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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:

DSC09611

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

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For the final part of The Apocalypse Workshop, I asked the participants, “What would you wear to the apocalypse?” and to define each wearable they design. I gave them fashion design templates. Here is the Tembusu version of an Apocalypse Lookbook:

AdelineChang

by Adeline Chang

AmandaTan

by Amanda Tan

ArjunSaha

by Arjun Saha

AuYongShiYa

by Au Yong Shi Ya

CarminaCastro

by Carmina Castro

CassandraTeo

by Cassandra Teo

ChanSzeHow

by Chan Sze How

CherlynTan

by Cherlyn Tan

GeorgiaTam

by Georgia Tam

GermaineGoh

by Germaine Goh

JaredKoh

by Jared Koh

JonathanT

by Jonathan T

LamYuenKei

by Lam Yuen Kei

LeeYingLin

by Lee Ying Lin

LyciaHo

by Lycia Ho

NaomiNeoh

by Naomi Neoh

RachelLee

by Rachel Lee

SarahLim

by Sarah Lim

SonjaChua

by Sonja Chua

TayYingYing

by Tay Ying Ying

VictoriaEr

by Victoria Er

ZoeBezpalko

by Zoe Bezpalko

ZoeBezpalko2

by Zoe Bezpalko

For the second part of The Apocalypse Workshop, I asked students to imagine their superpowers to navigate through the apocalypse they described in the beginning.

Here are some sketches:

AdelineChang

“Fly. Heal. Escape.” —Adeline Chang

AmandaTan

“Ability to move the sun” —Amanda Tan Ying Shyuan

ArjunSaha“Spaceship out to sun to cool it. Suicidal ice core cooler.”—Arjun Saha

AuYongShiYa

“I wish I will have the power to breathe life into the world again.” —Au Yong Shi Ya

CarminaCastro

“In the case of singularity, no one really knows what’s gonna happen, but it’s likely that people will be even more interconnected than before. e.g. chips planted inside head / linked to the brain. In this case, a helm of mind-control protector might help in preventing subliminal advances to your head space / just outright mind-jacking.

CassandraTeo

“I would teleport to the mountains, the wilderness, the forests, something of the like. The place can simply transform with a snap.” —Cassandra Teo

ChanSzeHow

“This drawing shows a Superman shooting down CO2 gas molecules to reduce greenhouse warming. He is flying and protecting the atmosphere of the Earth.” —Chan Sze How

CherlynTan

“Nose with CO2 to O2 converting nose-hair / cells. Whatever by-product will be used to “recharge” the converting mechanism. Eyes that can see temperature differences in color, that can function like binoculars to see danger from afar. Mouth that has glands that secrete substances to purify contaminated water and food.” —Cherlyn Tan

GeorgiaTam

“The Day After Tomorrow Apocalypse: 1. Engulfed by water 2. World freezes over. 3. We wait for Jake Gyllenhaal to save us all.” —Georgia TamGermaineGoh

“I will have the power to be invisible when I go out so that the heat / temperature will not be a problem! I will have the healing power to “heal” anything that comes my way, to have the strength to carry animals, people to safety. Magic wand: I will have the magic power to make plants and trees grow beautifully by having a protective shield to prevent excessive sun rays. Plants will flourish.” —Germaine Goh

JaredKo

“Neo-Atlantis human.” —Jared Koh

JonathanT

“Our skin will be able to dissipate heat and moisture so that we can cope with the increased heat and humidity. To combat bad swampy smells out skin will naturally emit happy smells.” —Jonathan T

LamYuenKei

“As humans attack humans out of desperation from the apocalypse scenario of climate change, out of need for survival, food and shelter, it is time for the power of isolation to set in.” —Lam Yuen KeiLeeYingLin

“An invisible sphere that can be activated with the click of a button. Being invisible, it will not block out the scenery but at the same time it can create a micro-climate in which people can control the temperature. It is like a force field that don’t need to be carried when you move.” —Lee Ying Lin

LyciaHo

“This device can suck in an infinite amount of carbon dioxide / greenhouse gases.”—Lycia HoNaomiNebh RachelLee

“…I think having the power to control the weather from now until the future might be of use. Perhaps I will be able to alleviate the harmful effects of global warming and reduce its negative impact on the Earth’s physical (natural?) atmosphere. Alternatively, with my ability to control the weather, I suppose I could put a stop to global warming entirely? Send thunderbolts to blast factories emitting carbon into oblivion, showers of rain to rejuvenate the plants and the rainforests, more rain to ease droughts and nourish infertile lands … bring the sun out to make the plants grow… Perhaps weather control is not necessarily the ultimate solution to preventing a future like the one I have imagined, but it can be a start. Bring on the superpower abilities!” —Rachel Lee

SarahLim

Sarah Lim

SonjaChua

Sonja Chua

TayYingYing

“A Rain Man. A Nature Recovery Wand.” —Tay Ying Ying
VictoriaEr

“Protective Impenetrable Bubble.”—Victoria Er

ZoeBezpalko

“Dots-connection deviece. It’s all about changing mindsets of development.” —Zoe Bezpalko

The Apocalypse Workshops that I held last week at Tembusu College, National University of Singapore yielded some very interesting results as to how young people view climate change nowadays. For this part, I asked them to pick a favorite place and describe in great detail how climate change will affect it 50 years hence.

Below are some results. Check out the future site of The Apocalypse Project here.
AdelineChang

Adeline Chang:

One of my current favourite places to be in the open air lift lobby in the Tembusu College building —on the 14th level. I go there at night, when I need to peace out or think or feel the coldness of the wind against my body. In the darkness all I can see are the faint outlines of treetops, and twinkling out of them are lights —staring eyes and the corners of a generous, comforting smile that engulfs me and my troubles. The lights of the buildings shine in the distance far, far behind the trees, and the air is fresh and cold. At half past 2 in the morning, there isn’t a soul around me, and calm falls over me like the softest blanket as the automatic corridor lighting clicks off. I breathe deep once, then once more.

50 years later I sneak back to that spot, my spot, on the 14th floor. I gaze out at the phantoms of trees past; my eyes glitter with the barest trace of tears. My mind runs free and in ecstasy, conjuring up the face that has kept me company through nights of intimate conversations, cup noodles, somber inner ramblings, the pure bliss of wind, sensation and being alive. But there are only glass towers now, beautiful and cold and hard and ugly and out of place. The wind I loved so is no more, it is warm today, too warm. As my eyes blur it becomes easier to pretend it is tears that shroud my vision—and not the haze of change.

AmandaTan

Amanda Tan Ying Shyuan:

Place: ocean
Climate problem: full-blown freezing of the top of the ocean waters

ArjunSaha

Arjun Saha:

Mt. Faber view point
Sunspots superheated

AuYongShiYa

Au Yong Shi Ya:

Botanical Gardens Pavilion in the midst of fallen leaves and dead trees

CarminaCastro

Carmina Castro:

My favorite place: Headspace > change drastically > Climate change pushes technological developments

50 years from now > 2063 > Projected year around which “singularity” will occur: 2040 > Post-singularity: no one knows, but logical that robots / humans with robot brains would use crazy advanced technology to solve climate change > People become more rational beings > Solve human problems which are barriers to climate change > Technology evolves exponentially

Greatest change that could occur is inside head.

Human apocalypse? since moving to post-human.

CassandraTeo

CassandraTeo2

Cassandra Teo:

2063 view:

Evening, it is warm. The wind is hotter, the sunlight shines through dust. This will be the view outside Tembusu, if it still will be there.

ChanSzeHow

Chan Sze How:

This image is a location in the Cameron Highlands, Malaysia. 50 years on, with changing climatic conditions, poor harvests (characterised by the black outlines on the slopes of the mountains) and the abandoned town is obsessed. This place relies heavily on subsistence farming which explains why the place is abandoned due to poor crop yield.

CherlynTan

Cherlyn Tan:

This is the rough layout of my home. I live in a HDB flat on the 20th storey in the Eastern part of Singapore. I love my home. Being on the 20th floor means that I get to enjoy the nice breeze and a bird’s eye view of everything—when I look out of the window in my room, I see the sea and the many ships and vessels of all shapes and sizes. I see aeroplanes preparing to land (my home is near Changi Airport), I see part of the MRT track and the good old (most-of-the-time trustworthy) train moving along, and I see cars, all sorts, and hear them, too.

In 50 years, if climate change has revealed its tipping point, I imagine that the heat will be unbearable. So unbearable that the air-conditioning would have to be left on 24/7 (leaving us with the guilt that we may be making things worse, but yet not knowing how else to cope with the heat). The air will be heavy with the smell of burnt and melting rubber and plastic as a result of [increase] in UV rays reaching the Earth’s surface. Aeroplanes carrying tourists will be replaced with government aircrafts to distribute supplies and monitor environmental conditions.

GeorgiaTam

Georgia Tam:

Oxford

GermaineGoh

Germaine Goh:

In 50 years, I imagine my house to be my little safe haven, whereby life will be unbearable without aircon (as see by the increase in number of air-conditioner present). Furthermore, my plants will have to be indoor plants for the heat will be unbearable under the hot sun. Trees will not survive (fallen leaves) and the land will be bare (no plants can grow) in the garden outside my house. My safe haven will have my piano still. 🙂JaredKoh

Jared Koh:

Neo-Atlantis

JonathanT

Jonathan T:

This is what used to be my favorite field. They are building a car park on it already. In fifty years it’ll be hot and swampy. Mangroves and moss will grow where there is grass and flowers. There will be lots of flies. Because the field is surrounded by residences, people will still have to commute through future-swamp. So they will build a stilt walkway through it. The monsoon drain next to the swamp will be perpetually full. Strange and smelly things will grow in there.

LamYuenKei

Lam Yuen Kei:

Location: The High Court where justice is meted out for perpetuators of climate change

[Shown: people who are hanged for stealing water]

LeeYingLin

Lee Ying Lin:

50 years later… I’m imagining how it would be like in my dream retirement farm. In my imagination, climate change will make the summers in Australia even warmer than now, but maybe the effects would change it into a tropical climate, that is evergreen throughout the year. Picnics, horse-riding can still carry on.

LyciaHo

Lycia Ho:

This is a horrible picture of a window seat on the airplane. It’s my favourite place in the world because of the way it makes me feel, a reminder that I am but a tiny speck in the vast unknown. In 50 years’ time there may possibly be whiter clouds, given the progress of geoengineering. Somehow, I imagine the skies to be darker, perhaps more rain. I won’t see clearly because of the haze but I imagine myself still feeling excited about travel. In 50 years’ time there will still be too much of the world I need to see, but with climate change there will also be places that will be gone forever.

NaomiNebh

RachelLee

Rachel Lee:

One of my favourite places is the rooftop garden at Orchard Central. It is especially magical at night, when the greenery is a deep dark green and the silhouettes of the water lilies are reflected in the fish pond. THere are lanterns switched on sometimes, and their warm glow battles the garden, creating a mystical and almost fairytale-like atmosphere.

In 50 year’s time, I imagine that the garden will no longer be an open-air one. The effects of global warming might have led the management to encase the garden in a plastic bubble, a greenhouse of sorts, to keep out unwanted UV rays, etc. The atmosphere in the garden will thus be a very sterilized one, lacking fresh air and the cool night breeze that I have come to love about it. I believe that it will be vastly different staring out at the vast expanse of the midnight-blue sky through a layer of plastic, compared to the unobstructed view that I enjoy now. The artificiality and the feeling of being in a controlled environment where nature is even more domesticated than it is now (the garden is currently man0made in itself) will be rather off-putting, and I fear that the mystical allure of the garden will be lost forever.

SarahLim

Sarah Lim Shu Hui

SonjaChua

Sonja Chua:

Images and sounds:
– Children consistently coughing due to persistent asthma attacks > must be the air
-The elderly have their eyes constantly watering due to the dust.
– Sound of the air purifier and air conditioning (not that helps).

Smells:
– Air is more polluted that it was.
– Finally able to get salmon after so long because of shortages of salmon and sky rocket prices.

Touch:
– Furniture full of dust from pollutants
– Unbearable heat in the day
– Global warming

Taste:
– Water seems a bit more sour than normal > must be the acid rain.
– Food doesn’t taste that nice anymore > probably because of the pollutants.

TayYingYing

Tay Ying Ying:

The Death of NatureVictoriaEr

Victoria Er:

Betws-y-Coed, Wales, is my favorite place on earth because it is so scenic, nature there is so untouched, the air is always clean and fresh, and the people are so kind and loving. I remember meeting two strangers in Wales who were so generous to me, giving me lunch and sharing with me about their lives so openly. These two people are Father Damien and Dylan.

In 50 years, as climate change affects it, the mountains can perhaps not be visible due to haze. The air would be either too cold or too hot. There may not as as many trees and plantations and it would be a ruined place. Could I get back to Betws-y-Coed and it’s neighboring village Llanrwst? Maybe not. There may not be any more nature as we know it now! And it saddens my heart to think that Dylan will no longer be able to take those lovely walks up in the mountains with his dogs, in the very mountains which he calls home, in which is finds his refuge and strength.

What about the lovely Swallow Falls? Will there still be the lovely sounds and peaceful calm of water falling onto the bed of rocks? Or would it flood or dry up?

And the beautiful blue skies will be grey and perhaps never see the light of the beautiful sun.

ZoeBezpalko

Zoe Bezpalko, environmental engineer:

Papassus, my grandparents’ farm, southwest of France

In Papassus, the climate change already affected the environment, the seasons don’t change, spring and autumn disappeared. Animals like glow-in-the-dark worms disappear whereas some developed and spread like rats and cats. With climate catastrophes, I see poverty coming. I image the energy demands raining so much that pipe lines will be built everywhere and people will chop down the forest. Biodiversity of trees, animals and landscape will change to be a very monotonous view. We will have only one type of agriculture. Robots will take out all jobs forcing people to live in poverty and trying to survive in an artificial world. Very rich people will be locked down in fake paradises with no notion of local, sustainable resources, always demanding more.

Every single “virgin” natural place will be polluted by wastes. At my grandparents’ place a community of optimistic people decided to settle down and live in an autonomous society.

This week, I got two groups of students from Tembusu College here at the National University of Singapore, to voluntarily participate in my Apocalypse Workshop. The goal was for them to imagine a climate change apocalypse.

TembusuWorkshop.035

The first activity was called My Apocalypse. These were my instructions:

Name and describe your favorite place in 50 years as climate change affects it. (Write about it and draw it.) This could be a city landmark, the family farm, your apartment building, your favorite cafe, or any other place you feel like speculating on. Please be as specific as possible. Scenarios can be positive or negative. (Some questions to ponder, but please don’t limit yourself to these: What does it smell like? What plants and/or animals are present, if any? How hot or cold will it be when you are sitting there? How will you get there? Can you see clearly? Will your pet be happy living there? What is the color you see when you look up? Are there walls, and what are they made of?)

I asked them to name the actual place (and not just write, “the world” or “the city”) because I wanted them to be as specific and detailed as possible. The participants were also more likely to choose different places and thus provide a wider range of descriptions.

TembusuWorkshop.038

The second activity was called Superpowers for the End of the World. These were the details:

If you had a superpower to navigate through what you described in Activity 1, what would it be?
Examples of superpowers can be the ability to: smell an incoming tsunami, be invisible to animals, turn into ice during a heatwave, or anything that your current senses and abilities can’t let you do right now. It can be an extension of your biological abilities, or a device that performs it. You can list more than one superpower.

I wanted to frame it in this way so that people will find it more fun and exciting and really think outside the box when it comes to climate change. Nothing like superpowers to get the creative juices flowing!

TembusuWorkshop.040

The last activity was called The Apocalypse Lookbook, where I gave them fashion design templates:

What will you wear to the apocalypse? Use the templates provided. Define the function of each wearable.

TembusuWorkshop.042

I let them do each activity for twenty minutes, and afterwards, they shared what they made to the  group. These university students all had taken a class on climate change, or were in the middle of one.  They came from business, economics, engineering, and communication majors. I also had one participant who is a professional environmental engineer.

Here are some photos from the sessions:

DSC08956 DSC08958 DSC08959 DSC08973_A DSC08984 DSC08991 DSC08998 DSC09008 DSC09013

I’ve given lots of workshops in the past few years—this definitely yielded among the most imaginative results. I’ll be sharing those soon. Thanks to all the participants, and also to those from all over the world who sent their answers online!

Recently, a teacher of one of the classes to whom I gave a workshop during my residency here in Korea asked me if I benefited from the visit as much as the students did. On that day, I gave a short talk in the exhibition hall, and the children drew, created their own games, and together we went through my studio upstairs. I suppose that for most people, these would fall into the category of Favors You Don’t Really Want to Do But Feel Forced To—”occupational hazards” that goes with the territory.

But as one who operates on interactivity, and one who is still in the “emerging” process, I think I actually need these visits. I’ve done three talks/workshops in Korea in the five months I’ve been here, and for one of those, I was actually the one who asked the program manager to find young people who would want to visit the studio. This doesn’t apply to all artists, of course, and quite a lot of my favorite artists prefer to be left alone, as I do most of the time. Creativity for me thrives on solitude, and anything that takes me away from my primary goals is an interruption.

But visits, particularly of the workshop-py kind and particularly from children, are special to me. (Personally, I prefer kids who are 12 years old or younger, and with at least one chaperone, thanks!) Giving a Keynote presentation is just 20% of the experience. The other 80% is about the conversation that goes on between them and me, between them and my work, and among themselves. Here are five reasons why I think I should make a conscious effort to get out of the confines of my studio and make sure I keep bringing people below five feet tall to see both process and finished piece.

1. Children bring me back to the essence of the work by asking the toughest questions.

DSC03702

Thankfully, children do not ask me any pseudo-intellectual academic queries. I also know they probably don’t care  (at least directly) about the institutional strings that come with my work, such as the artist statement, the photos, the website, the design, the branding, the talks, the tweets, the blog posts, and all the administrative work I have to do in the background. Apart from the fun they have during those few hours, they will likely not care about my work or me once they step out of the studio—it’s just another day for them, and they have no ulterior motives. I think this is why they ask me questions that make me go, “Yikes, I didn’t think of that.” It makes me think more deeply and objectively about my work.

2. Children ask questions of themselves and of each other.

DSC03599

When children use my projects as frameworks for self-discovery, it is incredibly rewarding. I remember telling a friend after one workshop that the peak of a project’s “happiness curve” (yes, I have that for all the things I have done) was that day, seeing excited kids jump on my work and doing drawings, instead of the exhibition that came soon afterwards.

3. Children are great prototype testers.

DSC03852

…because they know what to do and they don’t even have to ask questions and it’s faster to get results and oh my god with adults sometimes you have to FORCE that window of childlikeness and wonder open with a metaphorical monkey wrench and geez at the end we’re both exhausted. Happy, but exhausted. With children, it’s just easier. There, I said it.

4. Children make me admit my mistakes without shame.

DSC03883

This is something I had to admit to myself only after discussing my work a number of times to different people, but I discovered that with children for an audience, my intention is to delight, while with adults as an audience, my intention is usually to impress. Guess which one is a lot more fun?

5. I am forced to clean up.

DSC03736

This seems like a silly thing to add, but it’s good to be forced to make sure the studio is tidy, that I have sensible presentations on hand, and that I am showered and presentable. Before, you know, I go down that rabbit hole.

 

In a new series, I create tape installations that allows the audience to create their own games.

Games have constraints, such as the boundaries created by tape. In this piece, The Grid I, I transformed an exhibition gallery using masking tape. One side has only parallel lines, while the other side has both parallel and vertical lines.

The Grid I (April 2013)

The Grid I (April 2013)

The Grid I
April 2013
installation
31 by 34 feet
masking tape, toys

The Grid I (detail)

The Grid I (detail)

Agents of play were also provided, such as a jump rope, game tokens (in this case, baduk, or the Korean version of Go), a stuffed die, and balloons.

agents of play

agents of play

In the past week, I invited two groups two play with this grid. They had to create their own game, with their own rules, and utilizing the agents of play if they wished. They had to answer questions such as, “How many people or groups can play?” “How can I score a point?” and “How can I win?” (if it was a game about winning).

The first was a group of teenaged boys (aged 17-18). Most wanted to be architect, while the others wanted to be painters. They divided themselves into two groups and created the following games:

1. No Bounds

Players stand in a circle, avoiding the tape, and kicking a balloon without letting it fall to the ground.

I - No Bounds (balloon)

I – No Bounds (balloon)

2. Avoid Baduk

A player rolls the die, and the number corresponds to the number of baduk tokens he takes. He throws the baduk pieces at the other players standing in a line opposite him, who try to avoid getting hit.

2 - Avoid Baduk (stuffed die, baduk tokens)

2 – Avoid Baduk (stuffed die, baduk tokens)

The second group I invited was a lovely group of 12-year-old children from a local elementary school. Here are the games they played:

3. Baduk Slide

Players slid the baduk pieces across the floor. The one who slides the baduk piece the farthest wins.

3 - Baduk Slide (baduk tokens)

3 – Baduk Slide (baduk tokens)

4. King

One player is the “king,” who is unknown to the others. They follow each other using the lines of the grid, whispering and finding out who is the king.

4 - King (just the grid)

4 – King (just the grid)

5. Tennis

Players used the plastic piggy banks as modified rackets and took turns hitting the balloon.

5 - Tennis (plastic piggy banks, balloon)

5 – Tennis (plastic piggy banks, balloon)

6. Volleyball

Players used the die as a ball, and the rope as a net.

6 - Volleyball (rope, stuffed die)

6 – Volleyball (rope, stuffed die)

I learned a lot about children’s creativity and ingenuity from this project, and I think the kids had fun. It was fascinating to see objects whose function was completely changed for the purposes of games they thought of. It was also interesting to see components of traditional games and sports (such as tennis and volleyball) be used.

I definitely liked creating a piece where the audience had to interact with it for the artist’s intentions to be fulfilled. I would love to keep turning galleries and exhibition halls into playgrounds. Critically, these are children who are overexposed to online games—I was happy to get them unplugged from their smartphones and computers and plugged into their imagination. I’m definitely looking forward to pushing this idea further.

Some behind-the-scenes images with the elementary school kids. (Photos by Kate Kirkpatrick)

Many thanks to Ms. Se-Hui Park of Shin-il High School and Ms. Ju-Eun Lee of Changdong Elementary School, their awesome students, and to the staff of The National Art Studio of Korea who assisted with organization and translation.