Commissioned for the inaugural FoodCine.ma 2016, this showcase presents 15 objects, speculative designs and installations that arise out of observations of how design facilitates the ways we eat together in Singapore. Whether it is consuming forever “fresh” food, having meals at our hawker centres, dining in both life and death, or eating with digital devices, we invite visitors to look at eating beyond a mere ingestion of food, but as a consumption of values and cultures.
Framed up, wedged in a wallet, on a phone, shared online, etched in our minds—we hang on to these references that remind us of where we’ve come from.
It’s been almost two years since I’ve last seen Singapore. Away from home, all I’ve had apart from my own pictures are those from the news and what friends and family share online—snapshots of how home has grown through the lenses of my fellow citizens.
Marina Bay with its iconic “integrated resort” has overshadowed the Singapore River’s line of shophouses and skyscrapers as the shorthand for the nation’s success. Our list of old places has matured beyond colonial relics to include modernist complexes and even the iconic dragon playground. The index for the city’s pace of development is no longer the skyline of towering cranes, but how crowded our trains and streets have become.
The frames Singaporeans use to look at their home are changing. It shows in the subjects we picture, but also in what photography means to us today. Is picturing a Chinese, Malay, Indian and Eurasian still the quintessential portrait of Singapore society? When did photographing and shaming online become our way of handling outrageous acts we encounter in public? Should photos of our nation’s late founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew be restricted from public use?
These questions capture some of the issues Singapore faces today. Pictures of home are not just illustrations but also reflections of who we are, projections of how we see the world, and symbols of our community. A photograph’s flat surface belies its third dimension: as a platform for discussions on the people, places and things that matter to each one of us.
This social element is what defines contemporary photography. Making a picture is not just framing a subject and pressing the camera shutter (or in today’s case, tapping a screen), but also sharing it with others—a process that envelopes pictures with meanings beyond just the photographer’s point of view.
This is how our pictures of home are made: through the conversations we share about what we see, what we remember seeing, and even what we hope to see. While the realities depicted in pictures will one day fade or even be challenged, the meanings they hold for each one of us is what helps us see home clearly, wherever we may be.
After working for close to a decade in various studios, Jonathan Yuen started Roots, his own space in an increasingly noisy world of design.
His childhood ambitions were in this order: artist, scientist and businessman. But little did Jonathan Yuen expect to be working as all three when he became a graphic designer.
Like many in this profession, Yuen loved drawing as a child, but it was after encountering computers in the high school of his Malaysian hometown in Penang that he got hooked on to computer-aided design, and dreamt of a day when he could create animations and special effects for Hollywood movies.
This dream changed when he learnt his family could not afford to send him overseas to study. Computer animation was new in the ‘90s, and not taught in Malaysia then. Instead, Yuen took up graphic design in Kuala Lumpur’s then Limkokwing Institute of Creative Technology, which was close to his interest as it offered a specialisation in multimedia design, and more importantly, home.