The Writers Centre, Singapore has launched a virtual world project depicting a 3D model of The Merlion, Singapore's national icon. The innovative virtual world design is located in Second Life as a multi-media arts gallery inspired by the poem 'Ulysses by the Merlion' by Edward Thumboo. The project will be officially launched and showcased during the 2018 Lit Up Asia-Pacific Festival.
There are four sections: the Gallery of Myth, the Past, the Present and the Future. Dr Chris Mooney-Singh of the The Writers Centre, Singapore and Dr Scott Grant of Monash University conceived and designed the Merlion Portal to showcase Singaporean literary talent and the fine arts to show how virtual world design can complement the artistic and educational process. For example, Thumboo's iconic poem has also been turned into a short animated film using the Merlion Portal as a 3D film set and the poet's own voice. What follows below is a piece written by Dr Mooney-Singh which forms the basis of a virtual interview (see below) between the two collaborators, known in Second Life as Singh and Kaylee West.
Dr CMS Article
Kaylee West and I are interested in historical world narratives and their contemporary outcomes depicted through virtual art and literature. Strangely, the Merlion itself lends itself to virtual design and we hope that this project inspires machinima makers like yourselves to tell your own stories from anywhere along the Silk Road of ideas and creative endeavour. We would love to collaborate with some of you in the future interested in exploring the Western and Eastern confluences of culture, which has given rise to the world we know today. This is particularly relevant, perhaps even crucial, in these global days where greater harmony and creativity is required to solve world issues. Artists and thinkers, let us dream and take the lead in our virtual domain. Let’s meet and talk about it.
The Merlion Portal began, initially, as a way of focusing attention on Singapore’s most iconic poem ‘Ulysses by the Merlion’ by its elder statesman poet Edwin Thumboo.
But real the object of our build is join an old historical narrative to a new one. The old Silk Road was once the land route conduit of ideas and art that stretched from between East and West and a nautical Silk Road story commenced when Portuguese explorer Vasco DaGama landed in Calcutta and the new sea route between Europe and India was born. The island of Singapore at the tip of the Malay Peninsular became a trading port and is still the second biggest container terminal as well as being the 3rd largest financial hub in the world today. Now the New Silk Road is now in the process of being created and will enable super trains to speed from Singapore up through the Malay Peninsular to Thailand, Burma, India, China through Central Asia to Turkey and eventually to Europe by land.
Our project plays with myth and history and starts from a Greek sea galley landing point just as Thumboo’s poem does. Our whole island is an attempt to create a virtual landscape for a literary work and to unpack elements that investigate to the notion of nation-building which also inspired the creation of the Merlion, itself an exercise in myth building for a new republic and tiger economy seeking a backstory.
Several of the media screens in these locations show parts of the early Singapore story that include the mythical sighting of a lion on its shores by Singapore’s 12th Century founder Sang Nila Utama who established Temasek, the ancient Singapore. How a lion came to be seen wild on ancient Singapore shores is still a mystery given that lions are not native to South-East Asia. The original creature may have been a tiger and for its name, ‘Singh’ which in Sanskrit means ‘lion’ and may have been caused by an etymological confusion brought into local usage from its Indian source.
Thus, the upper portion of the Merlion structure features a lions head and the lower portion depicts a fishtail, representing the intellectual dominance of an Indian-influenced ruling culture of the region married to a local population of fishermen and seafarers. In other words, the Merlion seen here is a creative attempt at mythmaking from a 1960s Singapore looking for a national identity. In other words, it is fiction and pure art aiming to convey a deeper truth.
My interest along with Kaylee West who has created this build is to unpack the Merlion narrative commencing with a poem and a national exercise in myth making and create a gallery of literary and artistic works both on the island and inside the Merlion structure itself.
Starting from the atrium you will see a short exhibition of actual Merlion photography of the structure itself, which stands beside the Singapore River as tourist destination spot.
Register as a resident of Second Lifehere:
Download an SL viewer from here:
Access the Merlion Portal here:
The Virtual Silk Road Team:
Dr Chris Mooney-Singh is the co-director of Caravanserai, a virtual lit=theatre arts project and The Merlion Portal working together with Dr Scott Grant (Monash Uni) founder and coordinator of the Monash VEL project and Chinese Island in Second Life.