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 all have a heart. It provides us with life, keeps our body working smooth and hearty (pun definitely intended). It’s such a huge part of being human but it’s become such an automated thing that we never really notice it anymore. We’re constantly using our hearts in different situations: through our emotions.
It’s something that dictates the actions of many people, and its commonly associated to the heart. Emotions like love, fear, hate and paint all affect our heart and the way we view the world.
Therefore, I’ve decided to use the heart as my main focus.
There are usually two sides to a heart, like there are always two sides to a person. A biological heart pumps both oxygenated – red blood – and the deoxygenated – blue blood. I’ve decided to use both these colours to represent the positives and negatives of this work.
I wanted to portray the duality of a heart so I placed all the positives on one side and the negatives on the other. On one side, we have the more empathic heart. A more social heart.
A HEART FROM THE POV OF A COUPLE IS AFFECTION.
For the first piece, most of the red is concentrated within the couple. I also tried to incorporate gestures into the work as well, with the handholding. I kept the genders of the couple ambiguous so its up to your interpretation of who they are.
A HEART FROM THE POV OF A PATIENT IS A LIFESAVER.
For the second piece, there’s a patient in need of a heart, being provided by the heart in the centre. The chest is empty because it lacked a heart. There’s also a recurring theme of keeping the figures ambiguous in gender.
A SAMARITAN FROM THE POV OF THE DISADVANTAGED IS HEART.
For the third piece, the clasped hands are meant to be a gesture of healing, wrapped round the huddled figure wrapped in bandages. The figure is hurt and injured, and the bandages help to make the figure feel better. The wings are disintegrating, but healing under the blanket, kind of like the healing wings of a broken bird. The clasped hands are almost meant to feel like a warm embrace.
A REJECTION FROM THE POV OF A HEART IS AGONY.
In this piece, I meant to use the blood almost like a sword, slicing through the figure. Sometimes pain can be so agonising it physically harms and destroys, so I wanted to be able to portray that here. Rejection doesn’t have to mean something romantic. It could be social, or a workplace rejection, but all of them illicit pain in a different way.
A HEART FROM THE POV OF A BLACK MARKET DEALER IS A LIVELIHOOD.
During the Victorian era, there was a common perception where blood was considered to be the source of life. That was why the concept of vampires became particularly popular. Even though this project has nothing to do with vampires, I still wanted to make use of the ‘Blood is Life’ idea. I decided to metaphorically represent the black market dealer as a blood monster rising from the broken body of his victim.
SELF-INTEREST FROM THE POV OF A HEART IS PROTECTION.
For this one, I kind of want to show the social pressure on the world on someone who is more concerned with their own survival than that of the world’s. Often, many people isolate themselves and their hearts in order to protect themselves. Here, society presents as unrecognisable black figures that envelop the lonely figure, huddled into themselves out of fear and protection.
It all forms a heart at the centre of my body of six pieces, a bit like how the heart is at the centre of the body. All these positives and negatives will eventually rejoin the heart to form one whole entity.
I have always had problems expressing myself in my work. Often, I am too hesitant, and find myself falling back into my safety net as an attempt to secure my precious grades. This time, I want to be able to fully envelop myself into my work, and inject a little ‘heart’ into it, quite literally!
A HEART from the point of view of:
a DOCTOR is an ORGAN.
a RESEARCHER is CELL TISSUE.
a COUPLE is LOVE.
a PATIENT is A LIFESAVER.
a BLACK MARKET DEALER is MONEY IN THE POCKET.
ONE’S MIND is too emotional.
SELF-INTEREST is PROTECTION.
FEAR is A PARALYTIC.
HANNIBAL is a DELICACY.
A SHIELD from the POV of a HEART is a WALL.
A REJECTION from the POV of a HEART is AGONY.
A SAMARITAN from the POV of THE DISADVANTAGED is heart.
I decided to go a little traditional again, and toy with the idea of pen and ink art. I have dabbled in it, but never seriously so it would be interesting to see where this leads me. There are a couple of artists that are particularly inspiring, some using mixed media as well.
For the above artist, Gabriel Picolo, his works are highly illustrative and he wld sketch his works, trace them in ink then work over them in photoshop. I really love his strong pen technique and the clean linework. I also love how stylised and illustrative it is and I hope to achieve something like this.
For this artist, his pen technique is a lot more elaborate, forming these intricate shapes that weave into each other. These are more technically demanding, and will be harder on me but I am willing to try some similar styles if I can come up with a suitable idea to fit it.
Agnes Cecile is one of my favourite artists, with her impeccable watercolour technique. In these two pictures she however uses a different style. The first image is that of drip ink painting, where her movements are sporadic and almost random but they still create the form of a human. The second has her mixing pen and watercolour together. Both are mesmerising techniques and it would be highly interesting to try them out.
Currently, I have a few ideas of what I intend to do with my six pieces. I was hoping to achieve a kind of a parallel between the works, three against three. Two will form one main arching idea. I will be thinking of more concrete sketches to showcase during consultation as I further develop my ideas.
Hopefully I will be able to come up with something satisfactory! 🙂
“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.
Heavily inspired by surrealism, I wished to give my pieces are mystical yet sombre feeling to them because of the nursery rhymes I drew inspiration from. Most of these poems, seemingly innocent when we first heard them as a child actually have alternate, much darker meanings to them. It is from these
THE INDIVIDUAL PIECES
Ring-a-ring o’ roses, A pocket full of posies, A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
We all fall down.
For this piece, it was the first one I did with surrealism inspired ideas behind it. It is often said that the poem itself is about Black Death, and the falling down is a result of people dying. Therefore, inspired by the entire poem, this piece came into fruition. I wanted to convey the feeling of lying down and yet the chaotic feeling of death. It’s relatively peaceful and calm, but underneath the persona’s skin, as a representation of ‘ashes’ is a tremoring, explosive fire threatening to consume her very being. Together with the explosive fire at the centre of the ring of roses, it is meant to depict the suddenness and immediacy of death in seemingly perfect, quiet circumstances.
Jack and Jill went up the hill
To fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down and broke his crown,
And Jill came tumbling after.
The next two pieces in the four part series come together as a set. Inspired by consecutive lines next to each other, both are heavily influenced by surrealism as well. Yet again, it’s a seemingly innocent poem with much darker connotations and I wished to communicate the darker aspect of the poem, without making it grotesque. The texture and atmosphere of the chosen images are meant to project a surreal, mysterious perspective of his demise, like it is implied in the poem. The roses provide balance, coupled with the mysterious ambiguity of the image itself. It also provides the added function of making the composition more visually engaging.
This is the second part of the Jack and Jill set. For this piece it is much simpler but I wanted to convey a metaphorical feeling of falling, perhaps even mentally. The reflection and the floating hair is meant to show a psychological effect of drowning and falling at the same time. Negative space in the composition made it far more mysterious and I quite like the effect it generated, despite its final simplicity.
FINALLY THE PERSONAL FAVOURITE
Hush, little baby, don’t say a word, Mama’s going to buy you a mockingbird.
If that mockingbird won’t sing, Mama’s going to buy you a diamond ring.
If that diamond ring turns brass, Mama’s going to buy you a looking glass.
If that looking glass gets broke, Mama’s going to buy you a billy goat.
If that billy goat won’t pull, Mama’s going to buy you a cart and bull.
If that cart and bull turn over, Mama’s going to buy you a dog named Rover.
If that dog named Rover won’t bark, Mama’s going to buy you a horse and cart.
If that horse and cart fall down, You’ll still be the sweetest little boy in town.
So hush little baby, don’t you cry, Daddy loves you and so do I.
This composition’s inspiration was drawn from the entire first stanza of the rhyme. It’s meant to be just as dark, if not darker than its predecessors. In the foreground, the child’s arms have turned to that of a mockingbird. A faint hint of a bandage can be seen masking transparently over the child’s lips, barring it’s ability to speak. It’s meant to depict how the limitations of speech will still be present, no matter how invisible its barriers are. The mother in the midground looms threateningly behind the child, contained within her own silence. She is a faceless, threatening, overbearing presence over the child. The rustic background means to create a feeling of decay, conjured by the mother. All in all, it is a mysterious, strategic composition that really draws attention.
“The only time she has anything resembling a life is when she sleeps because when she sleeps, she can dream.” – Donna Lynn Hope
My intention behind this photo series is to convey the idea where dreams are better than reality, and that one would much rather remain sleeping than wake up. From there I considered the reasons as to why one would consider dreaming a better place to reside in than reality. At first I considered the idea of a three part dismantling of a fantasy relationship, but felt it would be too typical. Finally, I considered depicting a person’s fixation on their failures and how this pushes them finding escape in their much brighter, much more successful dreams, quite literally.
Inspired by a personal friend’s trials, I decided I was going to attempt to depict the character’s trial with depression and self-hate in their waking world, and how in their dreams, they are the complete opposite of themselves.
This photoset is really a four part series instead of three:
the Dream: the ideal world
the Reality: the state of being awake
the Deconstruction: flashes between reality and dreaming
the Choice: the ultimate decision of choosing being Dreams and Reality
The first major scene will be with the character in their dreams where they are everything they want to be, and what they hope and what they wish for. I wanted to make sure these two worlds are shown to be separate and a stark contrast from each other from the start.
The second major scene is meant to show the stark contrast of reality, compared to soft colours of their dreamscape. Their reality is meant to be mundane, boring, black and white. There is a boredom to their routine, cold, lifeless and repetitive in a way that does not come from discipline, but from apathy.
In the third part the character herself becomes unable to discern between the truth and the lies. Dreams and reality start overlapping; she wants so badly to escape to her dream world that her reality has been tainted by her fantasies. This is also where she feels the extent of her failure, her expectations the most, weighing in upon her like a dark cloud.
Finally, she makes her choice in the fourth scene: going back to her Dreams, where she could be so much happier, where her failures disappears and her expectations are realised.The viewers themselves start becoming confused: has the character really been dreaming? Or has she been awake? Was she ever awake at all? Or is this still part of her dreamscape? The ending leaves itself to ambiguity. She could be sleeping and dreaming again, or the pills could ultimately have chosen to take her from her unending, harsh realities. It is up to the viewer to decide.
The reality and overlapping shots are in black and white as I wanted to depict the mundane quality of the protagonist’s life. This is to contrast against the soft, brightly lit colours of her dream. In her dream, her friends are faceless, as is real dreams where you never really truly remember who you were talking to or interacting with. The shots here also include more wide shots to really show off the environment. The reality and overlapping shots are more close-ups, to really get up close and personal to the character and her trial with this illness.
My artist references are Katie Crawford and Christian Hopkins.
Katie did a series called My Anxious Heart, whereupon she depicted her own journey with anxiety. Her images depict the many symptoms and effects of anxiety, with dark imagery helps one understand the impact the illness has on her.
Some images include:
Christian Hopkins himself did a series on his own trial with depression. The dark, eerie photographs really capture the essence of his battle with this mental illness. One can really feel how much it holds him captive in his embrace.
The Final Piece
Not only did I gain a better understanding about depression as an illness and it’s effects on their victims, I also learned how to inject more emotion into my imagery. I also gained more knowledge about technical skill and composition, and how to tell a narrative with images so as to form a cohesive story. All in all, it was a very interesting and eye-opening experience that really let me gain insight about a mental illness, as well as the technical aspects of the project.