Immersive Bicentennial showcase at Fort Canning features rainfall, lightbeams and 700 years of history
Fancy travelling back 700 years? The signature event of Singapore’s Bicentennial commemoration hopes to allow visitors to do just that.
SINGAPORE — Fancy travelling back 700 years? The signature event of Singapore’s Bicentennial commemoration hopes to allow visitors to do just that.
From Singapore to Singaporean: The Bicentennial Experience will run from June 1 to Sept 15 at Fort Canning Park, featuring multimedia projections, high action re-enactments and multisensory showcases that transport visitors back to 1299 and take them through this island nation’s long history.
It comprises two main parts — Time Traveller, an indoor cinematic journey, and Pathfinder, an outdoor exploratory trail with installations.
Speaking to reporters at a media preview on Friday evening (May 24), the curator of the Singapore Bicentennial Office, Ms Chang Yueh Siang, said the experience takes on a “more global overview” of Singapore’s 700 years of history and highlights the significance of the centuries before 1819, when British colonialist Stamford Raffles arrived.
“All these historical developments have to do with our story — to give people that sense that we’ve been here for a lot longer than our independence history.”
To enter the Time Traveller, visitors have to visit the Bicentennial website to get their free tickets, which will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. All outdoor areas can be freely accessed.
An immersive and multisensory experience, the Time Traveller tells of Singapore’s 700 years of history in five acts totalling 60 minutes.
Narration is in English, with audio guides available in Mandarin, Malay and Tamil.
Starting with an introduction in the atrium, a weather installation features rain falling in “reverse” with the help of strobe lights — providing insights into how weather played a significant role in the rise and fall of civilisations like Singapore.
Visitors are then guided through different sections in Fort Canning Centre, for the respective acts that follow.
In the first act Beginnings (1299 to 1613), live performers and multimedia projections take centre stage in high-action re-enactments of how Singapore was involved in early global events. Over 40 actors will perform over the three-month period.
As visitors sit and watch the third act, Connectivity (1867 to 1941), the seats move as the platform is rotated, showcasing Singapore’s urbanisation progress with new shipping routes and communication lines.
Speaking to TODAY, creative director Michael Chiang said the movements symbolised “modernisation and industrialisation”.
“You get the sense that things are turning, there’s progress. We wanted to encapsulate that in the feeling, in not just what you see but also what you feel,” he added.
Then in the closing act Destiny (1950s to today), a special “rain enclosure” highlights the nation’s modern achievements, the road to independence, and a glimpse of the future.
And yes, visitors will need umbrellas — that are given out beforehand — as they stand under “rain” and watch projections of the 1968 National Day Parade and Lee Kuan Yew’s funeral in 2015.
The notion of being under actual water projections immerses visitors into those years, said creative director Beatrice Chia-Richmond.
“The commitment was to really recreate the feeling of what they must have felt like to be there in those years, especially the year 1968 — of standing in the pouring rain, feeling like this is home and we’re not going anywhere,” she said.
As visitors conclude their Time Traveller journey, they get to vote for their choice of three “Bicentennial DNA traits” they identified with — openness, self-determination, or multiculturalism, each representing the colours blue, silver and gold.
In a series of eight pavilions and installations, Pathfinder takes visitors through Singapore’s place in the world across centuries with artefacts, maps, flora and the written word.
“It was conceptualised as a way to experience history through space,” Mrs Chia-Richmond said.
The layout of Pathfinder also resembles a constellation of stars, “because in many ways, navigators used stars to find the way to Singapore”, she added.
One of the installations, Lightbeam, is a sculptural feature of mirrors in the day. When night falls, a beam will shine up into the sky at 8pm, 9pm and 10pm.
Each day, the votes from the Time Traveller are tallied and the winning “DNA trait” will have its representative colour projected in the lightbeam.
The Old Married Soldier’s Quarters at Fort Canning has also been transformed into the Observatory, where visitors can see how historical events around the world coincided with Singapore’s 700-year history.
Down at Fort Canning Green, a series of four site-specific short films are projected nightly, produced by multimedia director Brian Gothong Tan.
Titled Echoes, the fictional stories explore themes of love, compassion and multiculturalism, Mr Tan explained.
“They were imagined based on the actual stories we read through history,” he added.
To complement The Bicentennial Experience, Fort Canning will also host other programmes such as talks, discussions, film screenings and food sessions.
More information is available on the Bicentennial website.