All in Good Time

Interview by Charlene Chan
Photography by Jovian Lim

With a theme like Stories—A New Perspective, it might come as no surprise that the feature project of this year’s edition of SingaPlural will involve a great deal of storytelling. On paper, the project reads like a directory to Singapore’s diverse brood of creatives: 10 illustrators, paired with 10 designers from various disciplines, will offer their takes on how they imagine we will communicate, connect, dress, eat, learn, live, play, relax, travel and work in the future.

Come March, these anecdotes will be brought together in a library of ideas—in the form of a book, OHP transparencies and objects—presented entirely in black and white. In anticipation of the launch of TOMORROW, we speak to Justin to uncover the ideas that have developed through his conversations with festival curator BLACK, as well as with the designers and illustrators who will give us a glimpse into their future worlds.

Hi Justin, please tell us more about TOMORROW and your role as the editor.

The project will see 10 designers working with 10 illustrators to imagine what 2065 could be like in Singapore. Visitors can expect to see illustrated proposals of different aspects of Singapore’s future by the 10 teams. Some will present a single proposal, while others will respond to each other’s proposals. In response to each team’s proposal, I have also written 10 short vignettes that imagine how everyday life will look like.

Each team met up at least once to discuss ideas around their assigned theme and figure out how they wanted to collaborate. In a sense, we began by building a common pot of ideas and then had the freedom to go on our own tangents.

It’s such a luxury to have people from so many different fields involved, since each medium favours certain ways of storytelling. What do you think is the importance of using a variety of mediums in the presentation of this project?

From the get go, some illustrators and designers questioned how something as exciting as the future could only be presented in print and on OHP transparencies. For us, these restrictions provide a contrast to what we typically expect the future to look like, something vibrant and high-tech. Instead, the choice of using analogue mediums adds a layer of familiarity and unexpectedness to our visions of what has yet to come. Also, in Singapore we are so used to seeing the future through life-like renderings and policy papers. Hopefully, the illustrations and fiction will inject a playfulness to the project.

The designers and illustrators from various fields—ranging from architecture to product design and graphic design—brought very different interpretations of the futures, which reflect their training and interests. If you got an architect to tackle the question of how we will eat in Singapore in 2065, they may have redesigned the hawker centre. But because Kinetic Design is an advertising and communications agency, it became something about food packaging. The mix allows us to experience the future in different scales.

It’s quite rare that we’re encouraged to imagine freely like this. And I think the act of imagination is quite essential to creation. What do you think of that?

It’s not often in Singapore that we are asked to dream about the future, it usually comes presented to us as options. This project was quite a treat for the designers and illustrators; when I met them, they were quite excited and swirling in the background were recent television dramas about the future like Black Mirror, Westworld—those were common references that came up.

The teams really stretched our imagination. For the question of how we will travel in 2065, we thought it may be a take on driverless vehicles. But the team of STUCK and Dan Wong also discussed the idea of rethinking Singaporeans’ favourite pastime: travelling overseas. They wondered if it was possible that we could travel through someone else’s eyes while remaining physically in Singapore. That was something we didn’t expect. You could go on dark tangents—what happens if you could experience voting in America without actually having to suffer the consequences?—but the teams also highlighted the positive side of it for the disabled or the aged. We started out with very practical questions, but the teams brought us to new places.

Read more in The U Press N˚15 (Singapore edition).