Architecting the Apocalypse at the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory

I came to Singapore to imagine the apocalypse. Previously, I was on a residency in South Korea where I hiked all the mountains of Seoul and saw firsthand what human activity was doing to the environment. Doing a subsequent residency on climate change and environmental futures was, to me, the logical next step.

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To adequately prepare for the future, we must imagine it as concretely as possible. This was the impetus for creating The Apocalypse Project, a speculative design research inquiry that imagines the future as climate change continues to affect the planet. Initially, I held drawing workshops in Tembusu College, National University of Singapore, asking questions such as “What superpowers would you like to have to navigate through a climate change apocalypse?” or “What would you like to wear to your apocalypse?” I realized that the question on clothes was the one that participants related to the most—they found it fun, engaging, and could better imagine designing clothing that they themselves can wear, as opposed to more abstract questions.

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Based on the workshops, I created the series, Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet. Using the research done by the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory, I designed the first five garments in the series, imagining clothing we might wear in specific environmental scenarios and writing a narrative around them. I asked people from FCL to model them for me and photographed them against selected locations in the lab and around Singapore.

I consider myself as someone who works at the intersection of art and science by bringing them together through design, which I believe makes the work accessible and relevant to the audience. I believe that all of us are born artists and scientists—that is, we all have the innate curiosity to explore the world and manifest this in various forms—and it was a pleasure to work with the people in the lab and get to know their artistic sides. Some of the researchers modeled clothes based on their own research, and they were instrumental in the iteration of the designs. I also love working with young people, and some students from Tembusu College collaborated with me during the project.

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A common thread that ties my projects together is a focus on people. I believe in participatory art, especially as climate change affects all of us as a species and not just a select few. Two days before our showcase at ArtScience Museum in Marina Bay Sands, typhoon Haiyan hit my home country, the Philippines. Ironically, the apocalypse I imagined had already happened in my own backyard and will probably keep happening. I’d like to be one of those artists with a cause to work towards, and I think I found it in this residency.

I was one of the two artists who participated in the 2013 Art Science Residency Programme, in partnership with ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, Tembusu College National University of Singapore, and the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory. You can find the output of my residency at http://www.apocalypse.cc.

This post appears on the website of the Future Cities Laboratory. Thanks, guys!

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