For 9 days in October 2015, the FutureEverything Singapore festival took over the popular imagination, public space across the city, daytime TV, and the political debate in Singapore. The festival enjoyed public, media and critical acclaim across Asia Pacific for its innovation lab challenge, talking lamp posts and public sleep lab in Singapore’s first festival of art and technology.

Highlights

– An unprecedented public and open debate on the future of
Singapore and the national vision of a Smart Nation.

– Connecting art and tech in this way for the first time in Singapore.

– Phenomenal public reaction to cutting edge art and design installations
giving Singaporeans new opportunities to play in public places.

– Senior government ministers and policy makers champion
a vision of an inclusive and participatory Smart Nation.

– Designers, artists and urbanists create new arts-meets-technology
innovations to benefit the whole of Singapore.

The FutureEverything Singapore festival was a partnership between FutureEverything and the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), and was the flagship digital culture component of SG50, the year long celebrations that mark the 50th anniversary of the founding of Singapore. FutureEverything Singapore was the only British contribution to SG50, and was announced by David Cameron in three major policy speeches during his 2015 trade mission to Asia.

Hugely popular art works were presented across the city that were playful and also had a serious message – each one responded to the speed and density of urban living in Singapore, offering a moment of play or contemplation, and presenting future scenarios that may be commonplace in years to come.

Over the two year journey with the Singapore government to realise the project, the FutureEverything team scoped the issues and challenges facing Singapore, now, and in its future. One identified is the distance between art and tech in Singapore. In his speech at the Opening Ceremony, Minister Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for Communications and Information, presented a powerful argument that “Art is an expression of human creativity, it inspires us to imagine a different reality and challenges technology to find ways to bring those ideas to life in order to imagine the world’s first Smart Nation in Singapore.”

The festival was designed to experiment in ideas around a technologically-enabled future Singapore, and to help to build a culture of permission and risk taking. In a conference keynote, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister in Charge of the Smart Nation initiative, spoke on transformation in energy, healthcare, food production, manufacturing and logistics, and urged Singaporeans “instead of fearing the future and waiting for someone else to do something…be active, be creative, make it, improve it, create the future.”

Many in the media focused on the phenomenal success of Hello Lamp Post – a playful, public realm interactive experiment in which street furniture and objects across Singapore seemingly came to ‘life’ and held conversations with members of the public via SMS messaging. There were 15,000 conversations with nearly 700 inanimate objects, among them fire hydrants, shops, post boxes, streetlamps, signposts, and Singapore’s famous Merlion, a huge half fish, half lion stone structure which spouts water from its mouth.

The Chronarium, a pop-up sleep laboratory, saw over 800 people took part in the ‘experiment’, while thousands of others observed the proceedings. Upon entering visitors were invited to lie back and rest inside white fabric pods suspended above the ground, and audio and visual stimuli induce a change in brain state and reset the circadian rhythms.

These city-wide art and design experiments presented visions of a future Singapore to generate debate and engage the public.

Inventing new ideas which could benefit the whole of Singapore was the focus in another FutureEverything project, the Signals of Tomorrow innovation lab. The lab saw 50 of Singapore’s top technologists, economists, urbanists, artists, designers and developers coming together to generate arts-meets-technology innovations.

The winning project – Share and Care – Friendly Face – has been awarded a £20,000 development fund by FutureEverything and will be presented as a full scale project at next year’s FutureEverything festival in Manchester (March 30th – April 2nd). 

FutureEverything generated a very public debate that was unprecedented in Singapore. It brought together leading public figures and Ministers in Singapore, world renowned designers and academics, business leaders, prominent futurists and social activists from Singapore, young people and children, and the public through a crowd sourced citizen survey. It was free for all and took place in a national museum and national design centre, on daytime TV, and in the shopping malls and public spaces where Singaporeans spend their time.

Dr Drew Hemment, founder and Creative Director of FutureEverything, said of the success in Singapore: “The combination of technology, design and art in a thought provoking and playful event, has been a winning formula for FutureEverything over 20 years in the UK. It’s therefore fantastic to see these values and ideas embraced so positively by a global city as dynamic, different and disruptive as Singapore.”

“Something special and unique happened through this close partnership between FutureEverything and the Singapore Government. We hoped to make some small ripples in the national conversation regarding the Smart Nation agenda, and FutureEverything’s focus on bridging the separate worlds of art and tech, social and government caught the mood. We hope a lasting legacy will be deep new connections between theses worlds. A vision of art and culture as central to technology innovation, and a people-first approach, can be the new normal in Singapore.”

“We were confident that people would enjoy experiences like Hello Lamp Post and The Chronarium as they are both very accessible, interactive and playful. However I’ve been genuinely overwhelmed at how enthusiastic everyone has been about the whole concept of the festival, the ideas which have shaped it, and the fact it has all been produced by a team from Manchester.”

Commenting on its success Steve Leonard, Executive Deputy Chairman of the Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) who commissioned the project said: “This is not just a festival to celebrate technology; we see this as a festival to celebrate creativity where art, design, tech and science intersect. The great response from the public towards the festival shows that we are receptive to new ways of interpreting tech and having fun at the same time. And trying out new things is what we hope to imbue in our people as Singapore’s Smart Nation needs our community to be willing to experiment and to be confident in creating with tech.”