/ is the second part to our film-based exploration series, based on our inquiry on the notion of a dreamscape.

In this, inquiry takes the form of exploring physical spaces and physical dimensions. The liberty in this dreamscape provides a contemplative space for the character to move in.

The places evoke ubiquitous memories that may resonate with the viewer. When one is traversing through a space alone, there are no distinct destinations. Therein lies the possibility of fleeting but profound encounters with oneself, drawing speculation surrounding the places we inhabit, and the places we yearn for.

photo-of-artists-and-cast
From left: Lorraine Lee, Grace Ong, Heng Swee Kiang (cast), Tan Siang Yu

Inquiry Process

Watch the making of video here.

What are the artistic philosophies/guiding principles that govern your art making/artwork?

We (Lorraine, Grace, and Siang Yu) have been working together for the past three years, starting from our involvement at Baby Tropical Lab at LaSalle in 2014. I cannot remember exactly how we ended up working together, but the experience of the first collaboration was great, and somehow we continued on from there.

Though we each come from different artistic backgrounds, coming together as a collective of sorts forces us to learn how to communicate and collaborate. One of the important guiding principles is the element of play and experimentation, that each of us should have fun working on a project together. We learn to listen to each other, to agree to disagree, and ultimately, to produce works that we are all proud of. We also make it a point to try something different each time, to learn something new with each project, to stretch ourselves.

Describe your personal artistic journey.

[Siang Yu] I came from a painting background, having studied art in UK, but accidentally stepped into filmmaking more than a decade ago while I was teaching. This was a result of the need to learn more about filmmaking so as to help mentor students interested in film and animation. From then on, I found that my passion is in storytelling, especially about the human condition.

[Grace] When I entered ADM (NTU) I initially intended to major in Digital Photography. After taking one of the filmmaking course in year 1 though, I chose to pursue digital filmmaking instead. No regrets! Haha. It was great also finding a cool team in HCI to pursue filmmaking all these years as a teacher. I like live sketching too, (especially when I’m overseas) dabble in painting and of course am interested to always learn more about production design and cinematography.

[Lorraine] I was first attracted to Art making because of its ability to find the most incredible ways to present understandings. Experimenting with various ways of going about art making in University led me to lean towards projects that engages people through participative elements and community spaces. Since the first collaboration in 2014, I’ve found that collaborative work is another area that really appeals to me and the works that come out of a collaborative practice can be so rich because of the intense and beautiful processes when multiple artists come together! Art making to me is eternally broad and endless, every year entices me with new things I can learn and try. As an Artist educator for the last three years I’ve found that the dialogues that I have with the people around me (colleagues, students, friends and my husband) influence and shape my art practice, so I’m really fortunate to be able to be surrounded by all these practitioners!

Share some of the previous art works made. Are they related to the current work for a l edge?

[Grace] Our first collaboration was the most memorable to me. It was the first time we collaborated with Lorraine, and it was a time pressed artwork. The artwork Trace (2014) had 3 of us drawing and negotiating the space and land within a frame and given time. It was an intense get-to-know session artist style. From there, we saw the common theme of our relationship with the environment which informs quite a few of our works such as / (2017).

[still 1 – making of in bedroom]

[Siang Yu] For our last collaborative project, we worked with other art colleagues (Shi Han, Kim Hong, Shangyi) on a film called O (2016). O as in the shape of a circle, not as an alphabet. So actually, we are not sure how we want to pronounce this title! This film was based on the theme of Fictive Dreams. We created a narrative around a woman with a ring, and looped the story so that it is endless. The work is intentionally surreal, and we looked for locations that enhanced that dreamlike quality of the film.

o-film-still-1
Still from O (2016)

For / (2017), we intended it to be a companion piece to O. Again, we are not sure how to pronounce this title, as the / is supposed to be more about the shape and purpose of the symbol, than the conventional / itself. Similarly to O, this new work also works under the Dreamscape theme, but this time, dealing more with notions of space and environment, and about existence and longing, instead of focusing on pure narrative like the first film. Who knows, we may work on a third film to complete our Dreamscape trilogy?

Interestingly, the work mirrors our very first project together, Trace (2014), which deals with notions of land/space, and how humans cultivate the earth. I guess each one of us have our own fascination with the environment we live in.

For this piece of work, where did you get your inspirations from? What do you hope to achieve through the work

[Lorraine] The ideation process is one of the most fascinating parts to me. When several brains come together there is bound to be a substantial amount of ideas! A deadline is a great motivator to get cracking… we often start thinking based on how much time we can afford and how much resources we can afford. I remember all our ideation processes. Sometimes it is a rough pitch that someone proposes and as we gather what materials we need, suggestions start flowing and moving the work along. This was the case for Trace (2014).

o-film-still-2
Still from O (2016)

For O (2016) it started with 6 art teachers who just agreed to share ideas and do a work together. Who knew when we began discussion we would negotiate till the sunset and everyone had left except for us! For / (2017) we had the pleasure of working with curators as well. There is a lot of trust that there is value in everyone’s ideas and suggestions to strengthen the project, and a lot of trust if certain ideas are put aside along the way. We talked over whatsapp and in person with whatever pocket of time we can find. We talked over format of the work, visuals, mood of the work… quick sketches of visuals help a lot too and we can quite quickly get a common picture of what the work can look like.

[Siang Yu] Fresh from the collaborative work O (2016), we decided to continue to explore the medium of film narrative. This time, we wanted to play more with the visuals of the film. Our conversations led to looking at the Mexican artist Gabriel Orozco, especially his work Until You Find Another Yellow Schwalbe (1995), in which he produced a series of photographs of two bright yellow motorcycles of identical design standing adjacent to each other in various street scenes. Apparently, to make the work in this series, he rode around the city of Berlin on his motorcycle over a period of months, stopping whenever he saw another yellow Schwalbe, and parking his own bike next to it and photographing both bikes together.  We were fascinated by the idea of humans finding their own self along the street. What if you meet your own Self? Perhaps subconsciously, the work alludes to me being an identical twin myself!

One thing led to another and we began to envision an image of a man standing on a sparse land, with another land mirroring above him as a sky. That image led to many possibilities, conjuring up interesting ideas about what this work is about.

Share challenges or problems you have encountered along the way and how you managed to overcome them

[Siang Yu] For any collaborative project, the key challenge is getting everyone together, especially for art educators! We had to work around our main cast (our only cast!).. Heng Swee Kiang, and we were concerned that due to the experimental nature of our work, we are not sure how many shoots and locations are needed. In the end, we were thankful that we managed to shoot the film in 2 Saturdays.

Conceptually, the challenge for us in making this experimental film is to figure out what we really wanted to create. Unlike our earlier film O (2016), which has a clear narrative, the genesis of this companion piece (also under our Dreamscape series) is really the image of a man standing on a land, with a parallel land above him.

The other challenge involves working on exterior scenes on a film shoot, and concerns the element of weather. Though we did several recce trips and tried some shots to see whether we could achieve the effect we wanted on film, the actual days of shoot pose many surprises. It proves that one can never fully plan for everything, but be ready to adjust along the way.

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Shooting on location at Tuas Lalang Field

For instance, while shooting at Tuas Lalang Field area, our actual shoot had a very different weather (hot with clear clouds), compared to our trial recce shoot on a dull day, which became a challenge in post-production, as we had to ensure that the image can be mirrored properly. At another shoot (at People’s Park Complex car-park), we were surprised that an event was taking place, and we had only half an hour to complete our shots for that location!

[Grace] We encountered difficulties finding time in the December holidays to meet as our overseas trips clashed quite a bit haha. In the end, we took the first week of Jan to meet and thrash details out – to ensure that we were on the same page, then did 3 days of location scouting. Some places were impromptu additions, (such as Marina Barrage interior) as the location got us walking around all over the city area. Other initial locations were abandoned, such as the Nicoll Highway flyover due to logistical constraints. (The path was too narrow and there was a barrier between the road.)

roof-3-brighten

Lighting wise, the weather is one unpredictable factor. On the days of our location scout, the lighting was great as there was cloud cover, but on the actual shoot, there wasn’t much clouds, and therefore the sun was terribly strong. Had to get ND filters for the outdoor scenes due to the strength of the sunlight.

[Lorraine] I think I will highlight one more aspect of working together. Thankfully we never experienced it as a problem or challenge, but it is an important aspect that comes out in a collaboration. And that is playing different roles according to the project’s needs. I remember Milenko advising our students that in a collaboration you learn to “share your ego” and that is so perfectly phrased! Because working together is not putting ego aside and being agreeable. It is full acknowledgement that we will all share and value each other’s contribution in some way or another in every stage of the work from ideation to creation. It also acknowledges that we may have equal share of hands in some areas, but we also may need to have unequal share of hands in some areas, and that is ok, because we all play our parts knowing that every part is helping the project come together.

Does your teaching practice inform or interact your art making practice? How?

[Siang Yu] There is certainly a dialogue between art teaching and art making. As a practitioner, understanding how a creative person thinks and works helps us in our pedagogy and in our guidance and mentoring of our students.

[Grace] I would say that constantly being part of a collaborative team making different types of artworks allows me to better mentor/instruct student groups and advise when they have difficulties compromising. It also pushes me to think and conceptualize better shots, and work within limitations (time, space, style, logistics etc)

[Lorraine] I believe that our art making practice does two crucial things for our teaching practice. Firstly it inspires our students in their art practice, knowing that their teachers are also actively practicing. For this reason in 2014 and 2015’s Baby Tropical Lab workshop, we deliberately worked in the space that our students are working in so that they can see how their teachers work. Secondly, it informs the teaching practice; being in touch with art making, I definitely get a clearer way how to guide students to encounter art, think about their art, create their art. A teaching practice also informs the art practice. As I mentioned earlier about how my practice is informed by dialogues and the bouncing of ideas, I am energised and inspired by my students and the ideas that they have. They are my community of artists too! It can also be quite tricky to find the time to maintain an art making practice as a full-time teacher, to share a tip that was generated from conversations with my colleague Karen Yeh around 2013/14. I believe we aimed to find opportunity to exhibit work in public at least once a year. So far that has been a great feasible resolution to keep!

|| Grace Ong, Lorraine Lee, Tan Siang Yu (ft. Swee Kiang)

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