Semester Project Final: 聆聽靈聽 / Listening, Listening

Setting up of the Space
The setting up of the space was quite time-consuming because of the large barrels. They were difficult to bring to the classroom, let alone brought to the staircase (but no regrets)! For the audio output, I decided to attach a few headphones to the base of the barrel so that it will project sound when you’re close enough to the barrel.

Attaching a piece of wood to the base of the barrel so that the wiring will not get interrupted.

Attaching audio output to base & flipping barrel over.

Barrel before wrapping up with gunny sack.

Wrapping the barrels up after attaching the audio devices.

Arranging barrels in the space.

More process shots

Space after setting up

Chosen Space
The initial setup space was supposed to be on the second floor at the following space: However, I was not able to get an approval thus I decided to change the location instead. The new location at the staircase was much more mysterious and I feel that it suits the concept better as it was supposed to be a place where you can eavesdrop to people’s conversations – something not so “legal”. Due to the nature of secrecy, I thought the staircase would be an interesting place to explore.

 MAX Patch

Two patches because the audio files were too big and kept causing the software to crash.

List of recordings used

List of ambient sounds recorded

For the ambient sounds, I went to MacRitchie reservoir to record some of the insect sounds and also took recordings of roosters. These recordings were hard to collect as it required me to talk to several people and get near enough to other people to record what they were saying. I also recorded some of the conversations I had with my family as it was easiest to record.

Areas to Improve
My Arduino patch didn’t quite work out. It wasn’t communicating with MAX MSP the way I wanted it to. I think the main problem was the sending of values, I think I am quite close to achieving the right code. In the end, due to the shortage of time, I decided I would just manually operate the patch instead.

Circuit used.

Final documentation of video.
Password: intspaces

FYP Ideation – Expiry Date: Preservation of Traditional Asian Theatre

Expiry Dates are something we encounter in our daily lives but take little notice of. This project aims to discuss the idea of loss through exploring the notion of “Expiry Dates”. What does this expiry mean to us? When we stamp on an expiry date or seek an expiry date in our lives, what exactly are we looking for?

  • What does the expiry date mean to the individual?
  • What narratives can a “date” inspire?
  • How are these narratives related to one another?
  • How does the concept of “preservation” link to expiry dates?

The issue to be focused on will be the loss of Traditional Asian Theatre forms in contemporary society. Possible traditional Asian theatre forms to be explored are, but not limited to:

  • Kathakali
  • Puppetry
  • Wayang-kulit
  • Chinese Opera
  • Japanese Noh Theatre
  • Kabuki Theatre

How is contemporary society’s reception of traditional Asian theatre forms? With many Asian countries facing an ageing population, these traditional art forms face an impending “expiry”. What are these practitioners doing to reconnect these forms with contemporary society? Will these art forms be completely lost one day? How does technology affect the preservation of the traditional theatre forms? Were any of these theatre forms specific to a particular area or religion in Singapore?

Initial Idea

During the final presentation on 25 April 2018, I talked about wanting to find narratives of individuals in society and connecting them with the idea of “expiry dates”. However, I realised that it was a very broad scope and I needed to narrow it down further. I think that it is important for me to narrow down and be as concise as I can with my project so that I can better develop the project.

While preparing for the presentation, I did some field research by speaking to individuals about their concept of expiry dates (contact me for more information). I also visited a few exhibitions locally to find out more about how I can take this idea further.

One of the exhibits I visited recently was Lucy Davis’ Migrant Ecologies Project, held at Tanglin Halt. I think it was really informative and helped me better connect with the community there. Prior to my visit, I was stressing over how I should present my works and it did not help with conceptualising my project. The visit also connected me with some of ADM’s alumni members. I feel that at this stage, it is more important to plan the development of the project.

I feel that the Gantt chart I created for the first phase of my FYP can still be applicable to this new direction I am moving towards. The visits to the various exhibitions and artists’ talks during the semester has helped me realise that passion for a project is really crucial. Although I was ambitious and wanted to work with as many groups of people as I could, I feel that it is also important to be realistic and not be too greedy. For this, I have contacted a few theatre practitioners and will be contacting a few more to ask if they would be interested in my project. I will then be conducting in-depth research through interviews and workshops with these groups of people.

I will also be conducting lab sessions in collaboration with a local theatre company during the summer break to find out how interactive media can help with bringing more awareness and understanding towards traditional Asian theatre forms.

Moving on, I will be researching on public art and level of site-specificity this project could be brought to. For example, how did these traditional theatre art forms arrive in Singapore and which areas  in Singapore was known to hold these performances for the members of public. There are three forms of traditional theatre forms I wish to research on in Singapore:

  1. Chinese Opera
  2. Puppetry
  3. Kathakali

I have previously contacted and had lessons with some of these practitioners, thus I feel that this would be a good direction to work towards.

Outcome of the Project
As I have mentioned, I wish to find out how I can work on interactive site-specific works in the community. I also want to explore this with the people I am planning to work with so that the process will be a more organic one. I do not want to force the outcome of my project onto the people I will be working with.

Semester Project Pitch: 聆聽靈聽 / Listening, Listening

For the semester project, I wish to explore the idea of listening. Listening is a form of communication that we often forget. We even lose this ability to listen to the people around us, because we are too busy forming our opinions about them or the topic we want to say. We are too engrossed in thinking about what to say next, and forget that the meaning of “communication”.

I think listening is a skill that requires lots of patience. We are often too quick to judge and form an opinion about the people around us without a proper understanding of their circumstance.

I would like to merge the idea of the puppets and the eavesdropping idea for this project. I realised that the only time we listen without talking is when we are listening to other people’s conversations. Hence, I want to further develop this idea. I feel that this fits with the idea of puppetry because a puppet show do not necessary communicate in a language we understand. It is through their bodily actions that explains the storyline. We are also less likely to judge a puppet because it is a shapeless, formless, characterless figure.

In Chinese, the phrase “listen” can be written in two ways – 聆聽 and 靈聽. With the latter, the word 靈 means “spirit”. My interpretation of this term is to listen with your “soul” and not your “head”.

The interactive space will consist of 12 different barrels and some puppets. In eight of them, people can trigger recordings of conversations via a proximate sensor and listen through the hole in the barrel. The other four barrels will consist of ambient sounds.

How the barrels look like
Proposed space

Metaphor of the “Tree”
These barrels will be covered in brown paper and decorated to look like a tree. Trees symbolise life and immortality. I always felt that trees have the most stories to tell, having the ability to live through many centuries. In this case, the tree produces stories it has eavesdropped over time.

Metaphor of the “Puppet”
Faceless puppets will also hang around the tree to represent the characters or people in the recorded conversations.

I am currently thinking of a proximate sensor and the possible places where this can be staged.

Things to work on:
– Sensor
– Site location (power plugs, size of space in relation to barrels)


Emergent Visions: Symposium 31 March 2017 (with Suhwee)

(Note: Haphazard organisation of thoughts)

The session by National University of Singapore Professor, Audrey Yue, raised many questions and thoughts about Ambient Participation and Placemaking. She cites Alan Brown’s 5 modes of art participation to further explain and put forth the relationship between placemaking and ambient art participation.

The classifications transcend discipline, genre, cultural context, and skill level and include the following:

1. Inventive Arts Participation engages the mind, body, and spirit in an act of artistic creation that is unique and idiosyncratic, regardless of skill level.

2. Interpretive Arts Participation is a creative act of self-expression that brings alive and adds value to pre-existing works of art, either individually or collaboratively.

3. Curatorial Arts Participation is the creative act of purposefully selecting, organizing, and collecting art to the satisfaction of one’s own artistic sensibility.

4. Observational Arts Participation encompasses arts experiences that an individual selects or consents to, motivated by some expectation of value.

5. Ambient Arts Participation involves experiencing art, consciously or unconsciously, that is not purposefully selected—art that “happens to you.”

Source: Alan Brown, A Fresh Look at Arts Participation

Throughout the presentation, I found myself questioning the meaning of placemaking and how it relates to Singapore. A quick search online defines placemaking as:

Placemaking refers to a collaborative process by which we can shape our public realm in order to maximize shared value.

Source: Project for Public Spaces

Land is scarce in Singapore and the landscape is ever-changing. There is constant rebuilding and re-evaluating the value of a place in this country. This then become a catalyst for conversations and debates. The potential in placemaking here is high because of the multiracial, multi-religious, multicultural background of Singapore. Placemaking also ensures continuity in any given type of art creation.

Finding New Ways to Evaluate Impacts of Placemaking
Yue also brought up the importance of finding other ways to evaluate impacts of placemaking and enhancing cultural impact. What determines the success of a placemaking project? How to we define its success beyond footfall and participation results? I think we need to constantly re-evaluate the way we approach the art-making process and our definition of a “successful” work of art. For example, in Singapore, the term “Community Art” has a negative connotation to it. Placemaking encourages community art-making, however, over the years, artworks that were created for the sake of it started to replace the space that once was “community art”. Community Art is deemed as something done for “charity”, where art works are created to meet certain organisation objectives and Key Performance Indicators (KPI). This defeats the purpose of placemaking because it does not have continuity and works are produced against time, often resulting in works that do not hold much meaning and thought.

Friends in the art industry often lament about the lack of time in the process of art-making. Once given a grant, the organisation sets deadlines for the artist to meet and the work must result in a physical work (e.g. exhibitions). The organisation then determines if the project is successful through its KPI, such as crowd numbers and public reaction. If it fails to meet the KPI, it is then deemed a “failure” and the possibility of holding a similar project is reduced.

How to “Measure”
I agree with Yue when she suggested other ways of “measuring” the success of such a project – that is to create focus groups and use qualitative surveys. This requires time and effort. If we are always in a hurry to see results, we will not be able to witness a project’s true success. We are always too quick to nip an “unsuccessful” project in its bud, without giving it time to develop into something more.

I feel that this topic is very relevant to the creative industry in Singapore. As an art student, we have to constantly reflect about the state of the arts in Singapore. When it comes to art, numbers and results should be secondary to the process of art-making. It should create a safe space for dialogue and discussion to happen because ultimately, placemaking gives meaning to a space and helps us realise that we are inter-connected through a network of relationships.

Examples of Placemaking in Singapore