My fave S’pore museum has taken a nosedive: Asian Civilisations Museum and the most ancient of Asian traditions; Halloween NOT!

Click here and prepare to faint. ACM is hosting fright night on 27 Oct 20. There’ll be dances, bomohs and more. Before you think that I too prudish going on about this being ‘wrong’, let me tell you why is it IS wrong:

1. Halloween is American. It may be fun for S’poreans to get dressed up and get drunk in a pseudo-American pub somewhere in Boat Quay, but celebrating Halloween has almost no basis in the S’pore context (unless you are an American family living near the American school??), and definitely not in a local museum of Asian art and culture.

2. Even though the museum is a place where previously sacred objects are displayed in a non-sacred manner, fake bomohs and Chinese vampires with ketchup dribbling down their chins are NOT the way to honour and remember the dignity of these once sacred objects. Remember how much flak the party planners got for trying to plan a naughty-nuns party at CHIJLMES (click here), even though the church desanctified for many years? Why then should kitschy pontianak performances within a museum of asian art be tolerated?

 3. Yes, ACM may be applauded for trying something innovative to attract new audiences who would otherwise not visit a museum at all. But if using gimmicks to attract more visitors is the name-of-the-game, why can’t the ACM hire 18-year old nubile girls to sell tickets, provide security etc ALL while dressed in wet bikinis one size too small?? I am sure piles of old men would be banging the doors of ACM down even before it opens in the morning. Disgusted with my suggestion? That’s how I feel about fright night at ACM. Let’s not forget that even the lofty Night Safari had to rethink their planned Halloween party in 2011 (click here) as they had wanted to focus on more suitable activities. 

But what can we expect? The newish director of ACM, Alan Chong, is American afterall. For ACM’s sake, let’s hope that every new visitor that it gains through such inappropriate activities that cheapen their normally high curatorial standards will not be in exchange for a die-hard supporter like me.



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4 responses to “My fave S’pore museum has taken a nosedive: Asian Civilisations Museum and the most ancient of Asian traditions; Halloween NOT!

  1. Anonymous

    Halloween is not an “American” holiday – started in Ireland and Scotland, most likely as a harvest festival… America adopted it sometime in the early 20th century, just as Singapore is doing now. And cultures mix and borrow all the time, why worry so much about something that obviously gives a lot of people pleasure? And it does tie in well with Asian beliefs and rituals, doesn’t it? Singapore cannot be pure – what would that mean, anyway? – mixing of cultures always leads to good things, strengthens the gene pool, you might say. One person’s gimmicks are another person’s successful programming, it seems to me. You haven’t convinced me that it is “wrong” to provide Halloween fun here in Singapore, nor that you are not a prude.

    • The main crux of what I wrote is not that I am against Halloween in S’pore; there is nothing wrong with a segment of S”pore adopting what is fast becoming a global phenomenon. I am simply aghast that a hallowed institution of Asian art and culture would adopt an Irish/Scottish/American tradition to promote itself. As far as I can see, Halloween in S’pore has mainly been about young people using it as an excuse to drink and be merry in the name of ghoulish revelry; such shenanigans have no place in a museum that prides itself on its academic integrity and cultural objectivity.

  2. Anonymous

    “but celebrating Halloween has almost no basis in the S’pore context” — that sounds pretty much against Halloween in Singapore to me, right?! Maybe you should choose your words more carefully (and why are you writing in English, by the way? – that’s a foreign import from the drunken, demonic West, too!).

    Have you ever attended a Fright Night at the ACM? I’ve stopped by the past two years, and have seen no drunken people, just lots and lots of families with children, many dressed in costumes, and young adults, all enjoying themselves. There were even some educational activities that brought people into the galleries. And the galleries were full of people looking at art!

    Maybe you should spend more time in museums, and less time with the drunken young people (but have you actually seen any of that for yourself on Halloween, either? or is talk of that just more of the rumors you like to spread on this blog of yours?).

    • Haha! Going by what you are saying, we should celebrate in S’pore EVERY festivity the world has to offer? And if you read my post closely, you see I did call ‘Fright Night’ an innovative way to draw visitors to ACM. But since you think such events are ok for a museum as long as visitors are “all enjoying themselves” with the educational activities and art, then you must also be openly supporting my call for “18-year old nubile girls to sell tickets, provide security etc ALL while dressed in wet bikinis one size too small” at ACM, so that lots of male visitors will come and also enjoy the educational activities and art?

      Pissed off at my brazen suggestion? You see, the end game for a museum cannot simply be “visitors are all enjoying themselves with the educational activities and art’, because if that’s the lowest common denominator, then museums will cease to be ‘museums’ and be more like ghastly places where they tout ‘edu-tainment’ as their core business.

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