Saturday, December 31, 2016

Visiting the Future World at ArtScience Museum Singapore

It’s another day at Singapore immigration. A Sunday afternoon, when we line up with a bunch of other people, catching a flight out. My cousins, one of them is Andrew’s favorite uncle, dropped us off a few minutes earlier. We haven’t passed the border when Andrew asked: “when are we going back to Singapore?”

“Soon,” I replied. “When ArtScience Museum changes it exhibition.” Which by the time I wrote this entry, Big Bang Data had wrapped up and supposedly continues its journey somewhere else. So, it’s time for us to plan another Singapore trip.

The hand-shaped museum at one corner of Marina Bay Sands is the newest addition to our favorite dating place in Singapore. Its changing exhibitions, touch-and-feel as well as interactive sections always keep the children busy. It’s a museum alright, but a family friendly one. Something we’re always longing for on our weekend dates. Anyway, we arrived at theArtScience Museum on Friday noon, me and two tweens (Andrew and my cousin Audrey).

First we have to line up and it took us about 15 minutes to reach purchase the tickets. Ticket counter is now located at the basement (which is where Big Bang Data and The Future World also located) and the lobby has transformed into an exciting-looking café we would try next time. I paid my tickets and the kids got in for free. It’s Family Friday at the museum, where up to 4 children younger than 12 can enter for free with a paying adult. So it’s a real bargain when you pay SGD 30 for 3 people (kids ticket alone costs about SGD 19 each) to explore all three exhibitions in the museum.

How to reach ArtScience Museum? Took the MRT to Bayfront Station, exit Marina Bay Sands and follow signs to the museum. There are buses too, just find one that stops at Marina Bay Sands.

The Future World is recommended by many, but the lady at the ticket counter said that the exhibition is timed and the next admission would be at 1PM. We’re roughly 50 minutes away, so we decided to turn left from the elevator and entered Big Bang Data.


An exhibition about data visualization, Big Bang Data originates from Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona (CCCB) in Spain. It travels around the world, taking each data from each stop and finally settled in Singapore last May. On each stop, the data will have a personalized section for the hosting country, so I personally think it'll be interesting for the exhibition to arrive in Indonesia and figure out what digital data means to my country. The exhibition is divided into 8 parts. We began with an introduction to cloud.

I originally worried how digital footprints data may interest the two soon-to-be-teens, especially when one is obsessed about zombie and the other one about Twenty One Pilots. But they explored the exhibition with endless curiosity, including diligently reading what’s on the panel and even listening to the interviews about data. Surprise!

My cousin, Audrey, was interested on how data was stored (she’s a social media user and was a little surprised when I said that her Instagram photos and videos are stored in the cloud haha). Andrew went straight to another section which has a picture similar to a basement in an Umbrella Corporation lab (Hello, Resident Evil!). I bet it’s a data center somewhere, but Andrew is happy enough to find a "basement" that would probably have zombie coming out of the other end.

The Data Center
alley is my favorite, with its walls decorated with pictures of Data Centers around the world. From IBM to Microsoft to Google. From the tall, contemporary buildings, warehouse-looking complex to the ones somewhat similar to Hobbits' homes. Andrew on the other hand, loves the piece by Christopher Baker called "Hello World! Or: How I Learned to Stop Listening and Enjoy the Noise." It's a long stretch of wall, full of videos playing. It's quite impossible to hear what each person has to say, but as a whole, they created a surprisingly nice buzz. We can sit on the benches across the screen and, well, enjoy the noise.

For children of digital native like Andrew and Audrey, getting a glimpse of what I used to have to store computer games was pretty amazing. While I still own cassettes and floppy disks at home, Andrew had never seen the older version of floppy, a rectangular black thin piece of storage. So I decided to do a little quiz:

Mama: What is this?
Andrew: It's a disk. I know disk. (He didn't use the term "floppy" because in Bahasa Indonesia we don't distinguish the type)
Mama: How about this one?
Andrew: This is cassette. I know cassette too because I've seen them at home. You said disk is for computer and cassette is for music before CD and USB.
Mama: And this one?
Andrew: What is this?
Mama: The previous disk. Before that one over there.
Andrew: (Looking at the numbers below) The capacity is so low.
Well, back in the days we can play computer games with those things.

Big Bang Data is suitable for older kids, because when they can read there are a lot of stuffs to discover. The smaller kids would be happy with the bright globes or some of the interactive plays along the alleys. We found out the amount of photos uploaded to Flickr in 24 hours time back in 2011 and it was well, piling up a whole room. Both kids were excited to discover the amount, which was only numbers in their gadgets, come alive in a pile of real photos they can hold and see. Truly appreciate that part.

Nearing the end, there's this section where we can write our own data in blue rectangular hard papers and hang it on the designated strings. The shades differs depend on the age. Andrew wrote something about family, cousin Audrey wrote a quote and I (taking the wrong marker with diminishing ink) only wrote my age. Haha. Should have written more.

We would have stayed more, if not because of the clock ticking to 1PM, which means we have to move to The Future World. I’m honestly just glad we still can catch Big Bang Data, after we missed that on our May Singapore-Legoland Playdate with other families. Well, maybe we will encounter these data, in a larger and bigger scale in one of our future travels.


So here comes the real star of the day, the talk of the town. Aside from a few Instagram photos, I didn't really know what to expect from this one. Andrew was just pretty much happy with the fact we're going to ArtScience Museum that he doesn't even bother to ask what's inside. That's the joy of being Andrew. When Mama was doing a whole lot of research about what to expect, Andrew. can just enter the premise without burden. It's all fun and games!

The Future World is a permanent exhibition with 1500m2 digital universe and 16 spectacular art installations. It's going to stay at least for three years, but it may change along the way so visitors won't get bored even if they come on a regular basis. Just noted the admissions to this exhibition which are timed to ensure the area isn't too packed: 10AM, 11.30AM, 1PM, 2.30PM, 4PM and 5.30PM. We hurried out the Big Bang Data to catch the 1PM entrance to The Future World. Despite it's opening, the exhibition is packed already. There are four different sections in The Future World: Nature, Town, Park and Space. 

Nature is our first impressions to the Future World. It’s a rather subtle exhibition that encourage visitors to see, hear, feel, smell and even touch what’s projected on the walls. The first room is filled with interactive flora and fauna interface. Despite being only digital pictures portrayed through lights to the wall, the things of nature still intrigue your senses with scents and sounds. Walking inside the room is like walking into an always-blooming flower garden that smells like spring (or Mom's perfume according to cousin Audrey). Butterflies are everywhere, accompanying the season as it began and ended. Then we move on to the ocean. The waves are moving from one side of wall to the next, and we can enjoy the earth’s nature cycle from the pillow chairs spread out in the middle of the room. This part of Future World reminded me of How To Train Your Dragon at Dreamworks exhibition we visited last year. Andrew was super excited chasing the moving islands and running away from the waves.

The real adventure begins in the next room called Town. A large slide, with tunnels for curious children welcomed us to the playground. Andrew and my cousin Audrey/Audretto (who is closer to Andrew’s age than mine) went up and down the slide, through the tunnels several times. Across from slide, there’s an interactive “Connecting! Train Blocks” table where you can build a city just by placing different blocks. Blue blocks for rivers, red blocks for train tracks and so on. This is popular among younger children, and the table is low enough for pre-schoolers. So the tweens moved to “Sketch Town”, where you can color as well as decorate UFO, buildings, houses, cars and airplanes then scan it to be included in the digital town on the wall. Fun not only for the children but the adults alike. 

Then Andrew stopped by “Media Block Chair”. The blocks changed their colors when you place them next to one another. So kids can make endless color and shape combination with the blocks. Andrew was super curious about this one and almost didn’t want to leave. But again, this place is popular with younger children who are attracted to lights and colors, so the elder kids moved on to the next room.

Leaving the busy town, we arrived to the lively and colorful Park, passing through a 7-meter high virtual waterfall called “Universe of Water Particles”. The tweens passed this right away, especially when the ones who stayed are couples trying to score a snap that can be categorized as instragramable pre-wedding pictures. Andrew even managed to let out a “so romantic” comment to one of the couple, before I shooed him away to Park. It’s hard to shoot in this area because of the minimal lighting.

Before I was fully aware what’s in Park, Andrew and Audrey had each hold a color ball at “Light Ball Orchestra” area. The balls are changing colors when they bumped into one another and creating a sound. The orchestrated sound are barely heard behind the kids’ loud excited screams. The museum divided the ball area, so the younger children can enjoy the exhibition with a smaller ball and slower pace, without worrying the older kids’ energy will run them over. There’s another sketching in Park! “Sketch Aquarium” is home to angelfish, turtle, seahorse, squid and sharks. Instead of drawing zombie shark like I was expecting, Andrew colored a turtle and put a speech bubble with “join Ninja Turtle” written inside. He scanned it and continued coloring an angelfish asking others to join the Angelfish club. Whatever that means. This time, because there’s no museum employees helping the kids to scan, Andrew scanned both animals upside down and we can’t read the speech bubble.

Yes, the scanner was real easy that kids can operate them on their own.

Park didn’t stop at sketching. A digital projection called “Story of the Time When Gods Were Everywhere” is brilliant. But the two hyperactive tweens I went with decided to skip that and move on to the “Create! Hopscotch for Geniuses.” In this interactive light game, kids have to jump according to different shapes appeared on the floor. They both can go back and forth playing this hopscotch forever. I enjoyed sitting at the end of the lane and watch the changing light above the Light Ball Orchestra area.

The last room is a complete contrast to the rest of the this exhibition. Space is tranquil, dark and consist only of one narrow path through the Crystal Universe. There was no hustle bustle of the town, the energy of the park, and even no excitement of nature’s growth. There’s silence and the changing light. Space is created from a combination of Interactive 4D vision and 170,000 LED lights. It was really pretty that some people came in dress and heels just for pictures. The lights doesn’t stay the same, colors and brightness wise, so it gives us a sense of what the outer space looks (and feels) like. And it was great!

I never thought that kids will go curious over this, but there we were, spending quarter of hour just watching the light change. 

Visiting the museum on Friday means sharing the limited space with lots of other children. Even though the entrance are timed, you can go back to Park and Town after visiting Space and spend more hours there if you’re not satisfied for the day. Amazingly, despite the numbers of children and adult in the room, we always managed to find a spot to sit down and draw. It also took us only a few minutes to scan, with a short line of 2-3 kids.

But we have to move on.


Exhibitions hosted on the upper floor are always something you can browse through in calm and quiet manner. It was “Singapore STories: Then, Now, Tomorrow” before, when we visited the museum on the year of SG50. This time it’s a similar collection of passive pictures plastered on the walls, but with a different theme and message. M.C. Escher is a graphic artist from the Netherlands. I’ve seen his work in several media before, like music video, movies and pictures but I have no idea who the person behind this genius art. So, entering the gate of this Escher exhibition is like stepping into a magical world. But, of course, it’s not ArtScience Museum without interactive section for kids. There are moving panels at the Metamorphosis section, floor puzzle, cardboard boxes and music box played by putting punched paper inside. All seems like a magic tricks that will amuse elementary-school kids for hours. 

Enjoy the Museum means planing ahead. It’s hard to estimate how long you should spend in ArtScience Museum on each visit. On busy Friday like today, lining up for tickets may cost you precious minutes. Plus the timed admission for The Future World may affect how long you spend at the other two exhibitions, that if you’re buying tickets for all three. For something like Big Bang Data, I would personally spend at least 90 minutes. The Future World can go for hours while something like Escher’s World may easilly take an hour of your time.

Instead of rushing through them, I suggested you count how many hours you have and prioritize the ones the little kids would enjoy the most. Have fun at the Future World.

Our date was at:
ArtScience Museum Singapore
6 Bayfront Ave, Singapore 018974
TEL: +65 6688 8888

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