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Singapore

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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Philippine Airlines Flight No. PR 512 had a strange guest buckled up on Seat No. 73B. My sentimental side insisted on bringing The Bubble prototype for Climate Change Couture. It got through so many things already—a gallery show, a photo shoot, was co-designed by someone on my Apocalypse Squad, and has been the starter for many a conversation that I didn’t care about the bulkiness of it. I was going to drag this $2 piece of plastic across international barriers if it killed me.

And so, we begin.The Bubble got through all the security checks and immigration without problems (as it was transparent and clearly made of plastic) but with lots of curious looks, questions, and chuckles. Even I had to laugh when I realized that, instead of squashing it in the overhead bin, the best way to transport this was to buckle it in the empty seat next to me.
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And hi! I was right next to it, 73C. What do you do with a plastic bubble on an international flight? You take selfies…

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…and of course, wear it. The AC on flights is always too cold for me.

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I had to take it off when I was eating (or not eating, as I can’t eat chicken).

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I can, however, eat ice cream! Why haven’t I flown this airline before?

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About four hours later, The Bubble made it! Welcome to the Republic of the Philippines, where climate change hits quite hard and The Apocalypse Project just got transplanted to.

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They say that what you do on New Year’s Eve will be what you will do for the year. If doing crazy experiments like these is my fate, then please oh please bring it on.

(Pulau Ubin, Singapore)—My final natural excursion in Singapore was a trip to Chek Jewa wetlands in Pulau Ubin, an island northeast of the country and according to people, the second most famous island off of Singapore next to Sentosa, the latter of which I confess I have never been to because of the excess of crowds and commercialization.

Pulau Ubin is as wild as it can get here in the police state. There are insects here I have never seen before:

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I decided to walk all the way to Chek Jawa, an eastern spot on the island that is preserved due to the large amount of biodiversity. I slightly regret that choice—an 8-km bike ride would have been easier than going about it on foot. But I think about my Seoul43 project, and I suppose this far from the hardest thing I’ll ever do. And so I began to walk, and along the way, I came across quirky homes, such as this one with a battered statue of Cookie Monster:

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There were some abandoned houses as well, looking peaceful and gloomy amidst the dense forests:

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Signs warned me of wild animals, such as monkeys and, oh dear, wild boars. There was a little army of monkeys who were following me and some other hikers, having learned to associate people with food. I warily walked past them on the trees. After I passed, they appeared on the trail. I was only able to get this quick blurred shot before I fled.

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Upon reaching Chek Jewa, I saw this lovely coastal forest.

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I also saw these beautiful mangroves, as well as organisms that live near it, such as crabs, sea grass, etc. I groaned at the sight of a discarded plastic bottle, and gave the stink eye to two men smoking nearby.

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Walking back, I passed by a cluster of nipa trees. There was an observation dock you can climb the top of, allowing you to see the tops of the trees and beyond. I felt like a flea finally seeing what lay beyond the realm of a dog:

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And so was my final expedition in the Lion City. Thanks, Singapore! The past four and a half months were oh so very lovely. You kicked my ass, just as I hoped you would. Salut!

The Holiday Hackathon is an exploration/discovery project of me spending my last couple of weeks in Singapore. I just finished an art/science residency, and I’m hoping that asking questions and going to new places will help me figure out that next step/project. 

 

One great thing about having to extend my stay in Singapore is being able to visit the Singapore River Safari, which just had their grand opening this December. I was really excited—it’s an uncommon theme for a nature park, and it was the final one I had to go to here in the Lion City. Let me get down to my favorites:

Ok, hands down, my favorite part was the Amazon Flooded Forest, which simulates the water wonderland that the Amazon turns into during rainy season. I loved seeing the manatees (which are freshwater animals, as opposed to the dugongs, which you can find in saltwater).

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I spent a lot of time there, and it was calming to see them swim, sometimes upside down.

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I think I’ve seen way too much of the Upper Seletar Reservoir. But gasp, I don’t care;  it’s so clear.

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In one of the tunnels, I was thrilled to see a couple of river otters swimming.

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Like many people, I queued for a long time to get tickets to the Amazon River Quest boat ride. And later, another queue to get in during my timeslot. I was a bit underwhelmed, but it was nice to see some of the rare animals, such as this capybara. I hadn’t seen one since the New Orleans zoo.

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The squirrel monkey forest was also fun to walk in, although I’m a bit scared of monkeys in general.

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Next to the flooded forest, my favorite part was seeing the pandas. It was another (!) queue, but one that’s necessary, as the pandas were sensitive to noise and only a group of people can get in at a time. I loved seeing the red pandas:

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It was also nice to see Singapore’s first two pandas. Here’s Kai-Kai:

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And here’s Jia-jia:

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I think it’s my favorite part of Singapore. Don’t miss it!

The Holiday Hackathon is an exploration/discovery project of me spending my last couple of weeks in Singapore. I just finished an art/science residency, and I’m hoping that asking questions and going to new places will help me figure out that next step/project. 

 

This past Christmas, I was again away from family. Holidays have lost their, well, holiday spirit over the years, but I suppose that’s just me getting old. In more recent years, Christmas has been more about introspection. And what could induce this more than a hike at Singapore’s Bukit Timah Nature Reserve? It was another check mark off of my Lion CIty to-do list, which has nothing to do with luxury shopping and eating.

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I think my favorite part about Singapore trees is that they can go quite high. And the variety can be quite spectacular.

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Okay, the summit itself was not very high.

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I stopped for a bit to see the monkeys who lived there.

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Along the way, I saw that someone was putting on a face on this fallen tree trunk. Can you see it?

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This curved branch seems to be an omen.

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After I doubled back, I went on another trail and found the reservoir. I love Singapore’s reservoirs because they are so clear, it’s sometimes hard to tell the real thing from the reflection.

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I watched a little turtle swim peacefully near the shore.

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In lieu of family, I think the holidays should be spent as close to nature as possible. The earth, after all, is our family, no?

The Holiday Hackathon is an exploration/discovery project of me spending my last couple of weeks in Singapore. I just finished an art/science residency, and I’m hoping that asking questions and going to new places will help me figure out that next step/project. 

 

The great thing about being on holiday is that I finally found time to venture future north of Singapore, where the Singapore Zoo is in. I love animals, and this rainforest zoo is definitely one of the best things about Singapore for me. My mom was a university professor in zoology (among other subjects), and I remember the textbook she used, Integrated Principles of Zoology (the edition with the deer and the blue sky on the cover). Here are some of my favorites:

I adore big cats, so this white tiger got a lot of visits from me.

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I love elephants as well, and the zoo had a few of them. I learned to distinguish the species based on their ears.

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They also had an elephant art school of a sort. This is a painting by an elephant:

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I was lucky to spot an orangutan get into a sack and roll down as a form of play:

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I was expecting these synchronized marmosets to break into a Broadway song:

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Chimpanzees are fascinating to watch—they’re so smart.

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And here’s a Malayan sun bear—the smallest bear in the world, and is also nicknamed the “honey bear”.

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And finally, one of my favorite animals in the world: a tapir! I saw one previously, in Singapore’s Night Safari which is nearby.

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The Holiday Hackathon is an exploration/discovery project of me spending my last couple of weeks in Singapore. I just finished an art/science residency, and I’m hoping that asking questions and going to new places will help me figure out that next step/project. 

 

Climate Change Couture
Volume 1, Singapore

A preview, my fellow earthlings.

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Climate Change Couture: Haute Fashion for a Hotter Planet

This project explores the future of fashion as climate change continues to impact our lifestyle. This first collection is borne out of my Art Science Residency Programme, collaborating with researchers from the Singapore-ETH Future Cities Laboratory. The models of these clothes are active researchers or have a science background. Visit The Apocalypse Project for future updates!