SINGAPORE - Growing up, Ms Karen Seah heard stories from her grandparents and parents about how the older generations of Singaporeans lived in poverty.
They also told her about the “man” – Mr Lee Kuan Yew – whose constant quest for excellence and progress made Singapore what it is today.
“Those tales taught us how lucky we are,” said the 52-year-old. “I sometimes forget how poor Singapore used to be, let alone someone who’s 13 or 25 years old.”
Over the past five months, the founder of creative studio X3D engaged about 200 multinational talents to create an immersive exhibition chronicling Mr Lee’s life and legacy in celebration of his birth centenary. The late Mr Lee was born on Sept 16, 1923.
The first-of-its-kind project blends virtual production, artificial intelligence (AI), generative art, architecture, sculpture art, film and music.
Titled Now Is Not The Time, it signals that while Singapore has come a long way, it is not the time to rest on its laurels, said Ms Seah.
“We’ve merged the powers of art, technology and storytelling to create an exhibition we hope resonates with different generations and across borders,” she said.
“It’s our way of connecting Singapore’s younger generation with the past so that they fully appreciate what it took to build this safe and prosperous country.”
The project occupies 40,000 sq ft of exhibition space in Pasir Panjang, and it takes about 30 minutes to walk through the entire production.
The organisers expect about 30,000 visitors over 15 days – and not just locals but also foreigners, since it
coincides with the Formula One Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix held from Sept 15 to 17.
Among those involved in the project were American artist Daniel Arsham, design studio Brewin Design Office, production house Refinery Media, award-winning composer Tay Chee Wei and students from Lasalle College of the Arts (Lasalle) and Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP).
Mr Arsham, who created a series of art pieces, including a full-body sculpture of Mr Lee when he declared Singapore’s separation from Malaysia, said: “The futuristic nature of the city is incredibly inspiring to me and I’m truly humbled to be part of the celebrations marking Mr Lee’s 100th birthday.”
He hoped that the sculptures “will inspire a new generation and help them to understand and appreciate the importance of his legacy as a revered global leader”.
The exhibition also has the support of organisations such as DBS Bank, Pontiac Land Group, Allen & Gledhill, Ho Bee Land, Kuok Group, Mapletree Investments, PSA International, RB Capital, Sats and Woh Hup.
Said DBS CEO Piyush Gupta: “Lee Kuan Yew was extraordinary not only because he had exceptional foresight but also a strong sense of purpose.
“He lived and breathed Singapore – the success of Singapore and the future of its people were the singular lodestar of his actions. This enabled him to rally Singaporeans from all walks of life behind his bold vision of transforming Singapore from a fledgling port city to a global modern metropolis.”
Mr David Tsang, chief executive officer of Pontiac Land Group, said: “This meticulously curated exhibition offers valuable insights into Mr Lee’s life, vision, and values, and we hope it will serve as a source of inspiration to the general public and especially the younger generation.”
Mr George Ma, a third-year student of experiential product and interior design at NYP, was one of the polytechnic’s 10 students involved in the exhibition. They helped create a “mirror maze”, an installation which shows that each visitor is a part of Mr Lee’s lasting legacy of a multicultural Singapore. The project has helped him learn more about Mr Lee beyond his social studies and history lessons in primary and secondary school.
“For me, before this, he was a great figure... and played a more important role in my parents’ lives,” said the 19-year-old. “After this project, through the research and all, it made me realise that what he did in the past influenced whatever that happens now. What our generation takes for granted is because of his hard work.”
He said the multi-sensorial and interactive exhibition is “relatable” to young people with a shorter attention span, and does not cram in too much information.
Using AI, the 18-member Lasalle team produced a set of five dramatic audition sessions inspired by Mr Lee’s past speeches and interviews.
Freelance videographer Jun Koh, 27, a broadcast media graduate from Lasalle, said: “It’s remarkable that he committed his whole life to Singapore and a few million people. Many young people today are chasing after their finances or education. I hope to produce films that make Singaporeans proud of our country.”
Now Is Not The Time will be open to the public for free at 25 Pasir Panjang Road from Sunday until Sept 24, from 11am to 8pm daily. Visitors must be at least 13 years old, and should register at www.nowisnotthetime.sg to select their preferred time slots.