After seven days of sojourn in Penang, Malaysia, the roadtrip was on! and the Super Coach trip to Singapore was fun . The travel was 5 to 6 hours. It was a journey like no other as I had that rare opportunity of immersing with the people at the bus and gas stations and enjoyed the long and artistic visual landscape of Malaysia to Singapore.
The voyage revealed many personal insights on culture, good governance, language, multiculturalism, diversity, religion, music, arts, food, epistemology, environmental management, etc. I took note of them.
Then came Singapore and I was, to my delight, welcomed by towering Buddhist temples, Hindu Ashrams, Islamic Mosques, Confucianist centers, Christian spiritual centers, diverse spiritual practices, rituals and faiths of ancient Asian, Oriental or Non-Western spiritual traditions.
Singapore was a melting pot of spirituality but unlike India, Singapore was ultra-modern, or better yet trans-modern. If Malaysia was Malay, Arabic, Islamic and cultural, Singapura is a fine China; a porcelain in the heart of South East Asia.
As expected, Singapore is a thought leader in this part of the world. As one of the world’s busiest art centres, Singapore’s Esplanade caters to artistic diversity, multiculturalism and varied audiences. Who would not want to go to the Esplanade – the performing arts centre of South East Asia. Malay, Indic, Islamic, Sinic, Western arts, etc. are calendared throughout the year for everyone. Dance, music, folk arts, rock, visual arts and other lifestyle activities are presented free or at low cost.
I also visited Singapore’s public libraries to check on its music SG archive (Singapore Music Digital Archive). I learned that the MusicSG project is a non-profit initiative to digitally archive and publish Singapore musical works. It can be accessed over the internet or at the multimedia stations at the National Library Board’s libraries. The musicSG is all about digitizing and archiving Singapore’s musical heritage.
SerI also tried checking the National Online Repository of the Arts or NORA, a database of digitized works in the literary, performing and visual arts by prominent Singapore artists including Singapore’s cultural medallion recipients. The NORA project includes a wide range of digital works in the performing arts, literary arts, visual arts and film.
The Serangoon Public Library, a Community Learning Hub, was just amazing. It houses more than 150,000 items for readers and has a wide collection of books, magazines and audio-visual materials. It has a digital media zone, a children’s corner, a Window’s display for those who are not sure of what to books to pick up and a new arrivals section to draw attention to the latest library collection.
The next day, I went to check the Visual Arts Exhibit entitled Animal Talk at the Jendela Visual Arts Space.
Dr. Wang Roubing in his curtorial introduction said that the Animal Talk Art Exhibit was a visual discourse of eight Chinese artists from China and Singapore. The art exhibit offers an experimental ocular platform to discuss in a transformative-reflective style the relationship between arts and animals, between humanity and the rest of creation.
China based artist Zhou Bin in the Meat Worms photography series wedged his naked body into the gaps of ruined buildings and in various natural environments like a worm. Zhou, in making this artworks, conveyed that he wanted to express his discontent towards the rapid changing of Chinese society.
As for Singapore born artist Sai Hua Kan and Chen Jianjun reminds me of existential dualism and the tounge-in-cheek critique of economic and productive relationship in which animals exist with man at the centre of his world. Animals in their artwork questioned the commodification of animals and cruelty of animals by man in the twenty first century.
Singaporean-born sculptor in a series of wood carvings called Guardian Angel illustrates his kampong experience. Xiong Yu’s installations called World Above Clouds animates an imaginary relationship between human civilization and wilderness.
Robert Zhao Renhui’s photography series On Hype Reality offers an unconventional angle in looking at zoos.
Wang Roubing captured in a bird shop is built on monetary value and the ownership of other living creatures. It discloses the conundrum of relationship between human and nature.
The Still Life animation series by He Peng illustrates with moving images of the theory of evolution.
Animal Talk visual arts exhibit encapsulates a conversation, a metaphoric reference that allows the condition of human society to be exposed for scrutiny.
As Zhou Bin stated in the Meat Worms Landscape No. 3 explained that “everyday, our living environment undergoes a constant, dramatic change, continually replacing the old with the new.” And asked “Where does this force of change, invisible, impalpable and yet so powerful, come from? We are all like worms, hiding, struggling and squirming in this frenzied reality.”
The Jendela Art Space experience was truly engaging. The artists did a good job in their portrayal of animal torture and how man neglected, abandoned, and disregarded its non-human neighbors.
According to PR Sarkar, the author of the philosophy of Neo-humanism, there are two “destructive tendencies” that are predominant in the human mind: one is intra-humanistic that is the exploitation or oppression of fellow human beings; and the other is “inter-creature” that is the torture of animals, plants and other living beings. The inevitable result of this is the “catastrophic ruin of human life as well.” Sarkar writes when “man awakens his genuine love for the entire living and inanimate universe, only then will the human, plant and animal worlds be save from extinction” and “attain the consummation of its existence” (PR Sarkar, Birds and Animals, Our Neighbors, 2007).
The Animal Talk and Sarkar’s Philosophy of Neo-humanism urged us to recognize our non-human counterparts as essential not just to our survival but the survival of the entire living world as well. The importance of the non-human world, the need to treat animals and plants as our co-equals was best captured by this poetry derived from Shabda Cayanika Part 10, Discoure 66:
The world which is the child of the Mother Goddess,
Does She think differently about its different creatures?
You want to satisfy the mother by slaughtering the kid?