Monthly Archives: August 2021

NDP 2021 Theme Song – The Road Ahead [Official Music Video]

Heart warming, tugs the right heart strings, and delightfully hand-drawn animations

It takes almost a village to produce a music video. It certainly took more than a team of creatives to pull off one of the most imaginative music videos for Singapore’s National Day theme song. This year’s music video has many fun elements. I might be biased to say that the blend of live-action and hand-drawn animation helped bucket loads to make the music video stand out.

Others might say the song was inspiring, judging from the number of positive comments on the official YouTube video. So it is not surprising to find many covers and remixes on YouTube. The song is emotional as it is lifting. The chorus is catchy, the lyrics are very relatable, and the song is rather ‘singable’. The lyrics had vivid language that probably inspired the strong imagery in the hand-drawn animation. For instance, the phrase “One man on an island. One drop in the sea. All it takes to set a wave in motion. Is a single word, an action, a hope …” — one person, one action, hope can make a difference. Another quotable optimistic phrase is, “Come whatever on the road ahead, we did it before, and we’ll do it again.” The lyrics practically oozes optimism and positive energy.

The hand-drawn animation helped bring hope and imagination to the fore. On a technical level, we might say that the hand-drawn illustrations represented a back to basics storytelling and gave the music video a strong visual narrative. It felt like a mock-up storyboard fully developed into a coherent and unique visual element. On a symbolic level, we might say the hand-drawn illustrations represent the imagination of Singaporeans, young or old, to envision both the present and future. The present, being able to do things without being socially distant within the covid-19 daily restrictions. In the near future, when the country moves from COVID-19 pandemic to COVID-19 endemic measures. Or the future, a ‘new normal’ since COVID-19 has disrupted our social and economic activities on a global scale.

I really liked the contrast between hand-drawn and live-action because of the ‘larger than life’, playful effect. Many scenes show the hand-drawn characters interacting with landmarks or familiar spaces. These include drawn cartoon characters exercising Tai Chi in the Marina Bay and Gardens by the Bay Area, riding on an MRT train, using the Golden Mile Complex as stadium seats, and doing the Kallang Wave as a homage to the old Kallang National Stadium. The choice of black and white for these illustrations gave those familiar sights a certain timelessness. This contrasted against the painterly animated scenes that followed. For example, a scene of a Tongkat cruising down the Singapore River paid tribute to Singapore’s colourful cultures, our shared history and our pioneer generation. The next scene shows a runner, a dancer, and a child running to a parent in a sweeping transformation. Several magical transitions happen: roadside flower blossoms into ingredients in a wok; a the flash in the pan dazzles into a highlight on a solar panel. These transitions between scenes are only possible with animation; traditional live action transitions would have required straight cuts, cross fades with continuity a huge challenge, keeping to more or less visually equitable shots to direct the viewers’ attention. There’s also a scene with a girl drawing on her notebook before a hand-drawn bus pulls up at the bus stop with cartoon characters peering out of the double-decker bus windows. This perhaps, is another nod to the value of drawing and our creative imagination.

It is truly inspiring to literally see drawing come alive. To the animators, film-makers and producers who believed in the power of drawing, I salute you. Thank you for drawing our attention to the little things that matter in Singapore and lifting our spirits for things to come.

Watch the music video ‘the Road Ahead’ here:

Singapore’s National Day Parade 2021 Theme Song – The Road Ahead [Official Music Video] on YouTube

To understand the animation process behind this music video, consider watching this ‘Behind The Picture: Animating ‘The Road Ahead’ (3″ 46′).

To hear how the song came about, consider watching this ‘August the VTuber: Meeting the NDP 2021 Theme Song singers!‘ (7″ 45’) too.

We Were Farmers (2021) by Ore Huiying

To grow, or not to grow. A thought-provoking exhibition that provides a glimpse into a Singaporean family’s farming life told with poignance and gravitas.

We Were Farmers (2021) By Ore Huiying
Click on the album above to see exhibition photos.

We Were Farmers is the culmination of her 12-year personal project documenting their experience and resilience, and a commentary on changing agricultural practices and urban development in Singapore, through photography.
We Were Farmers depicts the hopes, dreams and memories that tie Ore and her family together. It is a poignant tribute to not only the family farm, but also where her understanding of community and tradition, and sense of self, come from.”
– Exhibition Text

It is rare to see photographs of farms in Singapore because they are relatively uncommon in land-scarce Singapore. It might be more common to see Instagram photographs of food (#singaporefood) or Outfit of the Day (#ootd.singapore) than to see pictures of Singapore farms. This exhibition and photobook of the same title come from Ore’s personal project. It shows behind the scenes of a family farm and simple outfits one might wear to work on a farm. To my recollection, most of the photographs had a white border that reminded me of polaroids or Instax prints for some reason. The photographs were also unframed, unpretentious and laid bare for the scrutiny of visitors.

This exhibition is significant in two ways, and therefore you should see it if you can.

First, it shows us an uncommon glimpse of Singapore’s farming history told through a personal account. We see brief accounts of farm life: photographs of children at play, a wedding (or two), glorious leafy greens basking in the sun, dark clouds looming in the distant but approaching the farm, to name a few. Each photograph may be mundane to some but no doubt significant to the photographer. The farm was a family affair as much as it was a livelihood.

The second significance of the exhibition is the ‘stream of consciousness’ manner in which the photographs are curated and exhibited. Unlike a photographic installation, it placed photographs like objects in configurations that make the ‘gestalt’, a full view of the exhibition seems like one organism, one work, one body. The placement of photographs felt more like a stream of consciousness where stories are told in chunks and are not necessarily in chronology. As an exhibition, we are free to walk about and see the photographs in any order we want or to follow the curator or photographer’s stream of consciousness. The display lets the audience have a sense of the main subject matter (the farm and the family) but enables the audience to encounter each photograph and let each picture or cluster of photos whisper their stories.

Photographs can tell us stories if we let them. To do so means stopping, seeing, and trying to make sense of what is happening in a photograph. If staring at a picture is uncomfortable because we are used to scrolling rapidly through social media content, asking these questions might help us slow down:

  • What do we see?
  • What does it remind us of?
  • What did the photographer think when the photo was taken?
  • What else might the photograph be saying?

[Repeat at the next photograph.]

Not all photographs tell the same thing or mean the same thing to different viewers. Pictures without captions risk omitting a point of reference for viewers, and readers may need to construct meaningful interpretations. But I think it works to this exhibition’s advantage, adding to interpretation of larger themes like life, destruction and loss. Omitting captions also allows viewers to bring their own associative, random thoughts from their subconscious to the foreground. Which makes the viewing experience more personal.

The exhibition included two videos tucked at the end of the Chapel gallery. One, ‘Roots’, a hypnotic dance interpretive piece that “explores themes of life, destruction and loss within the farm”, and Two, ‘Artist’s Reflection’, on an interview-style reflection of this personal project and her thoughts of putting the exhibition material together. Both videos are worth catching, though my personal recommendation is to watch them apart — watch one video first, take a second look at the exhibits, and then watch the second video. Watching the two videos in the same sitting/standing might create a visual discomfort, because the styles of the two videos are very different (If I were to hazard a comparison, it felt like listening to experimental music and an acoustic guitar song track on Spotify).

The exhibition also prompted me to rethink my perception of farming in Singapore. I am now more grateful for the vegetables I see and buy at the market or supermarket. Each pluck of hydroponics vegetable was planted and care for by hand. As this exhibition was held near Singapore’s national day, it also aroused my curiosity and concern for Singapore’s Green plan 2030, where Singapore aims to produce 30% of its nutritional needs by 2030. What kind of vegetable farming methods are commercially viable, and scalable in land-scarce Singapore? How can consumers support family-run farms? How do we get from farm to table in more efficient ways and generate less waste in the process?

[Read about Singapore’s ’30 by 30′ plan here.]

[I forgot to mention that Basil Seed Paper exhibition postcard was a nice touch. Do remember to take one postcard if you have green fingers, or know someone that does.]

We Were Farmers (2021) By Ore Huiying
Curated by Zhuang Wubin

Chapel Gallery, Objectifs
29 Jul to 29 Aug 2021
Free admission