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The Holiday Hackathon is an excellent excuse to do all the touristy things in Singapore I’ve always wanted to do but never had the time. Today was a trip to Jurong Bird Park, Asia’s largest aviary.

I had a great afternoon surrounded by beautiful birds and three iguanas sunning themselves. I learned new things—a group of pelicans is a squadron, ostrich only have two toes, scarlet ibises get their color from the carotene in their diet, etc.

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I love penguins, but I do wonder about animals kept in climates obviously not meant for them. This isn’t the first time; in Seoul’s Children’s Zoo, I saw a polar bear and a camel. But if their original habitats are disappearing, is it justifiable that they’re here, fed and watered at least? People who may never get a chance to go to polar regions only have places like these to go to. And maybe it would inspire some kids to be conservationists. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. I just hope these animals are happy.

Penguins. In the tropics. Hmm.

Penguins. In the tropics. Hmm.

I loved seeing birds I didn’t know existed, such as a cassowary, which is a descendant from the dinosaurs. (Or as I like to call it, a rainbow turkey.) This one was a bit shy. Or perhaps because it was a really hot afternoon and needed the shade.

My first cassowary!

My first cassowary!

Another bird I had no idea existed. Here is a rare shoebill from Sudan. There was only a fence between it and me. It did not look happy to see me. Or did it?

A rare shoebill.

A rare shoebill.

And for the heck of it, I tracked my trail around the park when I was: A. In the tram, and B. Walking.

Happy Trails. (L) Track made by riding the tram. (R) Track made by walking.

Happy Trails. (L) Track made by riding the tram. (R) Track made by walking.

Obviously, the latter made me look at more things, but by how much? The tram ride was about 15 minutes and walking and mindful looking took me about two hours, walking more than twice the distance the tram covered. The experience designer in me is taking notes.

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. 

 

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Today, I headed out to Bukit Brown, a Chinese cemetery here in Singapore that is going to be torn down to make way for a road. It is the first Chinese cemetery in colonial Singapore—lots of pioneers are buried here. It has been listed as at risk site on the 2014 World Monuments Watch.

I really hope I never have to do this to any of my dead relatives.

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It is such a lovely cemetery. I like coming across the ones under huge trees. It was a very peaceful oasis, surrounded by a country club and homes for rich people.

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There were many graves where I saw recent offerings of food, as though an apology to those who were to be exhumed. The unclaimed ones, I read on the signs, were to be cremated and the ashes cast into the sea.

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I loved these pinwheels in this graveyard.

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There is something about walking that untangles my thoughts and gives me clarity. Such a beautiful place! Go see it before it’s gone.

Due to strange circumstances in the past 24 hours, my flight tonight from Singapore has been moved to December 31. After the last few weeks of being on full throttle—giving talks, doing photo and video shoots, running around Singapore getting materials, storyboarding, prototyping, packing, and vainly figuring out what my next step is—I just hit the brakes.

I am quite relieved. No, excited! My exhaustion from this residency was from a managerial standpoint, as this was project where I had a lot of collaborators. This was unlike the last one, where the stress was more from physical sources: I still can’t believe I hiked more than 43 mountains in less than 2 months. Still, in both cases, exhaustion bordered on nausea. But hey, I regret nothing.

I can’t believe it—two weeks of hermetic silence, completing The Apocalypse Project and prototyping new ones while avoiding the holiday rush. Now this is my version of a holiday miracle. To make this retreat a bit more fun, I will try to see this as the Great Holiday Hackathon. Unlike most hackathons, I’m still not sure what I’ll have in the end. My goal is to do certain tasks all over Singapore, asking specific questions or turning some urban expeditions into a photographic data gathering session of a sort. I want to know some things I’ve been mildly curious about in the past months I’ve lived here. Perhaps in this short time of experimentation, I will be able to see what I’m supposed to do afterwards.

So for Holiday Hackathon Day One, I wanted to ask the question, What happens when you go through all of the subway stops in Singapore’s Circle Line?

The Circle Line of Singapore MRT comprises 28 stations. I started at Harbourfront (on the lower left) and went clockwise. Sadly, GPS doesn’t work at this underground level, so the only data I have is the time of the journey. It’s not a complete circle, so to get back to Harbourfront, I got off (well, “alighted” as they say here) at Dhoby Ghaut station and transferred to the North East line (the purple line), riding 4 stations to go back to my original point. I killed time by reading a book. You can see my route via the black dots:

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So, 32 stations, 0 displacement, and a few dozen pages later,  I learned that this journey takes 1 hour and 22 minutes, and that it costs 0.78 cents. I’m sure my transit card doesn’t know I rode all those—I imagine I’d be charged the same if I accidentally entered the station and left it again, thinking it was a mistake.

I have no clue when this information will be useful, but I was just itching to know.

This art/science residency is winding down, and my penchant for sentimentality is going up. At the risk of sounding like a Buzzfeed listicle, here are some of the smaller, yet unforgettable moments. Most of these images were taken using a crappy smartphone, but hey, I’ll take it. I’d like to remember Singapore, the fifth country I’ve lived in, with this hodgepodge of memories:

1. The constant mixture of cultures as well as the combination of the traditional and modern.

This guy in Balinese dress was on his smartphone during an intermission. This was a student performance at NUS.

20131120_203343This cosplayer on a photo shoot and the class happening a few feet away. (I’m unsure what the latter is, and I didn’t want to interrupt them. If you think you know what this is, let me know in the comments. I’d like to be enlightened.) This was at Singapore’s Japanese Garden.

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One of my favorite works in the Asian Civilisations Museum: “Mustafa” is written in sini script using a Chinese brush, by a Muslim Chinese calligrapher.

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2. Random people working out.

This guy doing a handstand near the Singapore Art Museum. 

20130925_143032Or these skateboarders at Esplanade Station. They remind me of those outside the MACBA in Barcelona.

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3. Seeing Venus.

Ok, I’ve definitely seen this before. Let me clarify: seeing Venus and knowing it’s Venus. Thanks to the Meetup group that organized this at the Singapore Science Centre.

20131025_2002574. Random things that grew in my apartment.

This seedling peeked out of my kitchen sink.

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A second mushroom  sprouted in my shower.

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5. Professor Greg Clancey’s cat, Misty, who lives next door to me at Tembusu College.

She went from being scared of me to not caring when I walked past.

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6. Being at my desk at the Future Cities Lab and seeing the people walking up and down the stairs.

The lab occupies the sixth and seventh floors. I think that how they use the stairs reflects their personalities.

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(On that note, seeing this guy repeatedly use the hand rail as a ballet bar is the reason why I stopped touching it.)

7. Attending lectures for the sheer enjoyment of them. 

Such as this one by Pico Iyer sponsored by Yale-NUS at UTown.

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Or this one by Jonathan Ledgard at the Future Cities Laboratory, whose book, Giraffe, I read and loved last year.

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8. Working with scientists. 

I loved seeing their less academic side. Like so:

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9. Getting into emoji chats with my taekwondo master in Korea (since we still can’t understand each other). 

I love my current project the most, but I definitely adjusted faster in Seoul.

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Hurray for Kakao Story! Thanks to interaction design, communication between two people who do not speak the other’s language is completely possible. Guess who did pass her second degree black belt test after all. Now to figure out how to ship it to me. Hmm.

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10. Holding Apocalypse Workshops and getting into uncontrollable fits of laughter.

Because, well…

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This gig went by too fast, too soon. I’m in the goodbye-presents-and-thank-you-notes stage. Wasn’t I just doing this a few months ago? Vagabond problems, oh dear.

Last November 16th, I spoke on the panel, Negotiating Cities of the Future, part of the ArtScience Conversations hosted by ArtScience Museum, together with fellow artist-in-residence Michael Doherty, Shannon Lim, William Hooi, and Luther Goh. The museum was kind enough to send me photos from my part of the panel.

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My talk was entitled, “The Apocalypse Playbook: Strategies for the End of the World.” I spoke about my previous work that led me to do The Apocalypse Project.

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For example, I talked about the Seoul43 project. Even talking about it made me recall the exhaustion of climbing more than 43 mountains. Ha.

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I also spoke about my previous sensory projects, such as The Hug Vest.

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I also talked about how I came to value interactivity and experience-based design through my previous jobs and lives. As a youth correspondent at The Philippine Daily Inquirer, one of my favorite series of articles was something I called Temporarily Yours, where I took on a job for a day and wrote about it. My favorite one was about being a mascot for Jollibee, a Filipino fast-food chain. This is an 11-year newspaper clipping. In the job, I wore both suits, but for that particular photo, I was the blonde girl on the left.

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Oh hi again, my Art, Science, and Design slide.

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Dr. Margaret Tan, Fellow at Tembusu College and Director of Programmes, introduced us.

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Denisa Kera, professor at the National University of Singapore, moderated the event.

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Yep, I was wearing the Apocalypse Suit. I should wear that at all times. It’s comfy with a lot of pockets. It’s probably one of the few outfits I wouldn’t mind wearing everyday, other than a dobok.

Last November 10th, The Apocalypse Project was exhibited at the Sunday Showcase at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands. Here are some photos of my part of the show at the Inspiration gallery:

There were five mannequins dressed Climate Change Couture, four standing projectors that introduced the parts of the project and the Mission Apocalypse game, and screen at the back that showed all the drawings made during The Apocalypse Workshops.

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The Apocalypse Project – Sunday Showcase at ArtScience Museum

On the left is an interactive station where people can do The Apocalypse Workshop.

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Climate Change Couture: The Trash Suit and The Bubble

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The Apocalypse Project – Sunday Showcase at ArtScience Museum

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It was great to see  friends and strangers alike. Here’s Vinod, a Tembusu student and part of the Earth vs Humans: The Court Trial trying on the Smell Mask:

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Dr. Stamatina Rassia of the Future Cities Laboratory dropped by.

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And here’s Dr. Ingmar Lippert from Tembusu College.

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Here’s squad member Yuen Kei Lam manning The Apocalypse Workshop. I’m so happy to see this photo—she started out being a participant in the first workshop I held, and now she’s facilitating one. Dr. Connor Graham of Tembusu College is also at the table.

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I also had a photo booth where people can try on some of the Climate Change Couture clothes. On the right is squad member (and taekwondo classmate) Yerim Ku, an exchange student at the National University of Singapore.

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I turned the Inspiration Gallery into a game of a sort, called Mission Apocalypse. The audience had a piece of paper with tasks on it.

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The paper had 25 clues in a 5×5 grid that made them explore the gallery.

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Each clue led to a question about climate change.  If you get five correct answers vertically, horizontally, or diagonally (like in Bingo), you get an Apocalypse Project sticker. Or you can answer everything and get a poster.

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Oh hey, here’s Professor Gregory Clancey, Master of Tembusu College (and also my neighbor):

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This is one of my favorite photos. This kid was so great. He’s seven years old and working on climate change questions in Mission Apocalypse.

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He also drew this superpower for The Apocalypse Workshop:

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This is the happiest I’ve been in a show. You can tell—I’m grinning like a Cheshire Cat on the left and in mid-frolic. 
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Lastly, but most importantly, thank you, Apocalypse Squad, Batch 1. The more complex my projects get, the more I’ve learned to delegate. Thank you, all.

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I’ll be putting everything about the project online here. It’s crunch time again for me (a chronic problem for chronic travelers), but it’ll all get done. The other day, I finished posting all the workshop submissions, which led to me reaching Tumblr’s posting limit for the day. I think I broke the Internet that day. Do follow that site for more updates!

Photos in this post by artist and Apocalypse Squad member Sandra Goh. Now this is exhibition photography, people. I’m taking down notes. 

This weekend was the first time I exhibited The Apocalypse Project in our group showcase in ArtScience Museum. This was a stressful installation, but not quite as much as climbing more than 43 mountains, or mowing a mountain in a monsoon with a sickle. But everything went alright in the end, and I was quite happy with how it looked:

The Apocalypse Project at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, 10 November 2013

The Apocalypse Project at ArtScience Museum at Marina Bay Sands, 10 November 2013

The Apocalypse Squad

I have learned so much from all the shows I’ve done in the past, but this is hands down my favorite one, mainly because of the team of students who made up the Apocalypse Squad. Without them, everything would have fallen apart. They worked on everything— helping to assemble the actual pieces,  making each interactive station work well, and helping the audience win the Mission Apocalypse game. It was quite a production for a one-day show. I was so proud of how they worked that day—a clear indication of me getting old. Here we are, after takedown:

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The Apocalypse Squad. (L-R) Sandra Goh, photographer. Yuen Kei Lam, Elaine Sam, me, Yerim Ku, Jethro Leong, Yuqi Liew, and Ingmar Salim.

Kudos as well to Tembusu students and faculty who helped me set up the installation.

More detailed photos about what went on in future posts by this week, but for now, I think I need to rest for a couple of days and get my sleeping patterns back to normal.

But in more important news:

Donate to Haiyan victims

As the world knows, Super Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) tore through my home country, the Philippines, a few days ago. Being here in Singapore, I have been feeling very heartbroken, helpless, and distracted at seeing all the photos of the devastation. I also couldn’t help noticing the irony of exhibiting The Apocalypse Project, which I intended to make people visualize a dystopic future brought about by climate change, and actually have that apocalypse a reality in my motherland. I am not kidding—some of the things people drew for The Apocalypse Workshop became true this weekend. At the last minute, I changed one dress for Climate Change Couture as a reference to this catastrophe. (More on this in a future post.)

Thank you, Lion City, for lending the Philippines a hand.

Find out ways to help Haiyan victims here and here.

Photo by Romeo Ranoco for Reuters

Photo by Romeo Ranoco for Reuters