Random Blends 2013 at ArtScience Museum

Student participants with Head of the Department of Communications and New Media, Prof. Mohan Dutta (centre, left) and guest of honor Mr Janadas Devan, Chief of Government Communications at the Ministry of Communication and Information (centre, right)

 

By Low Jingyi and Magdalene Tan, Year 2, NM Majors

 

We aren’t design aficionados or gaming experts; just a pair of curious public relations majors keen to visit new places and share about them in writing.  So, when we received an invitation to the opening night of Random Blends 2013, we immediately accepted the invitation as well as the chance to blog about it.

 

Random Blends is a digital art exhibition organised by the students of Communications & New Media Department every year since 2009.  This year, Random Blends was held from March 22 to April 7 at the ArtScience Museum in the integrated resort, Marina Bay Sands.

 

“The location of Random Blends 2013 is great.  It gives what is essentially a student-run event, a professional feel,” said Jeal Ng, Chairman for Random Blends 2012.

 

Random Blends had begun with a concentration in photographic works.  Since then, collections have taken an eclectic turn to project more comprehensively the multi-modality leanings of the department.  The 36 designs on display this year ranged from comic illustrations to collages, interactive storytelling, user experience designs, playable art and interactive games.  Most of the creators were student designers of CNM majors or students from the School of Computing.

 

“Having dabbled in some of the game making tools some time ago, I really enjoyed the games designed by my peers and seniors.  Playing the games as they are projected on the wall also added a new dimension to the experience. The game design ideas are engaging and fun!” said Samuel Cho, a year one CNM student who was with us on opening night.

 

Loh Sze Ming, Curator and Head of Public Relations for Random Blends 2013 elaborated: “In the selection of work for display, we looked at the aesthetics and the message behind the artwork.  For example, if you take a look at the comics section, some of the works cover thought-provoking themes like national identity and xenophobia in Singapore, and presented the issues in direct, questioning ways.”

 

The same aesthetic and conceptual appeal of the students’ work had impressed the venue sponsor: “Our definition of art science is looking at the processes that underlie artistic and scientific development.  We believe that they are joined through creative acts. It is about creativity for us. We felt that this showcase really encapsulated that because it was showing the processes that the students had undertaken and it was showing very creative products of that process,” said Anna Salaman, Associate Director of Programming at Art Science Museum.

 

The student exhibitors explained that the production of a piece of work involves the demanding process of gathering insights from people, iterating and reiterating the initial drafts till it was time to submit them for evaluation, selection and display.

 

Yet, it was also “very meaningful to see our games being displayed here” and even more gratifying “to see the public enjoy playing them,” said Edwin, a Year 3 Computing major.

 

“We want our audience and participants to be impressed by the standard of our students’ work.  Many people may think that school projects are substandard. We want to demonstrate that our students can hold a public exhibition. We are heartened that CNM has been very supportive,” said Sze Ming.

 

“It’s the first school project that we’ve showcased for a significant period of time. I’m really delighted that it is here for two weeks, usually it’s just for a day, but we felt that the quality and range of these projects were worth showcasing for a long time. The whole exhibition is really beautifully laid out,” said Anna Salaman.

 

More than 100 visitors attended the opening night.  Just about everyone was impressed by the exhibit, and inspired everyone who left.

Reviews of Sandcastle and Invisible Cities (Films for Social Change)


Screening: February 25 and 27, 2013, 1-3.30pm

Venue: CIT Auditorium

Films: Sandcastle. Written and directed by Boo Jun Feng

             Invisible City. Directed by Tan Pin Pin

 

 

“Film is extremely flammable and it reacts on all kinds of fumes that are extremely combustible.” – Tan Pin Pin during the post-screening panel.

 

After watching Sandcastle by Boo Junfeng and Invisible Cities by Tan Pin Pin, I left the auditorium with many unanswered questions. The films were shown as part of the Films for Social Change series organised by the Center for Culture-Centered Approach to Research and Evaluation (CARE), a CNM affiliate organisation that specialises in health communication research.

For me, both directors certainly achieved their goal of challenging the audience to question and go beyond what was presented at the literal level of their works.

Boo’s Sandcastle was inspired in part by Tan’s documentary film Invisible City, particularly by an interviewee’s experiences with the 1950s Chinese Middle Schools Riots. The title, Sandcastle, is an allegory for memories.  Like sand, memories are transient and mutable.  Like sand, the memories of a country, can be ephemeral and disconnected from its citizens, especially, from its younger citizens.

In the film, we follow En, a boy waiting to enlist into the army. En discovers an old letter written to his mother from his late father who was a student activist in his youth and later exiled from Singapore because he was thought to be a communist. This letter shows En (and us) a different viewpoint of national history from official accounts.

We hear the heart-felt voice of a man intimating with his long-suffering wife about the need to hold onto one’s ideals and principles. The voice brims with the longing and pathos of husband and father who had to make the invidious choice of being separated from his loved ones in order to stay steadfast to his cause.

I came away with a clearer sense of how those Chinese students in the 1950s and 60s might have felt towards the cause that they were championing. Although all the protagonists were Chinese, this heartfelt film still appeals to a wide audience as it deals with universal themes such as loyalty, family and love. The comments made during the post-screening conversation with the director Boo indicated that many members of the audience had taken away something personal from the film.  As Boo explained, films “help people to see issues because [they are] humanising”.

Invisible City, on the other hand, is a documentary that features documenteurs in their search for other histories of Singapore. The film retained an organic, raw feel through frequent cuts between each documenteur’s story, and photographs and footage of old, pre-independence Singapore.

Tan’s film nudges us to delve into our history and understand why people continue to record things even though their efforts may go unrecognised. The film foregrounds each documenteur’s assiduous effort and their struggle with fulfilling their mission of leaving something behind for future generations. Their dedication inspired more than a few in the audience to record something for posterity to remember and cherish.

The audience witness the past through a montage of archived materials guided by the archivists themselves. Tan explained that she wanted to capture “something that people want to say very dearly [even if the audience had to] work to understand [it].” She hoped that the authenticity found in these narratives will resonate with the audience. The many thoughtful questions asked after the screening proved that the film had left a deep impression on the audience.

These two films have a universal humanism that inspires empathy and change. Watching them fueled my hunger to learn more about Singapore’s alternative histories and to question the official narratives we have taken for granted. I even found myself overcome with emotion at the screenings.

I believe that these two thought-provoking cinematic works of art with their focus on memory and history, bring us a step closer to engaging with national issues, which hopefully creates an impetus for positive change in Singapore.

The writer is a second year CNM student. She is taking NM3219 Writing for Communication Management this semester.