Exploring ‘all possible paths’

  • Education
  • Sunday, 18 Nov 2018

Wong with a display of Richard Feynman, known as The Great Explainer.

Read on for our BRATs participant’s experience at the ArtScience Museum in Singapore

WHAT is it about geniuses that makes them special? Is it because they are blessed with a greater mind that they are meant to stand above the rest?

My recent trip to the ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, afforded me a glimpse into one of those great scientific minds. Thanks to a BRATs invitation, I had the opportunity to visit two exhibitions: the newly-opened All Possible Paths: Richard Feynman’s Curious Life, as well as the permanent Future World: Where Art Meets Science.

Developed to mark Feynman’s centenary, All Possible Paths was an unusual exhibition because its contents were as quirky as the man himself.

The name of the exhibition was derived from the life of Feynman himself, and his proposal that light takes all possible paths between two points at the same time as light travels from one point to another.

As a history major, I was immediately drawn to the life of Feynman. One of the three recipients of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1965, Feynman contributed discoveries towards various fields in physics, including quantum physics, particle physics, quantum computing and quantum electrodynamics.

Feynman’s approach to learning was simple: he sought to visualise the problems he wanted to solve, and he believed that what he could not create, he could not solve.

To that end, the museum had set up a station for visitors to build atoms and molecules from Lego blocks. I spent quite some time amusing myself as I followed the instructions and built oxygen and hydrogen atoms.

The exhibition at the ArtScience Museum presented Feynman’s scientific discoveries with a series of art installations meant to help visitors visualise his scientific concerns.

I was thoroughly captivated by the imaginativeness behind many of the installations; many featured light as the centrepiece. Here were two domains – art and science – I often thought of as separate, but were now brought together through the art installations.

While Feynman was known as The Great Explainer for his ability to teach complicated scientific concepts in an accessible way, another one of his defining traits was his innate curiosity.

I listened in delight as both my guides Wendy Zhang and Dmitris Kontopoulos wove the story of Feynman’s personal life and scientific discoveries in a coherent, captivating whole.

Not only was Feynman responsible for helping to advance quantum physics – he was one of the scientists who worked on the Manhattan Project – but he was also a lively character who picked his colleagues’ safe locks as a joke, drove a van decorated with his eponymous space-time diagrams, and had an avid interest in playing the bongo.

He exhibited a keen interest in learning in all his endeavours – he even struck a deal with his artist friend Jirayr Zorthian to teach him art, and for him to teach Zorthian science in return at the age of 44.

After a delicious three-course lunch of French cuisine, I was given another amazing tour of a different exhibition – Future World: Where Art Meets Science. I had seen the photos by my friends taken there, and was looking forward to getting some of my own fabulous shots.

The installations in the Future World exhibition were conceptualised by a Japanese creative group called teamLab. This exhibition was extremely interactive.

Many children could be seen gleefully romping around the interactive installations, sketching their buildings and uploading scanned copies of their creations onto a large screen, and hopping and touching the light displays on the floor and the walls.

The exhibition was divided into five narratives: Nature, Town, Sanctuary, Park and Space. My guide for this exhibit, Gladys Sim, was wonderful at showing me what some of the displays did, which was immensely helpful as there were no instructions provided; everything was meant to be explored freely.

I particularly enjoyed a display screen in the Nature narrative that showed an animated rice field in Kyushu, Japan, which reflected the weather there in real time.

I also enjoyed the Space narrative because I spent some time there fiddling with the endless light controls – and inadvertently messing up other people’s photos each time I accidentally set a light pattern that dimmed the light installation!

In short, my experience at the ArtScience Museum was amazing. The people who brought me around were very warm and kind. The exhibitions were so unlike my experiences in other museums that I found myself challenging my earlier notions about what museums should be.

I am so grateful to have been given the opportunity to learn about Feynman and experience everything the ArtScience Museum has to offer!

The All Possible Paths exhibition will run until March 3, 2019. It is curated and produced by the ArtScience Museum, in collaboration with Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, and the Nobel Museum in Sweden.

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Education , BRATs


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