Thursday, May 23, 2013

A glimpse of Art Garden 2013 through the eyes of an adult

Walter by Dawn Ng.

Once again, Art Garden, the contemporary art fun for children is here. Held at the Singapore Art Museum, at 8 Queen Street, Art Garden is a delightful way to acquaint children with contemporary art.

Yearning to experience art through the eyes of children, I visited Art Garden on 18 May 2013. On the way to SAM at 8Q, Walter the colossal bunny is sure to attract the eyes of almost everyone. Walter seemed to be wondering why people were so delighted to take photographs with him.

As I approach SAM at 8Q, the exterior felt empty. Perhaps it was because I had visited the museum too early?

The installation that is an assembly of 134 boxes greeted me. The installation, Landscape in the Box, explores the beauty of landscapes in Singapore. I looked out for the box Anticipating the Future while Connecting with the past - Princess Elizabeth Estate by Woo Jiekai. This installation of 134 boxes seemed more intriguing to the adults.

Sandra Lee's The Enchanted Garden City.

The excitement truly began when I stepped into The Enchanted Garden City by Sandra Lee. I had thought that the children were in their bed enjoying their weekend rest. I was wrong, many of them were seen enchanted by the whimsical enchanted garden city. The children were charged with lots of energy. They were having fun! Here, children could draw their own version of an enchanted garden city and have their drawings projected onto one of the walls.

As I walked about The Enchanted Garden City, I noticed localized icons such as the kampong-style zinc-roof-top house and more. Through the eyes of children, there are joys in the simple things. Contentment is an attitude that makes children feel blessed whatever the circumstances could be.

Sandra Lee's The Enchanted Garden City.

I was tempted to dance away with the children. Before I have to work hard to contain the temptation, I headed for Sun Yu-li's Love. Revolve the World displayed at level four of the museum's building. I have a liking for Sun Yu-li's sculptures. It was a different experience getting acquainted with his collaborative work with 750 students. Maybe it takes a contemplative child to see the connections that exist in the universe?

Sun Yu-li's Love. Revolve the World.

My favourite work was Stellar Cave II by Julien Salaud. From the first glimpse, I could feel the artist's interest in astronomy. It was simply stunning and beautiful in its own way. Children could learn patience by checking out the activities in the adjacent room where they could make images out of screws and threads. If I was a child, I would lie on a mat placed on the floor and marvel at the beauty of this work as if I was a child from the prehistoric period. Life can be so amazingly!

Stellar Cave II by Julien Salaud.

The Incredibly Magical Expanding Room by Mojoko and Shang Liang was comparative less interesting than their work, Reactive Wall, that was showcased at Art Garden 2012. Maybe I had been over-stimulated by the Reactive Wall last year.

The surprise element was most present in Stéphane Blanquet's Les rêves engloutis – Glossy Dreams in Depths. This work exposed the viewer to unfamiliar situations. I was told that the underlying suggestion is that we can learn to overcome our fears and our fixed expectations. Even when things turn out different from the expected, life can be an adventure that is filled with surprises. If I were a child, I would be reminded by this work to be brave to face what may lie ahead.

Stephane Blanquet's Glossy Dreams in Depths.

After a series of adventures braving the unexpected, visitors to Art Garden could take a seat and enjoy a selection of local short films and animation in the film screening room.

To end the visit with an experience that would stretch one imaginations, head for Vicente Delgado's Around the Day in Eighty Worlds. Take a closer look and some magic may take place as we see extraordinary images out of the ordinary. If I were a child, I would have cried out in wonder!

Vicentre Delgado's Around the Day in Eighty Worlds.

If there is a place to stretch a child's imagination, Art Garden will be one of these. For the adult, visiting Art Garden is an interesting exercise to see the world with a different pair of eyes.

Art Garden 2013
8 Queen Street, Singapore 188535
From 17 May to 1 Sep 2013
For more information, please visit:

All Citizens and Permanent Residents (PRs) can now enjoy free entry all year round to the permanent galleries displaying our national collection and selected special exhibitions (including Art Garden 2013) at the National Museums and Heritage Institutions. 

Monday, May 06, 2013

Jonathan Cooper's talk - Beyond the trenches, wire and hell fire

On a Friday evening on 26 Apr 2013, I had the pleasure to attend a talk by Jonathan Cooper, whom I shall henceforth address as Jon Cooper. This talk, Beyond the trenches, wire and hell fire, focused on the Adam Park estate which was the site of an intense phase of the battle for Singapore in the year 1942. Subsequently, Adam Park also served as a POW camp during the Second World War.

During the talk, Jon Cooper fascinated the members of the audience by taking us into stories in the past. He spoke of the building of the Shinto Shrine, the Adam Park Project, the Sime Road Camp and Bukit Brown.

During the talk, Jon Cooper showed us maps of missing soldiers whose bodies have not been recovered yet even though it has been more than 70 years since the battle for Singapore. From a glimpse of the map, some of them were last seen or reported to have been found dead at locations which appear to be present-day Adam Road, Bukit Brown Cemetery and perhaps near Sime Road. The positions of the killed and missing soldiers from the 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment were based on the six-figure map grid references found in the recently discovered Bureau of Records and Enquiry (BRE) archives.  I was pretty intrigued by the existence of the Bureau of Records and Enquiry.Will the remains of these missing soldiers be found eventually?

Image: Mok Ly Yng.

After the talk, one of my friends, Mok, got in touch with Jon Cooper regarding the information of the missing soldiers. The information from the records suggests that the last known positions of a few of the missing soldiers from the 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment are in the positions whereby a part of the proposed highway cutting across the Bukit Brown Cemetery would be built. Based on the records (Ref: WO 361/2125), the names of some of these soldiers whose bodies have yet been recovered are:

  • Corporal David Angus Adcock (22), Fate: Missing. 
  • Private Harry Thomas Cattermole (24), Fate: Missing. 
  • Private P Sawyer (no age), Fate: Died at Singapore. 
  • Lance Corporal Cecil George Meadows (26),  Fate: Killed. 

With Mok's help, courtesy of Jon Cooper, I learnt that the information of war dead could be found from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission's website and database. The information regarding the nominal roll of 4th Battalion Suffolk Regiment from 1 Jan 1942 - 31 Dec 1943 could be found under Reference WO 361/2125 of The National Archives. I felt curious why the bodies half of the known "killed in action" soldiers were recovered but the other half have yet been recovered even 70 years later. What had actually happened to the soldiers whose bodies have yet been recovered? I was reminded of how impersonal war can be. May peace prevail.

The intersection of Sime Road and Adam Road.
I was reminded how much history exists at this intersection.
This intersection was referred to as the "Hellfire Corner" due to the amount of Japanese artillery fire this intersection attracted.

During the talk, Jon Cooper also mentioned about previous residents of the Adam Park and how he had found out more about them with the help of the digitalised newsprint library offered by the National Library Board.

Jon Cooper spoke about his hopes to identify the exact location of what had used to be the Adam Park Chapel and more about the Adam Park Project. Anyone who is interested to support or volunteer for the Adam Park Project can find more information on it below:

The Adam Park Project

Overall, it was an enriching talk. Many thanks to Jon Cooper and the organisers for the talk at the Asian Civilisations Museum.

Speaker: Jonathan Cooper
Date: 26 Apr 2013 (Fri)
Time: 7.00 p.m.
Ngee Ann Auditorium, ACM Empress Place

Saturday, May 04, 2013

The Tiong Bahru Pre-war Air Raid Shelter tour

Last year, I had wanted to visit the pre-war air raid shelter at Tiong Bahru. However, the responses to visit the air raid shelter was so overwhelming that I did not manage to get a space to visit it back then. This year, I felt thankful to finally visit the pre-war air raid shelter at Tiong Bahru on 14 Apr 2013.

The pre-war air raid shelter is situated at Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace. This building was built in 1939 and included a 1500 square-metres bomb shelter. Tracing back to history, it was in 1939 when the British Empire went to war when Great Britain declared war against Nazi Germany. That led to various parts of the British Empire being equipped with facilities such as bomb shelters.

To get to the pre-war air raid shelter at Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace, one would have to passed by Hua Bee Restaurant. This restaurant which is situated at Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace, unit #01-19, is well-known for its coffee with butter toast and the Mee Pok. This seems to be a place for the nostalgic folks. Please take note that Hua Bee Restaurant is closed on Sundays and I do keep my fingers crossed that this restaurant continues to serve the community even in this rapidly changing society.

Hua Bee Restaurant.

Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace.

After passing by Hua Bee Restaurant, one will come to a road that would lead to the carpark of Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace. In essence, the road that would lead to the carpark sits in between Hua Bee Restaurant and Flock cafe which is at unit #01-25.

Flock cafe and the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail marker.

Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace and the carpark compound.
As one enters the the carpark compound, look out for the heritage trail marker of the Air Raid Shelter or the following structure that we see in the photograph below. That will lead visitors into to the pre-war air raid shelter. 

Special thanks to the staff at the Town Council, the shelter was pretty well cleaned up for the pre-war air raid shelter tour. I learnt that the shelter at Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace could hold more than 1000 persons. Before the start of the tour, all the participants were reminded that the shelter may have a mouldy smell and there is a possibility of spotting cockroaches in the shelter. Thankfully, we only saw dead cockroaches lying on a selected few areas of the shelter during our tour. Somehow, I felt blessed to visit the shelter during peaceful times.

I wondered what would life be if one had to use the shelter for extended periods of time? Thankfully, according to what I have briefly read from the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail brochure, it was reported by Peter Chan, a descendant of one of the volunteer air raid precaution marshal in Tiong Bahru that there had only been a single dry-run of evacuation to the shelter before the onset of the war. The shelter was actually hardly used during the war period.

Catching the sight of bricks made by Alexandra Brickworks at the shelter added delight to my visit. My goodness, the bricks obviously have been in existence longer than I have been. They have been made to last for a long time.

Although the tour was only close to half-an-hour in duration, it was a worthwhile visit. The visit to the pre-war air raid shelter was not included in the Tiong Bahru Heritage Trail. I felt thankful to my decision to sign up for the air raid shelter tour even though I had no idea what to expect. While there is no air-conditioner and there is a possibility of seeing pests, it was awe-inspiring to experience the significance of this pre-war air raid shelter simply by witnessing its sheer size.

Bi-Monthly Air-Raid Shelter Tour
There will be bi-monthly air-raid shelter tour on the first Saturday of alternate months starting June 2013, starting at 12 p.m. and 2 p.m.. The gathering place would be at Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace, Hua Bee Coffeeshop.

For more information, please visit

Nearest MRT station: Tiong Bahru
Also see: