by Kerry Tolson @kerrytolson.com.
Instead we duck back into the shopping mall, down the escalator and find ourselves ‘picnicking’, Asian style – mouth-watering Vietnamese fare and cheap beer in enamel cups while sitting on cute plastic stools with a 'field of grass' table.
It's still raining after lunch, so we head for the National Museum of Singapore located in a beautiful 1887 Renaissance-style building filled with endless rows of arches and a massive ‘white-house’-esqe dome. The museum is the oldest in Singapore, although it’s original name was the “Raffles Library and Museum”.
Its building is a big favourite for photographers of all scopes. There are ‘shoots’ everywhere – wedding pics, fashion shoots, photography-workshops – all taking place while we wander through the stunning architecture - and inadvertently photo bomb the equally stunning images with 'the-drown-rat'-in-the-background' pose.
Most of the exhibits are free, and I'm particularly interested in the What is Not Visible is Not Invisible , the light and texture installation from the French Regional Collections of Contemporary Art (FRAC) but before we even step out of the main foyer of I'm gobsmacked at the enormous sphere of pots and pans suspended above my head.
Aptly named 'Cooking the World' (by Subodh Gupta), it's a representation of the surplus and shortage throughout society - though with that many pots in the kitchen, I'd be mithering about the shortage of dishwashers.
We go up the ramp to the glass dome to see the exhibit "Story of the Forest" , and I notice out the corner of my eye a sign warning about possible Vertigo and or Epilepsy. “Ah” I think, “strobing” and behind a black curtain and into a pitch-dark black ‘nothingness’ I go.
No sooner do I step into the room than I immediately feel a spinning sensation as neon colours flash all around me. But it’s not a strobing, no, the dome is a huge moving screen-ball and the images of trees, flowers and ‘who-knows-what-they-are’ travel about. Mal keeps walking ahead, totally oblivious to my ‘spinning’… although I’m actually standing very still… and my sudden need to throw-up. I turn quickly and try to find my way back out through the curtain, but that isn’t very successful and I end up becoming tangled in it and bumping into people trying to come in to the exhibit. Mal continues wandering off into the ‘forest’.
Outside, I take deep gulps of air and end up with the head spins. Gripping onto the glass banisters I try to calm myself and focus on the beautiful crystal triangle lights above… turns out when you’ve got vertigo, looking upwards is not a good idea.
Within minutes Mal comes strolling over from a totally different direction to where we had entered. He's surprised to see me. “How did you get here before me?’
He hadn’t even missed me.
At the What is Not Visible is Not Invisible exhibit I see a sign warning of high voltage and that touching the exhibits may cause fatal injuries. Nerves about possible ‘side effects’ get the better of me and I quiz the poor door attendant as to ‘how can I get out quickly if I have an attack’ and ‘what if I faint?’ By the look on the poor woman’s face she is horrified at the thought of a museum attendee collapsing in the exhibit and suggests that I ‘walk around the exhibit very quickly’.
Wandering back towards Raffles Plaza we find ourselves in the grounds of the Cathedral of the Good Shepherd admiring the beautiful Christmas Orchestra lights when I notice what appears to be a person wrapped in a blanket lying on a bench seat. As I draw closer it becomes apparent that it is a sculpture... of a homeless person.
One of the things I love about Singapore is the eclectic mix of sculptures dotting the city and the nation as a whole; many quirky, modern or representative of the past, but most of all I love that this neat orderly city isn't afraid to 'court' controversy in its art expression. And this sculpture was a prime example of making a statement and encouraging people to think.
Called "Homeless Jesus" the piece by Timothy Schmaltz is one of fifty Homeless Jesus installations throughout the world including one at the Vatican City. Life-size and very much lifelike, it is only by getting up close and personal that you notice that the form is representative of Jesus by the two nail holes in the feet of the sculpture. Installed in November 2016, the piece has ruffled quite a few feathers, with calls to have it removed as it 'demeans' the neighbourhood or that it is a misrepresentation of Jesus.... 'Jesus was never homeless nor a beggar according to the bible' was a quote of one of the detractors - of course the fact Jesus wandered around the desert for forty days and nights seems to be lost on the person who said it...
I find this piece an interesting juxtaposition to the installation of the pots and pans, and contemplate that even in comfortable prosperous Singapore there is an fractional element of homelessness; invisible it would appear, dossing down in the voids of apartment buildings, sleeping in tents on the white sands of Sentosa, even blending in with the sleepy 'in-transit' travellers at Changi Airport - invisible but definitely there and making 'do' with selling tissues at the food courts and receiving assistance from various groups or the Cathedral, which distributes some 150packages each Sunday.
Meanwhile back in vibrant Chinatown thousands of lanterns dangle in garlands over the streets, swathes of red and gold adorn buildings and enormous Roosters and hens galore bedeck the road verges. In a less 24hours we'll all be celebrating the 2017 New Year, but Chinatown was hanging in anticipation for Lunar New Year - Year of the Rooster - which was happening in less than three weeks.
Hello! I'm Kerry
. . . a plan-nothing, have no idea where I'm going travelholic.
A daughter of the gypsies and the wife of a workaholic, I'm forever wondering 'What's over there?' and devising ways to squeeze through the barbed-wire fence of small-business ownership responsibilities and every-day life tangles to discover it.
and this is my book.