WORD. opened on 18 May 2018 after a 4-month work-in-progress. Read through for the behind-the-scenes.
One of the show’s biggest inspiration points was Microsoft’s “WordArt” function. It was the earliest form of typography for a lot of us, and the gateway to the process of combining art/design with words.
Here’s the brief that was sent out to artists for you curious cats. The artists were handpicked and given about 8 weeks to create their pieces, or submit suitable existing ones.
ROUNDING UP THE TROOPS
For us, the exhibition had to represent as many languages and scripts as possible. Brainstorming out of Singapore, where a population made up of primarily Chinese, Malays, Indians and Eurasians, already contributed quite a number of visual scripts to the list, we looked for artists worldwide to accentuate this variety.
We also sieved out artists with especially visual takes on writing. Graphic designer, Mister Tucks’ (SG) series playing on Chinese characters immediately came to mind. The final lineup of artists included Singaporean Aleeloulalei, with her trademark bubble wrap art, this time taking on Braille, and Japan-based paper cutter Sexual Youkai.
Another big consideration for us was the way that scripts were currently being consumed. We mostly read text off screens now anyway. That’s where the works of Singaporean GIF maker Catherine Kusuma and Indonesian artist Ravi Mathovani (left) came in, adding a layer of dynamism to the show.
We’ve been obsessed with virtual and augmented realities at Kult since our sci-fi show Dune, and knew that we had to explore these ground-breaking vehicles to fully communicate the power of the written.
We caught wind of budding new media artist Haikel Yusuff, who eventually conceptualised and created two installations for the show - one augmented reality and the other sound reactive. Kids really enjoyed the sound reactive one.
Digital collective Saturday Kids was very generous about loaning their Oculus Rift headset with Google Tilt Brush app for the opening night of WORD. We ran into them at an art and technology event by tech collective MeshMinds earlier this year and they’ve been on our minds ever since.
Sound advisory: may blast your speakers
LOOK & FEEL
The show needed to make a statement (quite literally). We drew inspo from some big, bold and bright work that was out in the world already. Our designer played around with the typography of the show 2name and added a spray can and a marker to further personify the diverse mediums and writing tools the artists worked with.
The green that eventually became the base colour of the key visual also became a mnemonic device that threaded our several collaterals together. As an ode to the urban nature of the gallery, the visual received a grungy treatment to tell people the exhibition experience will be unlike your typical white-wall gallery.
The gallery then became an offline version of the key visual. The space was given fresh coats of paint in colours pulled from the design.
FOLLOW THE DOTTED LINES
Our activity station in the gallery was inspired by the penmanship exercises we used to do back in primary school. We revved up the Kult ante with these and got a few of the participating artists to write “WORD” freestyle.
DWORSKY & SONG
While rounding up artists for the show, our curator stumbled upon the works of a conceptual artist, Alexis Dworsky, who pioneered a Braille-graffiti project in Mexico. The conversation went something along the lines of this:
“His work is very cool. I want him in the show.”
[scrolls through Dworsky’s bio]
“HE’S GERMAN. I’M CALLING GOETHE.”
As the Goethe-Institut Singapore are ardent supporters of Kult and urban art, they kindly flew Dworsky from his Munich hometown over to our shores for the show. Then, the folks at Hotel G hooked him up with a super comfy nook to let up in for a couple of days. Now all we needed was a local graffiti writer for Dworsky to work with. Enter wonderboy, SONG.
SONG and Dworsky - who sound like a sleek detective duo when you put their names together - hit it off creatively. They got to work immediately, drilling, painting and co-creating a Braille-graffiti installation for the show.
IT WAS IN THE WRITING
We had also started conversations with the team at Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) during WORD.’s early days. In spirit of SWF’s efforts to spread the love for the written word, they supported the gallery in marketing the show as a SWF POP initiative.
With the team, we also co-conceptualised a dialogue session entitled Over Pizza & Beer: The Art of the Written, with a panel consisting of professionals who work with words focusing on not what is written, but rather the ways in which text is presented.
Clockwise from top-left: Mark Yehan De Winne, Sarah & Schooling, Kelley Cheng, Desmond Kon Zhicheng-Mingdé
Something fun to round off this post. Click play to listen to tracks that became the perfect backdrop to the punchiness of the artworks from the show.