Ikebana, back to basics (or: A Paltry Attempt at What is Known as Journalism)

I have never written an article before, so this ought to be good.

On October 2 (Monday), I attended the opening of the Ikebana, back to basics exhibition by the Ikebana International Singapore Chapter 135, hosted at the Japan Creative Centre.¹

The place is essentially a private mini gallery.

The atmosphere is somewhat unnerving, from the average age being twice of mine, to the fact that a doorman opens the door and greets you personally.² Part of it is also perhaps just the minimalistic elegance of the rooms, which are small and uncluttered. An ikebana and introductory placard can be seen before the doorless chamber, no bigger than a typical classroom.

What strikes me most is the natural, yet haphazard, curls of the branches.

Bathed in gentle, warm lighting, the white walls were lined with various flower arrangements at apt intervals. Upon closer inspection, placards could be seen beside each ikebana, inscribed with the name and school of the creator. An overwhelming majority were of Sogetsu, with a few from the other 5 schools being displayed.

The chamber was adorned by white chairs, barely enough to seat 20 people, with an aisle in the middle. I quickly settled in the barren back row. My awkwardness was masked by my act as an enraptured audience member (or, at least, I hoped it was). A long table adorned by a sea green cloth remained empty, though the corner was occupied by a bamboo structure which jutted out at various angles.

Originally without the leaf.

⁴ The event began with the opening speeches of two distinguished speakers: Mrs. Yuko Shinoda, the wife of the Japanese ambassador to Singapore, and Ms. Angela Kek, the President of the Chapter. They spoke of the progress of the Chapter since its founding in 1969, where educational platforms to bring ikebana to Singapore have flourished⁵. Furthermore, the Japanese art of ikebana still remains rooted in traditional forms, despite having adapted to modernity. This was the inspiration behind the theme of “basic”, in returning to basic rules and concepts.

Some other important figures were also introduced, such as Ms. Akiko Sugita, the Director of the Japan Creative Centre, and various members of what, presumably, is their exclusive inner circle.⁶

A live exhibition ensued, showcasing the working process of Mr. Peter Chin, a committee member of the Floral Designers Society (Singapore). A floral designer who has been in the business for 43 years, he created 3 ikebana within approximately 15 minutes each, colouring his working process with live commentary. All 3 ikebana used different bases, and thus, presented various techniques.

Throughout the demonstration, he gave numerous tips involving plant freshness, maintenance, and colour coordination. For example, that bamboo could be rejuvenated through soaking, and that rotting flowers could be saved by trimming. In light of autumn, he chose orange flowers, offset by yellows and pinks to evoke the earlier parts of the season.

Black bamboo. To show the season, he also added mid-autumn lanterns.

As an avid user, he also provided many details on bamboo. Different varieties of bamboo have different qualities, such as with the hardier black bamboo. In addition, bamboo can grow up to half a metre per day, as a versatile grass (yes, bamboo is a grass!). It also stores water easily, and is often so expansive that they cross each other at haphazard angles. He fondly recounted a tale of a guard attempting to accuse him of cutting bamboo in the forest. The punchline, of course, being that said guard could not tell where exactly the cutting had occurred.

Chin also commented extensively on the use of plants to suggest direction. “These are just basically finishing touches to give it more flow,” he explained, as he clipped branches with a resounding twang. “The main feature which is the flowers, then the rest flowing along the sides to give it more movement… to make the arrangement more lively,” he continued, framing the golden chrysanthemums with yet another wispy fern.

For the benefit of everyone, I have summarised the more inferential points mentioned in his soliloquies below:

  1. Local procurement

Noting that many people believe ikebana to require exotic, foreign materials, he specifically worked with local flora, such as ixora, and nameless branches he randomly found along the way. The explanation given was that local materials can still provide beautiful forms to work with.

2. Curating materials

Often, one may find a branch plenty beautiful in its natural state, or end up trimming it far too much. The key, he said, was to focus on what you want from it. If you wanted to focus on the curve of the branch, you could even strip its leaves entirely, as he demonstrated for us. “Don’t feel uncomfortable with plucking off or cutting off!” he exclaimed, as he ripped leaves off a branch. He then proceeded to curl it.

3. Natural joining

Save for certain situations, he attached the materials with no additional assistance from fixatives like glue or rope. Branches were placed vertically, by sectioning the stem into 4 at the bottom to form a solid base; stems were twisted, to counter turning momentum; flowers were slotted into cavities, where they fit snugly.

4. Plant coordination

Even plants which may not seem to work together may come together surprisingly. He recommended keeping a stock of plants which one might wish to use and experimenting accordingly, than making assumptions based on prior knowledge. He also recommended picking colours in relation to each other and the season, as with the black of the bamboo offset by green, and hints of yellow and pink.

Lying abandoned in a side corridor, a vase of additional flowers he had prepared.

After his demonstration ended, there was a food reception and free tea from Premiers. The audience quickly dispersed to either grab the free food, or take photos of his completed works. I was the latter, before I decided that it made more sense to come back later once the crowd lost interest, heading over the tea section instead. A quick look at the menu revealed a nice variation of few teas, from classical Darjeeling to exotic Assam, quirky Chocolate to floral Chamomile.⁸ There was also a bizarre cold tea named Celebration, (which I never got to try due to limited stock, sadly), and the display was rather elegant.

It took a while to realise that the tea counter was to be visited AFTER the food, and thus I headed to the queue for food. Kueh of different colours were displayed, from the beloved rainbow to purples and greens, followed by typical catering trays filled with typical Chinese things like bee hoon and fishcakes. During this time, Ikebana A was also presented to Mrs. Shinoda.

Further exploration revealed that there was, in fact, another room displaying even more ikebanas from various people. Compiled are photos of almost all displayed ikebanas, both in that room and out of.

Even more wandering around revealed an eLibrary, though it was, unfortunately, off limits to the public. Also an office, but that’s not as interesting. With nothing much left to do, I absconded with about 7 different brochures and magazines (and sachets of tea).

In all fairness, it DID say it was free.

All in all, I’d say that I likely interpreted everything differently from the masses, who were more likely there to observe another’s techniques and adapt accordingly (I still have no idea what I was doing there, really). It was vaguely enlightening, nevertheless, to see the different techniques and forms which arose depending on the base and types of plants used. From stiff and tall to soft and wide, from those meant to be viewed only from the front to those which were 3-dimensional, complex coordination was done to bring out something as simple as prettiness.¹⁰

If my failure of an article has somehow spurred you to take a look, the exhibition is open to public and still ongoing until 5 October, from 10am to 6pm! You can find more details here. If it hasn’t, well, at least you kind of know what happened, right?

Personal comments which seemed inappropriate are here, labelled by numbers.

¹ I was mostly assuming there would be another NTU student there, but quickly came to the realisation that I had been abandoned by everyone else who had said they wanted to go. I was easily the youngest person there, even including J.W., so fair warning: you might feel awkward and out of place if you go alone.

² My relief knew no bounds when they avoided calling me “ma’am” like they did the others.

³ I would soon regret this, considering the average height of the people in the room versus mine.

Here, I will take the liberty of admitting that I did not listen particularly thoroughly so I’m not too sure on if they WERE the speakers and who said what.

haha geddit

I personally think the Chapter sounds like a secret society name.

It SOUNDED like vanilla, but I’m quite sure it wasn’t. So I have no idea. Maybe just water.

Personally, the bee hoon was subpar, but the fishcake(?) was superb. I will never reject free tea, but I was vaguely disappointed that there wasn’t Earl Grey, which is easily my favourite black tea. This was resolved by the gift bag they gave at the exit, though.

There were definitely some which were better than the others to me, though, but that’s likely just my personal taste. I particularly enjoyed those which involved wild careening to the left/right, than those which were more rigid with straight, vertical lines. Those which used artificial plants also fell into my general disregard, because of the waxy appearance and lack of natural blemishes which makes everything so much more interesting in my opinion.

Ikebana

I realised I forgot to ever publish the posts, ha..ha… So here I am! As usual, initial models are here, and the final model was based on Model 1.

Before beginning, I took a look at my hoard of mostly-useless trivia in exploring Autumn:

  • Associated with red, orange, yellow (warm colours), e.g. maple leaves, ginko leaves, and just dead leaves in general
  • Mid-Autumn Festival (中秋節 zhōng qiū jié), where a lady ascends to the moon
  • Rabbits, because they’re said to pound moon cakes on the moon
  • Typically a harvest festival, hence the association with the “harvest moon” and stalks of wheat
  • Tsuki (moon) = suki (love), giving rise to “月は綺麗 (tsuki wa kirei; the moon is beautiful)” = I love you
  • Moon is associated with the sea and its tides
  • Some Bloodborne Blood Moon
  • And about ten different songs involving the moon in various ways

Other things I learnt by Google:

  • Mochi is associated with the moon because it’s round and white, and also because rabbits are thought to pound it on the moon
  • Sweet potatoes are offered because it’s the harvest season
  • Soumen is occasionally eaten because the strands represents the Milky Way
  • 秋の七草 (aki no nanakusa) is a common saying to refer to 7 wild plants found in Autumn, as opposed to the 7 herbs of Spring
  • 菊 Crysanthemums are an Autumn flower! (Only knew they represented the Imperial Throne, but not… this)

Firstly, I opted to go for Model 1 simply because I already had another idea in mind for Model 2 which wouldn’t fit well, and I couldn’t see myself changing what I felt Model 2 should become. Also, Model 3 was just not interesting to me. So Model 1 it was!

I decided to focus on o-tsukimi (お月見), the Japanese Mid-Autumn Festival, so that I could bring in food as opposed to just plant material. Overall, though, I wanted it to look like some sort of lantern/moon/boat thing, with a nice curve arching over and enclosing a rounded, glimmery circle.

Also, supplementary material as to the kind of feelings I wanted to imbue. I meant the choral version, but I can’t find any videos!

SPHERE: Mochi and Mochi Mochi (I still think it’s funny).

I wanted a giant mochi, but quickly realised there was no way that was happening. To compromise, I initially intended to have some sort of structure  around the mochi to suggest some kind of extrapolation.

http://www.nsd-fusion.com/template/images/icons/neutron.png
Like this thing.

As it went on, though, I realised a pun even more glorious than that of the yakimochi. mochi = to hold, mochi = rice cake, so it could be just be something to hold mochi, a mochi mochi. And thus, I did so.

CONE: Sweet potato

I just couldn’t really think of any autumn foods which were naturally conical which wouldn’t look completely out of place, so I opted to just cut the sweet potato to shape. This took a little bit of cooking sense, because I forgot that it’s not really possible to cut raw sweet potatoes. I also had to cut it from 3 different sweet potatoes because sweet potatos just don’t grow big enough to have a single piece.

I then used toothpicks and satay sticks to help attach the pieces together and form the hole for the soumen piercing.

CYLINDER: Soumen

As aforementioned, soumen represents the Milky Way, important in stories with the moon. I’m mostly sure that’s just soba, though. In my defense, actual white noodles was kind of glaring in all the wrong ways, so I consciously decided to go with the duller but more natural-coloured soba.

https://2qibqm39xjt6q46gf1rwo2g1-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/01/web1_M3DaisoWhatsUp-edh-170131.jpg
$2 Daiso noodles

BASE

For the base, I was already envisioning a shallow, basin like, long and slim tray. Preferably with that one bunny-wheat-moon-mochi design.

https://i.ebayimg.com/images/g/xVoAAOSwPhdVUbcw/s-l300.jpg
I actually bought one, but the shape was… Unsatisfactory.

I just got a normal Japanese plate in the end.

BRANCHES

I wanted to bend it into the arch! I really did! I borrowed my roommate’s hairdryer and everything!

In the end, I decided that if I couldn’t bend it, I could only join branches together to give me the shape I needed. I’m not in possession of a hot glue gun or anything useful like that (and I wasn’t sure if it would make the structure look undesirably unnatural), so I opted to go with a more… Traditional method. (It’s fortunate that I spent 4 years learning this as a cadet.)

I used (very low-quality) coir, which is coconut fiber rope. I personally like coir more than cotton because of the colour and texture, and it worked better just because it blends in better. (That’s a diagonal lashing, by the way.)

I then used a whipping knot to lash the branch to the plate.

ALL THE OTHER PLANTS

As you can see above, it doesn’t look very nice, so I decided to just add a carpet of fallen leaves/flowers/etc to conceal it. Also because autumn is a lot about wilting plants all over the ground (crunching through leaves, perhaps?).

Aki no nanakusa clearly suggests something about autumn, which is that of a lack of flamboyant and prominent plants as opposed to wild weeds, so I went and did exactly that: I plucked fairly inconspicuous plants/fruits/flowers around Hall 2 and the SRC. I went for reds, oranges, browns, obviously. Also, some of those weeds which look vaguely like stalks of wheat.

Then I also just picked up a lot of dead leaves lying around.

When interlacing with the model, I didn’t use anything but natural forces such as gravity, and just wedging plants into cavities to hold them in place.

I considered folding paper crysanthemums, but decided against it since it didn’t really fit the idea of wild and minor plants.

…AND RABBITS

Also partially for the pun. kami = paper, kami = god, and therefore paper rabbits are mystically, holy, god.

To make the sphere look like it’s somewhat floating, I used fishing line. Also, the masking tape cordons off the re-appropriated public space, because my room didn’t have space.

To end things off, here’s a picture from while I was working outside my room.

Visit and donate to the CMN to help support our school cats

Ikebana Processing

Here’s the final post.

I mostly thought of trying to vary the types of cylinders and cones I had (spheres… can’t really be varied, can they?), so I worked on trying to join different kinds, and also changing up the dominant. Also, I discovered that the inside of my cupboard works decently as a background (although the reflectiveness is a little difficult).

Model 1

Dominant: Sphere

Subdominant: Cone (short and broad)

Subordinate: Cylinder (thin and long)

The main idea was the sphere being a huge dominant, so everything else just came in naturally. Initially I was thinking of the cylinder as the subdominant, but Cheryl suggested that it would be better to have a thinner and longer cone if I wanted it as the SO. And I kind of wanted to have the “mountain” cone to fit into the narrative I had in mind, so I upgraded it and downgraded the cylinder!

At first I had thought of having the sphere and cone supported by a long and slender cylinder, but after downgrading I figure it might not be good to give the SO too much power, so now the sphere is kind-of-but-not-really floating (this was a serendipitous discovery because I had no idea how to use the metal wire properly to secure everything, and ended up having extra lengths which became the “floating” region).

ALSO, I am proud to say that I consciously took actions to prevent similar lengths. You will find that the radius of the sphere and the base of the cone are NOT equal (because I trimmed the cone), nor the length of the cylinder and the radius of the sphere (because I extended it with masking tape). And that made 2 semicircles into 1 sphere to replace that 1 sphere which was stolen from me.

Main problem: In terms of hierarchy and visibility, not much. Maybe the sphere could be bigger since the SD is somewhat competitive, but that was the best I could have done with the available foam, honestly… Perhaps from one side the SO may or may not be seen, but it’s an acceptable tradeoff (in my opinion) to maintain the rule of third and hierarchy.

Material thoughts:

  • Sphere: A giant yakimochi!! Pun to show negative feelings
  • Cone: Mount Fuji-shaped taiyaki. A weird spinoff of the Carp Leaping Over Dragon’s Gate myth (Bream Leaping Over Mount Fuji?), representing hope :3 It used to be SO to bring across the idea of giant negativity vs minuscule positivity.
  • Cylinder: I have no idea…

 

Model 2

Dominant: Cylinder (fat and chunky)

Subdominant: Cone (decent sized)

Subordinate: Sphere

I just wanted to try having a chunky cylinder, so the rest kind of fell into place naturally. Also, the idea of the dominant kind of being supported by the SD seemed fun, especially if the SD wasn’t even on its secure base, so I just… Tried it out? The SO positioning was mostly just gut feeling as to where I felt it looked good, but I looked at it only from 1 side so it wasn’t consistently effective from all angles in the end.

For this the cylinder actually reminded me of a book I read, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake. (This was before the seasons and Japanese and everything happened.) I was thinking along the lines of key types of food in the book (I wont go into detail to prevent spoilers).

Material thoughts:

  • Cylinder: The titular cake which changes everything. Bittersweet, hollow, begins the book
  • Cone: Junk food. Literally supports the protagonist in the middle of the book.
  • Sphere: Dupont’s cooking. Simple, pure. The salvation at the end of the book.

This was incredibly difficult to secure T_T I stuck the metal wire Cheryl gave us through the cone vertically (not the best material. it’s a little TOO malleable), then through half of the cylinder. As shown, the cylinder was formed by joining 2 cylinders, so I made a hook shape and hooked the wire through the upper half, and back through. Also, 2 wires supporting and maintaining the angle of the cone’s lean; same for the cylinder.

(Just for fun I also tried to use an arch for the base because ROMAN ART, but realised quickly that there was no point because the point of the arch is that it can support weight well, and therefore has nothing to do with maintaining the model.)

Main problem: … Actually, not much. Hierarchy remains constant, and elements remain visible from all angles. Perhaps it would be nice if there was less flat planes (caused by the gigantic cylinder, especially from top view).

Model 3

Dominant: Cone (thin and tall)

Subdominant: Cylinder (Thin and wide)

Subordinate: Sphere

The main idea was just wanting a cone as the dominant; again, the rest fell into place then. I’m not a big fan of this model because it looks very… Normal, somehow. Like the feeling of “yeah, there’s the sense of imbalance and skewed lines, but it’s very contained”.

This was also easiest in terms of construction and support, I just used 1 metal wire through the vertical length of the cone (but it was already relatively stable).

Main problem: Consistency in angles. The tapering nature of the cone causes the hierarchy to shift (from top view); the broadness of the cylinder surface causes the SO to be concealed (from bottom view).

 

(EXTRA) After the Sept 15 class, discussing with my sister. It’s not really relevant, but I just wanted to show some of the early musings before the sudden mess of having to include branches, seasons, foods, flowers, etc. Most of the mentioned foods are 和菓子 wagashi, traditional Japanese confectioneries.

Unfortunately, my hamartia is lack of dexterity. I’m the kind of person who failed that one compulsory secondary school D&T module, and can’t come up with ways to actualise ideas, so… Knowing me, trying to make a giant toasted mochi will probably lead to either me losing a lot of money wasted on ingredients, an oven damaged beyond repair and/or a week’s worth of kitchen cleaning chores.

Analysing SHAFT surrealness & Quote exploration

Alternative title: Excerpt of me brainstorming on Sept 23 at 01:03:29 because I couldn’t think of anything.

The fact that I myself, at the moment of painting, do not understand my own pictures, does not mean that these pictures have no meaning; on the contrary, their meaning is so profound, complex, coherent, and involuntary that it escapes the most simple analysis of logical intuition.

I always feel like I have problems conceptualising “surreality”, probably because my opinion on it is very close to Salvador Dali’s, that true surrealism is when I create something that even I can’t understand. But I don’t think that’s something I can do, to let go of all rationality and be able to confidently say that’s what I’m presenting, and yet, I can’t feel comfortable creating something that was purposeful, imbued with meaning, and call it “surrealism”. And that’s problematic for me, because it really affected my ability to complete Project 1, and, as evidently shown by my lack of progress even by this date and time, Project 2.

So I’m writing to make sense of things. When I try to narrow down the scope to something more tangible, then, I think more of SHAFT. They’re a Japanese company renown for their unique style, which often treads the line of symbolic surrealism.

SOME SHAFT ANALYSES

I think the best examples are their portrayals of witches, otherworldly beings of despair (sample 1 and sample 2). In both examples, the witches and their domains are seen in juxtaposition to the “real world”, where they create a world which is nonsensical, filled with extended imagery, repetition, etc.

(Some background knowledge, first. The “witch” is an otherworldly monster, which has her own domain, a world separate from the real world and shaped by her warped consciousness. She also has minions, servants which act as her proxies. Also, Madoka is the pink-haired girl.)

Sample 1 shows the domain of the witch Elly, who is described as the “box witch with a covetous nature. She is a staunchly reclusive witch. Anything she covets she locks away within glass. The thoughts of her prisoners are laid bare, but one can strike her without thought without problems.

The video presents this nature in a surreal way which I will now attempt to analyse.

The witch herself takes the form of a girl. Her torso is like that of a ball jointed doll’s, and her bottom half is a mess of colours (a skirt?) resembling some kind of haphazard oil painting. Everything about her looks like a messy painting, but when presented on screens she is shown to have a clear form, though she is but a silhouette. Perhaps this pays homage to her nature as a recluse, as she appears only through screens, only appearing as her true form when dead. That her body is like that of paint (and of a doll) is also suggestive of how she is easily struck, like paint which can be melded easily (or a doll which can be fragile).

Her servants are humanoid, but anti-naturalistic, and with one wing and a halo. “The box witch’s minions with the duty of transportation. Anything they touch becomes easy to carry.” Again, the bizarre form ties in with the crazed mind of the witch, and the wing and halo likely represents how they are like angels, which “carry” precious things to “paradise”. Their purpose also likely ties in with her coveting nature, in wanting to take precious things. This is shown thoroughly in the video, where they carry Madoka, defying the laws of physics (she’s probably heavy!)

http://wiki.puella-magi.net/File:Card_Daniyyel_Jennifer.png

SHAFT also uses a lot of imagery, and for conciseness I’ll just summarise:

  • Entering the domain: I’m classifying this together because it’s a mess of fast-paced “blink and miss” patterned images. Doors opening, windows with people behind curtains, a screen with illegible green digital text, headless women dressed in different colours, flipcard-worthy girl-walking animation, then the “eye” opening. I think the door is pretty obvious, the curtain not so much (the idea of a guest being anticipated?) The screen, perhaps the witch setting up; the headless women, possibly previous prisoners, all similar looking with only minute differences, and the flipcards, possibly showing the witch preparing herself? The eye opening is rather clear, too, that it’s about entering the soul.
  • Carousel horses: Gaiety? Naivety? I’m not too sure on this, but it’s probably safe to say it shows a certain carefree festivity. The horses are also shown to carry the screens, and line the domain in a cylindrical shape, so they possibly act as the “bars” as well.
  • Screens: Likely the “box” that she is mentioned to be the witch of. The screen likely represents her nature as reclusive, in that she appears only through a proxy. It also shows the ability to lay bare the thoughts of prisoners, where the screens show things about Madoka which the witch should not know
  • Water: Or is it? It appears to be, but there’s no oxygen deficiency, and the water doesn’t seem to adhere to physics. Nevertheless, this probably corresponds to the idea of being trapped within “glass”, where both are clear.
  • When Madoka is saved, au contraire, things shift back to “reality”, the original art style, and proper “real” forms fighting against the surreal witch’s world.
  • Even at the end, “blood” is presented as a colourful rainbow, or black ink spurting out and splattering onto the domain’s borders (the real screen)

I won’t talk about Sample 2, which involves a main character and will definitely have a lot of things which can be mentioned.

Some of their backgrounds too, especially when the background doesn’t represent the physical space as opposed to a character’s feelings, or a certain overarching theme/aesthetic. I mostly like the random/alternating/whatever rhythms, especially geometric shapes with a chaos of intersecting lines at random angles. (1 2 3 4)

HOW THAT APPLIES TO ME

For me, what I find most admirable is the beauty of extended imagery. I really like having consistent ideas running throughout and reminding you of their existence. I also like contrasts, so the whole surreal versus reality/single person vs repeated background/etc is really appealing to me too.

I initially wanted to do some other “real people” films, like the charming (but also non-international release and obscure) Tetsu no Ko and Kingsglaive (just because I’m FFXV trash). For the sake of actually having a linking theme, though, I decided to just go with animated Japanese youth drama films, i.e. over the top drama, some existential crises, social anxiety, etc.

The problem I previously had was lack of personal input. So I’m going to do what I do (almost somewhat) best, which is writing prose about my feelings, then taking the key points and associating it with images.

どうすれば良かったの?(What should I do?)

I’m at a loss as to what to do, with too many burdens pulling me down. Somewhere out there must be some form of salvation, I wish that I could purge it all, throw away everything, but vines hold me down, they ensnare me and whisper to me that there is no hope beyond this mundane existence. Please let me be free. I want to be free from all of this.

  • At a loss (human figure background)
  • Burdens (a mess of stuff)
  • Salvation (water, heavenly and clear)
  • Ensnarement (snakes, holding you down)

I’m feeling somewhat dissatisfied at my current composition, because I did it separately before the others so I don’t feel like I’ve put enough linking qualities to the other compositions (e.g. border shape, repeated/similar imagery), and it feels very different from the rest in terms of overcongestion. I do want to include koi fish and “no solution” math, but it seems somewhat irrelevant…

それが結び。それが時間。(This is connection. This is time.)

Even though my body is torn to shreds and I am wrecked beyond repair, but my existence still remains. As long as my influence on this world remains, even in the smallest shard, I still remain, for all my ephemerality, for all time and space. Even my cough can change the world, or perhaps not, but somewhere, somehow, I changed something in this world, and that binds me eternally to this space.

  • Destroyed body (cracked sculpture)
  • Ephemerality (sand)
  • Influence on world, even smallest (butterflies)
  • Time and space (ancient architecture)
  • Eternal binding (??

私の声消えたことみんな喜んだ (Everyone is happy that my voice has disappeared)

No more, I am afraid, don’t listen to me. How audacious, how filthy the sound, and when even I can see the entrails of these soiled words, no matter how innocent they seemed to be when they came out. I can’t breathe knowing that someone possibly holds disdain for me, by what I said, I can’t breathe thinking their eyes tear me apart and my words which I didn’t think of prior have were always monsters which would create a rift between me and everyone else.

  • Disgusting words (bleeding ink)
  • Twisted words (scrabble tiles, THEA or HATE)
  • Disdain for me
  • Rift creation

もう一回。 (Just once more.)

Just once more, I’d like to remember what it was like. To be able to careen in fields of green with bare feet, sing unabashedly into the night sky, forget the passing of time with fine lines. If I am to spend eternity as a cog in society, doomed to tedium and normality, then please let me remember once again, what it was like, freedom and serenity without the scorns of time, and all of humanity’s business and productivity which I cannot bear.

  • Insignificant piece of society (cog)
  • Tedium (also cog)
  • Freedom and serenity (??)
  • Cannot bear it (??)

[To be continued. Or edited. Maybe]

[Edit: Now my problem is conciseness. Why am I so weak]

☔ Project 2

The layout was meant to resemble an umbrella, where I paired off “similar” images to be on opposing sides (since umbrellas are mostly symmetrical). Also, each photo has a differently-coloured umbrella to make rainbow colours ?

1st set: Internal and external of umbrella

I did close-ups to focus solely on the qualities.

  • Indigo: Colour of mystery. Shows the internal structure of the umbrella, complex and incomprehensible.
  • Yellow: Colour of clarity. Shows the external of the umbrella canopy, how it is water-resistant and simultaneously translucent.

2nd set: Umbrellas as alternative items

I did mid-range shots because the context was somewhat important.

  • Green: Colour of health. Orientation is upright but flipped canopy, context is kitchen, with utensils and cutlery on top (it becomes a table!)
  • Orange: Colour of adventure. Orientation is upside down, context is water body, with a soft toy (just imagine it’s a person) on board (it becomes a boat!)

3rd set: Portrait orientation

There was nothing much linking them to each other but orientation, but I like to think it’s a contrast thing, like time (night vs day) and people (presence vs absence).

  • Red: Colour of passion. Meant to show umbrella thematic association: intimacy (in sharing the umbrella), concealment (in hiding the face), protection (in both begin sheltered)
  • Blue: Colour of sadness. Meant to show the physical quality of portability, where it is located in its typical location, outside the door (where you would casually take it while on your way out)
it’s actually (photoshopped) purple, but different screens show different colours.

Poster: Umbrella Uselessness

  • Purple: Colour of “finality” (the last colour of the rainbow), identifying this as the last photo to look at, in a way
  • Overarching idea: Undermining the umbrella’s usage by showing a situation in which it’s entirely useless, a situation so bizarre it makes people pretend they don’t see me and makes me feel stupid
  1. It’s not raining
  2. It’s indoors
  3. The umbrella is wet on the inside
  • WhatsApp message formatting to show informality and ridiculousness, and how this is typically the kind of thing you’d send to your close people (pictures of stupid things that make them roll their eyes)

As usual, some process shots and stories can be found here.

☔ Project 2 Process

The actual final post is here!

But here’s just some work in progress shots/stories, because it turns out I’m easily amused by myself.

RED

I decided that 1. I didn’t have any more quirky ideas on how to remake an umbrella as something else, so 2. I figured I’d show a different side of the umbrella, in terms of thematic significance. Unfortunately, this also happened to be the time where my ENTIRE FAMILY went on a holiday (without me!), and I don’t… Really have friends.

So I did what I did best, i.e. lost my face. Holding a umbrella, I… May or may not have pointed it rather dangerously at fellow Choir members while begging them to help me after practice. I also may or may not have rolled over and keeled on the floor after about 7 rejections, and had to be towed away. (I considered begging the Choir teacher, but was shot down by the realisation that he’s a busy man.)

ORANGE

I think this image I posted to Insta really sums it up.

Also, being the resourceful person I am, I spotted a lady with her baby in a pram, and asked her if I could borrow her baby to put on a free floating umbrella which may or may not capsize in a 0.6m pool where he could drown! (She said no.)

YELLOW

Fun story. Lei suggested shining a light through the umbrella to show how it’s translucent, and I thought that was a good idea. Until I tried it, and realised I was going to need much darker lighting if I wanted the light to actually show. So I did! Then the light was too bright to actually see the water beading on the surface. So I Photoshopped it! By overlaying two photos. I’m thankful that we live in this day and age.

(Also, Photoshopping it yellow.)

GREEN

Also a fun story. The umbrella evidently could not stand on its own, so I took a tall, slender cardboard box and stuffed a whole roll’s worth of toilet paper inside. This lowered the centre of gravity, and the umbrella COULD stand, surprisingly. Until I gently put a plate on it, at which point it promptly fell over. (I tried taping it down, to no avail.)

Luckily (and surprisingly, that I actually thought of it), I had fishing line left over from Foundation 4D class, so I tied strings holding the umbrella in place. As long as I didn’t move the anchors, of course, and me being me, I… Forgot I placed a line there, tripped, and everything came crashing down.

BLUE

This didn’t really have many issues, to be honest. I managed to get up and take the photo before my roommate left for class, so I used her shoes.

INDIGO

One of the first shots I took, at my HDB void deck. I originally wanted to emphasise the use of the umbrella and its form by Index, the void created by an umbrella when it shields you from rain. (Also, that morning happened to have heavy rain, of which I was lucky enough to get out of the house fast enough to set up in time for it to start raining.)

PURPLE

Inspiration struck on the way back from the swimming pool, where I was drying off the umbrella instead of it keeping me dry, and everyone was avoiding me. I didn’t realise that when the brief said “Select 1 image from Task 1 or Task 2” it meant FINAL image than any image you’d taken (and to be honest it seems a little bizarre to me that you’re supposed to present both a photo and poster version. A lot of the posters seemed to have the “photo” version overlooked because the “photo” as a standalone was insufficient).

So after I took the original photo for sending, I realised it could work, and spent the next half an hour just… Standing there, trying to get the perfect photo with people passing by, and with a water spray to wet the umbrella. (It didn’t work, so I just Photoshopped the person in too.)

W5 Pandora’s Box (Final)

My final model was based off the 2nd model in this post. I increased the overall size since I realised that the reason why I couldn’t adjust the dimensions of my boxes (lest they have “similar lengths”) was because they were all too small. The final dimensions were about 10×9×4, 19×1.7×1, 6×3×0.1 (cm).

Twice the size of the original

My word was XYZ axes. Initially, I left the subordinate larger in size to emphasise the 3-dimensionality, but the advice was to trim it to emphasise hierarchy rather than 3-dimensionality. So I did. Then the remark was that it wasn’t 3-dimensional enough… T_T

me </3

I guess the moral of the story is to take everything with a pinch of salt. A piece of advice followed may resolve the current problem, but raise new problems… T_T

 

2D sketch analysis and 3D sketch models

Verily summarised version (see aforementioned linked post for more details on actual selection of boxes and reasons for joining together in certain way):

  • Purposeful extreme variation of rectilinears
  • Emphasis on “directional pull” in 6 directions

 

Material: Wire mesh and fishing line

The overarching idea was that planes are just a unison of many lines. Hence, the idea was to use a “transparent” frame, to see inside where many lines cross each other randomly.

Wire mesh was chosen for the fact that it was the best material for providing anchors to the lines (through the holes), where I could make the lines out of fishing lines, sewn in with a needle, while still vaguely giving that sense of lack of mass. I also used the same material because I personally feel that, more than being separate axes, all 3 axes are fundamentally the same (especially in that X, Y and Z are interchangeable terms.)

Fishing line, joining all of them together, was meant to re-emphasise that unity, while having the fishing line somewhat not visible as well to add to the lack of mass.

(Will update later when I have access to my journal, 3 pages on the step-by-step process of making with wire mesh) Written step-by-step process. I used an embroidery needle specifically for the length, relative thickness and hole size.

(Will update later when I have access to my journal, a page on contemplations of techniques to get what I want with acrylic) I also considered acrylic, which would have fulfilled the transparency criteria much better, but mostly discarded that idea by virtue of that I couldn’t think of a time and cost-efficient way to use acrylic, especially since I have zero knowledge of it as a material. At least wire mesh was malleable. And had in-built, evenly spread and decently-sized holes.

 

Possible Usages

  • Stilt house: Bamboo house with nipa doorstep-roof, a chimney-thing, and hardwood stilts (may come with windows, drive-through windows, etc)
My photoshop skills are poor, but I try
  • Weapon: Cannon, gun controls behind a gun shield, and a protruding end for manual swivelling (may come with ladder) (all metal)
http://www.picquery.com/modern-military-fortress_Oxq3scalfRHaBHHQf%7Cwfcz8DV9KoZepnsJzYKcsFPec/

Other ideas also include: elevator (SD as elevator shaft and D as elevator), lever-pulling-based exercise machine (SD as lever with elastic wire attached to SO)

 

Some work-in-progress shots

(to form the lines inside)

 

W4 Project 1: My Line is Emo

I’m unfortunately a very trigger happy person (this always, inevitably works against my favour), so all emotions focused a lot on natural forms, where I didn’t control much as opposed to trying to aim for a certain state while making, and letting the marks turn out as is (as long as it generally looked ok).

The key ideas were both of these:

  • Emotion quality

For me, emotions are often not clearly separable. To avoid too many visual similarities, I narrowed the quality of each emotion down based on 3 overarching criteria: intensity, protractedness and frequency. Intensity is associated with the strength of the emotion (typically once-off and large), protractedness, with the duration of the emotion (typically underlying and mild), frequency, with the occurrence rates of the emotion (typically short-lived and mundane).

  • Binary opposition

With three defining criteria, I decided to try to represent feelings sharing similarities, and work on using the contrast between both to bring out each other. Also just that 3 criteria and 6 emotions meant 2 emotions would have to share the same spectrum anyway. The linking quality is typically the paper, and the general shape of each mark.

Consequently, the final emotions were as follows:

From left to right, up to down: Love, Anger, Shock (Fear), Shock (Surprise), Bliss, Melancholy

Love & Anger

Both are on tracing paper. I wanted to try gouache/cold-pressed watercolour paper for the texture and whiteness, but it worked really badly with crushed paper (what I presume is named froissage). Seeing ink seep through the tracing paper, I decided to go with that instead, firstly because aforementioned would actually worked, and because the idea of anger literally overflowing and staining was kind of interesting to me.

The key term is intensity, where these feelings are immense and overpowering. (As a byproduct, neither were renamed, since I couldn’t find a better word to describe this all-encompassing emotion.)

  • Intensity: Only one point of focus. Centralised to reiterate the idea of singularity
  • Immensity: Reflected in large concentration of positive/negative space
  • Overpowering: Overflowing from the focus, spreading out

Differences:

  • Both were pressed onto linoleum, but anger was pressed while there was a lot of ink, as opposed to love, which was pressed after I had dabbed off the ink (to have a much lighter imprint)
  • The focus is white for love, as opposed to black for anger (colour association). By extension, love features lighter colours (made by diluted Chinese ink) as opposed to anger, which used normal ink
  • Love features swirly, smooth lines (automatic drawing with fingertips and diluted Chinese ink/leaf on linoleum), as opposed to jagged lines for anger (froissage/automatic slashing on ink with brush held with a fist)
  • Paper for anger is crushed, as opposed to paper for love. Also, ink face is facing outwards for anger, as opposed to for love (smooth surface), and love actually has a 2nd layering of white paper underneath as opposed to anger

Shock (Fear) & Shock (Surprise)

Both are on cartridge paper. I wanted to emphasise the intensity and shortlivedness by having very white paper to show the contrast between feeling and unfeeling. (The paper scrunched up and made it difficult to paste the lines though, especially where if I bent it excessively rice would fall off.)

The key term is frequency, where they’re of a relatively strong but short-lived nature, e.g. a jumpscare. (I opted to use shock for both purely because I have literally never felt surprise without some form of fear.)

  • Frequency: Unlike Anger & Love, multiple points of focus
  • Strength: Not as powerful, but still relatively strong emotions, hence still featuring foci
  • Short-lived: Small splatters, lack of grey as opposed to absolute black and white

Differences:

  • Both used rice to have the graininess reflect the antsy, fuzzy feeling of shock. However, fear has the rice mostly at the edges of the foci to reflect the sense of defensiveness of encircling oneself that arises with fear (protecting), while surprise has the rice centralised to reflect the sense of tenseness of recoiling (contracting)
  • For both, I soaked the rice in ink, and slabbed on ink perpendicular to the paper itself. For fear shock, however, I slapped the rice on from a “me kneeling on the floor” height, versus surprise shock which was from a “me standing on my bed” height. Again, to reflect the different between containment and outward spreading.

Bliss & Melancholy

Both are on newsprint paper. This paper was vaguely not-white, which I wanted for the dullness of the feelings.

The key term is prolongation, where emotions are mostly dull and weak (i.e. the after-effects of a trigger event, or unconsciously occurring feelings).

  • Prolongation: Reflected in consistency of repeated patterns. Underneath is a bordering layer of brayer rolls, on top, pressed shapes with linoleum, even more on top, hand-pressed flowers
  • Dullness: There is no focal point, with multiple layers of unrecognisable and indistinguishable marks
  • Weak: Colours are generally in the grey zone, than absolute black or white (also assisted by paper colour)

Differences:

  • Both used brayers as the base layer, but bliss used a lighter-coloured, wiped brayer as opposed to melancholy’s darker (but also wiped to prevent too dark) brayer rolls
  • Both used pressed shapes, but bliss used linoleum pressed with objects still present (i.e. creating white areas) as opposed to linoleum pressed WITHOUT (i.e. creating grey areas).
  • Objects were pressed onto white areas of bliss to avoid too much lightness, but pressed onto melancholy to result in darker colours

Overall, I think Joy was perfectly right in talking about craftsmanship when it comes to me. On a physical level, I never quite figured out how to flatten the paper while keeping the rice still stuck in place, and on an intangible level, I still feel like I couldn’t express what I wanted. Partially because my definition of abstract involves the absence of recognisable forms, or of representative qualities, as opposed to absolutely indiscernible forms, partially because I probably didn’t study or experiment enough, partially because my technical skills are w e a k. I suppose for the next project I should set my standards lower considering I don’t have enough technical expertise to actually meet whatever unreachable definitions I will set, and get over my general skepticism for copying artists.

(A bunch of photos and 1 video from throughout Week 3 while working on this)

W4 Pandora’s Box

My term was XYZ axes, and it immediately sparked tragic memories of a topic named Vectors in a subject named H2 Math, which I never quite managed to pass. On a brighter note, that prior knowledge was somewhat effective in assisting me. Here’s some of the things I still remember which vaguely helped me:

  • 3 axes = 3 dimensions, the X, Y and Z axes
  • There’s 3 main features, the point, line and plane
I haven’t done this much Math since November.

I didn’t particularly think of this while working, and not all of it is applicable because we can only use right angles, but it was what unconsciously led me to thoughts on things like origin points, etc.

 

I really disliked my previous designs, especially where jointing wasn’t available yet. It’s a little hard for me to see the 3D-ness happen if I can’t joint to allow the edges to jut across all 6 sides, than just 3, which undermines the unflatness.

For versatility purposes, I decided to use foam rather than boxes, where my dismal collection of  boxes didn’t seem to fit together well (and the colours were rather distracting). Consequently, I headed out to ADM, picked out pieces of scrap foam at random, and spent a wonderful late evening of foam cutting! (This was mostly just to straighten the edges, but it’s surprisingly therapeutic once you get into the routine.)

Backstory

The usage of the foam cutting machine, along with a pet peeve of mine (which involves the use of too many rules at once), led to me deciding to make this.

After the initial cutting therapy, I started to notice that there was 2 ways to cut the foam: one, by lining the part to be discarded on the left and the part to be kept on the right; two, vice versa. I know it sounds incredibly simple, and it probably IS very obvious, but I’m ashamed to say that my common sense also failed me similarly when it came to paper cutting for Foundation 2D. Regardless, prior to this I had only been using method 1 to cut, so with this epiphany I realised I could use the measurements to line up and cut the foam to certain dimensions as so desired.

I’ve previously mentioned that I have a certain distaste for similar shapes, similar meaning sharing the same ratio but just in a different scale. With that in mind (and Cheryl’s mentioning of cutting boxes to two-third sizes of each other), I hence decided to do exactly that, in a sort of masochistic, self-spiting way.

Initial Problems (and any refining actions taken)

If I rotate the SD/SO to solve flatness problems, it causes hierarchical problems instead, so even with a 2D sketch it’s kind of difficult to find a solution anyway.

Measurements: The dominant was 13×20×5cm, the subdominant is 8.6×13.3×1.6cm, and the subordinate is 4.3×6.6×3.3cm (3:2:1;3:2:1;3:1:2) (I would have went for all round 9:6:2, or 3:2:1, but the lack of appropriate foam worked against me). Taking into account the fact that the dominant and subdominant were fairly close in terms of 13cm and 13.3cm, I decided to shorten the dominant’s X to 12cm (the only nearby number which would result in non-clashing measurements).

Without jointing

Splicing: I neglected to realise that I needed to factor in additional foam for things like wedging or piercing until I actually tried to put the foam together but when I tried to join them without jointing techniques, it seemed poorly executed. So, I tried using only wedging instead.

Why I wouldn’t choose this

  • Forms too similar, it plays by the rules but it’s boring (linked to comparative proportion?)
  • Difficult to adequately show 3D-ness without compromising hierarchy

 

 

Backstory

Prior to doing the second model, I drafted the OSS post for the first one (as seen above). Writing really helps me to sort my thoughts out, and I noticed certain patterns in how I approached it. With this in mind, I decided to try avoiding what I did for the first model, to see what I felt would actually work.

As stated in the brief, students are to cut “at least 12 rectilinear volumes” BEFORE proceeding to organise them. Presumably, this is either a negotiable point, or intended to ensure students avoid the methodical approach of measuring each box and making them already well-placed with each other. Hence, I decided to approach this less methodically, by refraining from doing any initial touch ups, and just picking 3 volumes which looked wildly different: 1 decidedly normal piece, 1 ridiculously slim piece and one looooooooooooooooooong piece.

(I happened to be in possession of many long and slim foams, results of the foam trimming therapy session)

Initial Problems (and any refining actions taken)

I like this one in terms of direction, but the subordinate is really messing up the subdominant on 2/6 sides

Measurements: I trimmed the subordinate from the start, of course. Afterwards, though, it was still rather big, so I sliced it into nearly half again to reduce the surface area, and wedged it to give the dominant more dominance in the bottom left sketch. (Then, the subdominant was also really long so I trimmed it from about 18.3cm to 15.4cm,)

It WAS really big.

Hierarchy: Natural problems arose from a too thin subdominant paired with the wide subordinate. If I were to rotate to counteract there wouldn’t be the nice 4-directional pull anymore, so I didn’t really manage to find a solution for this, but since it’s 2/6 sides maybe… It’s.. Passable?

Also mostly just that I randomly made it in class previously and kind of liked it, so I used a similar idea. Instead of wedging, I used both piercing and wedging though.

Why I wouldn’t choose this

I mean, I prefer this over the other two, so…

 

 

Backstory

I tried to combine elements of both 1 & 2, 1 in actually considering factors like precise measurements; 2 in choosing seemingly “random” pieces (and also the general design, though this time I tried piercing through BOTH pieces than just one to create an “origin”, like XYZ axes typically have).

Initial Problems (and any refining actions taken)

Since the design is really similar too, I had similar problems to the 2nd one

Measurements: Surprisingly, nothing much. Besides the foam trimming therapy, I did almost nothing.

Hierarchy: I do feel the subordinate is somewhat underwhelming, especially from that one (two) angles where you see practically nothing (0.2×1.05 cm²). However, changing to a different piece might compromise the slenderness I enjoy for the other 4 angles, so…

Why I wouldn’t choose this

Purely just the subordinate problem; if I could resolve that, I would pick this over the second one, where the piercing/wedging cut the dominant enough to avoid excessively large, flat planes.

 

I made some other random stuff in class, but other than aforementioned under the second model, they were all mostly useless, and just cutting/jointing practice. I did make a sailboat with all planes intersecting at one point, which inspired me to try to make an origin point for the third model though!

I’m still vaguely confused as to if we’re supposed to have a critique… Today, or if this is the end of the project, or if we still have time to rework our things, but if I could, I might opt to use some kind of textured, wild surface, one that really emphasises the idea of unflatness. Like… Rock. Or something.