Written and photographs by Darren ‘Merovign’ Tan, edited by Teo Dawn

Another year and another season of festivals gracing our humble shores.

Since its debut in 2010, i Light Singapore 2019’s ethos of sustainable art is put on display in conjunction with the Singapore Bicentennial commemoration. This particular edition, running until 24th February 2019, is one of the biggest ones yet, boasting over 30 works, tours and programmes. i Light Singapore 2019 is determined to pull out all the stops, covering the perimeter of the Singapore River basin, as well as moving landwards to Anderson Bridge and Fort Canning Park.

Oddly enough, I feel a sense of déjà vu while going through the various light art installations. Walking through the entire circuit, a sense of same-same-but-different conjures up within meto say the least. Is this really a different installation or have I seen this before? A similar idea or concept experimented upon in previous iterations of i Light Singapore? Wait. Is this all there is? 

As always, there are the prerequisite projections on the ArtScience Museum‘s facade, an installation that wraps around the Helix Bridge, and a mass-scale instagrammable artwork on The [email protected] Bay. The works are captivating to the eyes and this is evident – after all, the mass of people standing around to take a good photograph of them are a traffic hazard. However, these works and placements beg the question of what’s new and what exactly have we not seen before at this point. Are we running out of ideas, since this is already the 7th edition of the festival? 

Or is this more of a matter about legislation and where the works can be placed?

The repetition in placement and venues for a festival like this dilutes the meaning and aesthetic of the festival. It seems like a formula has been applied year after year. Sure, the quality of the works are great and some manage to steal a couple of glances every now and then, but the excitement of discovery has been diminishing. 

Some installations seem to be specifically targeting the Instagram crowd, with plenty of lighting settings and style made for the discerning influencer. Good lighting is half the battle won, as some photographers say. I wonder if having art installations that cater to this crowd, give the festival more buzz, and if this is the only way to keep numbers up?

Reminiscent of Plankton’s (Spongebob Squarepants) dietary habits, a culinary projection, Le Petit Chef, will make its first appearance in i Light Singapore 2019 at La Brasserie. Where for a price, audience members will be able to dine with exquisite dishes such as Maine Lobster and Angus Tenderloin, for starters, alongside the projection of the titular character on the table. What does this have to do with the bicentennial commemoration, one has to wonder.

However, I will say that this is a good attempt at spicing things up for the festival and showcasing works in a more interesting setting. It is just a pity that the payment required makes it less accessible for one who would like to experience the work without having to dine for a price. 

With all the pomp and circumstance surrounding the bicentennial celebrations, i Light Singapore seems to be a hit and miss. The meaning behind some of these impressively built light installations might be lost as the theme gets diluted throughout many pieces. Lack of clarity on the artistic interpretation of the theme, possibly. Even though descriptions are provided for all of the works, some of its relevance come across as ‘pushing the limit’.

Serving as a pretty backdrop to numerous Instagram posts, the strong cause of sustainable art and celebrating the nation’s bicentennial existence may be lost completely.

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