3rd edition of the annual awards is centered around the issues of industralisation and globalisation.

Held at the ArtScience Museum, the 2016 Prudential Eye Awards which runs from 16 January to 27 March 2016 is part of the Global Prudential Eye Programme and a key highlight of Singapore Art Week. The awards enable the work of emerging Asian artists to reach audiences and receive international exposure.

15 Asian artists were shortlisted to present their art in the categories; Digital/Video, Installation, Painting, Photography and Sculpture. Awards were presented to winners of each category and overall best emerging artist on 19 January 2016.

Prudential Eye Awards should not be confused with last year’s Prudential Singapore Eye exhibition. While both are under the Prudential Eye Programme, the latter was [probably] a one-off major exhibition focused on Singapore’s art scene and her local artists.

My Review

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Prudential Eye Awards | Metal Graves 1 (2009) | Photographic print on archival fine art paper | Photography (Winning Entry) | Shumon Ahmed

Before the infamous Bangladesh ship-breaking exposé by National Geographic, Shumon Ahmed is. The Dhaka-based artist explores the modern metropolis he calls home through the fusion of video, photography and text in this photography series. While the country surges ahead to keep up with the world’s economy, there are locals involved in backbreaking and dangerous underpaid jobs such as ship-breaking. These people are also compensated with the bare minimum, thus trapped in a vicious poverty cycle.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Prudential Eye Awards | Artifical Theater-Big Star, Marilyn Monroe (2014) | Photo Rag | Photography (Finalist) | Zhang Wei

Russian president Vladimir Putin posing for a photo? The late Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn captured on camera? Nope, there are probably several dozen individuals [facial features] represented here. No doubt one of the more striking exhibit, Artificial Theater is the work of Chinese artist Zhang Wei. Zhang assembled and collaged the parts of the real ordinary performers’ bodies using ‘more than 300 ordinary Chinese faces’ which he has collected in the past. Yet while every ‘performer’ plays his or her role in this virtual portrait, Zhang calls it ‘superficial, temporary, or even meaningless’.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Prudential Eye Awards | Warning House (2013-Ongoing) | Found Objects | Sculpture (Winning Entry) | Sareth Svay

How Cambodian artist Sareth Svay was introduced to art was rather interesting. Whilst taking refuge in a refugee camp, Svay met a French volunteer who was teaching the art subject. The rest is history as they say. Recounting his [country’s] past and subtly challenging political ideologies in his art, Svay constructs a structure made entirely of local found objects. Suffice to say, the ‘house’ in each exhibition is different depending on the found materials available.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Prudential Eye Awards | Untitled, Billboard Series, Number-4, Edition Number- 2_3 (2014) | Epson Enhanced Matt, Ultra Chrome | Painting (Winning entry) | Manish Nai

Mumbai is India’s most populated city and is also home to the most number of millionaires and billionaires in the Motherland. Billboards of all sorts of dimensions are literally everywhere as companies fight for a share of the consumer pie. But Indian artist Manish Nai is more interested in the billboards in their ‘downtime’, contemplating his country’s current state of socio-economic progress in that process.

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PHOTO: Courtesy of Prudential Eye Awards | Letters from Panduranga (2015) | Video (Winning Entry) | Trinh Thi Nguyen

The essay film, made in the form of a letter exchange between two filmmakers, was inspired by the fact that the Vietnamese government is to build Vietnam’s first two nuclear power plants in Ninh Thuan, right at the spiritual heart of the Cham people, threatening the survival of this ancient matriarchal Hindu culture that stretches back almost two thousand years. The film also reflects on the legacy of war and on-going colonialisms; and landscape and portrait, documentary and fiction, art and ethnography, as methods of working and their limitations in accessing the other cultures, peoples, experiences, as well as history and the past. (Artist statement)

Honestly, I was expecting a little more from the exhibition. While these works are representative of the artists’ ideals and to that of their country, I found it difficult to connect with the artworks. Perhaps I was looking to be ‘wowed’ by the ‘edginess’ of the artworks, or to be primed emotionally to connect with the art and their underlying stories. Neither happened and I found it a tough sell to give this exhibition a two thumbs up.

Of course, the exhibits presented here are not really commercial in nature, but I left the exhibition whilst found wanting. Interestingly, those thoughts led me to a few questions of my own.

Should we attend an exhibition with the intent to connect, to sympathise – or even to pity – with the artist and their country of origins – assuming their art explores local themes and issues?

If so, what should be the outcome? A change in attitude towards the said? Or taking some form of action? Or more often than not, status quo?

Are those feelings and thoughts superfluous, hypocritical and/or exploitative?

Must contemporary art have ‘shock value’ in order to ascertain its worth as a contemporary work of art?

In any case, I thought that Prudential Eye Awards was definitely an eye-opener and worth a visit. Be sure to take your time to go through this rather cozy exhibition. Maybe you might find something that I missed. RW

PRUDENTIAL EYE AWARDS EXHIBITION

ArtScience Museum

Opens 16 January to 27 March 2016

The Prudential Eye Awards return to Singapore for a third edition. The annual Awards celebrate emerging contemporary artists from across Greater Asia and highlight the breadth, range and diversity of the works created by these artists. This year’s 15 featured artists include Singapore finalist Robert Zhao in the category of Best Emerging Artist Using Photography. The Awards Ceremony will take place on 19 January, while the accompanying exhibition will run until 27 March.

Ticket Pricing: $12 / $8 (Local adults)

Web Link: Prudential Eye Awards Exhibition

Disclaimer: Reuel Writes attended the Singapore Contemporary Art Show on media pass. However, Reuel Writes retains full editorial direction of this blog entry.

Collider: Step Inside Mankind’s Greatest Experiment

Science is sexy in the world’s largest and most powerful particle collider. Collider exhibition runs till February 14, 2016.

You are now 574 feet below the earth’s surface, and you are now in the world’s largest single machine and most complex experimental facility ever built, the Large Hadron Collider (LHC). Except that, it’s really just an exhibition in the ArtScience Museum, designed to imitate what it’s like to tour the actual LHC in Geneva, Switzerland.

It’s easy to see why the LHC was touted the world’s greatest experiment. The LHC took 10 years to complete and was built by the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), involving more than 10,000 scientists and engineers across hundreds of laboratories and universities from over 100 countries.

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So what does the LHC do?

Basically, the LHC smashes subatomic particles together in its 27km ring tunnel at the speed of light – again and again – to look for new particles and to answer some of the deepest mysteries in science. In 4 July 2012, the LHC made history – announcing the discovery of the Higgs boson dubbed the ‘god particle’. To learn more about the Higgs boson and what’s the big deal about it, click here.

Alas, I was unable to publish this review much earlier due to an impending spontaneous backpacking trip across Vietnam. The adjacent Nobel Prize exhibition might have been over (ended 24 January), it doesn’t take away any shine from the exhibition of what-is-to-be the biggest (and undisputedly the greatest) international collaboration.

Here’s why you should check out the Collider exhibition.

1. Quench your curiosity

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One of the greatest gift bestowed to mankind is the gift of curiosity. We ask ourselves questions (why and how) and we sought to answer them. The good people in LHC probes some of the deepest scientific questions such as, ‘How do particles get mass? What makes up the invisible matter that binds galaxies together? What proceses shaped our universe after the Big Bang?’

The LHC is a global collaborative project. There are literally trillions of collisions taking place in the LHC. A computer network infrastructure connecting 170 computer centers in 36 countries was set up to process all these almost-innumerable volume of data. In short, it’s one big project where the most talented physicists from countries all over are involved.

There is so much going on in the LHC and coming to this exhibition gives you a sense of its significance to us as a species.

2. See how the LHC actually works

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In the exhibition, you will get to see the actual parts that makes up the LHC. There are also multimedia presentations on the accounts from the actual physicists working in the LHC (who are also the ones involved in the discovery of the Higgs boson). Also, witness a particle collision take place before your eyes in a 270-degree audio visual projection of the particle collision.

At the end of the exhibition, there is also a cool audio visual installation that allows visitors to ‘acquire their own mass’. Lots of cool stuff to be explored in Collider exhibition.

3. Acquainted yourself (and your kids) with science

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I will be honest, I don’t have an affinity (read: interest) with science, much less particle physics. Dark matter? Higgs boson? Heck, I don’t even know my protons and electrons. Needless to say, I was quite lost with all the scientific jargons and all. In spite of this, coming to the exhibition gave me a deeper appreciation for the good work of our scientists and physicists.

One of the purposes of this exhibition is to get people interested with science. Parents with kids should most definitely bring their kids along to introduce them to science and physics. Who knows, these young ones could be the future physicists involved with the discovery of the next particle?

In summary, Collider exhibition is a scientific exhibition like no other. If you are a local Singaporean, present your identification document to get access to the exhibition at $10. RW

Collider Exhibition at ArtScience Museum, Marina Bay Sands

ArtScience Museum, MBS

Opens 14 November 2015

Step inside the most ambitious scientific experiment in human history! Collider is an award-winning, fully immersive exhibition that draws you into the fascinating world of experimental particle physics.

Blending theatre, video and sound art with real artefacts from CERN (the European Organisation for Nuclear Research), Collider transports you the heart of the largest and most sophisticated piece of scientific equipment ever constructed – the Large Hadron Collider (LHC).

Ticket Pricing: $14 / $10 (Singaporean)

Web Link: Collider