i Light 2019 SG — Reflection

1, i Light Experience

i light 2019, involved a serious of light based installation works mapped out around Marina Bay. As part of our Bicentennial Celebration, this series was meant to commemorate aspects of Singapore’s History while articulating and expressing the progress we have achieved today. Personally I feel that the series was meant to visually convey the advanced and state of the art nation we pride ourselves to be. Instead of being displayed or curated in an enclosed and discrete space, each of the installation was integrated into the natural environment of the Marina Bay Area. This seamless and intelligent way of blending the works into the heavily lit Marina Bay Area and it’s powerful landmarks, then make the works accents of our already popular city core.

There is no discrete start or end to this journey and one is free to approach any of the pieces they find interesting as they navigate their way around the Bay Area. Instead of simply reinterpreting the works in conventional ways like in previous years where it was almost always tied back to historic moments, in the 2019 Festival there were some works that commented on contemporary and important issues such as Climate Change and Waste Management. Such issues are relevant national issues moving forward and it was significant to see that the designers were using this opportunity not to just simply pride ourselves in our past but remind the general public of where we want to head towards in the future. i lights also essentially is a smooth movement and flow across and in between significant monuments rather than being pit stops —when we transit from one point to the next, the journey or the space between the points were also filled with smaller interactive elements. This ensures the experience journey isn’t broken and the viewer is guided seamlessly from start to finish.

2. What might the “curators” have to consider to plan such a transformation?

1. Cost — Projections and Audiovisual technology at such large scale is costly and as curators they have to consider the allocated budget and be cost efficient without compromising the end result.

2. Safety —As some of these works were placed on walkways, obstructing public space has to be taken into account to ensure there is enough mobility for all sorts of people including adolescent and seniors. However they probably had to strike a balance between being too safe and too obstructive —the works being along the pathway of Marina Bay makes the movement through it intuitive and this was a vital intuitive element of i lights.

3. Artistic Choices — Another possible consideration could have been discerning how to complement the landmarks without overly layering them with augmentations to the point they lose their inherent characteristic or recognisability.

4. Sustainability — As these works were displayed over a long period of time over a span of weeks, Curators would probably have to consider sustainable of ways of supplying them with power and avoid unnecessary usage.

3.What alternate ways could YOU imagine transforming these sites to communicate something unique or unknown about Singapore culture?

One way to further build on such works in the future would be thinking about how rather than repeatedly talking about our local history which most people are more or less familiar with, we could instead create conversation about unique cultures or subcultures that exist within Singapore (how they’re unconventional yet uniquely singaporean).

In recent months, especially with the Covid-19 Dormitory breakout in SG,  Migrant Worker causes and issues have been gaining more traction and attention. Many of our landmarks were built by these migrant workers and they  as a demographic occupy a large part of certain spaces in SG — Peninsula Shopping Mall ,  Lucky Plaza, Little India etc. They have set up semi permanent enclaves in these areas and Singaporeans ourselves have grown to associate these spaces in relation them. They have shaped both our cityscape  (laboriously) and these small spaces they frequent (culturally).

Hence one way to make national monument installations more contemporary and meaningful could be layering them with audiovisual elements that portray the migrant worker experience living in SG. This will not only highlight our multiculturalism in a unique way but also create a powerful dialogue by intersecting the labour aspect of our landmarks with the glamour, power and authoritarian aspects of it. Such possible approaches that highlight issues in our current world are important to address, moving forward. Being a nation that only busks in its past glory becomes superficial after a certain point.

Illuminating Embodiments — Reflection

Overarching Thoughts — bodies & Virtuality

Rafael Lozano Hemmer talks about the concepts of ‘body’ and ‘space’ and how they operate in similar manners and are not necessarily discrete entities. A physical space or monument though ‘permanent’, its meaning and purpose is subject to the course of time and mirrors the change in society. Hence it is as equally mutable as our physical bodies. Similarly, ‘space’ is not a static concept and our bodies— through posture, movement etc cuts through space, creating a flow which in itself then harnesses ‘space’. By moving through a space, like in dancing for instance, one commands control over it and redefines it. Different dancers within the spaces will portray a different interpretation to the viewers, depending on their emotions and movements. We are powerful enough to deconstruct and re-interpret space through our fluid bodies. Hemmer creates an intersection and interaction of our physical bodies and public monuments/places by augmenting and layering it with technology inputs such as projections and other audiovisual elements. His works are also interactive in the way these elements are controlled by our physical bodies and the way we move through space with them.

In RE:Positioning Fear, the participants’ shadows trigger portraits of people. Virtuality here then is the bridging entity between people and architecture. The ability for the artist to have control over the virtual realm depending on his predetermined functions, opens up a multitude of possibilities that are not limited by the materialistic aspects of that particular building. He is able to re contextualise and re interpret a historic building away from any rooted fixed meaning. It is important to note that this temporal realm of virtuality does not belong to exclusively the building or our bodies —  it is a shared space with predetermined trigger responses but ultimately mutable and responsive to the interactivity between us, the building and the artist. Though these are three separate entities, virtuality as an intermediary allows for interactivity and contact.

Since no interaction can be fully premeditated (we all have agency over our own bodies), real life interactive works have a high chance of producing unpredictable and surprising outcomes as opposed to the artist’s original vision. In RE:Positioning Fear,  Hemmer points to this as he mentions how the behaviour of passers by was the complete opposite of what he expected to see — yet this does not in any way invalidate the profoundness of the experience but rather just goes to show how layering virtuality on top of a physical building can allow it to be explored and seen in new and unexpected perspectives. This unpredictable set of outcomes also gives the artist a chance to further develop or tap into concepts they might have been insular to previously.

Further Thoughts — Body as Performance

“In fact, Lozano-Hemmer declares that he is ‘interested in the body as a performance, a process of becoming, of change, and less interested in physiognomy, anatomy, forensics and physical ergonomics’”

Hemmer talks about how he views our physical bodies as performance instruments rather than static. He seems them as non absolute and fluid entities that are inclined go through the constant process of change and renewal. It is indeed true that our physical bodies though biologically and clinically are very materialistic, their inherent biological process imbues them with processes such as ageing and mutation. Hence change is inbuilt into our physicality to begin with. On top of this, we are able to also control the way we express our body via its movements to portray different emotions. Our postures and gestures constantly change depending on the situation we are in or the person we are interacting with. They adapt and respond accordingly with intuition. Body language is also not universal and differs across habits and cultures. Each subculture has its own unique set of ‘body language’, further amplifying the mutability of the human body and its movements. This is also why each of us interact with our spaces or redefine it in our own unique ways.

concluding thoughts

As designers of interactive spaces, we then have to study the behaviours of the occupants in our site specific installation/interactive space and adjust our works to potentialise on these unique nuances — movements of a busy train station in Tokyo as opposed to that of a quiet station in Hampshire will be completely different. Space will be interacted with in different manners and the space itself will have a very different ‘memory’ attached to it as it is carved by humans over time. Redefining it then will also require us to take all these aspects into context — we have to understand the characteristics of the body we are working with before we deconstruct and reinterpret it. Ultimately this is to ensure our interpretations are relevant, insightful and meaningful and not purposeless.

Tokyo Train Station

Bentley Railway Station (Hampshire)

‘Home’ — Reflections & Sketch


Dominance, Transience, Restraint, Comfort, Obligated Rootedness.

Personal Reflections & Analysis of ‘Space’


1. My Room (Dominance)

In my home, I share my room with my brother with our beds set apart, flushed against each side of the wall. I personally do not have a good relationship with him and more often than not, we only speak when we need to. This discomfort and tension in one shared space that has no physical divide has inherently prompted me to come up with interventions in order to artificially or psychologically demarcate my own space or my ‘half of the room’ to create a comfortable area for myself. Silence, amplifies the awkwardness when both of us are in the room. Silence can be peaceful and calming but an awkward kind of silence gets under your skin. One way of establishing my dominance over my space sometimes would be me turning up the volume of the music on my speakers. Sometimes this draws some retaliation and he turns his speakers up too. We don’t physically content for our own spaces in this shared area but it is interesting to take a step back and analyse how the pervasive nature of sound is powerful enough to assert spatial dominance. Imagine if you were sharing a room with someone who hates classical music and you crank your speakers up to the max with the sound of an orchestra; it’ll either coerce the person into naturally wearing their headphones — a sign of suppression and surrender, or walking out of the space entirely to the main hall (in defeat).

Most recently I installed fish tanks right beside my bed and although they don’t fully split the room in half, the presence of some physical ‘wall’ or barrier further establishes my side of the room, psychologically making me feel more comfortable. The tanks have this iridescent blue night light that illuminates the walls at night — in some sense while being stationary, that personal object with its light attached, then projects itself onto the entirety of the room, marking territory of my presence.

2. ‘Home’ out of the ‘House’ (Transience)

As I have been staying in Hall at NTU now, I rarely go back home as I live all the way in the east. I am also someone who prefers socialising with people a lot and am often outside. Hence home to me is just a transient place with innate strong memories. The idea of ‘home’ is not limited to any physical space. One could consider any safe space their ‘home’. More importantly the space we inhabit and we often refer to as home is a ‘house’, a clearly defined physical space in which we co inhabit with our family members.

My idea of home is transient as I find ‘home’ in places I’ve had significant memories with people — rooftops, coffee stops, water banks, the bench at East Coast Park;  all these at one point in my life were landmarks that I shared with someone important, a place of intense emotion and they have nostalgic tentacles tethered to me. In each phase of my life, there was some place I would visit to feel good, or safe if I needed to just sit and ‘exist’. One really significant place is a small rooftop at Greenwich — a place I spent a lot of time in, with my best-friend, the only person I’ve ever called my soulmate. The emotions tethered to this space are so strong that even though it has been physically closed off by authorities, it occupies a psychological space in my mind and I do not have to physically travel there anymore to feel the comfort I derive from being there.

I quite simply can think of it, look at curated pictures of it on my phone album, and reminisce in the moment and the details of our marks left behind — spit stains, cigarette ash, prints from our shoes etc. The power of the human brain; its memory and the way it creates association via all its senses enables us to own spaces we don’t physically own. It gives us the ability to enter these spaces in our heads. Fragments of sensorial memory —  smell of the flowers, sound of the cars whizzing by, the colour of the blocks that form the skyline, the shade of the trees planted there, all amalgamate together to form a virtual yet profound realm that we can freely access whenever we want, for life, regardless of the physical permanence of the space.

Here is a poem I wrote for my friend with the imagery of the rooftop in mind:

3. ‘Home’ in the ‘House’ (Restraint)

In the same way, growing up in a house in your formative years leads you to associate emotions to certain objects or spaces. I never had a good relationship with my brother and was not so close to my parents as I was mostly brought up by domestic workers while they were working. Love was not explicitly conveyed but rather translated via obscure actions or mechanisms — a very Asian thing I suppose. (The inability to express love or rather the awkwardness of having to express love without using assertion and chiding as a facade, often passed down through the generations. ) With this in mind, when I was younger sometimes it would be awkward when we were all seated in a common area like the hall or the dining table — a place where everyone sat at but barely spoke. Being in a shared space in silence makes you acutely aware of the objects around you and sometimes I’d finish up first so I could excuse myself from the table and walk away — not because I hate them but more of to relief myself of the disconcerting awkwardness of the situation.

However in the past few years my relationship with my family members, except for my brother has improved. We are more open about our feelings and we addressed past ‘grudges’ or mistakes that were previously swept under the carpet. Covid  19 especially amplified this — arguably in a pretty forceful way since we had no choice but to stay home. However surprisingly though I dreaded the idea at first, I was pleasantly surprised by how I ended up finding comfort in a place I always convinced myself didn’t have that much to offer (since I was mostly out all the time). It is ‘funny’ and significant how when we’re confined in an area, we somehow adapt and inherently become suddenly aware of ‘loopholes’ or ‘gaps’ we never paid attention to, that were always available to have sought comfort in.

All the common space needed was shared noise or shared conversation to rid it of the awkward stigma it had in my mind. So I started speaking more, sitting out of my room more, making a conscious effort to not only float around the house but ground myself in these shared spaces and have pleasant meaningful moments in them.

4. ‘Home’ in the House (Transition from Restraint to Comfort)

We have a corgi who is allowed to roam the house freely. And Corgis being hyperactive and needy as they are, he is always running into my room, scratching doors for them to be opened or jumping onto us ecstatically with his toy in his mouth. To him, the house is his world and he runs wherever he wants to with only one aim in mind — to interact and play with his owners. Somehow the addition of this animal ‘family’ member that ran across all our rooms, also brought as closer. We stepped out more and interacted more naturally. The artificial boundaries that we set up as humans (rooms, doors etc) were invisible to him and he freely crossed each boundary whenever he wanted to. Overtime, I too became less affected or obsessed by the boundaries of my room and started to feel comfortable in any space in the house.

The human condition is such that we are often blind to our own inhibitions until a third party intervenes. In this case, the addition of my dog and his constant running around, leaving his shedded hair everywhere, broke these spaces and in a way connected them. His physical movement overtime, created a flow in the space and amplified the openness of my ‘home’ in the ‘house’. Psychologically, he connected all the areas that were kept apart in my head. (Spaces I saw as discrete places with specific functions — to eat, to watch tv, to cook). When these boundaries broke down, a sense of openness and fluidity emerged and my physical body did not feel like it was confined, relative to the space around me, anymore.

5. ‘Home’ and ‘House’ as we Perceive it to be (Obligated Rootedness)

Space as an entity is omnipresent, it is infinite and it is not limited by the physical boundaries we have learnt to set up. This being said, whether we consider our house our home or not, we all have an obligated rootedness to this physical enclave we grow up in. For some people who grew up in an abusive household, home is a traumatic trigger, and the sight or even slightest memory of it can be distasteful. (even long after physically removing themselves from that space).

Concluding thoughts (On Homes and Houses)

For me home has grown to be a place where I am more comfortable as opposed to when I was in my formative years. Within this space, in my room due to my strained relationship with my brother, I still rely on means to establish some sort of boundary that separates me from him. Home essentially to me can be any place you feel comfortable at. You can feel at home in the most unsuspecting and unexpected of places as long as you have a personal and unique attachment to it. A House on the other hand, is a physical space we are bound by, and grow up in, whether we like it or not. Bad or good memories associated with this physical space, leaves a permanent mark, distorting or rather influencing how we eventually end up making a ‘home’ out of our own houses when we finally have the autonomy to move out and do so.

Visual Representation of ‘Home’

It is possible to alter or morph the perception of a fixed physical space by adjusting the psychological space it represents in our mind. This can be done by intervention (in my case, the simple yet powerful affect of my dog’s movement and trail).



The Poetics of Space (Nests) — Reflections

Overarching Thoughts

In this chapter, Gaston Bachelard suggests that we intuitively are phenomenologists when we fantasise about the entity that a Nest is. Scientifically, a nest is a drab structure meticulously made up of leaves, twigs or other materials for a specific function — to serve as a space of refuge and shelter for birds and their nestlings. However, as humans we constantly ponder about the spirituality of the world we inhabit and the significance of our presence in this fundamentally infinite ‘space’ — space is infinite in the way it pervades and navigates through structures we have created to artificially compartmentalise and ‘control’ it. We in a sense, make ‘places’ out of our space, assigning them with specific functions to make sense of our being here. However as beings, with the ability to have experienced profound emotions, coupled with our highly advanced cognitive functions, we subconsciously are unable to ignore the fact that space as a concept is non- tangible and noetic. Space is the basis for our origin — time after all is considered a dimension of space in quantum physics. Essentially space is not physical; it is ‘nothing’ yet it is the overarching and primordial principle that allows matter to exist and exert its effects. Space is nothing, yet without space nothing can exist.

Personal Thoughts (on nests)

In the chapter Nests, Bachelard specifically explores how we apply this noetic intuition of space to our perception and interaction with Nests. A nest after all is the abode of a bird. Our abode is our room, flats, house etc. Why then do we have this innate propensity to associate our idea of ‘home’ with a nest? As stated in the chapter, many poets and artists have also made this reference to nests when describing the space they inhabit. We do not know at all what it feels like to be in a nest. What we perceive it to be is based on our own senses’ interaction with it.

Sight :

Nests are predominantly snuggled in corners, hidden and safe. They often mimic and blend into the space they inhabit as materials obtained by its builders (birds) of the nest are sourced from the vicinity. Even in highly inorganic and structured spaces like the crevice of a wall, the imagery of a nest evokes a sense of comfort. The way it organically camouflages and fits into the space it occupies, like scaffolding, permeates a sense of belonging and warmth. Even when we see nests built in all sorts of places in the concrete jungle we inhabit, we do not immediately feel that they are out of place. It is this rootedness yet adaptable nature that draws us to fantasise about how we perceive our ideal home to be — we want a permanent dwelling, yet one that comfortably sits into the space it occupies.

Touch :

Nests are often soft and fragile. They are made with fine twigs and are light. When we touch a nest (many of us probably have out of curiosity, as the author has mentioned), we not only feel it’s exterior, but we feel it’s recesses, or explore the negative space (interior within). We are highly aware of the mutability of these ‘dwellings’ due to their fragile structure. Hence we are careful and cautious when we approach it, fundamentally imbuing it with ‘safety’. Think about the way we approach bird nests as opposed to ant nests. Most of us have probably desecrated ant mounds mercilessly because of our mental association of its inhabitants with pests. Though fortified, ant nests are deliberately destroyed compared to bird nests which are completely vulnerable and exposed yet protected from destruction by our own reservations and sentiments. This is perhaps why we dream of nests being our homes or refer to our dwellings as ‘nest’. (because of the space it occupies in our mind as being an undisturbed and safe refuge.)

Sound :

A nest with hatchlings, emit chirping noises, making the presence of life known. Even when we are unable to see what is inside of these nests, psychologically this notion of chirping, hungry, fragile nestlings invoke an idea of occupancy — we may not even know if a nest is empty or occupied yet we intuitively tend to believe the latter. We do not directly have to had seen a nest to develop this perception — documentaries, books etc have all cultivated this notion strong enough.

Personal Thoughts (on birds)

Birds are like Gypsies, they are free to fly around and make places out of any space they want to, regardless of the consequences that might occur from doing so. We however do not have this luxury fundamentally due to our anatomy. We do not have the ability to simply fly wherever we want to and conveniently build a ‘defined space’ with surrounding materials. We are also too physically ‘large’ to do so. Hence, this portability and possibility is only something we can dream of, supporting the proposition that we tend to treat nests as phenomenologists.

Apart from being restricted by our biological anatomy, we are also restricted and bound by societal rules we have created. We need money to build and purchase a ‘home’, or money and authority to secure a piece of land. We do not have the rights to make any space of our choice our ‘home’ despite space in itself being an unquantifiable entity — we have made it measurable by creating structures, buildings, rooms, that dissect it, creating artificial enclaves that allow us to allocate it. We are hence all limited by these ‘places’ and can only navigate in specific directions — we cannot walk through a wall even if we wished. Birds however can simply hover over these structures freely, having full access to all the space there is out there. By associating our homes with nests, I imagine we wish to recreate a nest like space, albeit artificial, one that evokes this sense of freedom. These are expressed in the form of SOHO apartments with high ceilings or Glass Facades etc.

Concluding thoughts

Thought I can relate and identify with the idea of associating nests to homes and in our dreams, it is significant to note that how we often view other places or rather spaces made into places, is based on our own experience, emotions or perceptions. The idea of ‘home’ is universals. Though varying in structure, geographical location, or aesthetic appearance, the ideal notion of inhabiting one that encompasses the ‘spirituality’ and ‘poetics’ of a nest is possibly universal and intuitive. This however does not apply to spaces we do not consider to be our ‘abode’. The perception of these other spaces we walk into and explore, are more rooted in our unique interaction with the world, moulded by our own experiences. For example, a person suffering from PTSD may associate the space of a clinic with trauma while a nurse might associate it with familiarity and comfort.


Here is a descriptive anecdote I wrote awhile back, expressing my perception and phenomenological associations of the space of a LGBT Bar in Chinatown :

“On nights like this, the ivory coloured tiles shimmer like scales of a mythical imaginary creature. A creature conjured up with such immense conviction and self belief that its seemingly delicate eccentricity and ‘out of place-ness’ endowed it with a sense of impenetrable boldness and authenticity. It’s scarlet red inner walls which reverberate with exuberance and passion, coupled with heady dance records from the colourful 80s attract characters of all kinds- some curious for a taste of the unfamiliar while others longing for the regular opiate of being amongst their own ‘kind’.

Through the gate, a young walks in, and eyes dart quickly to steal a glance before shifting back as inconspicuously as possible to preserve their ego driven feigned nonchalance. After all they were all in their own capacities, subtly hoping to garner the ‘spotlight’ in a predominantly male ‘playground’ that embodies both the veracity of masculinity and the sensuality of femininity. This potent fluidity permeated through the bar – a ‘Shangri-La’ for those who lived within thinly defined boundaries.

He keeps his gaze forward and walks briskly down the long walkway wedged between the two rows of crowded tables. His well built body gave each step he took with his leather boots a compressed weight. Yet there was a hint of effeminacy in the way his feet moved, with such perfect rhythm and swing, that one’s senses could be coaxed into believing they were watching an androgynous model parade down a runway. It took a calibrated degree of spacial awareness, spontaneous judgement, and calculated confidence coupled with seasoned practice, to exert this sort of presence in a place that was so ‘loud’.

It is past midnight now and the buzz of the crowd starts to blend in with the music from the Madonna, Cher and other Diva produced numbers that play on the screens. Ash trays get increasingly vandalised by wet cigarettes – some pre maturely stubbed out, perhaps in a rush to head upstairs and others left with just their alcohol stained butts, probably fully savoured within the span of casual small talk with strangers that called for the help of an anxiety mitigating drags of nicotine or intimate conversations that needed a stabiliser wedged between quivering lips or fingers.

The young man makes his way up the central carpeted crimson steps that lead up to the heart of the bar. Framed portraits of immortalised icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Judy Garland, and pin up style cult classic posters line the green walls like enchanted talismans that have been plastered all over to bestow upon this place its quaint charm. The portraits aren’t just icons but worshipped idols that somehow emanated the fearless self empowering energy one needed to embody to feel as free as they were allowed to be in this ‘temple’. As he reaches the end of the carpeted steps he is immediately transported into a luscious gaudi gilded interior that looks like it belonged in Mrs Manson Mingotts Mansion from Edith Wharton‘s Age if Innocence. Everyone here are self made characters with interchangeable roles — a seductress , a damsel in distress, an innocent boy, a lonely man seeking companionship. They could be whoever they wanted to be whenever they wanted to be.

It was an open stage where even a seductively wielded billiard stick could be a prop.

It’s after all synonymous with the character of its residence – a melting pot of multicultural and multi religious landmarks.”