This installation was some of the most fun I’ve had with a project since school started. In the past, even in Sem 1, I’ve tried way too hard to make my work serious, respectable and “artsy”. I may be emotionally invested and driven as I conceptualise the work, but once it comes down to the actual execution, I lose steam very quickly. Art for me was starting to feel static; I didn’t know how to add life into it. So for this project, I went on a completely opposite route and decided to just have fun. It could backfire on me for all I know, but at least I was able to say that I enjoyed this installation and it is truly something I’m proud of producing. Something I don’t often say about my work.
I am generally of a pretty serious and quiet temperament, but I decided to inject the part of me that loves sarcasm and satire into this work. Ever since I became more socially engaged (and more political) four years ago, I can’t seem to let go of that in my work. I don’t often have very high opinions of bigots and conservative people. And this came across pretty clearly in my work.
Titled A Guide to Sinning Through the Ages, this work though satirical, is still meant to draw attention to the way books have been banned or challenged in numerous countries, sometimes for the most ridiculous reasons. No book is safe from the horrors conservatism, paranoia, or censorship. This installation draws attention to censorship and the issues that many authors face. In doing so it questions literary freedom and expression. It also calls out the fear that a certain sector of society has towards written text.
The books themselves are from my personal collection, ranging from popular fiction to the classics. They are cling-wrapped together to restrict them from being read, but so people can still see through the clingwrap to view the covers. The floating pegs is meant to give a subtle feeling of caging up the books within society’s opinion. It is overbearing and excessive, and hides all meaning of the original books.
A few close ups of the work:
Description on Artist Label:
A Guide to Sinning Through the Ages
Text and Image installation, Mixed Media, Variable Dimensions.
Conservatism! Paranoia! Censorship! Why the hell are we so afraid of books? Since books were first written and published, every single genre has contributed to the long list of books deemed unsafe for general readership.
“A Guide to Sinning Through the Ages” is a one stop shop where you can see how attitudes towards certain types of content have changed throughout the years. People sure can come up with the wackiest reasons to challenge and ban anything they want to. What on earth is so terrifying about a bunch of words on flimsy paper? These guys seem to have an idea.
The next time NLB decides to pulp some books because certain sectors of Singaporean society think they’re inappropriate, come find me with a copy! I’ll be glad to add them to this display of all-round idiocy.
Why the obtrusive title? After extensive research on my book choices, I came to the realisation that a lot of these books were often withdrawn from libraries due to fundamental religious reasons. Books like Harry Potter or The Picture of Dorian Gray often appear to contain material that spoke against the Bible, and thus became vilified for it. Witchcraft and homosexual overtones were what these books were known for. And it’s the reason why they got banned. Because it was a sin.
This was a common theme for most of the books I chose, and thus the title of the installation was born.
The installation also showcased numerous library cards, thirty six of them to be exact. There are however only fourteen individual ones that were repeated to fill the whole installation. You can see each one below.
All in all, I really had fun with this project. I’m not sure where exactly this satirical piece will take me, but it was great nonetheless. A good end to my semester in Foundation 4D!
This project took me a long time to conceptualise. First of all, I always have a desperate need to connect with my work. I need that motivation of feeling passionate about what I was doing and the message I was sending. I sat myself in the library for three hours, staring into space, into the ceiling, at the books. I probably came off as insane with all the looking around I was doing. I ended up having quite an artist block with this project initially, because no matter what idea I tossed out, I hated almost all of them.
(Unfortunately, I lost most of my pictures and sketches so I only have the three below. Sorry. 🙁 )
After rejecting about five ideas or so, I finally came up with three I was quite okay with.
Cascading Book Pages Installation
Censorship Book Installation
Finally after much pondering, I found that I was most passionate about the last concept.
I did a lot of research (Goodreads was a great help) about different banned books from all over the world. Initially I was going to go with something more serious, but after seeing the ridiculous reasons books were getting banned for, I decided to alter my tune.
I came up with a list of possible books I wanted to use for my work and their respective information:
perks of being a wallflower
his dark materials
looking for alaska
picture of dorian gray
brave new world
the da vinci code
lord of the rings
and tango makes three
leaves of grass
The place I decided to utilise for my installation is this particular area. I thought the structure was interesting, and I could utilise both the pegs and the pedestal in my work.
Initially I wanted to toy with visual imagery but it ended up making the book (and the protagonist) look like they were on a hitlist. So that idea was scrapped.
Initial Test Concept:
(Felt a tad bit disrespectful too since she died during WWII in terrible conditions.)
I decided to alter the concept to library cards, as that’s what people used to borrow books before. Most of the books that I mentioned were also explicitly banned by specific libraries in different countries, so I figured this imagery would be cohesive with the entire installation. I obtained this base picture on google, before editing it to reflect the details of the book.
My first test image:
I ended up changing date due to censored for greater clarity.
I also approached the work with a more satirical and sarcastic tone. As someone who is much more on the serious side, this is something I have never really embraced before. It ended up being an extremely interesting process for me as I developed my work.
This project was much closer to me than a lot of my projects. I am constantly struggling to find ways to relate to my work, and not to just produce a detached project to fulfill my grades. For this, I feel like, yeah, I injected quite a bit of heart into this one.
I’m an existentialist at heart, always considering my existence and my purpose in the world etc. Not the best thing to always be thinking about. For one, it’s exceedingly pretentious to constantly ponder the state of life. Who likes someone who’s always trying way too hard to be ‘deep’? It’s not on purpose trust me. My mind just wanders too easily. For the other, it starts to get really depressing when all you can think about is how you’re going to end up a cog in the machine and watch your life spiral away from you-
This video is kind of existentialist. And though I hate to come off as pretentious, I can’t deny it made me realise that time is impermanent and fleeting. I am an adult now, mostly. In age at least. And this comes with a whole onslaught of responsibilities. It made me consider my childhood, my own memories, and what that could bring to my future. I know I’m constantly trapped in my past. There are many things I miss about it, especially as school gets tougher and life gets harder. Retreating into your past and your memories always seem easier, almost like an excuse. It gives you the false hope of an “if only I could go back” situation, except that you can’t, and thinking any harder about it only makes you sadder.
So I guess this video is meant to reflect my feelings on this whole mess of being stuck in between the past and the present, and realising that trying to reach for your future means having to stop fixating on the former.
Moving on to the process of creating my video, I was actually terrified to make it. There are a couple of reasons why.
I have never in my life filmed anything that wasn’t a handphone recording of a concert and/or some ridiculous situation.
What is editing and what even is Premiere Pro?
What do I even film??? This neighbourhood is the most boring place to EXIST.
Amongst many others that I can’t remember at this point.
Point is, my fears were many, and I went into the process with trepidation. But there’s nothing I could do but swallow it down and produce something.
My research sent me to Youtube, my favourite place to procrastinate. And in the midst of my research (procrastination), I stumbled across (rewatched), a couple of old videos from two of my favourite youtubers, Troye Sivan and Connor Franta.
Both these youtubers constantly shoot vlogs for each other, so I recognised their distant style of reflective monologues, complete with a simple background track and spontaneous videos that introduced the landscape. Here are the two videos I referenced specifically.
Troye Sivan – Becoming You
Connor Franta – Life Doesn’t Wait
I really appreciated the aesthetic and the style behind both these videos, so I thought to try and emulate that.
Enlisting the help of a friend who has some experience in photography, we set on a journey to film an overly pretentious, monologue styled, hipster video. And strangely, I managed to get it to work. Somewhat.
My music choice for this one is the instrumental of one of my favourite songs, Youth by Troye Sivan. (Evidently, I’m a big fan.) I really liked the beats, which I used to place my video cuts. The music came out a little louder than I wanted to, but that’s a lesson learned for another day.
Editing the video was torturous. Like I mentioned above, I’ve never used Premiere Pro. It took me a whole afternoon to familiarise myself with the software to even do anything remotely close to proper editing. I ended up only doing the bulk of the editing at night. It came more smoothly by then though, so it wasn’t too bad. The problem with this style was that the video cuts felt arbitrary but are actually planned. Each clip was also wholly different but had to somehow feel linked together. Trying to find the balance for both of these made for tough calls and decisions. A lot of video colouring was involved, which also took me plenty of time I didn’t have.
All in all, I learned quite a lot from this process. I’m really glad I decided to step out of my comfort zone and explore a medium I’ve never used before. Filming videos is tiring, but a lot more fun than I imagined. Perhaps, I might try it out again in the future.
And finally, here’s the fruit of my hard labour:
Full transcript of monologue:
This is a story about growing up.
I remember many things about this place. There was a hill. Not a very big one. You know, Singapore and all. But, I liked it enough as a kid.
I had so many adventures in this hill. I slayed dragons, I was a knight, a queen. And this? This was my kingdom.
I could see myself hanging between the walls of void decks. I could see myself playing catch in the playground. I even remember myself fumbling over rollerblades in this very basketball court.
I realised how much I wanted to be that kid again. You didn’t need to know what came after each day. What you saw was what felt real to you.
You didn’t need to think about the future, because you got to decide what came next.
It took me eight years to finally come back. And I had glued memories to a place that will never stop changing. It’s so easy to hold yourself back by thinking about how good your life had been in comparison.
I don’t think forgetting about my childhood is the way to move on. Not so much as forgetting in the sense of the word. Your childhood is the thing that made you the way you are. It’s good to keep the memories beside you. Take them out once in a while, maybe dust them off, take a look. But that’s the thing, you do it once in a while.
Your old self is meant to stay where it is: behind. It’s meant to be a memory, not a shadow. It shouldn’t have to follow you forever. Having great times as a kid doesn’t mean you can’t have even better ones now.
The truth is, you can’t go back. Not to the way you used to be. You’re just not that little child anymore.
Growing up means having to leave certain things behind. It means knowing that unlike the past, you change as much as the world around you. In order to create your future, you have to let your past go.
Maybe you’ve grown up just a little taller than you wanted. Maybe a little more awkward, a little rounder. Maybe even a little unhappier.
And that’s okay.
You don’t have to perfectly beautiful, perfectly amazing, or perfectly happy to be human.
Hey it took me twenty years but, yeah, I think I’m ready to move on.
My past has left me behind, and maybe, it’s time for me to leave it behind as well.
“We could never have loved the earth so well if we had no childhood in it.” – George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans).
I think I have ADM to thank for this one. Without my new project, I never would have thought of going back to Yew Tee a visit. Not because I hated it – coming back made me realise how much I didn’t know I missed – but because it felt like a memory so distant I hadn’t thought of reaching that far. 8 years is a long time. I may have moved away when I was twelve but the neighbourhood has moved on without me too.
The night before I went back, many hours were spent reminiscing about the memories I had left behind before I drifted off to sleep. There’s something about nostalgia that makes everything seem a lot more beautiful than it really was at that point in time. But I was excited. A part of me was torn though: do I want to see a changed neighbourhood, or do I want the old one back? Same, stagnant and unchanging?
It’d be amazing to still see the same structures and know you once left your mark behind. No one would know how important it is, but you would know. And yet, for a place to remain wholly unchanged is impossible. No space is void of the passage of time.
These feelings warred within me that night and sleep was fitful. By the time morning came, I was tired but my excitement remained an all time high. Armed with my camera, I was ready to spend my morning exploring my unfamiliarly familiar childhood home.
Visit a place or an area in Singapore that you have not been for quite a while. Go on a wander, what did you see, smell or hear?
Going back felt like a rush of nostalgia slapped me in the face. I’ve gone to Yew Tee point a couple of times for breakfast with my dad, but I never truly went home. Not the home where childish innocence had still filled my days. When I spent more time making up stories in my head then I did staring down at textbooks and hoping they’d make sense one day. (They never did, it’s why I’m in art school.)
I think I may have spent too long looking and just feeling instead of taking proper photos. Things have changed no doubt. The playgrounds got a bit of an upgrade. So did the elders corner. But the HDBs were still the same shade of pale pink and purple. I remember imagining myself a gymnast on this very marble bench. I could still see my young self hiding behind the familiar walls of the void decks.
Every corner I turn reminded me of something I did when I was a kid. I had spent so much time in these places. I traveled far and wide; I was a doctor, a princess, a robber, a spy. All in the same little neighbourhood. These blank walls carried my innocence and I felt childlike again wandering amongst them.
But there was a stillness present now.
Perhaps it is because I was out at 8am in the morning, but I knew something had changed. Preschools and eldercare centres have taken over some void decks. Everything was denser, yet emptier at the same time. So much was done to urbanise the place, that not enough was done to take care of it’s spirit. But it still felt like part of me, changes and all.
There is one particular place I used to frequent as a child. It was a small hill – our own patch of wilderness, a colourful contrast from the pastel HDBs and the preschools. And it had been my haven.
I don’t think this space was ever a secret. After all it, had stairs leading right up into it. But for the better part of my childhood years, this hill and the woods atop it was my Narnia. It was my alternate dimension. Many a pinecone fight was had with my brother amongst these very trees. From where I was, it looked relatively untouched. With high hopes, I climbed the stairs, heart thumping with anticipation.
Sparse. That was the first thought that came to mind. Eight years ago, trees would have dotted the entire green expanse. There would have barely been any space for my brother and I to play makeshift baseball with fallen branches and pinecones. Now, stumps poked through the grass, dismal and decaying. The sun hasn’t changed much. It will take billions of year before it does so it shines, filtering through the leaves just as beautifully as it did eight years ago.
I breathe in the scent of grass and old wood. The air is already much fresher here.
It’s still just as quiet.
The only sounds accompanying me is the breaking twigs under my boots and the occasional chirp of an insect or bird. Here, where the trees blocked out the road and the cars, I could imagine myself in the shoes of my younger self again. Slowly becoming the person that I am.
Another feeling has long since started churning in my chest together with the nostalgia.
Twelve years I had spent here. In those twelve years, things had changed too. But I’d never felt it as acutely as I did now.
We don’t notice when large swathes of time passes by in the form of months and years. It only gets faster the older we get. It traps us in the increasing list of things we need to get done. We can’t stop and think about what that means because ironically, we just don’t have the time to.
I try to abandon this depressing thought, but it is niggling and persistent. I take the longer trek down towards the playground and my old block instead. It’s around 9:30 by the time I finish my reminiscing. Tiny, uniform-clad kids start emerging from the nearby preschools, chaperoned by their young teachers. They’re still young and innocent – I miss those days.
I head to a mini mart next to my block first. This is a place child-me always ended the day at. After a long afternoon of playacting, cycling or playing catch, I would have headed to this neighbourhood mart to grab a drink or an ice-pop for a couple of cents. Those were the days before inflation hit us and we could still enjoy something for the mere price of ten cents.
I enter, avoiding eye contact with the familiar old couple at the counter for fear of recognition because small talk is the bane of my life. Despite this, I was still glad to see them there. Knowing that they were still keeping up the family business, even if the store name is new, made me realise some things will never change. The neighbourhood will always be depending on them for their family necessities. And the children their dueling cards.
However, I did not expect the familiar owner of the store to stop me with a “小妹，找什么吗？” (Looking for anything, girl?) He was still on the plump side, friendly and solid. Except he now had shaven head of short, white hair and the face full of wrinkles. His wife had aged as well, but their smiles remain just as bright when they greet their regulars.
I couldn’t run away now, I had to make conversation. So I did.
“Oh no, just looking.” I replied, hoping I didn’t look embarrassingly awkward about trying to sneak around their store unseen. Taking a chance, I decided to continue.
“It’s just I used to stay here a long time ago, and I thought I’d come back to take a look.”
Unfortunately since I never knew their names despite my years of living there, I shall refer to them as Auntie and Uncle in the following conversation.
“Oh! I remember you, you used to come here all the time.” Uncle said. He speaks to Auntie. “You remember her, don’t you?”
Shocked and touched, I replied enthusiastically. “Yeah! I miss this place a lot. It’s so great to see you! It’s been so long.”
“You had a brother too, didn’t you? You’re so tall now. Came back to take pictures?” He motioned towards the camera I was carrying.
We continued chatting as I explained my project and I reminisced about my memories of the store. Slightly teary, I left the store feeling full and warm, the happiest I have been in days. Despite the long eight years, they still remembered me. It would have been easy for me to slip between the gaps of their memory, but no. I was still there, and so was my brother. Together with everyone they’ve ever served in this neighbourhood, they were remembered. Seeing and talking to them felt like I had cemented my almost dreamlike existence in this neighbourhood.
I had been here.
I was also glad to see that not much has changed about my old block. The tiled flower upon the floor is the same, the letterboxes where I remember them. The stairwell I used to take to race all the way up to my old apartment on the sixth floor is still there, dark and eerie. Even the scent was familiar. Just the faint smell of the rubbish from the trash dump behind mixed with the old smell of the lift lobby. Something that used to irk me instead brought back a flurry of memories before my eyes.
The view didn’t change much either. It’s so strange to see everything look so familiar yet feel so sadly foreign.
Coming back, I realised there was so much about this place I missed without know I had missed it until I saw it. I miss how I would dash down in the evenings to hang out with the neighbourhood kids. I miss how I could spend hours playing on the playground without a care in the world. I miss how my this place meant to my childhood. The sight and smells are different, but vaguely similar. That hurt me more than seeing a complete overhaul of the neighbourhood. Knowing that those places remained a fixture even as the world changed around it, it almost felt like they were waiting for you to come back. And I’m glad I did.
This piece is an interactive sound installation that was in the Ludvig Museum in 2013. Placed in the centre of a dark room, the glowing sculpture entices its audience to come closer to explore its depths. The installation is triggered by the movement of the visitors, generating haunting, tinkling music. Made of clear glass, the point of the exhibit is also to reflect the piece’s fragility even as they interact with it. In fact, the artist herself had went ahead with the hope that during interactions, the audience may cause some of the sharper, thinner edges to break.
Watching the video of visitors interacting with the piece was quite spectacular. The light play on the sculpture casts lovely, dimensional shadows upon the wall. The tinkling sounds, almost like a xylophone, created an eerie yet oddly calming sensation.
Light, Sound, Glass installation.
Maria Koshenkova (RU) – glass-object Richard Deutsch (A) – sound, interactive environment Christian Vogel (A) – software
“Whenever you read a good book, somewhere in the world a door opens to allow in more light. – Vera Nezarin.”
Home has different meanings for everyone just like no two homes are exactly the same. To me, home is a comfortable sphere of relaxation. I tend to find solace in reading, an activity I constantly engage in when at home. Coming home is to allow myself to recharge in solitude with a book.
Having been inspired by the above quote, this series is in black and white to highlight the contrast between light and dark. The pictures all contain various places one could read. The book itself is the main character, traveling everywhere with me as it goes.
The video itself is a stop motion animation of my figurative self on a journey into the world of fiction and coming through as someone else. With close to three hundred shots, it utilises the same character in the photographic sequence, the book as a device of travel.
Advantages: Sequence images are able to suggest instead of tell. A lot of the time, with moving image, a narrative is overtly present in the story. Your interpretation of the series becomes much more limited. The point of sequence images is that they never reveal the whole story, which is what I find quite charming about.
Limitations: If not manipulated correctly, sequence images might find themselves lacking in narrative and instead of connoting, become extremely literal. This is my problem with my series. Most of it denoting, with quite overt messages present and not enough subtext and internal meaning.
Challenges: There were many pictures to take for the stopmotion that required a lot of maneuvering as I was working with figurines. Despite the large amount of footage, the ultimate product was very short as well.
What might be some of the advantages, limitations and challenges of creating narrative using sequences of still images versus Moving image and the role you see sound play in your work.
Embarrassingly, I didn’t actually realise the installation was an installation at first. Walking into the room, I had initially assumed that the column of books was just a plain simple wood pillar. Upon closer inspection, the seemingly wooden pillar was actually constructed out of tightly compacted, yellowing books, their spines pushed against the wall to hide the titles. I was amazed by the sheer height of it; the column of books appeared to stretch right through the ceiling. As a book lover, I was immediately intrigued to know the meaning behind this installation. Books are used frequently in installations, but different artists can always offer a brand new perspective towards their utilisation. Strolling towards the next part of the exhibit, it took me a few seconds before I realised that the pages were all perfectly cut pages of book endings. Framed in brown tape and stacked on top of each other, they occupied a shelf the entire length of the wall. The only thing that ran through my mind as I scanned the pages was my intense need to know the story. My eyes kept flitting towards the top of the page where a title would usually be placed. Some contained the titles, but almost all of them refused to reveal the story they belonged to. By the time I reached the end of the shelf, the fact that I recognised next to nothing was extremely frustrating.
I then proceeded to the description, which instead of providing me a definitive answer, only served to throw more questions back at me. The idea behind the installation definitely became clearer to me however. With the spines turned away from the audience, and the titles missing from their pages, one could never truly know which book the ending belonged to. The artist almost wants you to construct your own ending. Ironically, instead of providing a sense of closure, the endings lead you wondering towards new beginnings. There is a lingering sense of mystery and unsettled curiosity. Especially when you realise no more can be gleaned from the installation, and that it was high time you left.
I like how the two pieces were installed next to each other. If they had been installed any other way, say more haphazardly, or even stuck against the wall, its visual influence may have been diminished. If the stack of books hadn’t reached towards the ceiling and disappeared out of sight, that never-ending quality of a continuous story wouldn’t have shown through. (I like that the artist removed the endings and then decided to show the stack of books climbing upward into oblivion. It’s almost as if the story itself could never be completed without a true ending.) At its core, they are complementary installations. Neither piece would have made sense without the other, or have made such a great impact on its viewers. It was definitely my favourite installation in the entire Time of Others exhibit.
As a person who has always been easily enchanted by moving image, this piece immediately caught my attention. Most of the time, I can never keep still enough to deliberate on a still image. Moving image however strikes a delicate balance between the silence of film and the articulation of movement – this is exactly what drew me to the piece. I saw that there were two screens, both simultaneously playing a silent film of a man of colour. In one frame, he attempts quite hesitantly to put on a stiff suit, committing many a faux pas. In the other frame, is the same man, already dressed, well-groomed and seated stolidly in his chair. I waited and watched quietly, my curiosity planting my feet to the ground.
In the first frame, the subject’s discomfort is clear. He constantly looked off-screen for directions. His suit was donned in a slipshod manner – vest unbuttoned and shirt untucked. He obviously knew next to nothing about what he was doing with that unfamiliar suit. Juxtaposed next to the well-established, impassive second frame, it makes you believe you were watching two completely different men when it isn’t the case. A still image would not have worked. It could not have provided this stage for the man to perform his awkward dance with the suit. The moving film was essential to document the process of the suit-wearer and his later, stoic expressions.
With next to no ideas on what the exhibit could mean, I proceeded to read the description. Once I finished, I began to see the piece in a new light. The suit, instead of being a familiar outfit, became a disguise for the subject. He had to remove his traditional clothing all to reach a semblance of supposed civility – a tired, grey suit. I could see now that the suit represented British colonialism, and the impacts it had left behind. To me, the artwork is a piece of social commentary on the abandoning of one’s roots in order to blend in with an order more accepted and ‘correct’. Wearing the suit wasn’t a choice – it was a directive. The need to wear a suit in an Americanised world has become the new mandate of respectable civilisation.
However, I could not have caught any of these meanings without the help of the description. Perhaps I just wasn’t thinking hard enough, but maybe dialogue could add sound and interaction between the subject and viewer. This piece was definitely thought-provoking and interesting. I would love to see more pieces with similar socio-political commentary.