Exploring cities through a fictional digital broadcasting station
Four Singaporean and South Korean artists have collaborated on an art exchange project, Cyborg Thinks, that explores both cities digitally. (Photo: Jaxton Su)

Exploring cities through a fictional digital broadcasting station

Discover a city and its everyday experiences which typically go unnoticed with Cyborg Thinks, an arts project and exhibition happening in Singapore. The exhibition is based on a fictional digital broadcasting station with bases in Ulsan, South Korea and Singapore, and it is held here at the Tzu Chi Humanistic Youth Centre until 17 Jul.

Audiences can look forward to a video installation that draws on metaphorical connections with mass media such as retro games and documentaries, allowing the public to reflect on the changes in an environment that might have been overlooked, and a two-part video series that sheds light on the evolution of our everyday landscapes and its negative strain on the environment.

The exhibition is the result of a six-month-long art exchange between Singaporean artists Jaxton Su and Lynette Quek, and South Korean artists Jieun Gu and Darae Baek, who got acquainted with Su when they did their masters at The Glasgow School of Art.

Quek, 29, initially envisioned a physical exchange where artists from both countries would travel over, research, and set up their works in both Singapore and South Korea. However, the pandemic made it impossible, and they had planned and executed everything through the web, cloud, and digital screens.

Su, 33, says: “Because the entire exchange was done virtually, it opened up many new possibilities such as broadcasting, vlogging, and blogging to enrich the exchange process.”

He adds that because of how distanced everyone was due to the pandemic, “we have all seemingly become cyborgs in one way or another, relying heavily on digital technology to go about our daily lives.”

In this vein, the four artists decided to create a fictional broadcasting station where they picked 30 public sites such as parks, train stations, and islands from each city to explore and inspire them while they learnt about the similarities, differences, peculiarities, and issues of the individual sites.

While physical and geographical barriers might have been an initial concern,  the artists explored each other’s cities by posing questions to one another about what they saw and observed, and the artists in the respective cities would be their hands and legs and gather the necessary information and data, which often included photos, videos, interviews, social media postings, virtual chats, and writings.

Su says that the result of the digital experiments and sharing of stories, accompanied by regular transmission of daily encounters and observations through social media and cloud storage, filtered through the thoughts and emotions of the artists, which were then reinterpreted and visualised as works of art.

Quek says that besides just being able to explore another city from home,it was nice to be reintroduced to her home country, discovering forgotten sights, walking through heritage routes, and experiencing new environments that she thought were familiar. She adds: “I felt we learnt as much about Ulsan, especially from a very intimate point of view.”

Similarly, Su says: “Before the pandemic, I’d usually do a lot of research about a country to see if it is worth the trip there before actually visiting it, but for this project, it was more about just experiencing the city as it is. It made me appreciate less-touristy, everyday places more.”

Learn more about Cyborg Thinks here.

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