Imagination comes ALIVE!

Parenting on Purpose recently had the opportunity to check out the Alive Museum, which opened in Singapore on the 21st of June this year. Located at SUNTEC, the trick art museum spans an area of more than 10,000 square feet, boasting more than 80 artworks. The concept is not a new one, originating in Jeju, Korea, when the then Trick Art Museum changed its name to Alive Museum in 2012. Since then, 15 branches have sprung up globally, Singapore being the latest. 
An evening of fun for the family.
As a family with young children, we were rather unsure of what to expect. We had already chanced upon the Alive Museum last year while on vacation to Jeju, but had not considered a visit as we had presumed that our children were too young to know how to pose for the photos - Jeju had so many other family-friendly attractions to offer, like Psyche World, an amazing insect kingdom, and even the Teddy Bear Museum, which proved a hit with our boys.

And so it was with some cautiousness that we made our way to the Museum at the end of a long day with the boys. We were all a little grumpy and I was actually wondering how on earth we were going to even smile for the photos!
The Alive Museum had a distinctively local flavour with scenes painted specially for Singapore.
Nevertheless, we entered into the first gallery, which consisted of what the Museum calls "Interactive and Media Art". As defined by the Museum's Korean webpage

Analogue, digital and trickery video clip enable us to experience a world of the unknown where we cannot go ourselves and to meet heroines of movies. 

Grammatical errors aside, we were told that the presence of so many digitally engineered illusions is what distinguishes the Alive Museum from its competitor, The Trick Eye Museum, which opened its doors in June.

Our boys' attention was captured by a few of these pieces, namely the one of two Mona Lisas blowing a scarf at each other, and especially the one where they could blow through a hole in the display and cause a series of pinwheels to turn, facilitating the fluttering of Marilyn Monroe's skirt. We were at once reminded of the occasional randomness and slap-stick nature of Korean humour at the get-go. 

After the series of interactive and digital illusions, we were taken through a maze where the larger section of exhibits were. 

Trick Art is an exhibition in which visitors can have a 3-dimentional experience as if a flat picture looks alive by using scientific techniques and special paints.

Trompel'oeil, which means 'trickery' in French, uses techniques of perspective, shading and shadows, to make 2-dimensional images appear 3-dimensional. Paints with high transparency are used to curve and reflect light. An aeroscopic technique is also used so that walls, floor and ceilings are deployed to create an overall surreal experience that truly assuages and confuses the senses. Talk about an out of the world experience! 

Our boys loved this exhibit with its play on lights and mirrors
Using Trompel'oeil to create illusory effects.
It would interesting to visit the museum when children are old enough to explore some of these techniques and perhaps study a few of the pieces in a more in-depth manner - while I must admit I did initially question the educational value and quality of the artwork (Homeschooling mums cannot help but think about what the kids can learn!), this would be a good place to visit when we are studying art techniques, or looking at shadows and perspectives. It would also be a place to study the different philosophies of aesthetics such as realism, hedonism or instrumentalism. I did notice a few school groups while we were there, and this educational dimension would certainly be something worth exploring.
Superman to save the day!

And Mark naturally had to take part in the Street Fighter contest given his martial arts prowess.
The Trick Art pieces are also combined with what they call Objet Art:

With scientific techniques and fun ideas, the new type of sculpture art works deceives our eyes. While touching and experiencing the objects, viewers can actively participate in the art story.

On a wing and a prayer!

I think that the kids had the most fun with the Objet Art installations, as they proved to be the most interactive and imaginative. There were plenty of objects to clamber around on and strike a pose for. We were amused that even our 2-year-old soon caught on and was posing with a pussy cat and trying to do plies on a bar next to a ballerina! 

Little E enjoyed himself thoroughly!

A precious Daddy-son moment.
The interesting thing about the Alive Museum is that it seems to cater to everyone. We had a group of "aunties" in front of us who took their posing for photos very seriously and even gave us advice on what to do. Of course, there were happy young couples who saw the backdrops as the perfect chance to do a photo shoot, and proud parents armed with cameras, directing their children.

For us, it ended up being a much-needed temporary escape from reality. We took a while to just let our hair down and be silly, but isn't it great for families to be silly with one another once in a while? It felt for those brief hours like we were on holiday, which in our family is always a welcome thing. Our gloomy spirits lifted, and the boys really got into the groove and were soon even directing us as to what kind of photos they wanted us to take. 
Taking turns to pat the "giraffe".
E.T. has come home!

Of course, I think we were the only family who had to stop at an exhibit and do a rendition of "The Lonely Goatherd" song from The Sound of Music while posing for a carnival-like photo. 
Our little performer in his element.

But I am sure the others there had their own fantasy stories to tell, for a moment conjured up in their heads, just like a paper origami boat floating away towards the other side of the sea. There is something for everyone at the Alive Museum, even for a skeptic like me. 
A journey to remember!

The entrance fees are not exactly cheap; although at the moment they are offering a 20% discount on tickets up until 31 Aug 2014 if you use the discount code aliveopen. However, I can see its potential for a birthday gathering or providing many ready-made backdrops for a photo shoot. Judging from the almost 20,000 likes on its Facebook page, it appears that Singaporeans are really taking to the concept.

Important considerations:

The initial few sections contain some nudity. I am sure we would have had more explaining to do if our boys were older - in this case, we skilfully whisked them off to another exhibit. 

There is also a "powder room booth" with a disclaimer that people under 18 are not allowed. Mark actually peered in to check it out and said it was an extremely frightening horror illusion. Parents should take note of this, as our boys easily slipped behind the curtain and  narrowly missed seeing it. Perhaps the museum should be more specific in its warning note outside the booth.

Come dressed comfortably - a lot of the exhibits require some crawling or lying down. Ladies should refrain from wearing skirts.

Give at least 2 hours for thorough coverage of the exhibits. We were told that the crowd comes in after 5 pm, so come earlier if you want to make the most of the displays.

Charge your camera or mobile phone before you come, or bring along a power bank. You don't want to run out of battery power before you reach the end!

Important Information (obtained from Alive Museum's Singapore website):

In Alive Museum Singapore, visitors may get up close and see 9 locally themed paintings in addition to the other interactive pieces on exhibit.
Free WiFi access inside the museum.
Location: Suntec City Mall #03-372 (Between Towers 3 and 4)
Ticket Prices: $25 (Adults), $20 (Children 3-12 yrs)
Operating Hours: 10am – 10pm Daily (Last Admission at 9pm)

As part of Alive Museum’s efforts to refresh and reinvigorate visitors’ experiences, 30% of paintings will be changed annually.
Special thanks to local family portal Little Day Out for the opportunity to review the museum.

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