When History, Light and Art Meet in Singapore

by Rosemarie John on March 20, 2012

Turning its already vibrant atmosphere into a sparkling area of illumination, Marina Bay located on the southern tip of Singapore is where history, light and art meet. Host to the 2012 i Light Marina Bay Festival, the event celebrates the bay’s nightscape showcasing 31 dynamic and innovative light art installations along a 3.5km waterfront promenade.

The most prominent light art installation pays tribute to the iconic Singapore Merlion, a mythical creature with the head of a lion and the body of a fish. An interactive art work by Nuno Maya and Carole Purnelle of OCUBO from Portugal, the “Light of the Merlion” truly connects with the festival’s theme – Light Meets Asia.

The quirky concept of this installation is the ability for visitors to change the colours of the Merlion through a touch screen. As the chosen colours are projected through light over the surface of the sculpture, its fascinating to see how the Merlion transforms into a canvas of psychedelic colours.

“Light of the Merlion” pays tribute to the iconic sculpture, which was inaugurated in 1972. Minimising waste and consumption through the re-use of materials, this festival commission runs from 9 March to 1 April 2012.

The Singapore Merlion

Designed in 1964 by Fraser Brunner, curator of the Van Kleef Aquarium for the Singapore Tourist Promotion Board, the fish body represents Singapore’s origin as a fishing village when it was called Temasek prior to the arrival of the British colonisers.

The lion head is in reference to a tale narrated in the Malay history, that describes how a Malay king named Sang Nila Utama reportedly encountered a lion when he first stepped onto the shores of the island, leading him to rename Temasek to Singapura meaning ‘lion city’ in Sanskrit.

Facing east, the Merlion’s direction is believed to bring prosperity to the country based on Feng Shui guidelines (Chinese geomancy). This auspicious orientation was preserved even after its relocation in 2002 to the new pier specially built on the other side of the Esplanade Bridge, overlooking the Marina Bay.

Standing at 8.6 metres high and weighing 70 tonnes, the statue is located at the Merlion Park at One Fullerton Singapore 049213. With 24 hour accessibility, make sure to make a stop to view the archetypal symbol of Singapore. Admission to the Merlion Park is free.

OCUBO is an art and multimedia studio dedicated to light projects for more than ten years. Nuno Maya and Carole Purnelle, the founding artists and directors of the studio have been presenting their light, multimedia and interactive artworks around the globe.

For more of what’s in store during the weekends, read A Weekend out at the Bay

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