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Image Making through Type
Project 2: Locale, this is a project about researching a local area, and expressing our findings visually and then following up with a zine to express it in an abstract, engaging manner.
Since we are to present a local place of interest for educational purposes, I decided why not pick somewhere with a history of education. Perhaps even possibly a place of important heritage in Singapore. With some research I learnt that the Chinese Heritage Centre is a national monument that fits those requirements. Bingo! Bonus points as this location is deeply rooted to Chinese culture in Singapore’s education and has ties to both NTU and NUS’ history.
About the site
The Chinese Heritage Centre is a Library, Museum, and Research Centre all-in-one. Originally being the library at Nanyang University, the Lee Kong Chian Museum opened in 1972, but the merger with the University of Singapore to form NUS in 1980 led to a relocation, and the Nanyang Technological Institute took over the premise the following year. After a decade it was promoted to the university status, creating NTU. In 1999 the site was gazetted as a national museum and finally reopened as the CHC in 2011.
Let’s have a look at what they offer inside:
In Chinese photographic studio portraits, Chinese sitters aim at projecting an image that shows themselves to best advantage – it is how they would like others to see them. By their pose, dress and chosen props, some give symbolic expression to their identification with Chinese culture, or more frequently, high Chinese culture. They would wear silk robes, hold a book, gather fancy furniture and pose elegantly even if these are outside the norm of their daily lives.
Chinese identity is formed and transformed in the perception of others – the “mirror” in which a person’s reflection is reshaped or distorted by the glass which holds is. What any person appears to be is fundamentally how he appears to others and only derivatively how he appears to himself. And while he may see himself as one kind of Chinese, others may perceive him as another kind, looking as they do through “mirrors” distorted by stereotyping and stigmatisation.
The Chinese are portrayed in pretty interesting way here – the middle columns show nice looking photographs of the Chinese in a blue tint, which is the inside view; this is how the Chinese view themselves, all prim and proper. Surrounded by these columns are walls with thin openings where we can peak through. Yet what we see are mirrors which reflect how the Chinese appear on the other side of these walls.
These reflections are tinted yellow, which is how the Chinese are seen from outside, different in nature (and colour) and usually stereotyped, which isn’t what the Chinese hope to show. I found the curation very interesting, as one needs to take the effort to peek through the thin splits in the walls to be able to observe the reflections from outside; this very much reflects how the Chinese are not particularly open-minded to be able to see the greater picture or how they are actually viewed, they move on with their own visions and ideals.
Other than the main attraction, the rest of the museum was pretty standard, although the displays seems more western than I would have expected. By the end of it, does feel sort of like a museum you can find in western countries, but the content is about Chinese culture. So here I decided that I should move on with my zine’s direction about western influence on Chinese culture.
The theme of the zine is “Western influence on Chinese culture”, hence I decided to portray what should be Chinese in manners which lets you think “hold on this doesn’t feel Chinese”, as that was how I felt when I was touring the site. And when I think of what represents Chinese well, I think of dim sum. After all, what better way to capture a culture than through food? Culture requires life, and life requires food; it’s science. So I have designed my zine to appear as a dim sum tray that offers layers of food as you flip through the pages. As the place is about Chinese heritage, I also wanted to emphasise that Chinese culture is well rooted, the base shall not change so easily over the course of time, however it might be influenced and adapt some elements, as seen in how the table changes from clean to having stains from whatever it has went with. And of course, since it is seen from the outside view, as with how the museum’s attraction was done, I made it look as stereotypical as I could, starting from the Chinese face on the cover.
The first spread represents the library element. As I browsed the library, as expected I found a lot of books on Chinese culture. That was all I expected, ’til I ran into the next bookshelf reading “World History”. It was a pretty sudden change in content, when both the preceding and following shelves are on Chinese culture as per normal. Thus the design for the dim sum are shrimps and puffs, however there are out of place changes in design from Chinese to Western; the parts of the shrimp were illustrated using the architecture of the CHC itself, but in the midst I snuck in a stone pillar found in European structures. Same for the puffs, I aligned a gargoyle beside stone lions found from the roof of the CHC. For the left side the spread, I decided to play with tea, making marks around the page with teacup stains. But of course, the western influence has to appear, and one thing I don’t ever expect to see in a Chinese beverage is latte art. Now wouldn’t it be wild to find latte art on Chinese tea? Each spread also has a hidden Chinese character to capture how I feel ’bout the site in a poetic manner. For the library I chose to use “花”, meaning flower. Flowers may bloom beautifully, but they also mean different things to different people; to some they might be a sight to behold, to others they might be something they feel indifferent about. The same holds for the library, only people who are interested or have research to do at the library will visit the place. Due to how it is located in a very old looking Chinese building, unless you have an interest in Chinese culture or heritage and are actively seeking it out, it will be highly unlikely that you will ever step foot into the library. Thus I feel flowers capture the sentiments I feel for the place very well.
The second spread represents the research centre element. The research centre is mostly connected to the library but what I can see are mostly small offices on the first floor, while the second floor is staff-only. From how I can read it, they mostly do free research on promoting Chinese culture, hence I scattered “sweet potato fries” across the tray, simulating the more street-food-like cuisine which is more free and easy. Users may also feel free to dip their own types of sauces to experiment out their own liking and styles as how their free research goes. However there are limitations, which naturally is that their research has to promote Chinese culture and heritage, hence my limitation to three sauces rather than an array of ingredients. The left side of the spread are rice crackers, as I feel a good followup to tea should be snacks. A trait of rice crackers is that they break off and leave many crumbs as you keep on crunching on them, which I replaced with potatoes; the offices that staff work in are modern western offices that you’ll find anywhere hence the juxtaposition of western carbohydrates, potatoes, over the rice crumbs. The Chinese character here is “地” meaning earth. Chinese heritage is grounded, and the research is uncovering our roots and to bring them forth, so I felt that earth was a word that strongly ties to the message I wanted to bring forth. Even if there are Western elements, everything came forth from the same earth, and the means and the ends will be the same.
The third spread represents the museum element. The design was to reflect how to museum was, Chinese in the inside but covered in Western tastes, just like how I made the dish: slice of Chinese cuisine but topped with Western flavouring. The zigzag manner of sprinkling sauce is something more popular in European countries as Chinese cuisine follows the previous spread more closely, which are sauce dips. For the left side, I decided to change it up a little but moving onto handicrafts. Naturally the word used is “手” meaning hand. As the museum is the presentation of accumulated research I felt that the idea that someone curated it was brought forward, hence they had to have handpicked what to display and how it is presented. For the jump from tea to snacks to handicrafts, the intention was change the mindset from that you enjoy this dim sum regardless of what is happening, to what you do fits the dim sum. After all, the meal never really changes, just like Chinese culture. It is rooted, and we find new ways to best appreciate it. Chinese heritage doesn’t change, it is us who must change how we see it.
Finally the last page. To follow up with the theme, I wanted to wrap up the stereotypical Chinese image with the broken English. Here without all the dishes, we also get to have a cleaner look at the visual choices I used for the zine: how the tray is made out of books from the library, how the gingham picnic mat is used to make the Western touch sneak in, etc.
As a whole learnt more about the national monument Chinese Heritage Centre, and I hope that through this project you have learnt more as well. Just as my final page says, if you enjoyed this, do rate 5*.
Project 1: Image Making Through Type, this is a project about using our names, initials or parts of it, to express four future occupations.
The future is uncertain, but one thing I know is that we can always stay true to ourselves. I wanted to express 4 “jobs” that I can see myself being in no matter what sort of situation I am in life down the road, even if there is no future. But the lack of future is grim, so I wish to portray this darkness in a satirical manner. Even if I don’t end up doing anything in the future, I can still be me as a silver lining. Hence for the occupations chosen, they will be glorified acts I can see myself doing just living my life.
My specialty is like my future, a void. I messed around with a bunch of mediums and with some consideration I decided to do a illustrative hybrid with photographs. Since the project is about me, I wanted to have the designs be done in a first-person view to not feel estranged with the occupations, and hence have some sort of mark of myself in each photograph. The photographic effect has the slight sense of realism, which I use to capture myself being here, having what is in the photograph be what is seen through my eyes, after all, these are occupations of my future.
These photographs are then illustrated over to create more otherworldly effects (such as the S-shaped noodles, that effect might be a bit hard to do with my feet alone haha). Some effects were made to be more exaggerated by looking a bit odd or emphasised with darker lines, so the attention can be caught. My initials SY are used in all 4 designs, so at the very least I want them to be visible. The usage of pencil to highlight shadows and detail also worked out very nicely, since other than emphasis, it also created a slight sensation of dread, for these “jobs” are generally less-than-ideal, making my ponder what else I could have done in my life.
Occupation 1: The Procrastinator
Not gonna lie, I procrastinate all the time. I actually took almost two weeks to take the photograph after planning out how it should look, and way longer to write this OSS post. Sometimes we just get the “man I don’t wanna do this” feeling. It just happens that I get the feeling pretty often. Sometimes we question why we live, what do we wanna do in our lives, what are we achieving for? Then your phone notifies you that your friend just baked a nice cake. Suddenly there is a desire of cake. Often it takes a lot of effort to begin doing something, we always tell ourselves there’s something more pressing we can be doing now, whether it is important or not. Sometimes it’s completely unimportant, like a new update to a mobile phone game, sometimes big events happen to your family like an anniversary. But even so, time you don’t spend doing what you should do, is not time wasted. You may not have completed your assignment, but you did complete something else, or maybe nothing. It is fine. We are not living to work, it is okay to take a break or two or five. Sometimes, your brain considers things you don’t normally think about. How did that riddle go again? Not doing your work sometimes produces unexpected yields. I procrastinate, and I am not ashamed of it.
In this piece, I use an oil stain left by resting my left hand on the graph to create the S-shape, while I use the increasingly popular fidget spinner, with emphasis on the rotation and movement to create the Y shape. The picture shows that instead of working on the half-finished graph, I begin to procrastinate and do other things. There are doodles on the paper, there is an incomplete list of things to do (ironically), we have a phone showing us dog pictures. With the graph in the middle acting as negative space, I directed objects around my initials to create the sense that I’m opening outwards, instead of looking in and working. In procrastination we can see a greater picture, and is what I can openly admit I do.
Occupation 2: The Comfort Specialist
Okay I already feel fatigued from typing the first occupation. Life is tiring sometimes. We need to take rests now and then. But perhaps too much in life is stressing us out and we couldn’t rest well? No worries, the comfort specialist is here. When I wish to rest, I can, and will, stop thinking about my worries. Take a breather, not everything has to be done to the same standards. I don’t always want to go out to a noodle restaurant, queue for half an hour, be seated at a counter table around with a steaming hot bowl of ramen. Sure it is fancy, but there’s also Cup Noodles. If I don’t necessarily need that atmosphere in the restaurant, I can settle with this. Cut off some effort, sit back on the couch, watch whatever is hot in the season. Take a good rest and soothe the body and soul. Relax, I’m a specialist.
The set is my living room, with several signs of junk food lying around. The S is formed by the twirl of the instant noodles, while the Y is created by the shape of my right foot. I wanted this piece to be slightly comical, just like the name of the job Comfort Specialist. Simplified it really just means a slacker or a couch potato. In attempts to create as much as possible with minimal effort, I substitute a proper meal with instant noodles, and even use my feet over my hands, to maximise how lazy I appear to be. The chopsticks are juxtaposed to hold the noodles, and connect the letters together, presenting the idea how even with the bare minimal effort, I can hold things together, hence I am able to devote my energy in search for relaxation.
Occupation 3: The One who watches paint dry
Now this might seem out of place. Someone who watches paint dry? Who needs that? But you see, there was a person who watched paint dry, for over 30 years! A man named Keith Jackson watches paint dry for a living in Britain. It sounds awfully useless, but it was an important job he never grew bored of. Sometimes the stations for the London Underground needed a new paintjob, but they could not close the area off for extended periods of time, so he watches over it. There are many jobs in the world that are severely underappreciated; sometimes you don’t mind it though, since you know that what you do, will do good in the future.
The design of this is clean and simple. The S-shape is formed by either the interpretation of the 5 in the stopwatch, or the hand shape using the left thumb and left fingers to create the S, meanwhile the Y is formed by combining the finger with the sideways stroke on the paint resembling a hand test to see whether the paint has dried. The pencil stroke effects work really well as it creates rust-like effects, which feels like fatigue from doing a job tested by the strain of time. But even so, the hand gesturing suggests effort is put in despite such woes. Even if others mock what you do, you only need to know what you do serves their purpose; don’t let others hinder you, do what you wish.
Occupation 4: The NEET
The NEET. Short for “Not in Education, Employment, or Training”, an actual term btw. At the end of the road, I decide, why is it that I work for others, why don’t I live for myself instead. Life isn’t ’bout living to work, working to live. At the end of the day, your life belongs to you. Quit your day job, stay at home. Do whatever you wish. Be unemployed, go on a trip, do whatever you wish. At some point of your life you need to learn that all your actions in life should benefit yourself ultimately, not the society, not the government, but live for yourself. It’s not ’bout committing crimes or breaking laws, but rather it is that you don’t be a common cogwheel in the machine that is your company or employment. Live free. Live for yourself.
Here we have the scene of a leisure room, with speakers and other comfort items like snacks and monitors. A popular culture on certain types of social sites are bingo checklists, mostly used satirically on how little one has done in their life. Usually a line or few lines end up created and sometimes visible characters are formed, making the bingo checklist a bit more visually interesting; this forms the S shape here. For the right side, we have a polygonal chart; this is commonly seen in video games to show the statistical ability of a character, such as Strength, Dexterity, etc. Often this creates a notable shape of either a simple hexagon, a partial hexagon with 3-4 adjacent stats having high values with the others having low values, or a Y shape where you have equal numbers of very high and very low stats, usually in alternates since adjacent stats usually do not always synergise; this is what I have here. The idea here is that despite being unemployed, I have a grasp on what is happening on my life. I live for the present, but work towards to future.
That is all for now, cya in the next post in the near future (if there is one for us)