Sunday, November 23, 2008

Singapore Biennale 2008 Part II - Inspiring

City Hall is a stately building, and is also the site of the former Supreme Court. Imagine what greeted us when we strode towards the stairs leading to the first exhibit?

Fibre glass maggots given the red carpet treatment

Surprisingly, when these creepy crawlies are blown up 100 times their natural size, they don't seem so creepy to me. In fact, they look kinda cute. haha. The volunteer guide mentioned that someone bought the fibre glass maggots for a few thousand SGD a-piece. Perhaps that someone found them cute too. =)

We saw a good many more interesting and/or aesthetically appealing exhibits.

Painstakingly moulded by the artist daily to achieve these humanoid faces on the gourds

Other than being cheap practical furniture, we now know there's another use for Ikea furniture

A pelican and a scooter, supposedly unravelling into a ball of yarn
, which it did not really become, after the Biennale ended

Solitary figures in salt mines look strangely mesmerising

Oops I know I took like, tons of snapshots of these salt mine pictures. The piece is titled "The Wreck of Men", by artist, Charly Nijensohm, who took these pictures without manipulating them digitally. In such wondrously beautiful natural landscapes, the figures look like they're floating. Yes, I'm enamoured by them.

Photos that resemble Renaissance oil paintings. They have an ethereal quality to them.

Another favourite exhibit in City Hall is this Blackfield piece by Ben-David Zadok, born in Yemen, based in UK.

Black on one side....

Vibrantly coloured on the other side

Floating book about Philosophy in perspex, entitled "Bachelor - The Dual Body"

Aptly titled, "Teratoma II: War of the Worlds" by Leroy New

A series of video stills of Northern Europe landscape with text from a book characterises "Beyond Recognition" by Malaysian artist, Nadiah Bamadhaj

Intriguing optical illusion, which is probably better seen in person. Even on video, the illusion isn't that obvious. The car looks like its wheels are turning, as you move sideways while looking at it. It's pretty cool.

All in all, I was impressed by the Biennale and resolve to give other art museums on our lil' island a try.

Inspired and impressed, I'd go for the next Biennale, I promise!

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Singapore Biennale 2008 Part I - Art became Accessible

I visited the Biennale 2008, 2 weeks ago.

The Biennale was staged at 3 locations, the South Beach Development, City Hall and Central Promontory.The theme is Wonder and it finally ended its run on 16 Nov 08. I missed the last Biennale, but I am super glad I didn't miss this one.

It's very impressive. For the first time, I felt that the art installations were more accessible to the masses, in a non arty-farty sort of way. Perhaps, it's because the art was true to the theme, inspiring wonder in the viewer, and are aesthically pleasing to the eye. To me, that's enough. If I don't understand it, then I don't understand it. I won't kill my brain cells unneccessarily from thinking too deeply about the message the artist is trying to convey. Neither will I hate the piece because I don't understand it. You may think that seems superficial, but that's how I see them.

South Beach Development was the former headquarters of Singapore’s volunteer defence forces. It's not air conditioned, so leave your scarf and boots behind.

Here are some of my favourites.

Swiss Artist, Felice Varini's "Drill Hall" looks brilliant, even when viewed at different angles

Russian artist, Tishkov Leonid's "Private Moon"

Private Moon is a collection of various photographs of the artist himself, together with his 'pet moon'. He carries his pet moon on his back, he sleeps with his pet moon and even rows a boat with his pet moon. Humorously set in a fantasy backdrop, what's not to like?

Vietnamese artist, Truong Tan's "The Dancer"

Yeah, I can't find this dancer's head either.

Leandro Erlich's "Hair Salon"

This artist's attention to detail is amazing. The Her World magazine cover is a complete mirror image on the other side of the "mirror". The items on the table were arranged to completely mirror the items on the other side of the "mirror". The retro set up of this installation gets my thumbs up too.

"Distorted Reality" by Faisal Samara looks a little disturbing, admittedly

Luxemburg-born artist, Tse Su-Mei's "Swing"

"Fei Zhao"by Italian artist, Paolo W. Tamburella

Besides challenging the convention that art is only seen, I can smell this one. Yes, of soap.

"Teh Tarik" by local artist Cheo Chai Hiang

More about the installations at City Hall in another post. For now, I leave you with Heman Chong's work. Thanks also to Loveflower, for most of the awesome photos posted here.

One Hundred Years of Solitude


Loveflower loves this installation

Made of tons of tiny stickers, I *heart* this work

Sufficiently impressed with this Biennale, I'm now wishing I could go to the Venice Biennale.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Bunny Lovin'

I know this is frivolous, but still... did I mention I love my new bunny slippers?

I saw a pair of Hello Kitty ones at Sanrio fair a few weeks back at $29.90. I am so glad I didn't get them then.

I got this pair of bunny slippers at the Bookfest recently at only 1/3 the price. Do you know the ears actually flop back and forth as I walk in them? Soooo cute! Ok, I'm gushing. Stop it!

The slippers are also super comfy. I feel like I'm walking on air when I'm in them.

By the way indoor slippers like these protects the feet from unseen sharp objects that may be on the floor, warms the feet (not that it's needed in mono-season S'pore, but nice to have in an AC place) and keeps the feet comfortable and clean too.

Thinking of getting them? Get them at the Bookfest at Suntec City Convention Centre, level 6., ending 23 Nov 08. Don't ask me why slippers are sold at the Bookfest though. Aside from really good deals on books (I bought 3 bestseller books for the price of 2) , there're plenty of other cute stuff there - like swirling globe cum night light (which my friend bought, after some deliberation hehe) and little treasure boxes masquerading as school lockers and file cabinets. Another friend even bought a mini shredder for $15.90. OMG. Anyway, my point is, you might find more treasures there than you bargain for.

For now, I'm luxuriating in my bunny slippers. :-)

Frolicking with the Pigeons at St Mark's Square

With only 2 days in Venice, time was very limited. There wasn't time for us to rest and relax at one of its quaint cafes in the morning or get lost (and still find it fun, like in Rome) in the streets of Venice. So it was quite annoying to find ourselves hopelessly lost while navigating the complex streets of Venice. Our destination? St Mark's Square. Time taken to get there? Give or take, an hour on foot (which would probably be much shorter if we weren't lost).

The streets were dizzily difficult to navigate, the alleys were a confusing array of turns and forced detours, the street names were unreliable, so the map was unhelpful. You may wonder why we did not simply take a vaporetto or water bus there. Well, honestly, I cannot remember why. Could be because we thought St Mark's within walkable distance, and we wanted to experience strolling through the streets of Venice. Getting lost wasn't really that bad, it's just that getting lost meant we were late in queuing to get into the cathedral at St Mark's, and time was tight enough as it is - that unfortunately we hadn't time to visit other famous Venetian sights, before leaving for the train to Interlaken in the early evening. :-(

Here are some sights seen en route to St Mark's.

One of the bridges across the Grand Canal (not Rialto Bridge, seen further below)

On the steps of the bridge

Venetian lace is very famous and sought after

Street stall selling Venetian masks

One of the little canals in Venice

One of the alleys that leads to St Mark's eventually

St Mark's square - just look at the crowds. You can't take a snapshot anywhere without capturing other tourists as well. Oh well...

St Mark's church

The crowd numbers, it's staggering

Facade of St Mark's Church

Owing to the snaking crowd, we decided not to join the queue into the church. As a consoling thought , we say to ourselves, we had seen enough churches in Rome and Florence anyway. hah. And so we took pictures and frolicked with the flocks of pigeons at the square instead. The pigeons were definitely not people-shy, when it comes to food!

Cute little boy feeding some lucky pigeons french fries

Ms Rehau has a pigeon eating out of her hand. Literally.

Breaking up the larger biscuit crumbs on the floor helped us earn the pigeons' gratitude

There was also a miniature 'performance' by the clockwork constellation clock at the square. It is really quite a pretty clock, quite comparable to the one in Berne (which I will post in my subsequent posts).

At the edge of St Mark's square is a boat quay where numerous gondolas were docked. We would have loved to sit in one of those, except that it would have been too ridiculously expensive.

'Docked' gondolas

Ms Rehau's a fan of Roger Federa, the former World no. 1.
He happens to be gracing the billboard in St Mark's for Rolex

After dallying a while, we attempted to make our way back to our hostel. Yes, we got lost again. Here are the sights we saw along the way.

Rialto Bridge

Scenery from Rialto Bridge

The bazaar down Rialto bridge

In the morning, this place was a flurry of wet market activities

Since we couldn't ride on a gondola, Mr Irish reckons, he could at least pose with one

We couldn't walk past an authentic venetian mask shop without taking pictures and trying on the masks. Mr Irish couldn't resist getting a mask for himself, reasoning to himself that he might need it for some masquerade party. Most likely nothing to do with the fact that we mentioned he looked better with the mask on. haha.

Look at the dazzling variety of masks!

A shop selling Murano glass pendants and accessories

We really oughtn't be distracted by shops and sights since we were in danger of running late in catching our train. In any case, we walked at a break-neck speed towards our hostel once we figured the way back (from asking locals a few times along the way).

Once we collected our backpacks/luggages, we hurried to the train station. Truth to be told, dragging a suitcase along cobble-stoned paths at high speed wasn't quite a piece of cake for me, but I managed to do it anyway. At the risk of running late, we stopped by a deli to grab some sandwiches to take on the train for lunch. The train journey would run to several hours, there's no way any of us could stand not eating for that long.

There is an anecdote that I want to relate, just before I end this post.

Before we set out for St Mark's, we stopped by the train station to make inquiries about the train routes that would take us to Interlaken. The guy at the ticket office was the most unfriendly local we've met so far on this journey. As we were on a tight budget, we needed to know which routes would cost the least to get to our destination and hence we asked about the various options and the cost. At some point, this guy got irritated, and actually said this,"You want to know what's the cheapest way to get to Interlaken? You walk." Our jaws dropped - we were dumbfounded by this guy's rudeness. Seriously, is this what customer service is about? If so, then they are going to lose a lot of business from such brusque service. As if this wasn't enough, he had the gall to ask us if we were from Korea (a lot of Koreans visit Europe, something we noticed during this trip), probably ready to stereotype us in his minds. Anyway, we didn't bother to grace with him with an answer and bought our tickets (although we'd rather take our business elsewhere, we really did not have the luxury of time to queue up again to get tickets).

This was by far the most unpleasant experience we've encountered so far in Italy, but it does not by any means, detract the pleasures and wonder we've experienced in the country, nor will we forget the friendly locals we've met before this encounter. I am definitely NOT going to pigeon-hole the locals, unlike what that rude man tried to do, simply from this single, unpleasant experience.

Venice, in retrospective, is a wonderfully charming and romantic city (what city with numerous waterways and bridges wouldn't be?). With alarming reports that Venice might be sinking to its demise (I think with advances in technology, they should be able to delay or prevent this), I was glad to have visited this city.

Highlight of the day was frolicking with the pigeons, not that I mind. =)


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