Tuesday, 24 November 2015

Illusion Visiting Mini Exhibition at the Petrosains Discovery Centre

Petrosains: The Discovery Centre, is one of the national petroleum industry's most effective greenwashing and marketing tools. That's right, people, get the kiddies while they're still little and impressionable, and let them know how amazing and indispensable fossil fuels are!
While I am not a fan of the oil and gas industry, I do think that Petrosains has certain entertainment value and educational merits, one of them being that it hosts travelling science exhibitions, such as Illusion, a science and art exhibition from Dublin.
I was in that part of town on a particular Saturday morning and so I persuaded Aravind to attend the exhibition with me. I paid for the admission tickets to the mini exhibition (priced at RM15.90) and we made our way to the annexe without mowing down any of the preschoolers who seem to visit Petrosains by the busloads on a daily basis.
The most frustrating thing about this exhibition is that only the signs that are in Bahasa are in plain sight. The English-language signs are visible only under UV light, and tiny UV flashlights were suspended on equally tiny cords next to the signboards. We didn't understand the rationale behind this. Yes, it's supposed to be a little like a game of hide-and-seek, but the remarkable thing is that half the UV flashlights were not functioning or out of batteries.
Oh joy.
Aravind and I can read Bahasa just fine, but woe betide the hapless non-local, non-national-school-educated visitor who wants to find out more about the exhibits and installations.
Why must people make things so unnecessarily complicated for themselves and others? What next? Are they going to make us crawl through tunnels upside down with high-pressure jets of water aimed at us to get to the English language signs?

There were however, quite a number of intriguing installations which we rather enjoyed.
Bottle Magic, Jeff Scanlan, USA (2000) -- the bottles were not cut or altered in any way, and no, the bottles were not blown/constructed around their contents.
"All the Universe is Full of the Lives of the Perfect Creatures"
Karolina Sobecka (2012)
This is an interactive mirror that tracks your head and face movements and replaces the reflection of your face with the holographic image of an animal. Aravind's reflection is that of a German Shepherd dog or wolf. I got an ungulate of some sort -- a deer or ibex or something.

"Delicate Boundaries"
Chris Sugrue, USA.
Not for the mysophobic or entomophobic.
Motion aftereffect illusion. This is actually a mural on a completely flat wall.

"The Point of Perception", by Maddie Boyd, UK.
Now this I did like. It created a sense that I was looking out a window into a dark mess of wilderness behind Petrosains. Quite nightmarish, but in a pleasant way, like when you know you can wake up anytime you want.

Lots of exhibits involving mirrors and projected images suggesting things that aren't there or are something else.
"You. Here. Now."
Ian Wilcock, UK.
A brilliant portrait system that creates a pixelated portrait of the person standing in front of it using a mosaic of images harvested from the Internet. It's easier to stand in front of a mirror or camera, but not half as fascinating.

A virtual barbershop that uses the stereo effect to create the illusion of sounds coming from different parts of the room. Ingenious and witty.
A proper old-timey zoetrope! With a surreal animation of a corpse or something snaking up and down the wall. Uncanny.

They weren't kidding when they called it a 'mini exhibition'. We were done looking at all the exhibits in an hour. For the price of a cinema ticket, I'd expect something that would keep me occupied for at least 2 hours.

Still, it could be that we are adults, and the interactive science and optical illusion workshops (which would make our visit worth the ticket price) are targeted at schoolchildren.

Would I recommend visiting this exhibition? Yes, if you have RM15 burning a hole in your pocket, are able to read Bahasa (since the UV flashlights that would enable you to read the English signs often do not work) and have children young enough to benefit from the interactive workshops.

It was all reasonably entertaining for adults like us, but most of the exhibits are static ones of images such as the Penrose triangle and vanishing black dot, and of the 'which of the dots is bigger than the other' variety that you find in the 1970s edition of the Children's Britannica.

Still miles better than visiting our National Art Gallery or National Science Centre with its outdated exhibits, but also rather like picking up the shiny expensive cracker next to your plate at Christmas and pulling it to find only a tissue paper crown, a riddle and a cheapie plastic ornament in it.

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