Art What! Arts Preview

Art What!: i Light Singapore – Spark Of Light features 20 works of installation art to capture the public’s imagination

Featuring 20 light installations around the Marina Bay district, i Light Singapore, Asia’s leading sustainable light festival, returns from 3rd to 26th June 2022. Organised by the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA) and presented by DBS, the Festival will also offer an exciting line-up of programmes that will add to the vibrancy of the precinct while encouraging conversations on sustainability.

Themed Spark of Light, this year’s festival sees featured artists taking inspiration from the colour violet, which has the shortest wavelength and most powerful electromagnetic energy in the visible light spectrum, and signifies the awakening of senses akin to the spark of an idea in one’s mind. As a sustainable light festival, the majority of the works also seek to be environmentally-friendly, be it using upcycled materials to craft the installations, using minimal energy output, or having a core underlying message that expounds on issues such as climate change.

The festival features a central hub at GastroBeats, a 14,200sqm Festival Village at Bayfront Event Space, where visitors can eat to their heart’s content at Local Streets, which will spotlight Singapore’s dynamic hawker and street food culture. One can also meet acclaimed chefs from around the region as they converge at Culinary Masters, where a different collaboration menu will be presented each week by celebrity chef Sarah Todd, and chefs George Calombaris, Genevieve Lee and Derek Cheong of MasterChef fame. Families and friends can also explore Art Zone, and the kids and young at heart can play at Jumptopia’s gigantic food-themed inflatable playground.

As for the festival itself, beginning the route from Gastrobeats, the first installation one will encounter is Here and There, by Japanese artist Eiji Sumi. An interactive artwork, visitors are encouraged to clamber onto the installation itself and attempt to keep the structure in balance. Reflecting the delicate balancing act of life, by working with each other, visitors can activate the lighting around the installation that changes according to the degree of tilt.

Walking from here to the Mist Walk, visitors will encounter Team Panorama’s Eyes of the Sea, a winner of the 2020 i Light Student Award that finally gets a chance to be displayed. In this work, the former Temasek Polytechnic students collected over 2,000 plastic bottles, and utilised 1,800 of them to create the installation. By washing them, and hand ironing them into panels before sewing them together with raffia string, the resulting work resembles ocean waves and highlights the pressing issue of discarded plastics choking the oceans and endangering our marine ecosystem.

At the Marina Bay Lower Boardwalk, Tell Your Children presents the DBS Live More, Waste Less Installation – Waste Not, Want Not. Take a look at these four inflatable fruits – an apple, an eggplant, a carrot and a lemon, each with a twist. These are ‘ugly food’ of irregular shapes that showcases the natural variety of shapes produce comes in, and by platforming them, encourages visitors to consider the normalising of ‘ugly food’ to reduce waste.

Ruffled Ice

DP Design shows off Ruffled Ice at the Mist Walk, turning trash into art by using redundant packaging materials to depict melting icebergs and ice caverns. While it acts as a beautiful illuminated backdrop for photos, it also highlights the enormous damages discarded plastics have on our environment. Speaking to Nike and Allan of DP Design, they commented how the inspiration for the work was drawn from a sustainability angle, wanting to raise awareness of how much we were consuming such plastic packaging. To do so, they would change the way we look at consumption, and from the ugliness of waste, create something beautiful in Ruffled Ice.

At the ticketed exhibition Lightwave: Isle of Light, empowered by OPPO, OPPO invites you to come on a multi-sensory journey comprising five unique zones with immersive features. Visitors begin with Through the Unknown, as they walk through glowing triangular structures en route on a path less travelled. The Seasons features a holographic mesh with a projection depicting different moments in our lives through the four seasons. Reflections utilises motion capture and tracks visitors’ movement for light and shadow will react to movements made in front of this interactive installation, which aims to inspire visitors to paint the world with their personalities. At The Prism, visitors are invited to step into a prism with walls that reflect animation from a LED floor depicting the galaxy, making for great photo opportunities. And at the Forest of Lights, colourful light tubes representing trees recreate the immersive experience of being in a forest, and remind visitors of the beauty and vibrancy that nature offers.

Says Mr Dylan Yu, Marketing Director of OPPO Singapore: “i Light Singapore’s focus on raising awareness of sustainability is aligned with OPPO’s mission of ‘technology for mankind, kindness for the world’. We are excited to be part of the Festival for the second time as it returns after a two-year hiatus. Through Lightwave: Isle of Light, we hope to bring visitors an ethereal, multisensory light experience and allow photo fanatics to capture the allure of night. With the light installation shaped like a tunnel, we aim to create the feeling of excitement and wonder, as we emerge from the pandemic with the promise of new possibilities ahead.”

Next up, in front of the Red Dot Design Museum, Trial and Error presents Light Canvas, where visitors can use the light from their mobile phones to create and draw on a ‘wall’. This interactive exhibit is inspired by sustainability, and aims to get visitors to think about how we use energy, by having us give light to receive light. Every Saturday, artists are also invited to participate and showcase their work on the wall as a performance to show off the endless possibilities the work offers.

In front of Marina Bay Link Mall, you’ll find Ping Lim and Ian Grossberg’s Alone Together. Inspired by scenes of housing estates in Singapore during the pandemic, the work is an artistic interpretation of what it was like to live during a lockdown, with a glimpse into each unit with a single person doing something, as they looked for activities to enjoy and keep busy, alone as individuals but together in this. Through real-time interaction, the projection invites you to be a part of this shared memory.

LiteWerkz Singapore won the 2020 i Light Studen Award as well, and at the Breeze Shelter, displays their work Collective Memory. With 1,800 CDs collected, the artists pay tribute to the loss of such a physical medium by turning it into a beautiful landscape of reflected light.

In Ivana Jelic’s Keep On Moving, located at the Marina bay Waterfront Promenade, the Serbian artist crafts an ode to running – one of the popular activities people have taken to around Marina Bay. The work also takes inspiration from the art of Chronophotography, an antique photography technique that captures frame-by-frame movements. A series of mannequins have been revitalised here to showcase the running form split across individual ‘frames’.

At The Promontory at Marina Bay, Dutch artists TOER present Firefly Field. One of the most striking artworks for its emotional quality, the installation features 500 alternating light points in a field, resembling fireflies that flit about to trigger curiosity and awe of the natural world. In light-polluted Singapore, such a sight is already rare, and seeing this feels like a truly magical experience.

For Kiwi artist Angus Muir, his work Shish-ka-buoy plays on ‘shishkebab’ and ‘buoys’, with strings of rounded buoy ‘skewers’ placed at the apex of The Promontory. The buoys are made of fully recyclable marine buoys, each one at almost four metres tall, their lights changing colour every so often to create a moment of calm against the city skyline.

On the lawn next to One Marina Boulevard, you’ll find Nerdist x ARTINA’s Fallen. This is no angel, but a deflated, giant jellyfish one imagines once roamed the universe in search of stars to consume. Crash landing onto Earth, this is all that remains of the creature, pulsating ever so gently, on its last vestige of life.

Marco Barotti with SWANS

German/Italian artist Marco Barotti presents SWANS, a work that has been touring the world since he created it in 2016. Located in the water feature outside OUE Tower, the work uses upcycled satellites dishes to create mechanical looking swans floating on the water. Barotti’s practice is sonic in nature, often creating kinetic sculptures, and here, has designed base frequencies to be sounded out every so often from the subwoofers acting as the swans ‘heads’ to create the illusion of life. This is the first time the work has been done in an urban environment, compared to rivers and lakes in the past, and is a symbol of tech waste and our huge consumption of tech, yet in this urban setting, the swans are eerily appropriate, as if the future of what wildlife in tech-driven Singapore may look like.

Australian artists Atelier Sisu present Florescentia, which translates to ‘blossoming’ in Latin. Located at Clifford Square, this work showcases a series of kinetic sculptures made of 100% recycled carbon neutral polypropylene. Inspired by the photosynthesis process and aesthetics of Dr Seuss, this is a work that sets the scene for a moment of quiet reflection.

Much further down, at Esplanade Park, you’ll find more works waiting. Over at the Queen Elizabeth Walk waterfront steps, you’ll find Re-Act, by NUS Architecture students Liang TaiLin (Tai) and Isabella Meo Loo Yanshan. Selected from the 2022 i Light Student Closed Call, Re-Act highlights climate change issues such as rising sea levels and water pollution, with tubes of light that simulate the flow of pollutants into the sea or resemble cracks in icebergs.

As students embarking on a real life project outside of the school environment, the learning curve was a steep one for both Tai and Isabella, but a rewarding one. “In school, we learn a lot about time management, and dedicate a lot of time to drawing and planning, so we’re used to juggling our schedules,” says Isabella.

“When we heard the theme, we wanted to have a clear sustainability message, and wanted to utilise the sloping terrain, seeing the potential in the various vantage points and seeing how something could look like it was flowing down to the water, to sit the public’s imagination through these lights that look like toxic waste flowing down or icebergs melting,” says Tai.

“There was quite a lot for us to learn, because we had never dealt with electricity before this, and we had to liaise with a professor from the electrical engineering department, and observe electricians, learning how to circuit and solder over a few weeks,” says Isabella. “There was a lot to take in about figuring out the hardware and materials, and when it came to transforming it from concept to installation, it was a whole new ball game, such as learning how there comes a point where you can see the tension in the material when you bend LED past a certain point.”

“I’m glad that we had this opportunity to get out there and learn to source for resources and assistance. It’s been an invaluable experience training our sensitivity to the environment, and applying our skills in research, manipulation of materials and even the act of liaising with contractors, suppliers, and basically connecting with everyone from the different hierarchies,” adds Tai.

Further down, the final student work can be found in Esplanade Park itself, with Darryl Tan Shaole, Heather Khoo Hui Min, Lim Si Yu Ernest, and Seng Pei En Joanne’s Bondfire. Also selected from the 2022 i Light Student Closed Call, these NUS Architecture students have crafted an assemblage of glowing colums, where a light from a single point is refracted within a clear tube. With help from a fog machine, the experience of exploring the work resembles that of sitting by a bonfire.

Aleksandra Stratimirovic and Leonel Kaplan’s Underworld is a ghostly installation, with giant lanterns made of fishing nets, resembling tiny ghosts en route to an unknown destination. With an evocative soundscape, visitors are taken to an imaginary undersea settlement inspired by the Swedish fishing village Smögen, and highlight the fragility of our marine ecosystem.

Finally, Meet Me Under The Moon, by One Bite Design Studio, presents a massive sphere that resembles the full moon, and evokes the grandeur and poetics of the full moon during the Mid-Autumn festival.

Other installations that will be featured include MOTHEREARTH ClimateChange Data Sculpture by Turkish new media studio Ouchhh. Presented in partnership with Marina Bay Sands, a video projection on the façade of ArtScience Museum will transform publicly available environmental data, such as those obtained from local weather recordings, into a stunning visual treat comprising moving lights, colours and sounds. Using artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms, the artwork turns data into an enjoyable sensory experience, while drawing attention to climate change issues.

The Festival will also spotlight artworks that explore environmental challenges the world is facing. For instance, Plastic Whale by Craig Neo from Singapore, and Feng Qiao, Liao Qingshuang and Li Jianwen from China, features an inflatable whale filled with recyclable plastic bottles and scraps, breathing in distress. The artwork highlights the plight of marine creatures that are struggling to survive in their increasingly polluted homes.

Alongside the light art installations, the Festival will feature an exciting line-up of programmes and activities that promise a fun-filled and enriching experience for families and friends. Besides the aforementioned GastroBeats, visitors can also learn more about lighting design and activating spaces by participating in Light Forum, comprising a series of tours, talks and workshops conducted by industry experts. Those interested in lighting design can sign up for the Light Tour led by professional lighting designers, and find out how lighting design has been woven intricately into our city. Lighting Guerrilla, on the other hand, will feature two student workshops that focus on experimenting with light and spontaneity, and culminate in temporary lighting installations that will be showcased at Jubilee Bridge and Bayfront Bridge. 

Over at The Lawn at Marina Bay, drone enthusiasts can try their hands at operating luminous drones at Drone Nation, presented by the Marina Bay Alliance. Skilled drone flyers can race against other professionals at the exhilarating Racing Arena complete with a neon light obstacle course, while first-timers can learn the basics from expert trainers at the Experience Arena. 

The Festival will also continue to raise awareness of sustainability and encourage the community to adopt an eco-conscious lifestyle. Visitors can participate in i Quest to pick up tips on sustainability and stand a chance to win prizes. Using the SusGain rewards app, participants can go around Marina Bay to learn about the sustainability considerations behind each artwork. They can also pledge to adopt sustainable habits in their everyday lives on the Festival website as part of the i Light i Pledge initiative.

Light Canvas

In addition, as part of the Festival’s signature Switch Off, Turn Up campaign, building owners, corporations and businesses around and beyond Marina Bay will switch off non-essential lightings and turn up air-conditioning temperatures throughout the duration of the Festival to reduce energy consumption.

Mr Jason Chen, Festival Director and Director (Place Management) of URA, said: “From thought-provoking artworks to immersive programmes that encourage sustainable habits, i Light Singapore will once again illuminate Marina Bay with a kaleidoscope of colours through the works of some of the most creative minds in Singapore and beyond. We look forward to welcoming visitors back to this much-anticipated Festival after a two-year hiatus.”   

This year’s i Light Singapore comes at a time of recovery, and as difficult as it is to produce art in this time, the fact that so many powerful works have been curated for the festival is a show of resilience, passion, and love that goes into these projects. At a point where we most need healing, these projects offer space for solace and meditation, be it through sound, atmosphere or simply their inherent message. Take Here and There for example, which perfectly encapsulates the idea of balance – conflicts arise out of misunderstandings, and it takes mutual understanding and effort to find themselves on equal ground again to reach equilibrium, then and only then can we see the bigger picture of things, see the light, and begin the process of healing together.

Images courtesy of i Light Singapore

i Light Singapore runs from 3rd to 26th June 2022, from 7.30pm to 11pm daily with extended hours to 12am on Fridays and Saturdays. Admission is free, while charges apply for certain programmes. Visit https://www.ilightsingapore.gov.sg for more information.

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