LEVERAGING artificial intelligence (AI), the late former prime minister of Singapore, Lee Kuan Yew, has been “resurrected” for an immersive exhibition celebrating his life and legacy.
The show uses cutting-edge tools such as augmented reality, ChatGPT, virtual production and generative art to tell an expansive story of Singapore’s past, present and future.
Staged in a cavernous former power station in Pasir Panjang, visitors can expect an experience unlike any before. Seldom has a commemoration of Lee been this ambitious in combining the fields of art, architecture, design, film and music to enter into speculative terrain and offer possible visions of Singapore’s future a century from now.
The creators behind it include Karen Seah, founder of X3D Studio and Refinery Media; Daniel Arsham, a much sought-after contemporary artist who has collaborated with Dior, Adidas, Porsche and other top brands; Tay Chee Wei, a Singapore-born, Melbourne-based composer who composed the soundtrack for select episodes of Emmy-nominated documentary series Nova; and Brewin Design Office, led by Robert Cheng.
Students of Lasalle College of the Arts and Nanyang Polytechnic have also created works for the show.
An image from The Future Is created by X3D, which imagines Singapore 100 years from today using virtual production tools. GRAPHIC: X3D
The free exhibition titled Now Is Not The Time runs from Sep 10 to Sep 24 to coincide with the 100th birth anniversary of Lee, who was born on Sep 16, 1923, and died on Mar 23, 2015. Spanning 40,000 square feet of space across five zones – about the size of eight National Basketball Association basketball courts – the show is projected to draw some 30,000 visitors for its 15-day run.
Organisers declined to reveal the costs of mounting the show, saying only that it’s a “seven-figure sum”. But admission is free because of support from numerous organisations, including founding partners DBS and Pontiac Land Group, as well as partners Allen & Gledhill, Ho Bee Land, Kuok Group, Mapletree, PSA International, RB Capital, Sats and Woh Hup, with additional support from Klobbi, Lumina, Singapore Airlines and Whispering Angel.
Seah, the driving force behind the exhibition, says: “We wanted to use the latest technology because we especially wanted to capture the attention of the young, who will be able to engage in the installations and create Instagram and TikTok posts out of it. So we’ve got augmented reality technology which you can use with your mobile phone, as well as a short film on Mr Lee created entirely out of AI.
“We’re also using something called ‘virtual production’, which is based on a technology called unreal engine, a 3D creation tool used in famous TV shows such as The Mandalorian. What we’ve done is to create an entire Singapore in our vision of what we think the country could look like 100 years from today. So you’ll see what the HDB flats, public transportation, schools and hospitals might look like in 2123.
“All these technologies will work together to create one seamless, immersive, incredible experience of Singapore’s past, present and future.”
This immersive installation titled Building Blocks is created by X3D, Brewin Design Office and Daniel Arsham. Here, architectural building blocks, immersive art and AI come together to showcase the years of nation-building work and the foundations of the values and vision of Lee Kuan Yew which transcend time. PHOTO: X3D/DANIEL ARSHAM/BREWIN
One of the project’s biggest coups is surely getting Arsham to come onboard. He is a much sought-after figure in various creative fields, from art and fashion to film and dance. But Arsham says: “I’ve been intrigued by Singapore since my first visit over 10 years ago. 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. I hope that the sculptures I have made in his honour will inspire a new generation and help them to understand and appreciate the importance of his legacy as a revered global leader.”
Arsham is creating two sculptures of Lee – one is a bust of the former leader; the other is a full-body seated sculpture of him appearing hunched and emotional when he had to declare Singapore’s separation from Malaysia in 1965.
New York artist Daniel Arsham is one of the most sought-after creatives in the world. PHOTO: DANIEL ARSHAM
Asked about the show’s unusual title, Now Is Not The Time, Seah clarifies that it’s not part of a quote by Lee. “Rather, we came up with the title because we wanted to bring home the point that now is not the time to be complacent about Singapore’s accomplishments. Instead of thinking too much about our present, we must always look to the past to see the difficult journey that got us here, as well as imagine a future that we want to work towards. Now is not the time to rest on our laurels.”
Now Is Not The Time runs from Sep 10 to Sep 24, from 11 am to 8 pm daily at 25 Pasir Panjang Road, Singapore 117536. Although admission is free, visitors are required to book a time slot on https://www.nowisnotthetime.sg before arriving. The nearest MRT station is Labrador Park (Exit A). There is also a shuttle bus service from Harbourfront MRT station available from 10.30 am to 8.30 pm during the exhibition run.