Ethnographic Narratives

Assignment: Create a narrative based on ethnographic research conducted throughout the semester with a community                           

 The idea of this project is to use your ethnographic research and the tools you have learned to push your own exploration of how creative practice can be used in conjunction with ethnographic research. Develop a project that is created in conjunction with the community in which you are conducting research.

Going Into Trance

This video is our team’s attempt in capturing the notion of trance, and what how trance is practiced in Taoism. Our research thus far has been involved with this community through a singular temple that we have been spending several nights with. We’ve situated ourselves on a more documentary standpoint in this video, and tried to capture some of the complexity that comes from a tradition that we’ve seen growing up, but only having comprehensively dealt with it in detail now. More and more so, as we study the practice of religion- we link it to a greater idea of what it means for us all; even if we are not believers- and this is something that we attempt to reach by the end of the video too.

–Dave Lim Wei Jing, Kathy Poh, Adam Lau

Singapore Queens

This piece is a small look into the lives of two young drag queens in Singapore. I spent this past semester spending time in the drag community in Singapore for ethnographic research, and became closest to these two people. This video is my attempt to show the viewer a bit more about the human beings behind the act of drag, and to let the viewer in on a few less obvious aspects of the experience of being a drag queen.

–Fiona Freeman-Grundei

The Lion Den

This ethnographic / ethnomusicological film is a continuation of Nathaniel’s study of the Chee Seng Kong Lion Dance Troupe. In this film, we actively avoided using any interviews or voiceovers as we wanted to veer away from an educational video. Instead, we wanted the viewer to be immersed in the sensory experience of a lion dance rehearsal and to let the visual and audio elements tell the story of the troupe’s camaraderie.

–Nathaniel Mah Ye-Chao & Rachel Quek Siew Yean

Sambal Sons

This ethnographic film focuses on a mee goreng stall located in the heart of Clementi. It tells the story of the stall owner, Mohaiyadeen, and his three sons, who run the store together. Our intention with this film was to explore the notion of generational succession, especially as Mohaiyadeen believed that his grandchildren would not continue the business. We wanted to capture the sights and sounds that are at risk of being lost when stalls such as Mohaiyadeen’s are no more.

–Hunter Cumming Shaw, Rachel Quek Siew Yean, Nathaniel Ma Ye-Chao

Batik Sons

Batik Sons follows Mr Eric around his shop as he explains about the history of batik fabrics, the influence of migration and politics on the batik designs, and his mission to preserve the Ang family’s lineage through batik.
I grew up in Kuala Lumpur being surrounded by batik fabrics, and have always been fascinated by their patterns. When I was a little girl, my mother would dress me up in a batik cloth as she prepares a flower bath with the lime, bougainvillea and rose flowers picked from our garden. When I was studying in a boarding school, I would wash my clothes and bathe with my friends in our batik sarongs in the community bathroom. Whenever I see the uniforms of the Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines stewardesses’, I am reminded of my grandmother who once wore her kebaya with skirts made from batik fabrics.

 

Mr. Eric, the owner of Wellie Batik Fashion, mentioned that the batik fabrics in his store were imported from Indonesia. The local Indonesian batik was known for its earthy colors (i.e. brown, cream white, and indigo) with parang motifs, or slanting parallel rows of dagger. The parang patterns symbolize strength and power, and this motif was only worn by royalties in the past. He later shared that batik patterns evolved overtime to incorporate Chinese and Dutch influences when colonization and migration from China to Indonesia took place. The Dutch colonizers introduced the blue and white porcelain patterns while Chinese princesses who arrived in Indonesia to marry Indonesian princes introduced colorful fabrics colors with the butterfly and flower motifs.

 

I was awed by how batik designs have been influenced by politics, culture, and migration.

–Rachel Quek Siew Yean

Moving Image

Assignment: Digital Narrative Final Project             

The Digital Narratives Final Project is an opportunity for students to choose a tool, skill, or approach to narrative that they have explored or become curious about through this class. The idea of this project is to use the tools you have learned in the class, to push your own exploration of a narrative idea or concept.  While this project is open-ended with regard to the subject matter explored and production techniques employed, students must develop a script or storyboard for their project, and employ high quality production and post-production tools and techniques.

Sunburnt Country

In mid-2018, 100% of NSW, Australia was declared drought-affected. The price of feeding livestock is becoming unaffordable, rural neighbourhoods are shrinking, mental health concerns among farmers are soaring as the climate is becoming increasingly unpredictable. Sunburnt Country is a virtual reality documentary that explores the damaging impacts of a changing climate through the perspectives of three farmers in rural Australia. This video is a 2-minute clip from the short documentary.

–Dunja Karagic

Suspended Animation

Suspended Animation is an experimental short exploring loss, an individual’s connection to their past and recollection of personal memories. It attempts to capture the idea of the things in life we can’t return to.

—Peter Lombardo

Greatest Film

Our initial premise was a simple, narrative-driven comedy piece set in a hospital. I produced two scripts based on this concept over the span of four days, and after discussion with Lesha, neither was deemed usable. The gags weren’t landing, the characters lacked depth, and overall, they just wouldn’t have made for very good films. Scheduling conflicts had prevented us from sitting down and plotting the sketch out together in any real detail before that point, and when we finally were able to meet, we agreed that we would have to have a finished script by the end of the night, no matter what. I lost faith in my ability to write that original concept, and we decided that – for the next two hours – I would write whatever came to mind, whatever might be usable for Lesha as a visual storytelling piece, and which would be fun for both of us to dedicate our remaining week to.

That’s how we came up with the first draft of this version of the film – the issue with the first draft of this is that the characters barely had any lines or development, which made the lamp-shading element of the piece come off as forced and gimmicky. Over the next twenty-four hours I spent as much time as I could fleshing out the twisting narrative that formed the bulk of the final piece, which gave us insight into the mind of the narrator by proxy. This draft was also spent trying to incorporate as many interesting visual elements and mix-ups to the dynamic as possible, doing everything I could to fight the impulse to write a static/talking-heads scene.

Greatest Film Script

–Lesha Naresh Mansukhani & Roshan Singh Sambhi

Terribelle

Terribelle Script

-Lesha Naresh Mansukhani, Nicolas Kang, Cora Victoria Europa Ceipek

Supermarket Pregnancy

I read an article awhile back concerning this specific topic, a girl finds out she is pregnant because of a supermarket email and this intrigued me. How could a supermarket know someone is pregnant by just looking at data and not at any hormonal test results? Today technology and online platforms are more and more connected, sharing user data and search requests. This got me to wonder what had led up to the “pregnancy” email. What would someone who is pregnant have done unconsciously to lead an unconscious entity to make such an assumption?

What further inspired me to develop this story with technological means was my general interest in the boundaries of this technique. What could and couldn’t I do, and furthermore; what can and can’t technology achieve in the context of the plot. Furthermore, there is a lot of talk, online, amongst my friends and peers, about teen and young pregnancies.

Supermarket Pregnancy Script

–Gioia Sofiasole Stefanie Marzano

Games & Animation

Assignment: Create a Game or Animated Narrative

The idea of this project is to use the tools you have learned to push your own exploration of a narrative idea or concept through gaming and animation.  You must develop a script and/or storyboard, and employ high quality production and post-production tools and techniques for your project. Consider the role of your audience as you write you scripts and develop the narrative.

Heavy Rain

“Heavy Rain is an interactive story driven game that was inspired by this philosophy of allowing multiple choices without ever feeling as if the player has made the ‘wrong’ choice.  In this game, the player can choose to complete the main quest which is to simply get milk from the supermarket for the character’s mother. The only two ways to get a ‘Game Over’ is refusing to do the main quest, or repeatedly talking to your mother which would hint at your disregard for engaging with the main quest. This was in line with the existentialist thought that the biggest failure one can place upon themselves is the refusal to engage with life and its chaos.

Other than those two ways, there is no way to play the game so wrong that one will result in a game over, or not be able to unlock the final scene. It was also important for me that choices would have impact on other choices such as running away from Cadet Greg would result in him getting fired and when the player calls the police to report Wilson for being a stalker, it would be his superior who answers instead. These moments were important in my game for players to feel that they have a significant impact on the game’s outcome.”

–Nicolas Kang

Conversations

For this project, interviews were conducted with people who identified themselves as survivors of sexual violence, and who had voluntarily contacted Sya through an organization she was working with at the time to share their experiences. They were then given the option to opt in or out of their stories also being used in our final project. It was difficult to find a common thread through all the interviews – people experience and respond to sexual violence in very different ways. One thing that stuck out to us was the responses people received when they tried to share their stories with others, and the feeling of helplessness and choice-lessness they sometimes experienced. We thus decided that some kind of interactive experience where the “player” decides whether or not to tell people about their experiences (and eventually is no longer given an option in some cases) would capture what seemed like a significant part of every story that had been shared.

–Syafiqah Nabilah Bte Shamsheralam & Nicolas Kang

Shower Head

“Shower Head” is a short, flipbook-style, animated film that showcases the childlike imagination that is lost as I transition into adulthood and become more involved in the “real world”. Often, I feel that the loss of such energy and creativity drains my life of meaning. Through this short film, I try to reconnect with my younger self and explore the colourful, whimsical, ridiculous daydreams.”

–Qinyi Teo

My Father

Script:

My father was born in a small town named Pekan Nanas in Johor Bahru, Malaysia. Pekan Nanas translates to Pineapple Town in English and true to its name, it has a lot of pineapples and pineapple inspired street art. My father is the second son out of a family of three sons and growing up, he had very little in his small kampung home.

Breakfast was usually a bowl of rice with a fried egg on top. If my grandparents had a little more money that week, my father and uncles might see some minced meat. Otherwise, after the small meal, my father would hop on his second-hand bike and go to school.

At school, my father was popular. Athletic, smart and suave, he caught the attention of many and was seen to be destined for great things. However, due to financial problems at home, my father had to work part-time very early on to contribute to his family’s income. He worked menial jobs, such as dishwashing and garbage disposal. When he was given a little bit of time to enjoy himself, he would join the other boys in the kampong to catch fighting fish in the nearby stream. Life was not easy but he pushed on.

In secondary school, he met my mother. According to her, my father was her senior and tutored her for a while after their initial meeting. Jokingly, she used to say that his grades for his pre-university examinations suffered because he was besotted with her. Nevertheless, he was accepted by a university in the neighbouring country, Singapore.

However, my grandparents paid little regard to this achievement. University meant fees, and fees meant less money for the family. They discouraged him from going but my father was insistent. He knew that a degree was his gateway to a better life for him and his family. With that in mind, he clocked longer hours in his part-time jobs and was finally able to raise enough money to enroll into university.

At that time, Singapore needed IT engineers for its burgeoning IT sector and knowing that, my father strived for top grades so that he could land a good job after graduation. Things went pretty smoothly from there. He got hired by an IT company after graduation and was awarded Best Employee a few years into the job. Money, for the first time in his life, was in excess. Not only was he able to afford a more comfortable life for himself and his parents, his future plans to have a family were falling into place. Finally, he could give his family something better than what he had experienced in his childhood.

The first few years as a father were trying. My sister and I barely saw him. New demands at work and his workaholic nature translated to higher levels of stress, and there were times when he snapped at us. He would apologise afterwards, and always looked so guilty for losing his temper. My grandfather’s death, I believe, was when he seriously contemplated his life trajectory. When I was 15, he decided that he had enough of 1am emergency calls. He left his job and our dual-income family became single-income. My relatives gossiped then, but my mother was supportive of my father’s decision to stay at home.

With his new lease on life, my father applied to be a cab driver and as per his studious nature, made sure he knew everything there was to know. He also spent more time exercising, dressing himself and turning our home into a miniature garden. To me, he felt like a completely different person. Although his stint as a cab driver did not work out, he is much happier now and spends the bulk of his time fussing over my sister and I. From someone who was hardly there, he became our primary caretaker.

Sometime ago, when I was stressed out over schoolwork and decisions for my future, my father came to me and said he was proud of me. He said that as long as I tried my best, he would be content. “现在比较容易,” he remarks, “记得享受”.

And it hit me – all his life he laboured, and that labour was tied so closely with having enough money. Now that he can provide for me with his savings, he doesn’t want me to go through his pain. And that, I think, is the quiet love of my father’s.

–Lim Shi Cheng

Idle Time

“The concept I wanted to explore was the tension between an interior life of someone and the immediate external environment – how the two spheres relate and react. Integral to my interpretation on the concepts, was a sense of movement connecting each “interior” space that mind absently wander to. I did not want a clear protagonist or main character that is identifiable by the audience. I also wanted to inspire a sense of calmness and awe in the scenery I depict. To create a sense of directed movement without the presence of a narrator, I utilised light emerging from darkness (door opening scene, forest emerging scene), and traces of movement without an actor (footsteps.) Both imageries were established early within he first few scenes.

For the music I created a visual score (as recommended by Prof Chester) and attempted to score the animation according to emotional flavours I wanted the audience to taste at different points in the narrative.”

–Numhom Jirasiri T.

Us, Cousins

–Nguyen Ngoc Luu Ly

Bare

Bare is an immersive installation that reproduces feelings of emotional vulnerability in a way that visitors may experience and relate to.

–Anisha Charan

Photographic Narratives

Assignment: What are Photographic Narratives?

For this project you are being asked to create a narrative using still images and sound, and a storyboard that accompanies this narrative photography piece. You want to start off your pre-production process by choosing the subject matter for your story, this can be a person or place. You will want to conduct a preliminary interview with that person or visit that place, and gather information to help you write an interesting and compelling story. Take a few reference photographs and or sound record an interview with the person or place.  Based on this preliminary work, develop the outline for a story/script that will become the backbone of your photographic narrative. The next step is to turn your story into a storyboard.  You should use your script, questions, and corresponding storyboard to take photographs and record a soundscape, interview etc, for your photographic narrative.  The final product should be a movie file.

Merlion Mythology

Storyboard

–Numhom Jirasiri T.

The Home We Make

Storyboard

Script:

My expiry date is coming up soon. July 6th, 2018. That is the day in which, dressed in a toga and all we will stretch our arms one last time to reach for the sweet memories of those endless four years. But they aren’t endless. We are like flowers. There is one very simple reason for it and that is that there will come a time when we won’t be there anymore. You are not quite sure how the flowers disappeared, maybe your mother cleared them that morning, or your housemate decided it was time for them to go but they were supposed to go. Their time had come.

We are blooming as we walk the halls of our esteemed Universities. Sometimes studying, sometimes not. Our lives are here. Our hearts lie here. We are always never alone. We grow our roots deeper and deeper into the soil the institution so gracefully allots to us. In our residentials and dining halls, we nurture and we get nurtured. Singing to our favorite songs and complaining about the food even though we never learned how to properly cook. As we learn we grow, but we didn’t just learn behind the shut doors of our seminar rooms, we learned outside. In the sun. That one time with the guitar, that one time sweating outside in summer. Or that one time during the fall when all your eyes could see were the orange colored leafs falling down to your feet.

My favorite flower is a Peony. When I die I would like part of me to return in a Peony seed and I want my flower buds to be gifted to my friends and family. In many ways I am like Peony, or at least, I like to think so. Layered, shut, until you give me enough water and light to bloom and I will bloom so hard I will fall apart in your hands. Like confetti on your birthday.

— Gioia Sofiasole Stefanie Marzano

See You Tomorrow!

Storyboard

Script:

The Playground in Jurong West Street 42

“See you tomorrow!”

Moving to Singapore was tough, even more so for a shy child like me. I had transferred into the kindergarten in the middle of the school year, so my peers felt no incentive to reach out to me as they were already settled in their friend groups. Before my younger sister was born, I spent most of my after school hours on my own. While waiting for my mother to bring me home, I would stare at my kindergarten classmates have the time of their lives on the playground near school.

One by one, they would leave with their caretakers or parents, and I would be left staring at an empty playground. And that was when I would bolt towards it and take my rightful place. Not only was I the fearsome captain that steered S.S. Jurong with gusto, I was also the monkey bar (and admittedly, only) extraordinaire on the ship. Sea monsters were nothing but pesky obstacles in my path.

Of course, some events were a lot more trying than others. Crawling under bridges that threatened to collapse, and seeking shelter from horrendous storms! At the end of the day, a true hero might struggle tremendously but they would never fail! And in my make belief world, I emerged victorious every time.

Sometimes, I would pretend to sail to different parts of the region to collect new items, such as the mysterious Tamagotchi pets found in the land of capsule balls. I would disembark from my ship and walk confidently to the capsule machines nearby and with the single dollar from my parents, try my luck at getting the pink Tamagotchi device. I’m not sure if I ever got it.

However, sailing a ship is not always about heroic adventures! There were times when I had to sit in my ship patiently and wait for the time to while by. Cracking the ever present yellow tic-tac-toe puzzle was a daily routine at that point – I must find more ways to defeat my imaginary enemy!

“Hey ho! Let’s set sail!” My eager self would announce to the empty playground.

For a while, my imagination was sufficient. I could sail my days away with just that.

However, I soon felt lonely on my big ship, but did not know how to reach out to others. Everyone else had their friends. I was just the sore thumb that stuck out awkwardly.

Looking back on it now, I’m uncertain if I ever made friends – a part of me says that I must have. There are photos of me surrounded by faces that I no longer remember tucked in the dusty shelves of my family home. But for some reason, the time spent alone with my imagination stuck with me all these years. I’m glad the ship of my childhood still exists till today.

–Lim Shi Cheng

Talking Cock

–Kavya Gopal

Sonic Narratives

Assignment: What is a sonic narrative?

For this project I want you to create an exclusively sonic narrative that is no shorter than 2 minutes and no longer than 5 minutes. Please bring your own evolving definition of narrative to this project, as you consider how to communicate a story to an audience of listeners. Your objective should be to clearly communicate a narrative through sound. You can choose a narrative that has already been written or created, for example a book, a piece of music, a poem, or you can create your own narrative. This narrative must have a clear beginning and ending, and it should attempt to communicate a specific feeling, idea, moment, or concept to the listener. You can use visual and written elements in your process, as long as the final product is exclusively sonic.

For best results, listen with headphones.
Dear V

“Dear V is a piece about the relationship between my voice and me over time. I chose this focus because as an actress and singer, my voice has been a significant part of my life from a young age, but I have recently undergone changes that have made me re-evaluate this relationship; I have had a series of frightening times of losing my voice because of overuse (typically during tech week for musicals) and vocal coaches who have told me that I need to fundamentally change how I sing and treat my voice. This realization was quite an emotional one for me, and it has been on my mind a lot ever since my most recent vocal teacher told me that I was eroding my voice, and that if I continued using my voice the way I currently do I would not be able to sing in 5-10 years. Since singing is such a big part of my life, I was terrified about this realization and decided to use this sonic narrative to step back and reflect on my relationship with my voice. It also fits in with my evolving idea of my current personal narrative style, as I talked about in the reading response for Week 4, keeping vulnerable and personal “Me Stories” at the heart of the narratives I tell through my art. Technically, I also wanted to explore an a capella recording. I have only recorded a song once before, when I was in high school, and it was on Garageband with instrumentation. I enjoyed experimenting with spoken text and creating an ambiance of recordings of my voice (and using the Mixer to add automation for panning, volume, echoes, etc.) to make a sonic narrative using my voice but not being a singer songwriter-type song.”

–Cora Victoria Europa Ceipek

Family

“‘Family’ was all recorded in one take to get the spatiality of what was occurring. I chose two distinct tracks to be playing in the back; the first was a Bruno mars song to denote my room space. The second was the track from the TV – the Hindi Serial Drama playing in the background. It symbolized my mother taking over my space, and displayed the cultural elements of my household. The other two sounds that I recorded were the sounds of me taking pills as well as the ‘engaged’ tone sound. Overall, I chose to have the listener assume the role of the person on the other end of the line because I wanted to immerse them in the world. I wanted them to feel like they had an active role in this narrative. Personally, I felt if I had recorded dialogue for a script, the audience would actively be thinking about the visuals of the piece as well. However in this case, the involvement of the audience would naturally place them in a context where they would not have expected visuals.”

–Lesha Naresh Mansukhani

Repeat

“This piece aims to show the repetitive nature of panic attacks. It hopes to combine the emotions and sounds that a person experiences in their head in the prelude, leading up to, during, and aftermath attack through sounds. By not using melodies, the sound convey a sense of confusion, anxiety, and chaos. The degree to which the narrative is chaotic changes throughout the piece, but it is always there in the background. Despite the state of the panic attack that the person is at, the anxiety remains.

To fully convey these emotions, I chose to use a purely sonic narrative. I chose to use purely sounds because what we hear in daily life is, from my perception, the sense that we’re least aware of. I think that of all the senses, we are the least aware of how much impact sound – or the lack of it – can make in how we function on a daily basis. Because of this, a sonic narrative will be the best way to convey the feeling of experiencing a panic attack because it will not be adding any sensory elements that we have not experienced before. The listener will not have time to figure out what colours on a screen are supposed to mean or analyse structures and people in a photograph. This is because all the sounds that I have recorded for this piece have come from very quotidian events. The only difference is that when these sounds are put together in the context of a panic attack, they suddenly become a lot more intense and overwhelming.”

–Nikki Chen

Untitled

“This project started out as an idea pertaining to themes of sexual assault but has instead morphed into something much more personal in that it now portrays my emotional journey. I think I have been grappling with questions about how to portray the narratives of others. Instead, I think by focusing on myself and staying true to how I am feeling, I have done the initial idea and concern much more justice. I am hoping to convey the difficulty in being an empathetic listener—the fact that no matter how hard you try your resonance kicks in. At the end of the day, the translation from words to sounds is me acknowledging my reaction, my resonance of anger, and I am beginning to realise that perhaps that is not the most productive way forward. Perhaps for now, in breathing and being silent, I still have something to offer.”

–Kavya Gopal

Vectorspace

“I decided to do something of a whimsical nature for my final project – a space opera. I have a longstanding interest in the aesthetics of the 80s, particularly the look and feel of trailers for horror and sci-fi films from that era. I chose to work with sound as a medium, so that I could do things that would have been too expensive to do visually. I rewatched trailers and listened to a podcast titled Welcome To Night Vale to get sonic inspiration for my soundscape, before trying to reverse engineer the sounds using synth and percussion loops and plugins that I could find on GarageBand. For sound effects, I used a mixture of sound effects from sound libraries and deep bass plugins for explosions and the throbbing engine of a spacecraft.”

-Dynn Othman

Water Closet

“Water closet stems from a personal curiosity as to how people are in their most private moments – where will their minds choose to wander, how do they feel when not obliged to satisfy a certain expectation that comes along with being in a public space. The next thought naturally follows: does the public toilet cubicle function as a place of refuge, in addition to literally taking our shit? It seems as though time comes to a standstill inside the toilet – there is no audience within the cubicle; we are free to be whoever we want, or are. Arguably, it is inside the cubicle that we are wholly ourselves. The cubicle is then both a sanctuary and a closet for those among us who, for whatever reason, are unable to be physically comfortable with presenting our own identities. Therein also lies the difference: when we leave the cubicle, we are not coming out of the closet. We are moving away, and fitting ourselves into prescribed identities. Who are we when we are least guarded, then? When stripped down to the most basic – relieving ourselves of bodily waste – who are we? We come up with all sorts of thoughts when we are in the toilet, in the shower. Some of us daydream, others take the chance to not think altogether. Water closet is a sonic narrative that follows a narrator’s emotional arc as they enter the toilet.

In creating this sonic narrative, I plotted out my own emotional arc by being hyperaware of myself whenever I use the toilet. I then thought of the sounds that coincided, or would help elicit these emotions, and then experimented with a wide range of sounds. I first recorded the sounds in my suite’s toilet, and eventually ventured out to the road side, walking around with the microphone facing the road to capture sounds of my footsteps. I also recorded the bubbling sounds using a large plastic container, placing the microphone into a ziplock bag and submerging it. Beer bottles were also used to create water sounds that are clearer and sharper, alongside metal beer bottle caps when spun on different surfaces. A variety of surfaces, such as metal, cloth, wood, were used to record water droplet sounds. The one eventually used in the final piece is that of the metal tin can, due to the cadence that metal affords.”

–Teo Xiao-Ting

Vernacular Narratives

Assignment: Your goal for this project will be to tell a story to accompany a photograph from your family photo album.

The starting point for these stories should be an interview that you conduct with someone in your family, asking them to tell you about the photographs in question, the world around them at the time it was taken, and the things that were unique or inherent to that place in that time. You can interview multiple people, or one person about each photograph. You should document the interview, through a sound recording or video, if possible. Use the photograph and interview to develop a story to accompany each photograph. The stories may be written, drawn, or recorded, but at least one story must be written in prose.

papers
By Teo Xiao-Ting

Every Wednesday, he reads Monday’s papers. Something about creating confusion comforts him; something about knowing exactly what is wrong calms his nerves. He waits for the person in front of him to pass. The park is still. There is little to no movement, and every shuffle of feet is an earthquake. The ground shifts. He clutches even tighter to Monday’s papers.

 When did this start? The corner of the paper starts to fray as he folds and unfolds, folds and unfolds it. The ground is still shifting. Why is he so nervous? Back home, his mother waits for him to return for dinner. It has been three days since he went back for dinner. He places the newspaper on his knee, and watches a leaf fall to the ground. This park is something new. The greenery is curated and unfamiliar here. In the kampung, he could very easily find a rambutan tree if he is feeling hungry, and want a snack or two.

 Here, the trees are bare and without fruit. It is a lot cleaner, though. The ground is concrete and firm under his feet, even though it feels as though it is trying to throw him off every now and then. As compared to the dirt ground that becomes mud when it rains, the concrete is more consistent, stable. Even the walls feel like they can carry more without weight, unlike the wood that creaks when the wind is too strong at night. What is it then, what is this sense of uncertainty despite infrastructural robustness? What a phrase, “infrastructural robustness”. The housing committee had used that to convince everyone to move out of their respective kampung. It feels anything but robust.

It feels like he can do absolutely nothing here, except read old newspapers that are two days’ old. Is it some kind of warped extended nostalgia? Not really, he really just wants some form of control. Some kind of tangible dissonance that he can put a finger to. The walls behind him are almost pristine, cool grey. He walks over, and places his forehead against it. It sends a cold shiver down his spine – is he having a fever? The coolness of the wall soothes him. He stands there for a while longer, and the park begin to feel alive again, unlike how it was moments ago. Maybe it really is a fever that is making him feel this way. He straightens his back, and goes back to the bench to gather his things.

A fever he can handle. A fever passes, and he will get well again. The fruit trees will return after this fever. The paper goes limp in his hands, and he stuffs it into the briefcase that have been sitting faithfully next to him this entire time. Already, he starts to feel better. Already, the ground seems to hold his weight more securely. Yes, a fever he can handle. Things will get better.

Muse
By Roshan Singh Sambhi

Untitled
By Roshan Singh Sambhi

Your youth will fade, old man, as will your infatuation with the woman behind the camera. That receptionist at your clinic, on the other hand, seems a more attractive option by the minute. You will realize that, for a few fleeting Malaysian months, you need not even choose – why would you, when you could have both? You will start families at the expense of family, your career will arrive at stratospheric peaks, and you will have more than you will know what to do with.

You will round up what photos remain, and hold them under lock and key. You will refuse to discuss them, and your grandchildren will learn to stop asking. You will occasionally gesture towards things you have yet to do, but stop short of saying what exactly those things are. You will sigh deeply, and stare often at nothing in particular. You will be surrounded by people, and all of them will lay claim to your love.

You will have an ischemic stroke.

You will develop aphasia, which means language with trouble. You will be dressed by your house-maid, who you might recall you once loved. You will develop aphasia. You may find yourself caught by sudden bouts of depression, of anxiety brought on by some unseen, unknowable force that has wormed its way into your house, and the hearts of even your loved ones. You are not safe. You will soon die. You will die tonight – you will be certain of this, you will die tonight. You will have your second stroke.

A little girl with grey hair will visit, and you will offer her a tour of the house she grew up in.

She will take you up on this, and hold your outstretched hand in hers. She will feel it, wrinkles and all, and take in the roughness of it. As you lead the way, grinning, she will catch herself smiling as well. This time it will occur to her, but not to you, how little either of you has to smile about.

Anni & Dezso
By Cora Victoria Europa Ceipek

I composed a piano piece telling the story of Anni Jörg (my great-grand aunt) and her husband Dezsö Csallány, with musical motifs reflecting their journey from their marriage in 1932 to their deaths in 1993 and 1977, respectively. It chronicles their escape from Hungary during the invasion of the Soviet Union, during which they brought a Hun treasure Dezsö had uncovered as an archeologist. Studying the Huns meant everything to Dezsö, and his life’s ambition was to find the grave of Attila the Hun. Before passing away, Dezsö claimed to have found the grave, yet he never told anyone of its location. It is likely he was too old and sick and was imagining things. Attila’s grave remains lost to this day.

Gottfried
By Cora Victoria Europa Ceipek

I tell the story of my grandfather Gottfried using a series of photographs that I printed on tracing paper and layered on top of each other to tell various aspects of his life at this particular moment of time in Kindberg, Austria in 1941. Each piece is meant to tell more information about this moment, and the full story is not told without all pieces working together.

after movement
By Teo Xiao-Ting

How much hair can a person lose before they can genuinely call themselves bald? What about bed sheets – how long do they have to be unoccupied before it is time to be folded up, and kept in the cabinet? My father sits by the mouth of the living room, on a white leather armchair. He stares out of the house, and waits for someone to return. He does not remember who he is waiting for. A camera catches a hint of sun, and he looks towards it. In his room, I imagine that the bed sheets begin to smooth themselves out of absence.

itch
By Teo Xiao-Ting

The sky is pure white and almost absent. A boy holds a basketball to that sky, and it swallows almost half of it. It is almost noon, he thinks. The sun feels too vicious to be otherwise. Another boy squats under his feet to bear his weight, and puts his hand down to the ground for support. The grass is crisp under his palm, close to death and paper thin. His hand itches and he feels an urge to scratch. But if he moved his hand, his friend might topple over and break a bone or two. But he really wants to scratch that itch. Between scratching an itch and a potential injury done to his friend, which is more important? The grass continues to tickle his palm. Safety is more important. He waits for the itch to pass.

It hasn’t rained for at least a week now, even though it is supposed to be the monsoon season. The trees are beginning to show signs of drying out; branches snap with a slight brush of wind; mangoes find themselves scrunching up, premature aging. His arm is still itching, but his friend is too obsessed with the basketball to notice that one of his human footstool is twitching and sweating a little too much. What about the other person? The other footstool? He looked over to see a smile is even brighter than the both of them combined. He seems comfortable, or at least happy. Does he not itch? The grass is uncomfortable beneath bare skin. He feels the itch moving upwards, towards his elbow. That exact patch of restless skin. It feels almost unbearable, but not quite. Not enough for him to move his other arm to scratch it, to topple the center of gravity that his friend, still holding the basketball like a damned trophy, is relying upon. This is not just about an itch. This is about honour, about keeping his friend’s trust that he will stay steady as he focuses on his worship to the sun with a rubber basketball. This is serious.

Or not. Now he is thinking of ways he can scratch that itch without toppling his friend. Now he is thinking of the nearest clinic, which is only a 10 minutes’ drive away. Now he is thinking of how good it will feel to finally, finally scratch that glorious itch and be rid of it forever. Will he move his right arm to his left elbow to scratch that itch? Can he? His elbow of restless skin is starting to burn. Almost as insistently as the sun is burning the sky white. Really, what is the worst that can happen – he isn’t exactly big-sized, so it is only a short fall. The basketball will live. Maybe just a few scratches here and there. Will it help if he looked at his elbow? Maybe he can imagine scratching it, and it will relieve him of the itch. One must not underestimate the power of thought. He cranes his neck to his right, and sharpens his gaze to defeat the itch. Instead of smooth skin, he spots a speck of brown. Or is it red? The speck of brown moves closer still to his elbow. Is it blood? Not quite, he doesn’t think. It is approaching another patch of skin on his elbow that is immune to itch. Is this finally the end of it?

The ant begins to nibble on his elbow. It is no longer a nameless or sourceless itch that he can ease with just a gaze, or with thought alone. His skin trembles slightly with the ghost of an itch, a tiny, small ant with an equally restless antenna, twitching twitching, nibbling.

Writing & Art Intensives

These books compile student work, each from an experiential one-week intensive art and writing class.

These classes were designed by myself and my collaborator, Dr. Heidi Stalla, to focus on Art and Writing in a particular location, based on places where we conduct our own research. The intention of this LAB was to invite its participants to think about questions of culture and identity by exposing them to creative mediums that were unfamiliar to them. Our hope was that by the end of the experience participants would gain fresh perspective into their own lives and identities by filtering their experiences through the unfamiliar. The purpose of this workshop (and subsequent exercises during the LAB) was to help students develop a method for creation. We helped participants fuse our writing prompts, short intervals of introspective thought experiments, and longer intervals of exploration, fun, and adventure into one cohesive process of creation. The focus was never on perfection; instead this LAB was about a means of getting at authenticity—at problems in their purest form, and learning how to express ideas from many different angles.

Kerala, India LAB Book

Abu Dhabi, UAE LAB Book

Studio Recording

The following tracks were composed, recorded, and produced by my students for projects in music technology and recorded sound classes. The students were working with non-recording studio setups and learning the fundamentals of microphone technique, recordings basics, and mixing.