First shown at Multiply: A Majestic Playground, presented by Keepers x Straits Clan, Bejeweled (2017) is an art installation that was designed specifically for Room 401 at New Majestic Hotel. The weekend event showcased over 60 creatives in Singapore, each with a dedicated room/space to be transformed under the greater theme of Play.
You had been waiting to make this move — a blue diamond drops to exactly where you had hope it would. At the move of your thumb, *Bling* *Glass Shattering* “New high score!”
Nothing quite like this satisfaction, that little high you get from seeing the gems match up in rows of three (God forbid just a row of three! We are going for combos here!).
You know it — it’s the game Bejeweled. From annoying Facebook notifications about bonus lives (you’ve never asked for); Kids unlocking levels on iPads quicker than we can keep up; to my personal favourite — watching the older generation, who has just begun to accept technology into their lives, jab away at the gemstones on their bus ride home.
I invite you to Bejeweled: Majestic Edition, where you are treated to sounds, lights, projections, life-sized diamonds and topazes. Move the gemstones around, immerse yourself in the game of matches, let your eyes go wide in wonder — because what’s better than stepping into your screen!
But when you leave, I hope you feel the emptiness. The emptiness that only true touch can fill. Step out and play.
Let me break it down
Cracking this brief took me longer than I thought it would. I had two days to pitch an idea to Carrie and I spent the bulk of my time stressing out. Laying the cards in front of me, the one question I kept asking was, "I have a room and I can say anything I want to say in this room -- what would I like to say??" Thankfully there was a theme that gave direction, and that proves complete freedom is not the best thing every time.
The checkboxes that I wanted to cross with this installation were:
1. Site Specific - how do I make the best use of the mirrors? (Context: Every room at the New Majestic Hotel was designed by a different artist when it was built, each room features something different and Room 401 was named "Watch and Be Watched". It was the only room with extensive mirrors and what a waste would it be to disregard that?!)
2. Instagrammable - if it isn't on Instagram, did it really happen? ;)
3. Pop Culture, Tech, and Story-telling elements woven in.
4. Understanding my audience. Being a weekend public event, people are gonna come with their families. My target: be relatable to three generation - the one before us, us and after us.
5. Immersive. To create such an experience, I wanted to incorporate as many senses as possible - sight, sound, smell, touch, taste.
There are a few things we can do when faced with a creative block - one of those practices that get you started. I find myself going back to these starting lines when my mind runs wild and yet arrives at nothing. Researching on definition proves to be helpful and helps me stay on course (you know that point when an idea gets a liiiittle too abstract and nobody gets it? I try to avoid that! Because what's the point...lol)
Obviously the English language proved too limiting (ha ha ha everyone should just speak in emojis) and the spark began when I dived into the pictorial meaning of the Chinese character for "play". It had its roots in movement/displacement, where a man is literally moving a string of jade pieces. To play was to move, to engage.
Next, to check the box of being relatable and fun, I asked "what is something that everyone knows that is not five stones or hopscotch?" Scrape that, the younger generation wouldn't even know what are those (neither did I myself find it particularly engaging tbh).
When I finally arrived at the idea of virtual game Bejeweled I was screaming POP!! CULTURE!!! Lights from projection, sounds (those in-game sounds are delightful, 3 hours worth on YouTube, and I've never noticed them), touch the life-sized gemstones, scent -- courtesy of a cheap perfume I found for $10 that reeks grossly sweet, but works!
The mirrors were perfect - by reflecting, it seemed like there are more gemstones than there really are - CO$T$AVING$ I'm hearing.
Over the three-day event, I was also giving out over 300 small plastic jewels as a little takeaway from the installation just because I thought it would be fun - and it was great to see how everyone interacted over social media!
Projection design - Jeffery Choong & Lucas Chia @lukiethekookie
Projector - Canon @canonsingapore #canonsg
Special love to these people whom I've the great pleasure of calling them my friends (and enslaved them)-
Ivan Chia @ivancbz
Carrie @carriek_rocks @carolyn.kan for creating this opportunity from a genuine place of wanting to grow the arts scene (and let people have fun! Always!) and nothing else.
Bejeweled is being re-staged at Visual SG, Science Center Singapore alongside works from seven other young artists, open to public till 13 August 2017.