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The Star Online: Lifestyle: Arts & Fashion

Tribute to tragedy: 9-11 memorial museum revisits fateful day

Posted: 16 May 2014 02:55 AM PDT

A museum memorialising the Sep 11, 2001, attacks opens this week to victims' family members and next week to the public, displaying artefacts recalling the public and personal tragedy of that fateful day.

Visitors to the National September 11 Memorial Museum in downtown Manhattan descend to exhibitions several stories below street level to be greeted by a Hudson River retaining wall that survived the attacks and a column scrawled with numbers of the police and firefighters who did not.

The museum is the culmination of eight years' work designing the exhibits, collecting artefacts and settling innumerable disputes over how best to document the day when hijacked planes slammed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and an open field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, killing nearly 3,000 people.

A view of the National September 11 Memorial Museum, which can be seen in the background on the left in the photo above, from the edge of the South Reflecting Pool. The two reflecting pools were built as memorials to the victims who perished on the site of Ground Zero; the pools outline the footprints of the North and South Towers of the former World Trade Center and are bordered by bronze plaques that carry the victims' names. 

Battles over oversight and funding slowed construction even as reconstruction of the larger World Trade Center site was getting under way. In October 2012, the museum's lower levels were flooded in Superstorm Sandy.

"The museum is a place where you can come to understand 9/11 through the lives of those who were killed and the lives of those who rushed here to help," said former Mayor Michael Bloomberg as he introduced the museum to members of the media on May 14.

A message inscribed on the bottom of the 'Cross' (above), intersecting steel beams found in the rubble of the World Trade Center. New York mayor Michael Bloomberg commented that a half-destroyed fire truck (below) recovered from the rubble was among the most moving exhibits in the museum. 

Among the most moving displays was a fire engine badly battered in the collapse of the twin towers, he said. "All I could think of was, I wonder what happened to the firefighters that were assigned that day on that engine and whether they survived and what were their last thoughts if they didn't," he said.

The museum helps to convey the events and emotions of Sept. 11 by using audio such as telephone messages left to loved ones from those who would die in the towers, and cockpit recordings from the doomed planes.

Some 35,000 people closely involved in creating the museum, including victims' relatives, will get a first look in the coming week. Doors open to the public on May 21.

Two steel 'tridents' (above) recovered from the World Trade Center site after Sep 11, 2001, stand in the entry pavilion area of the museum, which is located underground. The 'survivors' stairs' (below) form one of the exhibits at the museum. 

"It is incredible, and it will wind up affecting different people in different ways, depending on their experiences," said Joel Shapiro, whose wife, Sareve Dukat, died in the South Tower.

Shapiro plans to be a docent at the museum, which sought input from curators, educators, architects, preservationists, family members, survivors, first responders, local residents, business owners and others.

A recent controversy involved moving unidentified remains of victims to the museum site. Some family members said it was wrong to store them at what is essentially a tourist site.

"Part of the ongoing drama of the site is that you have 3,000 families, and they don't agree with each other," said Richard Hankin, director of a documentary film "16 Acres" that traced the contentious rebuilding process.

More than half of the US$700mil (RM2.3bil) needed to build the museum and memorial was raised privately, and about US$250mil came from federal disaster funding. – Reuters

Roll with it: Our review of 'Merrily We Roll Along'

Posted: 15 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Do you control fame? Or does fame control you? Merrily We Roll Along tackles this very issue.

Aloft. That's the word. And a forced solitude. The unfortunate twins begot of fame. The sad aftermath for those who let rolling successes get to their heads.

Rash decisions are made. Friends and family lose their value and worth. Carnality takes the seat on the throne of the heart. Loneliness becomes a friend and suddenly, nothing is worth it anymore. The joy and merrymaking of the yesteryear with one's closest friends are gone.

That is exactly what Franklin Shepard learns, rather bitterly, in his rise to fame as a Hollywood music composer.

And when nostalgia kicks in, just like Franklin, the audience in the musical Merrily We Roll Along will see how things were so much simpler at the beginning.

Presented by local outfit Pan Productions and directed by Nell Ng, this Stephen Sondheim (music and lyrics) and George Furth (book) musical is replete with haunting melodies, thumping numbers and most importantly a story that is true to the heart. 

Merrily, which is showing at the Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre now, tracks the story of three best friends, Franklin Shepard (Frank), Charley Kringas and Mary Flynn – played by Peter Ong, Aaron Teoh and Chang Fang Chyi respectively – in their pursuit of becoming successful writers and composers. Along the way, the seams of the friendship begin to unravel, while clandestine affairs ruin marriages and fametakes over.

But what's fascinating with Merrily is that the story begins with the end, when Frank is at the height of his fame. It moves backward, telling in reverse a bittersweet tale. And instead of taking the joy ride to the top only to plunge into despair, the audience gets to unload along the way as things get from dreary to merry.

Ng's directing proves to be effective and powerful. The story is a very human one, which captures both the beauty and ugliness of relationships. The set at KLPac is devoid of grand trappings.You get to zero in instead on the characters.

The principal cast, helmed by Ong, Teoh and Chang, were outstanding during last Saturday's show. It was indeed a joy to watch these actors embody their characters to the fullest. Ong was amazing as the conflicted Frank. He effortlessly traced the emptiness and innocent aspirations of his character. Teoh, who plays Frank's dearest buddy and fellow dreamer Charley, was endearing and there was a certain charisma about the emerging actor that will keep you affixed on him. Playing the rose among the thorns is Chang who delivered the punch lines with comedic precision and filled the stage with her larger-than-life persona.

The hopeful trio all set to dream big and make it big in the world of Hollywood

Starry-eyed: The hopeful trio – Aaron Teoh, Peter Ong and Chang Fang Chyi – all set to dream big and
make it big in the world of Hollywood in Merrily We Roll Along.

The trio shared a genuine and infectious chemistry on stage.

Elsewhere, Stephanie Van Driesen, who plays Frank's wife Beth, hammered home the Not A Day Goes By tune with such vigour and raw melancholy. Her voice was truly haunting. But the one person who stole the show has to be the sultry vixen Gussie Carnegie, played by the talented Nicolette Palikat. Fondly known as Nikki, the relatively new musical actor was a force to be reckoned with. Her seductive eyes, bewitching beauty and magnetic voice not only captivated the unassuming Frank, but this writer as well.

As for the tunes, the musical numbers in Merrily were slow and stretched out at the start. But you couldn't help but get trapped in the clutches of the tragedy played out on stage.

As the show continued, the songs made a ball change (to borrow a dance term) and you had the tempo going up. Feet-tapping optional! As the circumstances became more hopeful, the show got more chirpy and brighter in spirit.

Suddenly, you wanted these characters to succeed. You could identify with them, with your own struggles to rise above the rest and you wanted, more than anything, for the three friends, especially Frank, to be a somebody.

Rather aptly, a line from the tune Our Time – "It's our time, breathe it in. Worlds to change and worlds to win. Our turn coming through, me and you, pal, me and you!" – really hits home.

Words which resonated deeply as we left the venue.

> Merrily We Roll Along runs at Pentas 2, Kuala Lumpur Performing Arts Centre till May 25. Tickets are priced at RM85, RM105 and RM125. For reservations or more info, call the KLPac box office at 03-4047 9000 or visit www.ticketpro.com.my. Tonight's charity gala will see all ticket sales donated to Yayasan Sultanah Bahiyah. Tickets for the charity gala still available.

Chinese ambition

Posted: 15 May 2014 09:00 AM PDT

Art Basel puts the spotlight on Hong Kong, which aims to be recognised as a major cultural hub.

HONG Kong's tallest building will transform into a glowing art installation this week, a beacon showing off the city's ambition to be recognised as a major cultural hub with its second Art Basel fair.

With its knack for bringing in a global mix of wealthy buyers, artists, gallerists, VIPs and celebrities, the five-day show is the catalyst to a champagne-soaked itinerary of art fairs, exhibitions and happenings.

German artist Carsten Nicolai was commissioned by Art Basel to turn the 118-storey International Commerce Centre (ICC) on the Kowloon peninsula into a glowing installation called "(alpha) Pulse", one of many art events scheduled around the fair's opening.

Along with an installation by British artist Tracey Emin illuminating the city's historic Peninsula hotel, such displays are a flashy signal of intent by Hong Kong, the world's third-biggest auction market behind New York and London.

Hong Kong Art Basel, which began on Wednesday at the city's harbour front convention centre, brings together 245 participating galleries – half coming from Asia and Asia-Pacific.

"One of the biggest contributions that we're able to make is to raise the profile of Hong Kong above and beyond being a centre for finance and retail," said Art Basel director for Asia Magnus Renfrew.

"Because we are an event of this scale, we've really been able to help generate discussion around art in the city," he said, adding that he sees 'huge' growth potential in the Asian art scene.

"The art market tends to follow the money and the greatest creation of wealth at the moment is in Asia," Renfrew said.        

The city's "art week" beyond the fair will also include the unveiling of an outdoor sculpture studded with 8,000 Swarovski crystals by London duo Patrik Fredrikson and Ian Stallard.

Provocative US performance artist Ryan McNamara – whose previous works have included singing songs while buried to his neck in a forest and licking Louis Vuitton bags at the brand's New York boutique – will also carry out his latest work.

The five-day event also enables the city's own artists to be highlighted on a number of different platforms.

Renfrew said that Art Basel would direct its VIPs to more than 150 art events, giving greater exposure to the local scene.

Nadim Abbas's mixed-media installations have led to recent shows in New York, Singapore and London and his "Apocalypse Postponed" piece for the fair's pop-up bar.

Lee Kit is another local star, whose practice encompasses painting, drawing, video and installation and was selected to represent Hong Kong at the 2013 Venice Biennale.

"By building up awareness, excitement and opportunities around art in the city, (Art Basel) can also help lead to the increased support of the field in general," said Claire Hsu of the Asia Art Archive, a locally based non-profit group documenting the recent history of contemporary art in the region.

"How the community leverages this energy for the rest of the year is the key."               

With galleries paying for a space at the fair, the hope is that their artists can gain greater exposure and better contacts among collectors in the wider art world.

However, for the Hong Kong-based Schoeni Gallery, which represents a variety of local artists, the experience of attending Art Basel's first instalment in the city in 2013 was mixed.

"Our (expectations) weren't quite met in terms of meeting new faces," said gallery director Nicole Schoeni. Despite the fair offering a global platform for the local art scene, "there wasn't enough of an exchange between new collectors and local galleries," Schoeni said, adding that she expects this to improve as the fair grows.

Art Basel last year replaced Art HK, Hong Kong's former art fair that was set up in 2008 before being taken over by the high-profile Swiss Art Basel franchise.

Gagosian, White Cube, Acquavella, Lehmann Maupin and Pearl Lam are just some of the big-name galleries to have arrived in the city in the past two years, despite its crushing property costs.

The local art scene is also buzzing, with landmark heritage buildings in the Central district recently repurposed to accommodate artists and designers.

The government is also developing an entire art and culture district on the waterfront in Kowloon where contemporary art museum "M+" is expected to boast a world-class art selection.

"We are definitely at a very exciting moment," said Hsu. "There is a general sense that while Hong Kong is already a well-established art market, it is at a new stage in its development as an influential centre for new thinking around art." — AFP

Kredit: www.thestar.com.my

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