Monday, August 20, 2012

Tanjong Pagar and the Hermes Gift of Time Exhibit

Exterior of the railway station: the figures represent the four pillars of the economy
A few weekends ago R and I went to visit a special traveling exhibit designed by Hermes (yes, the fashion brand best known for their scarves). I don't generally have a lot of interest in fashion, but the exhibit was housed in the Tanjong Pagar Railway station.
One of the old ticket booths (with R)
This beautiful art deco building was once the terminus for the British-built Malayan railway system. Though it's a national monument, it closed rather abruptly (and with some controversy due to the lack of public consultation) last year before we arrived in Singapore, and has been closed to the public ever since. It was open for two weeks only this August, after maintenance and preservation work had been done.
The interior has fantastic original murals depicting important economic activities
Tin mining (for B, he loves all this kind of stuff)
Rubber tapping (did you know rubber is tree sap?)
The exhibit itself (here's the website: be warned it is wretched. I hate Flash.) was a traveling art installation, designed by a modern artist and scenographer. It was intended to whimsically explore different concepts of time, via small rooms each created around a particular concept and emotion (using, among other things, various Hermes products like leather goods and housewares).
Museum employee explaining the concept
R loves the sundial (it moves!)

Spinning top installation
R loved this too: how does it work?

Parrot made of Hermes leather
Not very intellectually stimulating or complex (all the rooms were fairly one dimensional: a couple minutes was long enough to take everything in for the most part), but pleasant to look at. The final room was quite stunning. I wish I were artistically gifted enough to recreate the painting job in my bedroom!
Bad photo but really a lovely room: the lighted blue ceiling with tree branches was so magical
The tree came out of the shell of this turtle: R wasn't sure if it was alive or not
Because nothing in Singapore is complete without food, a cafe area featuring various vendors of light snacks and drinks had been created on the station platform. They were mostly quite hipster, meaning self-consciously nostalgic for a fictitious past and concerned with stuff like artisanal coffee and gourmet small-batch popsicles. It was a little strange to see this in Singapore: I felt a bit as if I'd been transported back to my old life in San Francisco's Mission District.
Hipster food display: look, they even have a Vespa! (R scored some free cookies here)
Water break
The vast majority of the other (numerous) visitors were local Singaporeans. Photography is very important to most Chinese people. For example, wedding photographs are an enormous business, and make the American wedding photography industry look pathetic. If people can afford it, they will fly to multiple locations in order to get photos taken, posing in a huge variety of elaborate themed costumes.

Old railway line: check out the great Art Deco detailing!
Photography is thus a very popular hobby here: it gives such good opportunities to spend enormous amounts of money on complex electronic equipment (shopping! technology!), plus it's fundamentally solitary and does not require direct human interaction (important for the typically socially awkward Singaporean). Dozens of people were engaged in taking photos of everything possible, many with very large tripods.
Some photographers enjoying themselves
R was wearing a new dress (a present from our Japanese neighbor) and thus attracted her own paparazzi crowd. Many tried just to sneak photos, but she also posed for several different groups. I don't mind at all, but it is a little strange to be on the receiving end of such interest: it's like going somewhere with a celebrity.
R watching the goings-on: the man in orange is taking her photo


  1. That's so funny that they wanted to snap photos of R!! That curly red hair is amazing enough to photograph without adorable dresses, but the two together! Haha! Looks like a fun exhibit!

    1. Curly red hair is pretty remarkable in Asia, that's for sure! People always want to pose with her, I guess to immortalize the moment? Luckily R is quite outgoing and doesn't mind.