At One With Nature: A New Exhibition Lets You See, Hear And Smell 7 Ecosystems
If you have an irrational fear of insects (aka entomophobia), get extremely anxious about vast, deep bodies of water (aka thalassophobia), or have an extreme fear of confined spaces (aka claustrophobia), a new exhibition at ArtScience Museum that awakens your senses with the wonders of nature might quell those aversions just by its sheer awesomeness.
(It's also a great way to beat the heat, yet still get up close and personal with nature, just sayin'.)
Entitled "Sensory Odyssey: Into the Heart of Our Living World" and produced by Sensory Odyssey Studio in collaboration with the National Museum of Natural History (NMNH) in Paris, this thought-provoking journey through seven ecosystems makes us take a closer at nature - and see, hear and smell it like you never thought you could. After a successful eight-month run at the NMNH in 2021 which drew over 226,000 visitors, the show makes its Asian premiere right here on our Little Red Dot on 27 May 2023.
Through stunning visuals (from hyper-realistic 8K resolution projection and mind-blowing macro videography to incredible time-lapses), spatial audio, and unique scents as well as years of production by a cross-disciplinary team of 350 artists, designers, biologists, engineers, developers, neuroscientists, scent-makers, and media specialists, we get the wonder-filled pleasure of examining butterflies suck nectar through their probosces, "swimming" with sperm whales, and smelling the mushrooms growing out from the forest floor.
Plus, this Asian premiere in Singapore comes with new material: new tunnels and passages have been created to help us experience transitions between exhibition spaces. For instance, a cloudy “Oxygen Passage” serves as a link between the “African Savannah” and “Tropical Rainforest” sections, while a “Dark Earth” corridor filled with ethereal “bioluminescent” effects accompany our journey "underground".
A stunning exhibition that gives us a deeper appreciation and love for all things living, with an urgent underlying message to be kinder to our one-and-only planet Earth? Yes, please!
Walk through the exhibition with us as we journey from Africa to South America and into the Indian Ocean before heading to the Arctic Circle:
Can you make out what animals these are? | IMAGE: SENSORY ODYSSEY STUDIO, MARDI8, CAMILLE NIEL
Ecosystem 1: Savannah Nights
Once you enter, you arrive at a watering hole in the African Savannah. Take a deep breath as the scent of moisture and dry earth fills the air. The darkened room means you have to rely on other senses; keep an ear out for the sounds made by several different animals gathering at the waterhole to quench their thirst. See if you can recognise the noises of buffaloes, zebras, lions, mongooses and baboons.
You'll be surrounded by the animals' calls and movements until they start fleeing from the smell of something burning – a bushfire! The room's loop ends with the illumination of lightning and boom of thunder as a thunderstorm begins...
Can you spot a creature chilling? And did you know the rainforest is Earth's oldest living ecosystem? | IMAGE: MARINA BAY SANDS
Ecosystem 2: Tropical Rainforest
Next, you'll be transported 30m above ground, to the forest canopy of French Guiana in South America. Inhale the fragrant scent of blooming flowers and damp wood as you admire the panoramic views, before making a slow descent to the forest floor. Catch sight of the numerous wildlife species along the way, including centipedes, snakes, a spider, and a sloth hanging from a branch.
Experiencing echolocation? It's giving Batman and Matt Murdock aka "Daredevil" vibes. | IMAGE: MARINA BAY SANDS
Ecosystem 3: On the Trail of Bats
These bats aren't just winging it - they can actually "see" in pitch-black darkness through the phenomenon of echolocation. In this section, the Serotine Bat will be your guide; witness how they use specialised means to move around confidently in the dark, their high-pitched clicks bouncing off distant objects to reveal the topography of their surroundings, aiding in their navigation and hunting.
If you think about it, we're probably giving a lot of living things in the ground a major headache from the tremors produced by stomping around every day. | IMAGE: MARINA BAY SANDS
Ecosystem 4: Underground
In this section, venture into the earth - how often do we get this POV! Here, projections of a subterranean landscape reveal tunnels in the soil that are home to a wide variety of living organisms. (FYI, almost 25 per cent of all known species of animal and plant reside underground.) Tiny bacteria, ants, soil mites, earthworms, and springtails make an appearance as well as larger mammals like hedgehogs and moles.
The most fascinating part: the underground connections between plant roots and fungi mycelium – a vital symbiotic relationship which sustains this ecosystem. All this happens even as we listen to a soundscape of rustling and scraping sparked off by activity in the soil (ASMR joy!), and breathe in the scent of fresh earth and the aroma of mushrooms.
Probably a thousand per cent more HD than your newest Samsung TV - you can even count how many times an insect beats its wings. | IMAGE: MARINA BAY SANDS
Ecosystem 5: Prairie and Insects
Like a Lilliputian encountering Gulliver, we get a very up-close view of the insect world - think: a honeybee pollinating flowers, insects feeding on nectar, butterflies and damselflies fluttering around, a praying mantis feeding on its prey, and a colony of ants marching up the stems of plants. Embrace our smallness in this moment, then realise that that's probably how they feel in comparison to us.
No aquarium can match this - be mesmerised by an oceanic ballet of whales. | IMAGE: SENSORY ODYSSEY STUDIO, MARDI8, V.VIAL
Ecosystem 6: Into the Deep Blue Sea
You'll come face to face with a pod of majestic sperm whales navigating the Indian Ocean near Mauritius. Watch these graceful giants glide through the waters, and pay attention to how they find each other through sound. You can almost sense the joy of their reunion as their pulsating clicks increase in intensity upon regrouping. For the entire duration, a faint maritime scent is noticeable as the bubbling sound of the sea echoes through the space.
Chances are, this will be as close you can get to the Arctic. | IMAGE: SENSORY ODYSSEY STUDIO, MARDI8, V.VIAL
Ecosystem 7: To the End of the World
Your journey ends at the far north of Greenland, where you'll fly above, navigate across, and plunge beneath polar landscapes comprising glaciers, fjords, tundra plains, and underwater environments. In spite of the seemingly inhabitable conditions, a rich biodiversity of animals exist here, including the Arctic fox, Arctic stern, black-legged Kittiwake, seal and humpback whales.
As you linger in the space, witness the effects of climate change as huge chunks of ice break away and plunge into the Arctic waters with loud cracks that pierce through the howling Arctic wind.
Awed? Now act on it
IMAGE: MARINA BAY SANDS
Before you exit, check out "Discover: Our Nature, Our Stories", a space curated by ArtScience Museum that contains seven commissioned videos spotlighting local experts and advocates who share enriching stories about Singapore’s biodiversity, conservation efforts and research.
There's even a section to turn that deep(er) appreciation of nature into action for our planet. Write down your thoughts on paper leaves that can be attached to a large mangrove tree in the gallery. For every paper leaf attached, a real mangrove tree will be planted in the Rajang-Belawai-Paloh Delta in Sarawak, Malaysia (an important habitat for the endangered Irrawaddy Dolphin), as part of a collaborative effort between ArtScience Museum and WWF-Singapore.
Sensory Odyssey runs till 29 Oct 2023. More information and ticketing details here.