30 March 2014
Ephemeral reality – and imagination
Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 ominously flew over the densely-populated island of Penang three weeks ago – but eventually carried on flying towards the south Indian ocean. The hypotheses and speculations on the disappearance of that flight have captivated me – I have been reading every single bit of available “information” every single day, strangely fascinated by this ongoing mystery.
My theory is that a fire on the plane – possibly caused by the 200 kilograms of lithium batteries it was carrying or by blown-up tires – forced the pilots to shut down electrical components, therefore possibly affecting communications means, in order to try and contain the fire. Maybe they even tried to gain altitude to starve off the fire from oxygen? And then they would have dialed in flight coordinates to land on the nearest long-enough landing strip, possibly Langkawi? But by that time the fire could possibly have spread, smoke intoxicating the cabin and the cockpit, and for whatever reason, the pilots imagined they’d never land safely and preferred to leave the autopilot on to get the aircraft to crash where nobody would be hurt on ground – i.e. heading towards the Indian ocean – not crashing right away so as to let satellites detect its trajectory… Or maybe a pilot just went crazy, who knows... will we ever even know if no debris are found? I would think that this story makes good fodder for a film – I’d be possibly inspired to write a thriller novel inspired from the speculation and the facts around all this.
I digress, as usual, although the common theme beyond showing you pictures of Penang in Malaysia – and George Town specifically, its capital – is imagination and how it goes by definition beyond reality, how imagination feeds itself from artifacts and tidbits in our lives. And what better way to showcase a town than to let artists express their imagination directly onto the walls of the town. In the case of George Town, some pieces were actually commissioned, some as part of a festival two years ago, while others sprung up freely, inspired by the lively and often humourous murals and steel rod caricatures. Boyish-looking but internationally-renowned Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic is one of those artists whose works I photographed, such as the (real) bicycle with the two (painted) children. Louis Gan is another, the artist behind the (painted) brother and sister on a (real) swing – I really like this blending of real-life objects and drawings, with passer-bys clinging to those objects when posing for pictures.
Of course, it’s not without posing challenges when art is considered too controversial or possibly damaging to historical facades, or when those new art pieces are themselves being vandalised or gradually fade away with time. The somehow ephemeral nature of that funny street art – string-ball or painted or ‘kung-fued’ cats, minions on a pole, a painted boy on a real motorcycle – truly resonated with me and I’m sure with many others too. Take a look for yourself – in my album or in person (here’s a Google map with the location of some of those art pieces).
One thing that's certain is that flight MH370 didn’t eventually crash on Penang. The flight’s most likely crash – symbolically represented on that last photo in my album – could indeed be considered a one-off event, a blip on the radar screen of sad world events. But I gather the mystery still shrouding many aspects of what should be an ordinary journey that many ordinary people could have taken has kept me intrigued, perhaps hypnotised or even entertained, even if it’s mixed with a tint of dread. I can thus relate to words by George Bernard Shaw in his only science-fiction 5-play opus called Back to Methuselah (full text), the last play of which, As Far as Thought Can Reach: A.D. 31,920, is accordingly set thirty thousand years in the future when great longevity is the norm (I wish!): “without art, the crudeness of reality would make the world unbearable”.