Singapore Part 2

9 12 2008

Tuesday

The Singapore Art Museum is scant blocks from our hotel. We walk over there this morning. The building is from the colonial period, more modest than the modern superstructures, all courtyards and passages and galleries. Currently it features an exhibition of Korean art. I didn’t get the names of any of the artists (just like a monolinguistic tourist. I’ll have a hell of a time with the names of my students tomorrow. I wonder what it’s like to be a native of this incredible melting pot, where names like “Ang Mo Kio” are as commonplace as “Fort Canning”), but the work is amazing. One room is dominated by a grid of wood blocks, each maybe 3 inches square, each one painted or mounting a cheap toy. Another room has the kind of recessed relief portrait that looks like a solid face that turns to follow you around the room, except these are full figures, life size, in a variety of poses. Also featured is Singapore painter Ong Kim Seng. His watercolor landscapes from a few decades ago are displayed next to recent photographs of the same site, showing how rapidly and thoroughly the face of Singapore changes. I get most excited about his ink drawings. There aren’t many– apparently the young, self-taught artist had to give up most of them to insulate the walls of the family home. They aren’t meant to be finished pieces, just studies for paintings. However they beautifully exemplify all the principles of cartooning I’ve been teaching this fall. I feel I should send my students in the upcoming workshop here, but I forget to mention it.

dscn0224Attached to the SAM is 8Q, a space for contemporary art. The installation by Tan Kaisyng– video projections on the walls, running figures that abruptly appear and disappear, sounds of mechanical chaos– is the most terrifying thing I’ve ever seen in a museum. Also unnerving is Donna Ong’s installation “The Caretaker,” with its cabinet graveyard of meticulously documented dolls.

On the way back to our hotel is another food center, a fraction the size of the one in Chinatown, but still at least a couple dozen vendors. And busy. These food centers are everywhere. How do they all stay in business? I guess it’s because the population is 8 times denser than what I’m used to. Still, it never feels crowded, except in the food centers at lunch time.

That afternoon we meet Regina, who made all the arrangements with me over email. She’s just as gracious in person. She and I take a taxi to the TV station for a brief radio interview. There is essentially one state-run media company that broadcasts all the local programming for tv and radio. The government has its hands in lots of things. But never fear, looney libertarians, it’s nothing like a repressive socialist regime. The whole place seems to run exceptionally well. Multiple ethnic groups and religions coexist peacefully and prosperously. Singapore’s small size may be to its advantage. Once you get too many people across too much territory, it becomes impossible to achieve consensus about anything.

dscn0258In the afternoon we take a bus to the zoo. There are free-range ouragutans in the trees above the walkway. I am mesmerized. There is also a large clan of chimpanzees and a huge colony of baboons. (I read later that the Singapore Zoo has the worlds largest collection of primates.) Lots of big cats too, which are more active than they tend to be in Oregon. We hear one of the lionesses roar.

Next to the zoo is Night Safari, which opens after dark and features nocturnal animals. We have dinner at the park while the sun goes down. You see most of Night Safari on a tram, with commentary from a guide. At certain points you can get off and walk around, then get back on the next tram. On the walking loops we saw fishing cats, flapping bats, and a giant flying squirrel, big as Fizzgig (our 16 pound cat) leaping from one tree to another.

Singapore is all about the night life, but we are not. After the bats and squirrels and tapirs we call it a night.

To be continued…

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2 responses

9 12 2008
Patrick

I bet you will having flying animals in your dreams! Happy travels.

13 12 2008
nrlanga

Dear Friend

I have read some of your posts. I wold like to revisits, as your writings have interested me.

If you like short stories and paintings, then a short visit to my blogs would be an entertaining one.

Naval Langa

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