A continuation from the previous project, we were tasked to, with the data collected from the previous project, create an 8-page zine portraying our perceptions of the chosen place.
For a more in-depth look of the zine, please refer to:
The location I chose was Keong Saik Road because of its unique trait of its transformation from a dingy red-light district into a poster child for a hip New Singapore.
As Keong Saik Road is famous today for its night life – with its many high-end restaurants, boutiques, and bars as tenants – I felt that experiences in the past and in the present would share similarities. Therefore, I wanted to use the zine as an outlet to expand on the five senses one would experience when heading for a night out at Keong Saik Road in the present, contrasted against one in the past.
Using a combination of abstract and literal concepts and techniques, I hoped to convey my own experiences in visiting the site, as well as my assumptions of what it was like in the past, coupled with first-hand accounts from biographies, through the zine’s spreads.
Front & Back Cover
As the zine portrays the contrasting settings of heading for a night out in present-day Keong Saik Road versus one in the past as a red-light district, the zine can be can be read from either the front to back or back to front. Reading from the front shows the experiences of present-day Keong Saik Road as a trendy hot spot for high-end restaurants and bars, and reading from the back would show the experiences of Keong Saik in the past as a red-light district.
The first spread is a representation of getting ready to head out to present-day Keong Saik Road and in the past.
The front cover shows a perfume bottle, an eyeshadow palette, and an ATM card. Illustrations being the main bulk of the visuals, the composition also comprises of patterns taken from images.
- Perfume bottle: The pattern here is a wall mural found in one of the alleyways at Keong Saik Road
- Eyeshadow palette: The eyeshadow colours here are meant to represent the clothing patterns of visitors I came across during one of my site visits. Common fabric patterns I saw were denim (left), floral patterns (second from left), regular clothing fabrics (second from right), and leather (right).
The title says ‘Meet me at… Keong Saik Road’, done in the style of a WhatsApp message. The title is contrasted against that of the back cover where it says ‘I got caught up at Keong Saik Road’ in Chinese (as Keong Saik Road was a Chinese district in the past). The title of the back cover is done with a spiral pattern to mimic a telephone cord; to contrast against a WhatsApp message, I thought it would be appropriate to have a traditional landline cord.
The back cover, on the other hand, shows a condoms, a condom box, and dollar notes and coins. Like the front cover, illustrations are the main bulk, but with some patterns taken from images. Wanting to show the demographics of visitors who frequented the place in the past (i.e. middle-aged businessmen), I used the fabric of a suit to form the packaging of the condoms.
The first spread represents Keong Saik Road in present-day through the five senses, expanding more on the sense of sight, smell, and sound.
The idea of the first page was to reflect the part of a night out where you’d be looking for a place to eat at. Wanting to show the layout of the road, the left page depicts an overview of the street in the style of a topographical map. The shape of the road and general layout was copied from a map view of the place (when searching for Keong Saik Road in Google Maps). The senses here focused on sight and sound.
In topographical maps, repeated swirls were used to indicate the heights of hills and mountains. Using the same idea, the map here – instead of showing the heights of shophouses in the area – depicts the noise frequencies of different areas. The noisier an area was, the larger and more condensed the swirl was (e.g. bars and clubs would be bigger than hotels and convenience stores). The colours depicted in the centre also reflected the colours associated with that particular store as well. The roads were formed with an image of the road at Keong Saik Road, and the squares (representing the general placement of shophouses) were formed with the floors found in the area – during a site visit, I realised that the stores along the street each had unique styles of flooring, so I thought it’d be interesting to use each pattern to represent a different store.
The right page, on the other hand, was meant to reflect the part of the night where you’d be eating and drinking at a restaurant. The senses to be focused on here would be the sense of sight, smell, sound, and taste. The visuals depicted here are burgers, cigarette, cigarette smoke, drinks, and music from a speaker, against the texture of a wooden surface.
- The burger here is a recreation of a photograph of a burger from Potato Head Folk, a very famous restaurant that resides in the area (it’s the first thing you see before going further down the street). It was created by taking textures from buns bought at Keong Saik Bakery and converting them into brushes. The textures were then used to form the shape of the burger based on a photograph.
- The smoke here, further emphasised by the visuals of cigarettes, was meant to represent cigarette smoke. When I visited the area, I could smell a lot of cigarette smoke, and wanted to reflect that. The cigarettes were formed from the receipts I got from shopping at Keong Saik Bakery. The smoke was created by spilling coffee onto a paper towel. When cropped and altered, it resembled smoke.
- Music from speakers is represented through the radial patterns in the background. When visiting the site, I realised that one of the most notable sounds you’d come across was music blaring from speakers of the different stores. And even more so when the street festival, Urban Ventures, was being held. To show the idea of music coming from speakers, I cropped a photo of a shophouse door into circular patterns.
- The spill at the bottom was meant to represent a drink spill. Creating the shape involved spilling a drink across a paper towel then painting over the shape on Photoshop.
In contrast to the first spread, the last spread shows visiting Keong Saik Road in the past as a red-light district. The senses focused here are the sense of sight, smell, and hearing.
The idea of the page on the left was to convey the experiences of coming across brothels along Keong Saik Road. The senses focused here are sight, smell, and sound. Based entirely on an excerpt from 17A Keong Saik Road by Charmaine Leung, which reads:
"The three streets of the Keong Saik area was like a catwalk with an uninterrupted flow of models showing off the latest fashion. Except here, the dai gu liong - masked thickly in their sweet perfumes after they had finished their service calls - sashayed onto the streets and showed off their sex appeal..."
"These men - complete strangers in their thirties to sixties - gathered themselves in a new found alliance of camaraderie, and stood from noon till dark, eyeballing the women of Keong Saik. Like immovable statues at the foot of our house..."
The visuals in this page were meant to convey the descriptions mentioned in these excerpts. Therefore, in this page, it depicts a catwalk where pipas are strutting, to a crowd of sculptures from the Renaissance, coupled with soundwaves and lanterns, against the backdrop of a fur carpet (to make it more raunchy).
- The stage here is made up of strips of the page where the excerpt came from. The wall behind is from an image of a wall of a shophouse from the area.
- The pipas in this case were meant to represent the prostitutes. In the past, some of the prostitutes were referred to as pipa zai, which is translated into Little Pipa, as it was named after the shapes of their bodies being similar to that of pipas.
- The sculptures were meant to represent the brothels’ patrons, where in the excerpt, they were described as ‘immovable statues’.
- Emerging from the door of the catwalk is a cloud of pink smoke to represent the thick, sweet perfume of the prostitutes. The smoke was the same one used earlier, but coloured pink instead.
- The soundwaves at the back were meant to depict the demographics that visited the brothels. Seeing that its patrons were mainly middle-aged men, the soundwaves were the frequencies of average male voices.
The idea of the right page was meant to convey the experiences of navigating through the street of Keong Saik Road when it was a red-light district. This page focuses on the senses of sight, smell, and sound.
Based entirely on assumptions made from researching about its history, the following visuals are used:
- A tunnelling effect was created by layering cropped images of the road and the gates to some of the stores from the area. The deeper the image was, the darker the colour overlay. To further emphasise it being a tunnel, a floor was placed.
- The centre comprises of an illuminated sign ‘6-A’. This was to represent the brothels in the area as in the past, patrons identified brothels by looking out for rectangular light boxes out front with numbers on them. The image was cropped from one that still resides in Keong Saik Road today.
- The smoke was to emphasise it further as a notorious red-light district. The smoke was the same ones used earlier.
- Similar to the page on the left, to depict the demographics that frequent the area (i.e. middle-aged men), I used the sound frequencies of average male voices.
With the two experiences coming together, the centrespread was to represent the feelings of a post-visit to a bar at Keong Saik Road in the present, and a post-visit to a brothel at Keong Saik Road in the past. The five senses pictured here is the sense of sight.
Since the sensation and visuals of the dizzy feeling of being drunk is somewhat similar to the idea of pixellating/censoring what goes on in a brothel, I wanted to use patterns as the primary visual. Taking images of a walkway through one of the shophouses (left), one of the door ways (centre), and a vintage-style wallpaper (right), I warped it to form a swirl pattern. Extracting colours from the photos used, I expanded the swirl patterns to extend to the whole spread.
Making the zine first started with conceptualising the overall concept, approach, and techniques to use.
Eventually, I settled on portraying the five senses through two contrasting experiences in the present and in the past, using as much material I can retrieve from the site.
Research & Materials
In creating the visuals, I had the following materials to use and expand on further:
- Photos: The photos I took of the sight showed the different facilities, patterns found in flooring and walls, textures of flooring and doors, light fixtures, colours of shophouses, and the signages displayed.
- Items from the site: During my visit, I bought buns from the Keong Saik Bakery, and obtained a couple of receipts.
- Objects associated with the site: Food and drinks to symbolise it as an F&B enclave.
- 17A Keong Saik Road: Autobiographical accounts from the book allowed me to recreate the experiences detailed.
The spill pattern from the first spread was a messy process.
I. Album artworks by Gengahr
II. Artworks by Jason Chen
III. Artworks by thankyou.please
- One of the main challenges I dealt with was the use of abstract concepts and methods. As I was very used to representing ideas in a literal format, all while using hand-drawn illustrations as a crutch, I found it challenging to venture out in trying techniques such as mark-making and image manipulation. However, with the help of my friends and Joy, I was able to brainstorm and have a hand in new ways of representing the five senses with materials from the site.
- I had some difficulty in coming up with an interesting and visually-appealing centrespread. Inspired by some abstract works I came across, I was hoping to use colours and textures to convey the dizzy feeling of being drunk as well as the censored/pixelated content of visiting a brothel. But it didn’t go as well as I wanted!
- Printing the zine was also quite problematic. As its pages were primarily made up of bright and rich colours, it did not really reflect well when printed on regular printing paper. However, having printed an extra copy on glossy paper (for my own reference), the colours came out slightly better, but still a little dull.
Feedback & Improvement
- The concept seemed to translate well to my classmates, the juxtaposition was well-defined and the visuals and sequence of pages helped!
- Some of the techniques used and colours displayed were interesting and helped to bring forth the concept better.
- The centrespread could be developed further. The idea of having the two experiences clash makes for an interesting spread but was not translated well into the centrespread. Maybe I could have applied principles in layout for a better build-up and more interesting composition, as well as adopt better techniques and tools for a more interesting texture.