Seeing the light
text size

Seeing the light

Singapore hosts 'i Light Marina Bay 2016', a festival celebrating sustainability

Seeing the light
Light Origami by Kaz Shirane.

Along the 3.5km-long waterfront promenade of Marina Bay in Singapore, 25 light art installations are scattered as part of the "i Light Marina Bay 2016" -- the 4th edition of the light festival that aims to be both striking and sustainable. The festival has been held every two years since 2010, and will be hosted as an annual event from this year onward.

The concept of sustainability and a light festival, at first, sounds contradictory. But the organiser made it possible by calling upon the support from buildings and organisations around the bay to join the "Switch Off, Turn Up" campaign where participating members would switch off unnecessary lights and turn up the temperature of their air-conditioners throughout the festival. The saved energy is used to power the festival, making it essentially running on a zero carbon footprint. This year, 73 buildings and organisations have pledged their support to the campaign.

"Switch Off, Turn Up" will also coincide with the annual Earth Hour. Buildings across the country, as well as the installations at the festival, will switch off their power from 8.30-9.30pm this Saturday to raise awareness for climate change.

This year, the light art festival sees artists, designers and architects across the globe showcasing their work under the theme "In Praise of Shadows". All artworks were curated by Randy Chan -- principal architect at Zarch Collaboratives -- and Khairuddin Hori -- deputy director of artistic programming at Palais de Tokyo, Paris.

"We place objects in sequence of experience in total," said co-curator Chan. "That is important because the works don't sit in isolation. We want them to form a relationship with the place."

Some of the highlights of the event include Light Origami by Japanese artist and space designer Kaz Shirane, which was previously displayed at the Vivid Sydney in Australia last year, as well as the Canal Convergence in Arizona last month.

What A Loving And Beautiful World at the ArtScience Museum by teamLab.

Light Origami -- which took two days to construct -- is a 3D kaleidoscope made of 320 origami-shaped mirror panels in the domed structure. Stepping inside the installation, visitors can see how the piece plays with the reflection of both coloured light and people that keep on changing within.

"My concept is the people. The designer is you," said Shirane who wanted to show what light could look like when folded like paper. "People can design this interior space themselves [from what they wear]. Say, if you wear a red shirt, the space is going to turn red."

Taking sustainability to the next level is Snøhetta, an award-winning architecture firm from Norway, which came to the festival with their environmentally friendly bamboo structure Lampshade. The structure's dome shape is said to be a space that unifies and collects people together under the light. Its interior is fixed with 800 solar-powered bulbs, which will be donated to off-grid communities in Myanmar after the festival ends. "We collaborate with an NGO called Partnership for Change. These lights will go out to the villages that have no power, then people will be able to read at night-time," said Thomas Fagernes, partner, director and senior architect at Snøhetta.

On this project, Snøhetta also collaborated with master builders from Chiang Mai with the bamboo work. Local students from the Singapore University of Technology and Design also helped set up the structure. All the bamboos will be taken apart at the end of the festival and earn a second life in Thailand where they'll be reused as scaffolding.

Angels Of Freedom by the OGE Group.

For Singaporean new media artist Brandon Tay, his work Torrent sheds light on the interaction between people, arts and the landscape in the Marina Bay. His installation comes with a screen that's been fixed with a sensor at the base. The people's movement is captured and then reflected against the onscreen landscape.

"In this area of Singapore, we don't realise how new it is. I want to bring attention to that and interact with the landscape," said Tay.

As a Singaporean, Tay said the "i Light Marina Bay" has been successful in both giving people ideas of fusion between arts and technology, as well as their role in sustainability. It also makes both locals and visitors more aware of their impact on the environment.

From Thailand, we have architect Pitupong Chaowakul and his team at the Supermachine Studio sticking close to the theme with their take on a shadow play in Dandelion -- an installation that consists of 320 3D-printed flip panels that visitors can manually open and close to create their own shadowy form. The team aims to show that interaction doesn't have to always be about technology.

Bolt by Jun Ong.

This is Pitupong's second time showcasing his work at the "i Light Marina Bay". He first displayed his installation -- Animal Tree -- back in 2010. Coming back this year, he applauded the ongoing support the Singaporean government has been showing to the art scene and the people's creativity.

"Before, this area was all sea. But now, it's all money, casinos and new land," said Pitupong. "Their government realised the importance. They inject creativity and events, and Thailand should be able to take this same approach. We have so many resources and content. We just don't get enough support, and are just too busy fighting one another."

Does Thailand have the potential to orchestrate such an event on a similar scale? Pitupong is saying yes. Comparied to governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra's 39 million baht light project, the architect estimated the event costs just a little more, not including PR expenses. But, coming into the Thai context, artworks will need to come with both beauty and the right concept in order to really capture public interest.

"Some Western arts lack aesthetics. They're all conceptual and the Europeans can accept that. They would even pay to see the work. For Thais, maybe we're not all ready for it. Some artworks just won't look good on Instagram."

"i Light Marina Bay 2016" continues every night until March 27. Admission is free. Visit

Dandelion by Supermachine Studio.

Angels Of Freedom by the OGE Group.

Do you like the content of this article?