Bicentennial activities set to kick off

As part of the bicentennial edition of iLight Singapore, there will be light installations at the National Gallery as well as a boat tour that will take in the light installations at the six bridges along the river.
As part of the bicentennial edition of iLight Singapore, there will be light installations at the National Gallery as well as a boat tour that will take in the light installations at the six bridges along the river. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

Year-long commemorative exercise to start along Singapore River and come to a close at Marina Bay

Unlike SG50, the bicentennial is quite a mouthful as a word and as a concept, not as easy to grasp, acknowledges Mr Gene Tan, the person in charge of Singapore's year-long commemorative exercise.

Speaking to the media on Wednesday at a preview of the upcoming launch of bicentennial activities - set to take place on Monday - Mr Tan admitted he and his team were even worried that no one would be interested in the bicentennial and "that no one is going to talk about it".

But it has created a buzz, with ongoing conversations surrounding colonisation and the true role Sir Stamford Raffles played.

Mr Tan explained the rationale behind commemorating 1819, the year the British arrived in Singapore, while giving an overview of the year-long programme. He said the year stands as a factual marker in time for people to have a conversation on what it means for pre-colonial, colonial and independent Singapore.

For example, the bicentennial exercise will look at regional and global developments in the past 500 years which set the context for British interest in Singapore and their subsequent arrival that year. "Raffles did not discover Singapore on his own. It (the bicentennial exercise) is almost like understanding the genesis of that moment called 1819."

Mr Tan shared some of the activities the public can expect.

He said they start along the Singapore River "to understand where we began", and closes at Marina Bay "to see where we will be going".

  • Time Rhythm

  • WHAT: A gigantic "light metronome", featuring light projections set to music, will be on display at i Light Singapore - Bicentennial Edition, a sustainable light art festival that runs from Monday to Feb 24. Time Rhythm - one of more than 30 artworks on display for the festival - was conceived by Spanish artist Xavi Bove and Barcelona-based multidisciplinary studio Onionlab.

    WHERE: Anderson Bridge

In the Civic District, bridges are transformed by light installations, which will be fully lit by Monday.

Brightly lit words - "Where do stories begin" and on the other side "Where do stories end" - will be emblazoned across Cavenagh Bridge as part of the bicentennial edition of i Light Singapore.

Around the Civic District, artists will project images conveying interpretations of the country's past onto the facade of national monuments as part of the bicentennial leg of the Light To Night festival. In a projection called The Resident, a kaleidoscope of natural history drawings of flora and fauna from Major-General William Farquhar's collectionwill be projected onto the Supreme Court Wing facade of the National Gallery Singapore.

 

There is also a new Augmented Reality trail by the National Heritage Board.

Community-based projects will be rolled out starting next month. These include projects such as new heritage galleries, a graphic novel and even a trivia night.

The blockbuster event for the year will be The Bicentennial Experience at Fort Canning Centre, where 700 years of history will be told through sets, live performances and the use of multimedia. It will run from June to mid-September.

PERSONAL VIEW OF HISTORY

It is not about having the entire country saying the same thing about the bicentennial but it is about everyone developing their own points of view about what their history is.

MR GENE TAN (above), the person in charge of Singapore's year-long commemorative exercise for the bicentennial.

The closing leg will be a reflective experience at Gardens by the Bay. Mr Tan did not elaborate on the plans but said: "This is the part that we might not have planned as extensively because we are actually very interested by the third quarter, of how people might have changed in terms of what they think about us, our history and our future."

He added that the Singapore Bicentennial Office's aim is to reach a wider public and to tell history outside of textbooks and academia.

Therefore, the year-long programme features events and projects by artists, authors, photographers, musicians, clan associations, schools and ethnic associations, among others.

Mr Tan said: "It is not about having the entire country saying the same thing about the bicentennial but it is about everyone developing their own points of view about what their history is."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 26, 2019, with the headline 'Bicentennial activities set to kick off'. Print Edition | Subscribe