Arts Picks: Revamped Changi Chapel, Da Vinci's inventions recreated at Science Centre

The refurbished Changi Chapel (left) and a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci's anatomical studies of the human body.
The refurbished Changi Chapel (left) and a reproduction of Leonardo Da Vinci's anatomical studies of the human body.PHOTOS: ONG SOR FERN, CHANGI CHAPEL AND MUSEUM

Changi Chapel And Museum

The refurbished Changi Chapel And Museum is a sleek, slick affair. There was a certain ramshackle charm in the mad attic clutter of the old displays. Now, there is a strict linearity to the narrative and the exhibits as well as some fancy multimedia elements.

This makes the space, and the stories, more accessible even if some of the rustic warmth has disappeared.

The editing is welcome as there is more focus to the storyline, taking visitors through a quick precis of the institution's history. The focus is, perforce, on the British personnel who endured starvation and ill treatment in Changi camp during World War II. But there are mentions of home-grown heroes too, like Elizabeth Choy.

There is a life-size recreation of a Changi prison cell, with motion-activated speakers re-enacting whispered conversations among the prisoners. Some conversations work better than others which have distractingly wobbly accents and rather cheesy dialogue.

Familiar favourites still take pride of place - the chapel paintings by Stanley Warren, the quilt made by women prisoners and the little Morse code transmitter hidden in a matchbox.

But there are a few notable new additions. One is the surrender agreement signed on board the HMS Sussex, which lays out instructions for the Japanese withdrawal and surrender in Singapore and Malaya.


The surrender agreement signed on board the HMS Sussex, which lays out instructions for the Japanese withdrawal and surrender in Singapore and Malaya. PHOTO: CHANGI CHAPEL AND MUSEUM

The other is an interactive wall which allows visitors to tap and search for the stories of the 83,883 internees. No doubt this will be appreciated by families of the internees when they visit.

Look out, too, for an interview with Mrs Jean Marshall, wife of the late Mr David Marshall, who recounts some anecdotes about her husband's experiences in the war. Mr Marshall was Singapore's first chief minister.

Where: Changi Chapel And Museum, 1000 Upper Changi Road North
When: Tuesdays to Sundays, 9.30am to 5.30pm; closed on Mondays except public holidays. Last admission at 5pm.
MRT: Tampines East
Admission: Free for Singapore citizens and permanent residents
Info: Changi Chapel And Museum website


Da Vinci, The Exhibition

There is no original artwork at this exhibition about the original Renaissance man. Given that this is at the Science Centre, the focus is, inevitably, on Leonardo da Vinci's scientific explorations.

But there are a few nice reproductions of his artwork, including the Burlington House Cartoon, with its lovely sfumato and chiaroscuro techniques, and some stunning anatomical studies of the human body, which make clear da Vinci studied dissected bodies for an understanding of anatomy.

But the reason to visit is the collection of built items realised from the master's notebooks. There are more than 50 models of da Vinci's inventions, ranging from a very steampunk-looking wooden tank equipped with canons to an aerial screw, one of his many ideas about flying machines.


A model of the steampunk-looking wooden tank equipped with canons. ST PHOTO: ONG SOR FERN

The fun bits are the hands-on items - quite a few of them - which visitors can yank, pull and push for live demonstrations of some of the principles da Vinci was studying.

An especially popular station is one where you can use ice cream sticks to recreate a safety bridge da Vinci invented - a cleverly resilient design which can be dismantled, moved and rebuilt quickly during battle.

Where: Science Centre Singapore, 15 Science Centre Road
When: Till Jan 2, 2022; Fridays to Sundays in October, 10am to 1pm and 2 to 5pm. More sessions available from November.
MRT: Jurong East
Admission: $18 from this website
Info: Science Centre Singapore website