A play of lights | Selangor Times
Issue 118


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A play of lights
Writer: Sharyn Shufiyan
Published: Fri, 01 Jul 2011

As we turned the corner, bright lights greeted us from a distance. With the dark of the night in the background, shades of red, blue, green and white burst into view. We were entering a neon forest.

At the entrance, we had to pay RM10, although the ticket said RM5. “It’s a weekend,” said the ticket woman. The lights are switched on for the same duration whether on a weekday or weekend, so paying for electricity must not be the reason behind the price hike.

Regardless, there was a queue. It was a busy weekend at i-City. There were a lot of people out and about – families and friends. It was my first time there. The lights were intoxicating, piercing through my pupils, forcing their way into my retinas. But the spectacle left an unconvincing feel on me. The mash-up of colours seemed gaudy, distasteful.

The accompanying figures of a life-size giraffe and Santa Claus complete with his reindeer seemed disjointed and awkward, as if they were just plonked there. There is no specific theme to this light show – is it winter wonderland, is it Africa, is it supposed to be local with the Chinese lanterns?

Yet none of the other visitors seemed unperturbed. They were happily posing and snapping pictures with the LED-infested trees, coloured shadows cast upon their figures. Those with Instagram would have had a blast.

There is a Tourism Malaysia office at the business centre. I wonder if i-City is meant for tourists or locals, but I would think tourists would not be impressed. The only localised displays would be the Chinese lanterns and peacock designs. It would have been great to have a traditional Malay house with the festive lights just to complete the Ali, Ah Chong and Muthu formula. But

instead, the displays were very much foreign.

Tourism Minister Ng Yen Yen believes that the “Snow Walk would be a great tourist-puller, especially those from the Middle East, Asean and South India”. Dubai already has Ski Dubai; just north of India is Nepal, which only houses the highest mountain in the world. And let’s not even talk about Eastern Asia. So who are we really attracting?

To me, i-City seemed utterly pointless. I sarcastically muttered that it was no wonder we want nuclear energy to power such ostentatious displays. i-City is fundamentally kitsch, a worthless and pretentious form of art which largely appeals to the masses. Ouch.

Whitney Rugg wrote that kitsch “tends to mimic the effects produced by real sensory experiences, presenting highly charged imagery, language, or music that triggers an automatic, and therefore unreflective, emotional reaction”.

But then I walked around and saw that people were actually having the time of their lives. It was a night outing, and I, for one, have always encouraged people to spend time outside and make use of public spaces rather than being cooped up in malls. So I bit my tongue.

They didn’t care that Santa Claus appears six months prior to Christmas; they didn’t care that the existence of dinosaurs contradicts their concept of creation; nor were they bothered that a giraffe stole the show rather than our own Malayan tiger.

The displays were just displays for photo ops. It was a smart move: using light as its main attraction, people get to enjoy the night’s cool air so that they actually do want to venture out.

Thomas Kulka wrote: “If works of art were judged democratically – that is, according to how many people like them – kitsch would easily defeat all its competitors.” I don’t know how much the visitors to i-City actually consider the displays a work of art, as it seems that for Malaysians, the concept of “art” is still confined within the walls of the National Art Gallery or Petronas Art Gallery.

There’s no doubt the magic of i-City lies not in its art form, but in its ability to wow us with a play of colours. But it also goes beyond colours; the displays are representations of things beyond our reach.

Blogger Triplets plus One wrote: “[S]ince this was the closest we could get to snow, it was okay I guess.” Perhaps we like to see things we do not have, and unlike the art that hangs in solitude on a cold wall somewhere obscure, the displays at i-City are approachable, warm and friendly, and it doesn’t take much for the public to enjoy them.

Only idiots like me would try to comprehend something that doesn’t need comprehension. And maybe we should also adjust our views on art, that art transcends mere aesthetics. After all, art, as we have come to know it, is largely a Western concept. And the real prized possession, I think, lies in the human bond among the people who visit such places.


 Selangor Times



Also by Sharyn Shufiyan:

It’s all in the lyrics

WHEN you listen to a song, what is it about that song that would hold your attention for four minutes? 

Syncretism of cultural beliefs

WHEN different groups of people exist in the same environment, integration often takes place. 


The end of the world?

Will love or faith prevail?

WILL love or faith prevail? That is the premise of “Nadirah”, a play written by Alfian Sa’at and directed by Jo Kukathas staged recently at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre.

Pluralism is not a bad thing!

Last month, my partner and I checked out our friends’ ongoing community arts project, Have a Holy-Day! in Brickfields. Like first class busybodies, we hung around for about an hour or so and snapped some pictures as proof that we were there.

Response to the Responses of Suara Cicit Tunku Abdul Rahman

Sharyn Shufiyan takes a detour from talking about current affairs to talking about her current affair. 

The imaginary boundary

Work takes me to Sabah and Sarawak quite often lately, home to two of the longest rivers in Malaysia. 

The universality of fasting

It’s that time of the year again when Muslims test their patience, refrain from worldly desires, and increase their piety.

Displaced by development

Naked or nude?

What is the difference between being naked and being nude? Do they both mean the same thing, to be without clothes, to let it “all hang loose”?

Branding Politics

Raving about Rave

Rave isn’t really my scene but I will enjoy a good night out anytime.

A Thai in our midst

"It was way back in 1956, at a time when the then Malaya was on the verge of gaining independence that the idea of building a sizable Buddhist temple close to the federal capital of Kuala Lumpur was first conceived. The temple was also to reflect the status of Buddhism as one of the major religions in the country, and also serve as a symbol of the long standing close relationship that existed between Thailand and Malaya.”

Reaching new heights

Walking into the concourse of Batu Caves, one is greeted by majestic structures of Hindu deities, temples and swarms of pigeons flapping just inches above your head. Macaques blend into the landscape amongst worshippers and tourists, making their way up the 272 steps to the Temple Cave.

Please flush after use

November 19th was World Toilet Day! What better way to celebrate World Toilet Day than to address our toilet habits?

Aren’t we all dirty minded?

Taking shelter from the rain, I walked into a Chinese coffee shop occupied by uncles playing mahjong. In small towns like Kuang, an outsider stands out like a sore thumb. At one point while I was on the phone, the uncles stopped playing and stared at me. “They thought you are a police,” said Uncle Chong, who came to sit next to me.

Picking on the right hemisphere

I’m the worst early riser, ever. But on that particular Saturday, I was actually looking forward to it. The plan was for us to gather in front of SK Sentul Utama. Walking up to the school, I could see the field marshals wearing cute tentacles on their heads, checking in other enthusiasts and assigning them into groups.

Leaving and arriving: The non-place

A Caucasian couple with a toddler on tow walked out of the arrival hall. As the parents’ attention was focused on a row of men holding up name placards, the toddler, lying face down, dragged himself along the marble floor, as if licking it, then got up and mischievously scurried away.

Making use of the great outdoors

When I first heard of Broga, I thought it was in Spain or Latin America. It didn’t sound local to my ear. Located on the border of Selangor and Negeri Sembilan, it is believed that Broga earned its name from Buragas, a mystical beast that lives in the forest.











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