Zine — Locale (Part 2)

1. Ideation

Concept

For part 2 of Zine, I wanted to expand on the idea of voyeurism explored in part 1, by examining unique and small details within Neil Road. I decided to document these details via photography and incorporate them to produce an exploratory and experimental Zine.

Themes

Panopticon/Surveillance, Subversion, Coexistence, Voyeur

Over—ARCHING FONT

I looked up derogatory terms used to slander the LGBT community by traditional older people and decided to incorporate the word : rényāo — Human Monster, through out my Zine spreads. I broke the word down into its three root characters to use them as relevant imagery. ( 人 , 女 , 夭 ).

LAYOUt

For the spread I wanted to create a Zine with two covers, that gradually converge in the middle. This was to initially separate the iconography surrounding the LGBT and Old Community within Neil Road to portray them as two extreme antonyms of one another. However I wanted to show a gradual blurring of lines and increase in similarity between these communities as the pages turn from either side. Eventually in the middle they both converge and coexist as one unique, eccentric community that are voyeured by everyone else out of Neil Road collectively, rather than each other. Aesthetically I hence wanted to start from a minimalistic style that shifted to collage and eventually to a very graphic and experimental explosive middle spread. I wanted the middle spread to be the most intense in terms of colours and elements.

2. Pages (1-3 & 8-6)

PAGE 1 

Page

Description

This is the front cover, and the LGBT ‘end’ of my Zine. I used the character 人 here, to subvert the slander used on these people. I repeated, rotated and overlaid the characters to form a visual pattern that resembles a red seal. The front page is symbolic of a door and portal, and the red seal act as the guarding layer. To emphasise this idea of breaking into and prying into something, I placed the outline of the door opening of the gay bar Tantric right in the middle. Upon closer look, the locks and handles are also visible. To foreshadow or hint at the blurring of lines between the LGBT and Traditional Communities, I included traditional looking metal Lion Head door handles that I found on the wooden doors of Tantric. The red here is derived from the dark crimson red walls on the inside of the bar. 

Elements UseD

 

PAGE 2

Page

Description

For this composition, I intended to portray the eccentric nature of the LGBT Community as something rebellious and transgressive. I used a trash bin that had the words ‘Old Man’ spray painted on it — this was a really significant find, taking into account the tension I wanted to convey between the Old people and LGBT Comm in Neil Road, within this page. In the background I used a photo of a door with the graffiti of a hush sign. However hidden behind the dustbin, one could visualise it as a logo pointing the vulgar middle finger. On the top right corner I included a torn poster from a wall outside an LGBT Club. The colours used here are also very bold and graphic — accentuating the stereotypical idea that LGBT people like to stand out.

Elements

 

PAGE 3

Page

description

In this page, I wanted to show the blurring of the lines that segregate the two communities and express how they are not that different from one another. For the background, I took a photograph of black and white tiles outside a traditional Chinese martial arts school. What stood out to me was the ‘odd’ black tiles among the white ones. I hence infused this idea of being different within a traditional tile pattern with the perception of the LGBT Comm. I reflected the tiles to create a ‘trippy’ pattern to show this bending in perception. In the middle I incorporated a shrine of a four headed Buddha. The Buddha wears a bright and flamboyant garland and other flowers. Here, I wanted to use a traditional and ‘conservative’ icon to bring out the idea of flamboyance. People often associate LGBT and Ladyboys with Thailand. Hence using a predominantly Thai deity was significant. I use Chinese chess pieces and embossed them with the picture of drag icon, ‘Bianca del Rio’ who is dressed as a clown here. The overall composition looks ritualistic but open closer inspection is filled with hints of extravagance.

elements

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PAGE 8

Page

description

For this page, or the front page from the right side, depicts the Old and Traditional Community in its extremity. Like in the first page, I used the root character 夭 as a seal here, to subvert its derogatory use back onto the old people instead. In line with the idea of its connotation of ‘spirit’ and ‘monster’, I made a patterned seal with the characters similar to how I did with the LGBT Cover, and overlaid it over a grilled shrine dedicated to the deceased. Hence here, the old people are depicted as literal spirits due to their proximity to possible death. I also placed it’s lock directly in the middle to convey the same idea of having to break or pry open doors, to discover the truth behind the community that resides in Neil Road. The green used was taken from the grilled shrine for the spirits.

Elements

 

PAGE 7

Page

description

This page is made up of vector tracings of photographs I took of traditional establishments — mainly doors, windows and gateways. Many of these elements had a grid like angular pattern in them. I layered them to create a claustrophobic composition with bold lines, symbolic of how many traditional conservative people live within the prisons of their own judgments. I also used black and white as a metaphor for how they project their very distinct ideas of what is acceptable and what isn’t onto anyone that is beyond their comfort zone.

Elements

 

PAGE 6

Page

description

In this page, I wanted to once again show the blurring of the lines that distinguish the two communities and express how they are not that different from one another. For the background, I took a photograph of traditional Peranakan looking wall tiles outside a TCM Shophouse—Clinic. The feminine symbol of the roses, floral design and soft pastel colours all have an effeminate nature which the older generation often simply associate to any LGBT person. Hence I wanted to depict that such motifs weren’t that foreign to these older people. In the middle there is an idol and image of the Hindu Deity Ganesha, placed on a Chinese altar. When I was eating at Tong Ah Coffeeshop which is Chinese owned and run traditional kaya toast shop, I noticed that they were playing Hindu Hymns on the radio. It was this that led me to notice this Hindu Deity. Through the use of this idol I wanted to express how within the community of the older generation itself there is cross cultural appreciation. Hence coexistence with a different group of people (LGBT) should not be that hard of an issue. Around the idol, I used images of lavender eyeshadow pans, and imprinted a traditional martial arts association logo on them. This was to introduce the subtle blending and convergence of both communities as they start to reconcile.

Elements

 

PAGES 4-5

Page
description

This is the middle spread where both communities that coexist in Neil Road converge as one eccentric and unique community. In the background I used a grilled gate of a traditional martial arts association — it features two figures facing each other in a fighting stance. However within this context it could be interpreted as two people coming together. I overlaid it with different opacities to give it a blurry illusion — one has to step back and look from afar to get a clearer view of the Neil Road Community. I also used the form of the Chinese character 女, to create a pair of lens — this echoes the idea of surveillance and voyeurism that people outside of Neil Road practice. Both the LGBT culture and many of the traditional landmarks here are treated as hipster attractions and subcultures. As seen from my survey results in Locale Part 1, most people have not visited the gems that are concentrated within this area. I also juxtaposed street signs with a traditional gilded Chinese sign to create tension. The word Taboo from the LGBT Club tag also creates irony beside the traditional Chinese characters that translate to kindness and benevelonce (taken from the billboard of a charity organisation in Neil Road)I edited the street signs such as ‘No Dumping’, rotated the high voltage sign and inserted the CCTV Logo to create a satirical and provocative visual narrative. The use of the work ‘Kok’ from the coffeeshop ‘Kok Sen’ juxtaposed against the image of a rooster (cock), further amplifies the satire within this page.

Elements

3. Printed Zine

Mirror

I wanted the pages of the Zine from each corresponding end, (the spreads) to mirror each other visually to make a final cohesive piece. This idea of mirroring further adds to the effect of convergence in the middle spread.

Spreads

1. Seals :

2. Graffiti and Grit:

3. Deities:

 

4. Jewellery Loupe

Hidden text

I incorporated addresses within each page (the respective place or landmark where most of the elements originate from) in fine prints that would not be visible at first glance. To emphasise the idea of the Panopticon, I provided a Jewellery Loupe (purchased through carousell) that readers could use to scrutinise and find these ‘hidden addresses’ which they could then look up for themselves. This also follows through with my concept of my Zine being an exploratory one. I wanted it to be an emotive experience and intrigue users to visit the site for themselves.

Texts viewed with Loupe

5. Critique

 

 

 

Zine — Locale (Part 1)

1. Initial Exploration

LocAtion

I chose Neil Road/Outram Park as the location I wanted to explore for this project. This area is a place where I’ve had many memorable experiences. It is also an area that features both the heart of Singapore’s  LGBTQ community and a high concentration of traditional architecture and food. I wanted to bring more awareness to people who are not familiar with Neil Road, and to encourage them to discover the complex cultural diversity concentrated just within this specific location. It is truly a gem that many people are unaware of. Hence this project was both a personal one and one that allowed me to gain new insights to a place that I thought I knew well enough. Revisiting the site again made me realise that this area behaves like and is treated almost like its own sub community.

2. Research

primary research— Survey

I created an online survey and shared in social media and among my friends to gain better understanding on how well people knew Neil Road. I also wanted to learn how they may view and interact with certain subcultures such as the LGBTQ community. Many youths indulge in subcultures for the sake of being hipster but how far are they willing to go to truly understand the authenticity and demographics of these cultures — lgbt, traditional coffee shops, architecture etc. With all these in mind I drew up an online survey.

Survey Link : https://praveen734544.typeform.com/to/rC0zFW

Survey Response
Results — Infographics

Below was an open answer question in my survey which got interesting responses that gave me insight to how people may perceive the eccentricity of Neil Road.

Some intriguing responses…

Primary Research — Interviews

I decided to interview a few straight people who have worked in bars or hotels that operate within Neil Road, to understand how their perception of the community might have changed after interacting with them first hand, over a period of time.

Questions:

Responses:

Secondary Research

I went online to find information on Neil Road and found out that many of the gay bars are housed in buildings that are part of the ‘Bukit Pasoh Conservation Area’. This emphasises the idea of coexistence between two very different communities that populate Neil Road. In some sense, the LGBTQ community is endorsed and authenticated via the rich architectural shophouses and buildings they reside in. The conservation indirectly extends to the protection of the heart of the LGBT Community. However the intrigue and buzz that is generated by this community and many other hip places within Neil Road, also keep many traditional establishments relevant in today’s world. These buildings are still being conserved while not too far away, buildings such as Pearl Towers are on the brink of demolition. Hence this idea of co dependancy and coexistence between two seemingly different communities was something I wanted to capture through this project.

3. Conceptualisation

Themes

As mentioned above, coexistence, survival and dependancy are key themes I wanted to explore through this project. Through my survey results and a personal understanding of the location, I also realised that people unfamiliar with the location tend to have a very voyeuristic interaction with in. Within the community itself, many old and conservative people voyeur their LGBT ‘neighbours’ with skepticism and intrigue. Hence Voyeurism was another important theme I wanted to centre my project around.

Execution

With these themes in mind, I decided to use concept photography as my first form of exploration. Using a lens and taking close up or unsuspecting shots of details and people not only highlight the hidden gems to my audience, but also reinforce the idea of voyeur.

4. Presentation

Personal Sentiments

Below are some shots that I took as an introduction to my presentation to invoke curiosity in my audience. I also wanted to check if they could recognise that these pictures of buildings albeit traditional looking, are actually shots of an LGBT Bar. This was to ease them into the idea of coexistence. I also included a descriptive passage that I wrote, based on my own sentiments towards the location.

Photos

1. Eccentricity is captured in this photo. On the pavement there were many free roaming roosters and hens — not a common sight in most populated places in Singapore.

2. The following photos are close-up shots of LGBT establishments and stereotypically ‘sleazy’ places to explore the most obvious form of Voyeurism.

3. The following are Architectural Shots which capture juxtaposition of traditional martial arts sign with cityscape, and skyscrapers beside high rise flats. They also feature a lesbian couple gazing at these buildings.

4. The following photos are close-up shots of old people and the general public to subvert the voyeuristic gaze back onto them. Hence these shots were more invasive in some sense. However hidden gems such as authentic coffee shops are also featured in some of these shots.

5. Map

Concept

Here is a pre existing map found on travelgayasia.com. It is a comprehensive map that highlights key landmarks within Neil Road. However, this map is catered specifically for the LGBTQ people only. Hence I decided to make a custom map from scratch, highlighting landmarks that I personally feel are hidden gems worth exploring. I wanted to create a simple minimalistic map to encourage straight people to visit and appreciate the place too.

Custom Map

I used a paid map making software to create a simple and easy to use interface. The map can be used on mobile devices, making it even more convenient and accessible. I visited selected cafe’s, coffee shops and bars to take my own images to incorporate within the map.

Map Link: https://story.mapme.com/06be5bb7-7ce9-4987-a513-88e616e0a0bc

Interface

1. When you open the link, it leads to a very clear overview of the landmarks I included in the map. They are also categorised accordingly. Users can also click on coloured indicative markers on the map to explore information about specific landmarks. There is also a drop down menu from the side bar to navigate and access information.

3. When you access a specific landmark or location, a summarised information page appears. I included details such as opening hours and my own personal ‘highlights’ each of these landmarks have to offer, based on first hand experience. I also included links to either the location’s official website or Facebook page.

4. Another key feature of this map is that when you click on the address displayed in the information page, it automatically opens the Google Maps Application — this allows users to easily navigate to any of these landmarks from anywhere in Singapore. For people unfamiliar with Neil Road, navigating and choosing where to explore would be confusing due to highly concentrated number of amenities and options there. Hence I distilled it down to my personal favourites while also taking into consideration online reviews. The navigation feature would also ensure that users would be able to locate the places with ease.

6. Reflection

Having to visit the site again for this project allowed me to draw upon my pre existing knowledge and experience to see this area in a new light. I myself, noticed things that I previously did not. Through this brief, I grew to have an even greater appreciation for this already special area. Here are some pictures of me and my friends exploring the LGBT Bars along Neil Road during my pre uni days.