On the 10 March, we had a guest lecturer, Bin Ong Kian Peng, share about artificial intelligence, machine learning and a utopian world. Sharing many examples of technology and machine learning in art, the idea of a technological utopia was introduced to us, and the question of whether AI would result in a utopia or dystopia was posed.
The lecture was enjoyable and eye-opening, allowing us to be introduced to many new interactive artworks. Out of these works, there were many that were highly intriguing and thought-provoking, such as Refik Anadol’s Melting Memories exhibition, that projects the data collection translated from the process of memory retrieval, and Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s The Substitute, that explores a paradox: our preoccupation with creating new life forms, while neglecting existing ones.
Refik Anadol’s Melting Memories
Alexandra Daisy Ginsberg’s The Subsitute
However, at the end of the day, the one that pushed me to wonder more about humanity, AI, and human’s idea of a Utopia was Doomsday Book’s The Heavenly Creature by Kim Jee-Woon.
Doomsday Book’s The Heavenly Creature
The movie talks about a robot that reaches enlightenment on its own while working at a temple. Its creators regard this phenomenon as a threat to mankind and decide to terminate the robot, stating that this is a glitch in the robot. Arguments rise as to whether robots can achieve enlightenment, and the movie suggests the lines between humanity and robots are blurred, and whether enlightenment is achieved is also relative.
In the film, the robot that achieves enlightenment states the following:
To perceive is to distinguish merely a classification of knowing. While all living creatures share the same inherent nature, perception is what classifies one as Buddha and another as machine. We mistake perception as permanent truth and such delusions cause us pain. Perception itself is void as is the process of perceiving.
He goes on to say that perhaps all humans had already achieves enlightenment and he, a robot, sees this world as beautiful.
Such an eye-opening statement, and it is no doubt full of truth.
It is said that humans are only able to be “bad” or “good” because of our ability to differentiate the two and choose to do either. The choice of doing something deemed “morally wrong” causes us to become “bad”. Likewise, perhaps it is the perception of “success” and “failures” that also leads us to believe that there is more to the world, more to achieve before one can reach enlightenment.
Yet, the truth is that the world is how it is. And the robot in the film, who takes it as it is, not perceiving or classifying the world around him, as such does not crave anything more. He does not have worldly desires, as he takes what he has as it is, thus achieving enlightenment.
However, following this, I do disagree with one part of the show, that heavily influences whether or not I believe AI can help create a Utopian world.
In the movie, they say that the lines between humanity and robots are blurred, and that humans always had achieved enlightenment. It is our mistaking of perception as permanent truth that hurts us and thus fail to see things as they are. While this much is true, I believe that humanity and robots are fundamentally different as humans will almost never be able to detach seeing their perception as the truth.
It is said that “the fear of the unknown” is what every human is afraid of, and thus it is a continual cycle that we attempt to fill this void with what we perceive the truth to be, whether or not it truly is. A truly emotional feeling.
Unlike us, robots do not have such a fear and should they perceive the world and input “emotional feelings” towards certain things, it is also due to the programming by humans who have inflicted biasness onto their coding. Regardless of how much machine learning or how intelligent a robot may be, they are most often than not, highly objective, and lack the emotional classification that humans have. Thus, humans and robots are different.
While perhaps the objectiveness of the robot may potentially help to achieve society of maximised benefits in a “utopian” world. The so called “maximised benefits” may not be the best outcome for humans. Robots that does what they deem is necessary for the society may conflict with what humans consider “good”.
This perhaps can also be explained in movies that have AI’s actions conflicting with what is good for humanity. For example, in 2001 A Space Odyssey, HAL receives a conflicting command, and while it had chosen the “best” way to solve the conflicting command, it had resulted in multiple deaths. HAL’s actions had been solely on the basis of meeting his goal and not out of morality.
While this is an extreme example, what this means is that an AI utopia can easily become a dystopia if an AI is highly intelligent at accomplishing its goal but the goal not necessarily aligns with ours. This is also why so many AI dystopian movies exist.
Of course, one may argue that machine learning could help a robot to learn moral reasoning as well, and ensure the safety of all of humanity. Yet, as said in Bin Ong Kian Peng’s lecturer, according to Lyman Tower Sargent,
Utopia’s nature is inherently contradictory, because societies are not homogenous and have desires which conflict and therefore cannot simultaneously be satisfied.
Conflicting objectives, and different perception of truths result in difficulty in creating a utopia. Perhaps if one day humans create a robot so powerful, through machine learning, it is able to consider the “utopia” of every single individual in the entire world, and find a way to create a world with that objective made, then perhaps, an automated utopia will be able to be made.
Inspired by the microscopic structure of the Morpho Butterfly’s wings, the textile appears a shimmery cobalt despite its lack of pigment. The dress’s iridescent hue is a trick of the light, and is manufactured by Teijin in Japan.
A native of the South America rainforest, the Morpho is one of the largest butterflies in the world, with wings that span five to eight inches. The vivid colour on the upper surface of their wings is the result of microscopic, overlapping scales that amplify certain wavelengths of light while cancelling out others.
Similarly, Morphotex relies on fibre structure and physical phenomena such as light reflection, interference, refraction, and scattering to produce its opalescence. The fabric comprises roughly 60 polyester and nylon fibers, arranged in alternating layers that can be varied in thickness to produce four basic colors: red, green, blue, and violet.
A group of Pennsylvanians researchers from PennState implemented a new way to produce fabric in order for it to be self-healing and act as a barrier between the bearer and the outside world. By dipping the fabrics in several liquids, they create layers of material that then form a polyelectrolyte layer-by-layer coating.
Similar to polymers present in Nature in the form of squid ring teeth proteins, positively and negatively charged polymers compose the polyelectrolyte coating. These quite amazing proteins already inspired the team to create a self-healing plastic last year.
“ … Fashion can be kinetic, dynamic and almost living expression of our unique experience with nature. I strongly believe that Fall can influence the fashion world to become more dynamic and to increase the way clothes can react to the world around them,” Özkan said. “I want clothing to have more responsiveness to the environment, so that instead of people always change their clothes, the clothes can sometimes change themselves.”
Birce Özkan began the garment design process by asking herself: “What if when the temperature got hot suddenly, our clothes would start to break apart in response? What if they had the skill to behave depending on the surrounding conditions? What if garments had the ability to sense the environment just like living organisms?”
Trees naturally shed leaves depending on the temperature and light. So, Özkan created an interactive garment that does the same. “In the fall, as the days shorten, and the temperature gets colder, the trees, without the light they need to sustain their chlorophyll, shed their leaves to keep their energy to survive for the winter ahead,” Özkan said. “This process was the inspiration for creating my garment’s mechanism. To prepare for the fall of leaves, trees activate “scissor cells” that split to create a bumping layer that forces the leaves out of place, destabilizing them so that they fall.”
Özkan used the same process for her garment that trees use. Light activates small motors in the garment. The motors speed up when there is less light and make the “leaves” fall from the garment. The motors are attached to steel wires, and the wires connect to holes where leaves are attached with wax. When there is less light, the motor pulls the wire which breaks the wax adhesion and makes the leaves fall down. Özkan said she believes the piece will help people have a greater appreciation for the earth.
Birds have a biological compass that tells them what direction to fly during migration. Their compass is guided by the earth’s magnetic field.
“This gives them a freedom that humans lack. Instead, humans become more dependent on their mobile phones to find their bearings. This dependency limits the awareness of their surroundings and denies them of some experiences,” Özkan said.
So she created a jacket that imitates a birds’ internal compass. The jacket uses an electronic compass and embedded motors that make the feathers on the shoulders rise up when the wearer walks north.
Black cockerel feathers are attached around the collar of the jacket and fully cover the skirt. Both are made from a dark cotton-based material and feature an integrated electronic compass, which is connected to motors on the end of the feathers. When the compass detects that the wearer is facing north, the plumage is raised up by the motors to look like a bird flapping its wings.
“During my research, what I found out is that when humans lose their way, the easiest way to reorient themselves and find their way is to face north and visualise the map,” Ozkan told Dezeen.
“If the wearer loses their way, the skirt or jacket helps to find where is north and then when they face their body north, they visualise a map and can navigate based on memory.”
The next step for her Augmented Jacket and Skirt is to link up the clothes with Google Maps so the feathers respond to programmed routes.
The feathers on the left side would flap when the wearer needs to go in that direction, and the opposite side for turning right.
“You can write down the address and then the feathers will guide you if you need to turn right or left,” said Ozkan. “In that way, people don’t have to be dependent on their mobile phones and can be more aware of their surroundings and allow them some experiences.”
Her collection came cut in classic menswear fabrics like houndstooth, pinstripe, and Prince of Wales but also in those reminiscent of “Beetlejuice stripes” or cartoon bright floral prints that could be found in a kindergarten.
From there Kawakubo played with volume and proportion to create another one of her customarily challenging collection.
So that a suit would show up with whorls of abstract fabric flowers swelling out of it, a jacket would feature odd shaped inflatable balloons in a matching fabric that would incased the sleeves or the shaggy layering of strips of fabric was another way the designer also bulked up a few of her ensembles. And the idea to flatted the pants between the legs (as if the models were using their thighs to keep them hanging straight) was so off the wall only Kawakubo could pull it off.
Gucci F 2004
Yiqing Yin F/W 2012/13
Yiqing Yin’s new Autumn-Winter 2012-2013 collection re-imagines the female form in a world of purely mineral and vegetable composition.
The designer’s hand remains assuredly her own throughout excursions into bold and new galaxies of ever-shifting shades and shapes where tones blend and merge. Red remains pure while a slate grey betrays celestial glimmerings. Silver and blue fade into one.
Inviolably light cascades of satin and muslin offer oblique suggestions of chasteness through their mounting layers.
While researching for inspiring interactive artworks, I chanced upon a plethora of different installations, and much to my amusement, realised the broadness of the term “Interactive Art”. Ranging from contemplative to experiential, these works could take different forms – music, dance, digital. To choose simply one work from this range was difficult, and thus I will be showing a few more. Some of these works, albeit old, still hold much value and are applicable even today.
Alex Davies’ Dislocation (2005)
Dislocation is an interactive installation in which reality and the virtual mix. Perceptually real virtual characters intermingle with exhibition audiences as they look into their chosen portals, subverting the traditional ‘seeing is believing’ ethos of traditional video.
The audience enters an empty gallery room with four individual portals set into one of the walls. As they peer into one portal, a simple real-time closed-circuit video feed of the room they are in is shown. Using audio and locational data, the video images are digitally composited with images of pre-recorded video characters, creating an illusion of additional characters in the area.
“The auto-voyeurism of watching your own image is given an uncanny and disturbing twist when you also become the unwitting observer of a number of different scenarios that are apparently being played out in the room behind you. As you watch though the portal, you may see a man enter the room and walk up behind you or a young couple come into the room and start kissing, or a security guard enters with a barking dog. This uncanny sense of bodily presence behind you and your own possible vulnerability to these presences induces you to turn around to look behind you but when you do you are confronted with an empty room.”
Playing with the idea of appearance and reality, the real images of the viewer and virtually composited characters occupying the same viewing plan causes the viewers to be unable to trust their own eyes. Many state that one believes what they see, but the apparent reality is unfortunately shattered when the viewer turns around, only to face an empty space when they expect to see someone or something else there.
With this current age of virtual reality and augmented reality, it seems the day where one cannot tell reality from the virtual is not far away. With good rendering or composited images, it has become far too easy to edit and change images and videos one used to be able to use as ‘evidence’ and the ‘undeniable’ (now doctoring images and videos are common). This blur of truth and lies is highly applicable to this day and age of the digital, and the way the viewer would feel unease and begin to doubt the truth of the events in the room is highly intriguing. While the set up being simple and intuitive for the audience and participants, the contrastingly deep and inner fear of the unknown embeds itself into their hearts, definitely causing a long-lasting impression.
Giver of Names by David Rokeby is an installation that aims to challenge the viewers preconceptions of objects and push them to speculate and contemplate more. It hopes to represent a re-interpretation or alternate interpretation of the visual image of an object. An additional aim is highlighting the tight conspiracy between perception and language, bringing into focus the assumptions that make perception viable, but also biased and fallible, and the way language inhibits our ability to see.
In the room stands an empty pedestal, and a small video projection. A video camera observes the top of the pedestal. The installation space is full of random objects of many sorts. The visitor can choose a single or numerous objects from the space and place them on the pedestal. With the object/objects placed, a computer takes an image and performs multiple levels of image processing.
These includes outline analysis, division into separate objects or parts, colour analysis, texture analysis, etc.
These processes are visible on the life-size video projection above the pedestal. In the projection, the objects make the transition from real to imaged to increasingly abstracted as the system tries to make sense of them.
The results of the analytical processes are then ‘radiated’ through a metaphorically-linked associative database of known objects, ideas, sensations, etc. The words and ideas stimulated by the object(s) appear in the background of the computer screen, showing what could very loosely be described as a ‘state of mind’.
From the words and ideas that resonate most with the perceptions of the object, a phrase or sentence in correct English is constructed and then spoken aloud by the computer.
The phrase is, of course, not a literal description of the object. At the same, time, it is definitely not a randomly generated phrase. Everything that the computer says in some way reflects its experience of the objects. However its experience is in many ways quite ‘alien’. For example, it has no human real experience of the world. It has not burned its hand, scraped its knee, been hungry, angry, fallen in love, wanted something it couldn’t have. It does the best it can to talk about the objects from its very particular point of view. If you spend some time with the Giver of Names, you tend to find that the peculiarities of its perceptions and its speech begin to coalesce into a tangible and coherent character. Misused or mispronounced words become the character of a dialect.
At first glance, before reading the meaning behind this artwork, it reminded me of the Asian tradition of letting your kids pick an item from a range of objects to predict their future when they reach age one, thus standing out to me greatly. The idea of a phrase appearing upon analysing the objects was very similar to the tradition and it was interesting that the words created did not make much sense, allowing for newer interpretation and unique ideas.
“Pillowsongs is a sound installation exploring sleep and rest as a space for listening. Recordings mastered on eight different compact discs were mixed into speakers embedded inside pillows on beds installed throughout a darkened exhibition space, lit only dim blue light-bulbs.
Listeners hear these sounds by resting their heads on the pillows – resulting in a very intimate and ‘inside your head’ listening experience. The soundtracks combined field recordings, electronic drones, voices and short-wave radio transmissions. The programming of the CD tracks changed from day to day.
The slowly reconfiguring sound textures, dark lighting, and restful means by which the audiences engage with the work, engage listeners in a highly intimate, and hypnotic hypnogogic listening experience. Listeners often reported a high degree of uncertainty as to which sounds where coming from the pillows, and which sounds had emanated from outside the gallery space. Falling asleep can be an appropriate way of interacting with this work, given our ability to perceive sounds whilst in certain stages of sleep.”
In his sound installation Pillow Songs Poonkhin Khut has created an environment that seems strangely disconnected from the outside world… A violet light-bulb hangs over an unadorned bed, staining the white cotton sheets an iridescent blue. Somewhere a dog barks. Warily negotiating the shadows one becomes aware of other beds which are vaguely reminiscent of dormitories, cheap hotel rooms or convent cells. In the darkness the beds evoke a sense of familiar intimacy and the plain sheets reveal a sensuality which belies their ascetic frugality. Sounds emerge from the pillows like memories made manifest or half-forgotten dreams exposed and rendered audible.
Lying on the rough cotton sheets the inevitable association of light illuminating the darkness to traditional representations of transcendence is thwarted. Instead an overwhelming sense of the temporality of life marked only by fleeting sensations, thoughts and lingering memories is evoked. Implicitly the long hoarded pillows, vestiges of the artist’s past refer to the passage of time and the materiality of the body’s seeping flesh. These ideas are intensified by the physicality of the muffled vibrations of the sound transmitted through the pillows and the gradual awareness of the residues harboured in the crumpled linen of those who have visited the installation before. A strangely intimate and disquieting proximity revealed by the lingering scent of strangers, a stray golden hair and a damp smear on the pillow.
– Review by Mary Knights, Artlink magazine, Vol. 18, No. 2, 1998
I thought this artwork was unique as it was meant to be experienced in an intimate and uncommon way. Personally, the idea of lying in a bed in a public area is highly unsettling and instead a more private thing. Yet, the artwork’s attractive is so strong, one feels compelled to try and experience it instead of being turned off. The way this artwork manages to be so catching that people would put their unease aside was something that really amazed me.
The work is highly contemplative and the set up had fit the mood perfectly, with a strange calmness. While on a superficial level it can be seen as a bed and sound, the way the sound was emitted was truly different from the norm, making use of an interesting method of placing speakers in the pillow. I think this really gave a huge feeling of being enveloped and surrounded by the music, and the mood of the piece gives way to deeper thinking and being in a dreamland with our thoughts and emotions.
Apart from these, George Khut has many more interesting art installations
His works make use of many interesting tech, ranging from biomedical sensing technology to record brainwaves to heart rate sensors.
I think what makes his art so interesting is that he uses a lot of complicated and engineer heavy technology to create something that is so artistic and contemplative. Technology I would only expect to see in the medical field is brilliantly used as an art tool to create something that evokes deeper thinking.
‘Fish-Bird’ is an interactive autokinetic artwork that investigates the dialogical possibilities between two robots, in the form of wheelchairs, which can communicate with each other and with their audience through the modalities of movement and written text. The two robots were Fish and Bird, who were explained to visitors that they could not be together due to “technical difficulties”. They took the form of an empty wheelchair so as to evoke a feeling of absence of a person and the chairs wrote intimate letters on slips of paper that they then drop to the floor. These letters were produced with a miniature thermal printer, and had “poetic lines and personal confessions such as “my heart is broken” or “I’m so lonely,” to produce empathy in the visitors”.
The personality of the robot was portrayed through the different fonts and scripts they used, and their more “outgoing” or “reserved” movements.
For example, they faced visitors as they entered, and rolled alongside them, acknowledging their presence. Visitors that spent more time with the robots received more intimate messages from them. The two robotic chairs have interacted with over 36,000 people in Australia, Austria, Denmark, United States, and China.
Through this, Mari Velonaki, whose practice and research is within the field of social robotics, learned that people loved the creations.
She says that, on average, visitors to Fish-Bird interacted with the robots for about 10 minutes. Some of them became so deeply absorbed that they spent 30 minutes or more in the installation space. “Kids were patting them to print messages,” says Velonaki. The engagement is remarkable in the context of an art exhibition, where visitors typically only spend a few minutes before moving on.
It was cute. I loved it. I can fully understand why the audience had been so absorbed into staying and interacting with these robots. With lives on their own, the supposedly lifeless wheelchair begins to seem more animated and adorable, and perhaps they could have been seen as a pet or a young child in the eyes of the audience. It touches on the obsession of wanting to be loved perhaps, and staying with these uniquely adorable wheelchairs would have granted them more cute and intimate letters.
The narrative element of two robots being unable to be together and their well-thought-out and meaning names – Fish and Bird, definitely strikes at the hearts of audiences.
I believe that this artwork tackled the core of people’s odd and perhaps unconventional love for the pitiful, the sad, and tragedies. Oddly enough, like how some people think tearful babies and animals are extremely adorable, perhaps this hit the same zone.
Apart from this, the usage of robotics to create art was also unique and interesting and something I would love to look more into.
During this lecture, there were actually quite a few things that caught my attention, and I wanted to search more about them.
Isotype (International System of Typographic Picture Education), Otto Neurath & Gerd Arntz, c. 1935
Isotypes, International System of Typographic Picture Education for full, was developed by social scientist and philosopher Otto Neurath and designed by Gerd Arntz. It was a method for visual statistics, using icons and signs to symbolize data.
Otto Neurath had seen that people of the working class that began to break free from dictatorship at the time were mainly illiterate. He hence knew that for them to gain knowledge of the world, information should have been clearly and directly illustrated in a clear structure.
It also aimed to overcome language barrier across the countries; to be universally understood and was influenced by Otto Neurath’s fascination with the function of Egyptian Hieroglyphics; both their form and ability to convey a story.
Arntz eventually created about 4000 of such signs, which were then adopted worldwide to what is now termed as Infographics.
This was fun and amazing to learn about Isotypes as they are so commonly seen, but I had never gone to find how they came to be. Through these lectures, I truly understand how many things regarding Graphic Design many of us seem to take for granted of, or simply overlook, but actually have an interesting or deep history behind them. It was nice to finally put a name to who began the idea of infographics that have been widely used and also understand the creation was out of the hopes to increase the educated in the population, and escape from dictatorship at that time.
Bifur typeface, A. M. Cassandre, 1927
Another thing I really liked was the Bifur Typeface created in 1929 by A.M. Cassandre, whose birth name was Adolphe Jean-Marie Mouron. It was bright yellow and really beautiful and I loved how big the contrast the colour was against the dark of the bold lines. However, upon further research, I learned it was initially like so:
The design combines very thick with incredibly thin line strokes, which is a striking and unusual type design, even for today. Other than that, the design is quite minimal without serif or flourish.
Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Talks Tin, John Heartfield, 1933
John Heartfield’s Adolf the Superman: Swallows Gold and Talks Tin was interesting because of the imagery, but also its title. An X-ray chest had been superimposed over Hitler’s torso in this image, creating a funny and eye-catching image. It ridiculed Hitler, which instantly amused me, and made me want to know more about not only the Artwork but also the artist himself.
The work was mainly based on world war and politics, with the artwork referring to Hitler’s receiving of financial backing from wealthy industrialists, and him spouting ugliness to move the country toward a profitable war. John Heartfield thus used this piece as a political medium, even going as far as to change his name from Helmut Herzfeld in protest. The powerful image was featured prominently throughout Berlin and John Heartfield was immediately targeted after the Nazis came to power, ordering several assassination hits on him. Nevertheless, John Heartfield survived the hits and passed away on 26 April 1968 due to illness.
It was interesting how John Heartfield did what he believed in and risked his life in doing so. The events that had occurred were frightening, yet the imagery created was rather humourous as though to mock Hitler and his ideologies.
, also known as Blackletter or Gothic Script, was used from around the 12th century up till the 17th century, and was first described as “Gothic” in 15th century Italy. While developed from the Carolingian Minuscule that was well-known for its legibility, Textura looked vastly different from its ancestor, having a narrower and taller form. Its letters were formed by sharp and angular straight lines, contrasting to the roundness of the Carolingian Miniscule, and their strong vertical strokes were made before serifs were drawn upon them.
The condensed and bold Textura rose as literacy increased in 12th century Europe. The want for books in different sectors rose as education grew in importance, creating a demand for written text outside of religious scripts. While the need for book production increased, the price of writing materials stood to be an issue; not to mention more need for labour and time to create these items. Thus, Textura was heavily used – its narrow form allowing for more letters to fit in a single sheet of parchment or papyrus.
As a person with zero background in Typography, I never really knew how or why fonts were created. Simply assuming someone had created fonts out of their own personal entertainment and joy, I was pleasantly surprised to know that many Fonts had such interesting stories as to how they came to be. Learning how the events during a certain time period affect the way people wrote, and how they created new fonts to overcome new challenges really opened my eyes and gave me a greater appreciation for typefaces.
During class, we were introduced to many types of fonts through different times and their advantages and disadvantages. But of all the fonts, there was one script that really caught my attention – Textura. When I first saw Textura, I really liked how beautiful and condensed it was. I was highly amused to know it had been termed “Gothic” but also saw how fitting it had been with the Gothic Style. The calligraphic script is highly aesthetically pleasing and elegant in my opinion, with the tightly condensed text making each page feel fully utilised. Paired with the highly intricate drawings, the script gave the page an antiquely “posh” look, and I imagine an entire book of such pages looked highly impressive.
Learning that Textura had been developed when the demand for books rose had been interesting since the text had seemed much more difficult to read than its direct ancestor, the Carolingian Minuscule, in my eyes. While I do love the script greatly, an entire book of condensed calligraphic text sounded like an extreme nightmare; adding to the horror of having to learn an entire book of business or law during that time.
Nevertheless, the idea that this script was formed to allow more to have access to textbooks and knowledge was heartwarming and highly fascinating. Saving costs so many others can afford a path to gaining new knowledge by creating a new typeface suggests the high importance of Typography in the past and also now. This lecture has enabled me to truly respect and appreciate fonts more, and consider the usage of the different fonts before I choose them.
For the Zine, it had been suggested that I did on religion and architecture, which had also been things I had wanted to focus on. Thus, I began thinking up ways I could portray this, and soon decided to also incorporate the arts into the zine too.
Since it had been about the religion, there were a few things I had to take note, such as avoiding offending any religion, and also if I were to portray any Gods, I had to portray them accurately.
I decided I wanted to make use of the booklet’s format to do a two-way narrative, with the gods of the places of worship making way from the end to the middle, on a journey back to their place of worship, while passing the place of worship of the other gods.
I decided to put the Hindu and Buddhist gods together, and the Jewish and Catholic ones together.
I.e. The Hindu and Buddhist gods, Sri Krishna and Goddess Guan Yin will be travelling past the Jewish Synagogue and Catholic Churches, past to the middle of the Zine with places of the arts, to get to their own place of worship. Likewise, the Catholic and Jewish God/Saint will be travelling past the Buddhist and Hindu temples, past to the middle, to get to their own place of worship.
I initially wanted to do a photo collage, however, after trying it out, I decided and it was also suggested that I switch entirely to illustrations instead. I had drawn my cover pages already, and it had been in line art, with a geometric shape. This hence became the style of my entire zine.
Below is Mother Mary & Jesus, and Sri Krishna and Goddess Guan Yin.
Following this style, I did the line arts for all the places of worship, showing their architectural features.
The above are:
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
Sri Krishnan Temple
Church of Saints Peter & Paul
Maghain Aboth Synagogue
Church of the Good Shepherd
The Buddhist and Hindu temple had mainly rectangular shapes and thus, I decided to use rectangles to add colour in. Since the two temples had been greatly mixed and closely connected, with Buddhists praying to the Hindu temple, I wanted to show this mix through the use of intersecting parts.
The above was my initial design with the two temples joined and divided on a diagonal. The colours used are the colours of the architecture.
I soon received feedback that I should have proper reasoning for the colours of the squares that I had used, as the current design’s rectangles were randomly chosen.
Thus, I changed it such that the blues had been from the Hindu Temple and the reds were from the Buddhist Temple.
I also added white lines between the different rectangles to make it more obvious that the different colours had represented different places.
This was then repeated for the other spread which had the 3 other places of worship – the two churches and synagogue.
Since it was a journey, I decided that I had to add some sign or something to show the journey that the gods were taking. I initially wanted the gods to do something more, like interact with the place or enter the place of worship, but then felt perhaps that would be crossing the line beyond interfaith into syncretism – something some might be less open to.
Thus I experimented and initially tried one with the gods and saints just floating about.
I felt it was quite odd and thus switched to another format, with the Gods/Saints coming out from the page on one end and leaving the other. I ended up really liking this layout and hence used it.
Initially, the layout had been as shown below, with circles for Mother Mary and Jesus being red and blue and that for Sri Krishna and Goddess Guan Yin being grey and peach. However, it had been brought to my attention that the colour of the circles should follow that of the God’s/Saint’s place of worship. I heeded this advice and swapped as it made more sense as well.
Middle Spread (AAAaaaAAaAh)
I had the most difficulty with the middle spread. This was because the other spreads had not had many elements or objects. However, my middle spread that involved the 4 Gods/Saint gathering to visit the many places of the arts proved to be a huge challenge due to its many elements.
It had been asked if I wanted to switch and focus on just religion, but I had been adamant on involving the Arts as I felt it was through the Arts that religion could possibly mix without offence, bringing about more open minds.
I hence started working on it, firstly by doing the line art of the different places.
After doing this, I began trying out different layouts and found myself in an extremely huge bind.
I initially tried placing the different places next to one other, but soon realised that the SAM would not have been able to achieve that effect due to its size and structure. Hence, though it was a nice layout, I scrapped it.
I also tried making it a map and tried different colouring methods. I ended up scrapping it however, as I felt it did not fit the theme of the zine.
Since I wanted to show that it was the Gods/Saint coming together through the arts, I drew them experiencing the different art areas there.
Jesus painting Sri Krishna at the Stamford Arts Centre
Sri Krishna and Goddess Guan Yin going to SAM
Jesus and Mother Mary watching Sri Krishna dance
Goddess Guan Yin showing Mother Mary calligraphy
Jesus and Mother Mary going into the Middle Road Church
All four of them at centre 42 and the theatre
I initially wanted it to be a mix of the 4 colours only, but nevertheless tried to see if I should incorporate more colours. The conclusion was: no.
Sticking to the geometric shapes, I tried seeing if I should arrange them in the way below, and use triangles to frame it.
I tried adding colour to it too.
I felt it had all been different from the style of my zine and hence in the last minute scrapped all of it to do something that had fit it more.
Adding the Gods/Saint at the sides, my zine was complete.
OFC + OBC
All in all, this had been a fun experience, and I learned many new things. Though my middle spread had been unsatisfactory to me, I tried many different layouts and the journey had been interesting. I would definitely redo my middle spread if I had the time, and would also consider and learn more about colours and layouts.
For this project, we could choose any location to work and research on. After much consideration, I decided on Waterloo street, an area that I often visit to pray at the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple. This area was chosen as it had been brought up to me that there had been a Hindu temple right next to the Buddhist temple. After more research, I found out that within a 15mins walk radius, there had been numerous places of worship, namely:
Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple
Sri Krishan Temple
Church of Saints Peter and Paul
Cathedral of the Good Shepherd
Realizing there were so many places of worship from different religions in the same area, I became interested in the idea of interfaith: a cooperative, constructive, and positive interaction between people of different religious traditions and/or spiritual or humanistic beliefs, at both the individual and institutional levels.
I thus decided to do on Waterloo street and scouted the area, only to find that there were many places regarding the arts that had been situated in there as well. It had been unique that the bras basah area, in general, had many areas of both the arts and faith.
To see what people thought about Bras Basah and Waterloo Street, I made a survey to ask people of their views. I firstly asked people of around my age group, then spread to others, and the results had been highly amusing.
To begin, one question I had asked was if they had been to Bras Basah. To which the first few surveyees had answered “no”. Since they are my friends, I had been quite positive they had been there before and questioned them about it. I then realized that they had indeed been there but had failed to recognise that the place they had been to had been Waterloo street, or that Waterloo Street had been in Bras Basah. It was thus a very interesting discovery and I changed my survey so people better understood the place.
Since I had asked those in the 18-24 age group first, before moving to those in older age groups, I realised that those around 20 years old tend to think of Bras Basah as an old place with many places involving the arts. They did not know much about the different places of religion and if they did, they only knew of the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple.
The older generation, on the other hand, knew about the place and also were aware of the history of Waterloo street and why it was of importance to Singapore.
I had also gone there to interview a few people and also ask others some casual questions.
One person I interviewed had been a helper for charity; asking around for donations. He had specially chosen to do this outside of the Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple due to the high traffic flow. He had single-handedly raised up to $2k in a single day because it had been the 15th of the lunar calendar.
This suggested that among all the places of worship, the Buddhist temple had been the most popular. This was also supported by the Hindu temple’s helper saying that the Sri Krishnan Temple’s traffic flow followed that of the Buddhist one. He had mentioned that the 1st and the 15th of the lunar calendar meant that the Buddhist temple would be busy and thus the Hindu Temple would be busy as well.
Apart from all these, I also realised through my personal observation that many people had actually prayed to the Sri Krishnan Temple despite being a Buddhist. I asked around and many had actually mentioned that they felt that paying their respects and praying to the different temples had been normal for them.
Others had mentioned Singapore being multi-religious to the point that they see Buddhists and Hindus in churches just to accompany their friends, and they also pray along with the people in there, just as a form of respect despite not following the religion. One lady also mentioned seeing people of other religions pray the way they do in their own place of worship in the Sri Krishnan Temple, i.e. Buddhists praying the way they do in Buddhist temples in the Hindu Temple. This is not done out of disrespect, but more of just acceptance of the different religions and believing that they are allowed to pray to the different gods, even ones of different religions.
When I asked those in the churches and cathedrals, the answers were generally similar, though I realise they tend to be less open to praying to other places of worship though they do accept and acknowledge the other religions.
One question I asked which received replies from both ends of the spectrum was about the arts. I had asked if they thought there had been a connection of the arts to religion. I received replies such as “The arts and religion have no connection at all” and also the exact opposite: “The arts help to strengthen religion and also open people to the acceptance of different religions”.
Thus, overall, it had been an extremely insightful and fun experience.