Sunday, May 24, 2015

Diva's Illuminating Experience at Alliance Francais' "The Little Prince In the Dark" Exhibition

Out of the three "The Little Prince"-centric exhibitions held during Voila! French Festival, Red Dot Diva thinks the one held at Alliance Francais called "The Little Prince in the Dark" is the most special. It was designed to bring "The Little Prince" to life for the visually impaired in a sensory as well as auditory manner. But that does not mean that the sighted are not able to enjoy it as well.

(Click here to read Red Dot Diva's "The Little Prince" exhibit encounters at the Fullerton Hotel.)

Upon entering the premises and foyer of the building, there are already several of the iconic bright yellow planets and stars dotting the area. At the far end of the ground level, another statue of The Little Prince greets the visitors.

The easiest way to the exhibition is to take the elevator to the 2nd floor. Straight ahead of the elevator is a darkened room where one can experience "The Little Prince in the Dark". There is usually a steward at the main door. Ask her to give you a little tour around. Red Dot Diva gleaned some very interesting information from the lady who showed her around the room. (More on those later.)

"The Little Prince in the Dark" is focused on helping the visually impaired appreciate the well-known book in another dimension. The display consists of 13 sculptures by French visual artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga. They are similar to those on display at the Fullerton, except that they are plain and not painted in colour. Instead, the pieces are painted with fluorescent lacquer. With the UV LED lights turned on, they glow like mini planetary objects of their own.

One should start the exhibition at the far end of the spacious room, where there is a semi-enclosed space. That is where one can find the statues of The Little Prince and his friend, the wise Fox. You could sit down, chill and listen to an audio reading of the book in its entirety if you wish to.

In this same area are displays of pages from the special braille version of "The Little Prince", where the illustrations are also re-produced in a two-dimensional relief form so that visually challenged could feel the pages and "see" the pictures as well. On the pages are also both French and English braille paragraphs.

Other than the main sculptures of The Little Prince, Fox and those relating to the "elephant in the snake", the other pieces are placed on a platform which rotates. This helps the visually impaired so that they can feel all sides of each sculpture, in other to form a better understanding of the characters that the author Antoine De Saint-Exupéry was trying to express in the book.

Above each sculpture is a structure that not only holds the lamps for the backlight, it also has a sensor which detects body heat. Upon doing so, a device would start up the audio reading of the book segment relevant to the sculpture. These are in French, English and Mandarin.

On display was also the limited edition braille version of the book published by Editions Claude Garrandes. The book includes text in French and English as well as the illustrations printed in relief format.

Back to the tidbits of information that Red Dot Diva found out from the guide that day:

- It was exciting to know that the World Premiere of "The Little Prince in the Dark" was held right here in Red Dot Island. This is the first country where the exhibition is being showcased, and from here, it will be displayed in other cities like Seoul.
- French visual artist Arnaud Nazare-Aga was at first reluctant to undertake the sculpture commissioned by the Antoine de Saint-Exupery Youth Foundation because of the immense pressure to meet the expectations of such an iconic and well-loved book. Then, his father revealed to him that his grandpa had actually flown together with writer Antoine De Saint-Exupéry, who was also a airmail pilot. The family connection to Antoine De Saint-Exupéry inspired him to take up the challenge.
- Arnaud Nazare-Aga is based in Bangkok and does his work through Paj’Art Studio. In addition to the sculptures, he also designed the layout of the exhibition area, including the special stand and audio+light structure for the pieces.
- Arnaud Nazare-Aga was moved to assist a group of Thai villagers who needed more economic assistance. So, he taught to them how to make all the yellow planets and stars for all "The Little Prince" exhibitions. The displays are made of papier-mâché.
- The reading of the audio book is by two famous celebrities. Richard Gere (surprise!) provides the voice for the pilot, while Haley Joel Osment narrates as The Little Prince. The duration of entire audiobook is about 2 hours!
- Apparently, there were many visually-impaired readers of the book that did not know there were accompanying illustrations drawn by Antoine De Saint-Exupéry! So, being able to have them feel the two-dimensional drawings as well as the sculptures helps them appreciate the book in a more multifaceted way.
- The special braille book costs 239 Euros (excluding shipping), which was way it was protected in a locked case. There will only be 1,000 copies available for sale worldwide. (The book can be ordered here.) Check out the video below about the tactile book:

Red Dot Diva was very impressed with "The Little Prince in the Dark". It is a one-of-kind experience where one could close one's eyes....  and feel... listen to....  the sheer magic of the tale of "The Little Prince" in a different way. She walked out of the exhibition hall with an uplifting and renewed sense of appreciation for the things around her.

Venue: Alliance Francais, Societe Generale Gallery, 2nd Level
Dates: 6 May to 20 June 2015
Time: Mon-Fri: 11am – 7pm / Sat: 11am – 5pm / Closed on Sun 
Fees: Free-of-charge

For an added inspirational factor, do not miss viewing a small display of art along the corridor just outside of the exhibition room.

These wonderful drawings are by 8-year-old Chioh Kai Xu, who suffers from Sturge Weber Syndrome which causes brain seizures and glaucoma in the eyes. Despite undergoing a surgery at the tender age of 3 weeks, the vision in Kai Xu's right eye has currently reduced to only 10%. That did not stop him from pursuing art, in part because the activity helped give him a sense of calm.

His moving and beautiful works of art include tributes to "The Little Prince", Olaf from "Frozen", animals, trees and landscapes. Red Dot Diva thought Kai Xu has a wonderful sense of perspective and is liberal with his dashes of colour. It's amazing how creativity can bloom in the face of adversity. Don't you think?

No comments:

Post a Comment