You cannot help but admit that each day it's becoming harder to survive, let alone live. A slug can move faster than the line at Starbucks. The Android is too confusing to use, but it's all you can afford. Home-cooked food tastes too crappy for your liking. Your iPod battery ran out so you had to walk down the street listening to birds chirping like some medieval peasant.
With existential problems nagging us at every opportunity, we are probably far from getting into the altruistic mentality of undertaking world-changing acts _ planting trees, picking up rubbish and whatnot. Good thing that this year's winner of the Young Muse Project has found a way to save the world, and it starts with you changing the way you think. In fact, they suggest that cockroaches can be your role model.
The Young Muse Project, organised by the National Discovery Museum Institute and Museum Siam, is back for its third year. It was started with the intention of creating a new generation of museum exhibition designers, as well as stimulating young people to take more interest in learning through museums. No display or exhibition at Museum Siam becomes a snooze fest: we can always expect to see events that are hip, technologically-advanced and actually fun to take part in, while also being educational.
The project's theme this year is "Save the World" and more than 60 teams competed to see their ideas and concepts morph into a full exhibition at Museum Siam. The ARUBA team's "Ma Lae Sab" exhibition snagged top spot, along with an educational field trip to Hong Kong.
ARUBA consists of three fourth-year friends from the Faculty of Technology and Industrial Education at King Mongkut's University of Technology Thon Buri: Pich Amnuayporn, Anurak Chandam and Thanakorn Leeramass. These lads believe people today should take after the cockroaches' way of life in order to change the world. After all, these creatures have been on Earth for the past 300 million years and while rough-skinned dinosaurs were wiped out, economic crises have shattered human lives and floods have robbed people of their homes, cockroaches have survived all these devastations _ and will probably continue to do so whatever Mother Nature or mankind throws at them.
Anurak and Thanakorn explain: "Cockroaches eat to live while humans live to eat. We become unhappy when we don't have delicious food to eat so we have to drive out to go get what we want. If we were more tolerant of what there was to eat in the house then we wouldn't have left the house in the first place. This would emit less pollution from our car and we wouldn't have had to spend money.
"If more people thought this way, there would be less demand for producing so many consumer products, which would consequently lessen so much waste. It's a chain reaction and people keep thinking only about growing more trees or preventing global warming, when in truth, simply changing our way of thinking and living can be a way to change the world."
We got that lecture too, from "O Great Giant Cockroach", where a massive white replica of the insect sits in the middle of a white, empty room. The highlight of the exhibition's five rooms, the cockroach answers the nitty-gritty problems of different people projected on the wall. The 3D video mapping is very well designed and reaches a climax as the cockroach tells off a boy who's a picky eater: "Son, just eat whatever there is to eat! I even eat erasers!" And with that, colourful graphics of random objects pop up on the cockroach's stomach. The answers may be sarcastic at times, but it does invite us to reflect on ourselves with lessons from these tiny but invulnerable and adaptable creatures that have survived the harshest of circumstances.
The presentation in other rooms is slick and easy to digest, with the first room being a sticker jamboree of problems and the second room having a facetious timeline noting how the roach is practically invincible.
I wondered at first what repulsive creepy-crawlies would be waiting for me at this exhibition. Thankfully, there were none, but I was forced into the shoes of a roach myself as the third room turned out to be an oversized replica of their home among trash piles, food scraps and a looming bug spray can. I sure felt like one walking down a narrow hall which transformed into a slimy drain thanks to the sound of dripping water and blue lighting.
It comes as a surprise when Pich says: "Cockroaches aren't even dirty. They only need to hide from humans and that only happens to be in dirty places where we don't go. They're actually quite clean and take care to wipe their feelers all the time."
The research and production process took three months for ARUBA and they are relieved that the exhibition is complete after the tiring work. It's been a long journey of exploration _ the team even talked to insecticide scientists and found out formulae must change every five years or so because cockroaches become immune to them. A large chunk of the content they started out with had to be tweaked as the students initially thought of creating a funhouse-style display with roaches to scare people.
"We really got to learn [at the development camp] what it is that makes a good exhibition and that they are not about creating fear to the point people don't want to come see it," says Anurak.
The team considered putting roaches in jars too, but didn't want people to get scared, or for it to overshadow the exhibition's message. With the possibility that the jugs of bugs could fall and break (with the inevitable horror of roaches everywhere) if unsupervised visitors decided to pick them up, safety was a factor the team had to consider.
Pich, Anurak and Thanakorn are no less afraid of roaches after this project and admit it's still difficult to be dismissive of problems and pernickety food cravings. Anurak's personal experiences, however, did allow for a lot more reflection on the lives of the cockroaches.
"While working on this exhibition, my mother passed away. My grandmother was crying non-stop and before all this I was stressed and scared too. But now at this point, I've gotten so many lessons and ultimately I don't think so much, nor hold on to things so much. It does show how problems all end within yourself and it's something I've really gotten from this project," he said.
"Ma Lae Sab Exhibition: A Glance At Roaches And A Glance At Ourselves" is being held at Museum Siam until June 30. Free admission. Open Tues-Sun, 10am-6pm. Visit www.museumsiam.org for more information.
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About the author
- Writer: Parisa Pichitmarn
Position: Life Writer