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Singapore’s first museum celebrates its 130th birthday with interactive exhibitions

Here are the four exhibits you shouldn’t miss

By Amanda Chai | Oct 10, 2017

  • Singapore’s first museum celebrates its 130th birthday with interactive exhibitions
    Story of the Forest

Not many things have the privilege of turning 130 years old in Singapore—but the National Museum of Singapore is one of them. Opened in 1887, the institution was the first purpose-built museum here, essentially making it Singapore’s OG exhibition space. To celebrate the milestone, the museum has organized a host of activities and exhibitions for a weekend of birthday mirth (Oct 13-15) that also extends beyond just October.

While the museum typically has an emphasis on exhibits related to the history of Singapore, the NMS130 installations are a little less straight-cut. Focusing less on actual Singapore history, the featured artists were asked to respond to the simple theme of celebrating the National Museum’s birthday. The result is an engaging art trail of interactive installations that anyone and everyone can appreciate—even if you came just for the visual clickbait. Here’s what to check out.  

SONICconversation by Zul Mahmod

SONICconversation by Zul Mahmod. Photo credit: National Museum of Singapore

We last spoke to Singaporean sound artist Zul Mahmod on his work for Singapore Inside Out: Tokyo. Back from flying the Singapore flag high and proud in foreign waters, Mahmod’s latest project is an original sound installation commissioned on home soil for NMS130. The piece is an intricate construction of copper pipes and 64 electromagnets which occupies the first floor above the Grand Staircase. It was designed to respond directly to the architecture of the iconic musuem. Walk within the structure for an all-immersive auditory experience as the sounds emitted (composed by Mahmod in three sequences that play on a loop) bounce off the surrounding acoustic space in an arresting audial conversation between art and the museum’s architecture. Oct 12-22

Pondok Irama by NADA

Pondok Irama by NADA. Photo credit: National Museum of Singapore

Many may argue that the 60s were the height of local dance club culture. And they’re probably right. In celebration of the forgotten sounds of the past, Pondok Irama, meaning "Rhythm Hut", is two-man art-slash-music duo NADA’s modern re-imagination of the dancehalls and nightclubs of 1960s Singapore. Head to the Glass Atrium on level two for a proper #throwbackthursday reminiscent of the Malay tunes and dances of New World Park and Gay World’s ronggeng bandstands; the interactive multimedia installation lets you revive your old-school dance moves via motion sensors and a para para-style dance kiosk. Oct 12-22

Basha by Gerald Leow

Basha by Gerald Leow. Photo credit: National Museum of Singapore

An unlikely tribute to the NSmen who toil for our country comes in the form of mirrored basha, or nylon tents, occupying the grassy area on Stamford Green. Previously presented as part of an exhibition at Gillman Barracks, local artist Gerald Leow’s pointed structures evoke the minimalist basha of soldiers and campers in tropical landscapes, and play with the concept of camouflage—the surrounding foliage, sunlight and probably your smartphone reflect captivatingly off the multiple mirrors. Oct 12-Dec 31

Story of the Forest scent-sations at the Glass Rotunda

Story of the Forest. Photo credit: National Museum of Singapore

We saved the best for last, truly. If you haven’t already checked out Story of the Forest, located within the Glass Rotunda on the second floor, you’re in for an added treat. The interactive art installation by teamLab, which first opened in December 2016, is an otherworldly, immersive exhibit comprising beautiful animations that move when activated by motion sensors (trees sprout from the ground when you stand in front of the right sensor). For the birthday celebrations, three special scents have been created and added to the virtual forest to turn it into an all-immersive sensory experience you won’t be likely to forget anytime soon.  

Admission to the art installations, which will be sticking around longer than the actual NMS130 celebrations, is free; but you can also sign up for the curator tours and historic tours that happen only from Oct 13-15. And if you’re really keen on celebrating Singapore’s oldest museum, head down this weekend for an artisanal retro market, live music performances and a jolly cake-cutting ceremony. More info here

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