The ResidentsBuen Calubayan
Charmaine KohHung DuongIda Roscher / Jayson C. Jimenez
Miljohn Ruperto / Stanya Kahn
Buen Calubayan (Philippines)The research of Calubayan investigates the mechanisms of world-making and the techniques of perception which involves the practice of looking into and experimenting on ways of seeing "the world", both analogue and digital. By referencing classical landscape paintings, Calubayan takes on diagrammatic approaches in reading 19th-century colonial paintings from the Philippines and Singapore to plot coordinates of what was becoming a bigger picture of specific regional contexts. Calubayan's understanding of how our senses work is informed by an anthroposophical approach to autoethnography, Steiner pedagogy, and indigenous knowledge. For Calubayan, adopting an approach that considers these methodologies allows for a more heterogenic, spiritual, and holistic view of how all human senses can be activated to involve the body as being one with the world.
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Charmaine Koh (Singapore)Koh's practice explores her relationship with the nameless spaces of nature and how they are involuntarily subject to the virtual worlds of digital media, colonial legacies, and learned ideals and aesthetics. Over the course of the residency, Koh broadened her personal standpoint to examine the historical and cultural frameworks and online social media trends that inform how nature is imagined in different Southeast Asian contexts. For Koh, the garden is perceived as an idealised social construct: in the form of the colonial garden, and the garden in miniature, in the case of the humble potted plant. Koh's secondary area of interest explores the meaning of the garden in the context of contemporary high-rise urban living and how this is imaged in online digital cultures.
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Hung Duong (Vietnam)Propelling from a literary interest to translate José Rizal's novels, Duong's research has expanded to examine modernity in Southeast Asia through analysing depictions of landscape in both 19th- and 20th-century literature and arts. Utilising theories from the two fields to project landscape as an interactive space for different imaginations of modernism, Duong is particularly interested in both natural and human-made landscape sites where a hybrid mode of "worlding" is molded through continuous frictions and compromises between entangled modernities.
Presently, Duong is investigating the landscape of "home" in literature and arts, particularly the criteria that we attach to "home" as a manifestation of different forms of experiencing space. His research is two-fold between the translation of modern Southeast Asian fictions and creating cartographies that combine situated readings of Rizal's excerpts, and technologies of mapping including the collection of data.
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Ida Roscher (Germany)Jiminez and Roscher's artistic collaboration is born out of the Acts of Life Critical Research Residency. Combining their respective interests in risk models and urban futures, and oscillating between a fascination with attitudes of resistance and resilience, they borrow from the theoretical metaphor of the black swan to describe the different modes of governance in the two cities, Singapore and Manila. Both go on to develop their own semiotic terminology of urban risk attitudes: while they characterise Singapore's resilient (to the point of obsessive) mode of governance as an example of the black swan model, they use the term "black elephant" as a juxtaposed description for Manila, that in their minds reflects a resistant model of governance, in which predictable systemic risks go unheeded by goernment agencies, resulting in negative-impact scenarios. Extrapolating from the black swan and the black elephant, Jimenez and Roscher propose a third symbol, the "white butterfly," as representative of the potential for mobile shifts of agency within subjectivities facing threats of complex collapse. In the two cities, they identify two subcultural groups as "white butterflies:" hip-hop dancers who occupy the public space of a busy subway station in Singapore as an informal training ground, which to them convey an artistic usage of public space telling of the dancers' capacity for resistance within a highly structured Singaporean governmentality, and skateboarders in Manila, who use the activity as a form of escape from various forms of conflict - psychological, economic, or social. These modes of expression indicate the development of a resilient collectivity amidst the harshness of Manila's urban landscape.
Jayson C. Jimenez (Philippines)
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Jennifer Katanyoutanant (Thailand)Katanyoutanant's research centres on the impact of YouTube's deep learning algorithm on the environment. With a focus on mukbang, a South Korean trend that shows hosts eating large amounts of food, Katanyoutanant highlights the effect of seafood mukbangs on the fishing ecosystem in Southeast Asia. Based on research showing that more than half of Southeast Asian users water over 10 hours of YouTube every week, Katanyoutanant posits YouTube as an effective tool for cultural imperialism while simpultaneously investigating the architecture that promotes these trends and uncovering the material impact of the Internet. Alongside an overall goal to explore the connections between individual action and global, social, economic, and encironmental issues, and to show the ways in which they are mediated through tech/media platforms such as YouTube, Katanyoutanant's research also takes on a speculative edge in its artistic manifestation: enacting the mukbang format of presentation, her work imagines and juxtaposes an alternative menu of plant-based foods that Singaporean and Filipino society will turn to should the Southeast Asian fishing ecosystem collapse.
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Michaela Büsse (Germany)Against a backdrop of human exceptionalism, Büsse's practice is driven by an increasingly urgent need for distributed and collective design processes that transcend and challenge anthropocentrism. Her research on sand is informed by speculative and experimental design practices, alien phenomenology, new materialism, and philosophies of technology and ecology. Tracing sand as a matter that unfolds in multiple forms: in circuits, technological devices, housing and land; in (re)formations by nature, humans, machine; as an actant affecting the environment on multiple levels. During the residency, Büsse tracked these entanglements through sand mines in the Philippines and semiconductor manufacturing sites in Singapore. She postulates sand as an "interscalar vehicle" - a medium subject to myriad transformation processes ranging from microtechnology to nation-building, ecological rifts to geopolitical tensions.
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Miljohn Ruperto (Philippines)The research interests of Kahn and Ruperto revolve around two nodes: the rash of spirit possessions in factory workers in late 1970s Malaysia and Singapore, and the listlessness of teenage workers minding their family stores/booths in Manila. Against the backdrop of the aspirations behind the establishment of special economic zones (SEZ), Kahn and Ruperto present these two points within the spectrum of labour resistance. These traced resistances stem from ruptures between different registers (social, economic, or supernatural); where corporate spirit, spirit possessions, freestyle (the spirit that moves you), and teen spirit swirl together in a dizzying whirlwind of reactionary strategies.
Stanya Kahn (United States)
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Nuriye Tohermes (Germany)Inspired by Donna Haraway's influential text Companion Species (2003), Tohermes' research seeks to understand the highly subjective relationships produced by the human domination of nature in the familiar urban context of domestic pets. Adopting a humourous edge, Tohermes approached random dog-walkers in Manila and Singapore with the deceptively simple question "Do you consider your pet to be nature?" The banal question sparked off a series of conversations exploring what the concept of nature meant to a range of protagonists from various walks of life. Prioritising interpersonal intimacy over a detached research methodology, Tohermes works in a unique and reflexive artistic node to explore her interests in social architecture and its embedded power structures. In framing herself as an object in her research, alongside her conversation partners and their pets, Tohermes works to deconstruct not only universal binary views of nature, but also that of her own.
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Phuong Phan (Vietnam)Stemming from her longstanding research in urban architecture and urban planning, Acts of Life saw Phan's investigative trajectory take a specific turn toward two architectural typologies, condominiums and shopping malls, in the cities of Manila and Singapore. Focusing on the "making" of architecture in the "garden city" Singapore through interviews with architects, urban planners, and real estate developers, Phan delves into the observation of Pacific Asia as positioned at the forefront of shaping a new architectural paradigm to ensure sustainable living in increasingly dense megacities. Phan posits that operating within the vocabulary of contemporary international architecture, this unique architectural aesthetic characterised by an omnipresence of greenery could possibly be understood as a "dialect" of contemporary architecture, retaining its regional tropical specificity. Phan places the spotlight on questions of transferability of this architectural paradigm: can this specific architectural "dialect" be considered a "Singaporean model," and in what ways does it speak to or infiltrate contemporary discourses around sustainability, the return to "nature," and geopolitical demographics? Further, is this "dialect" bound to remain a vernacular of South Pacific architecture, or is it potentially a model for a universal architectural language of a changing world?
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Roopesh Sitharan (Malaysia)Adopting a post-colonial perspective, Sitharan's research examines the relationship between technology and subject. By collating and examining post-colonial discourses from the Philippines and Singapore, Sitharan unveils his underlying suspicions of how grand narratives are closely intertwined with national history. Such national narratives acutely utilise colonial legacy for the rhetoric of "truthfulness" to justify the demarcation of geographical and political sovereignty. For Sitharan, "truth" stands as an unquestionable pillar in which narratives are politicised by a nation state to determine the terms of how a subject operates or experiences the world. He turns his lens onto the plane of media and technology, and seeks to reveal their function in abating any problamations of truth. Zeroing in on the concept of "fake", Sitharan's research imbues notions of media falsity with a subversive potential to dramatically weaponise the constructivist nature of truth through communication technology.
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Stefan Römer (Germany)Römer's research interests revolve around the transformation and dissemination of spheres of knowledge through the digitalisation of visual culture and art. Informed by French philosopher Henri Lefebvre's method of research of taking oneself as an instrument in the cultural field - epistemologically walking along the borders between nature and culture, analogue and digital, as well as rational and irrational, is one step on Römer's artistic way. His definition of intellectual interest - inter-esse - is a post-panoptical, feminist critique of the epistemology of art, leading him to question institutional structures as part of his research in the residency: What constitutes the "critical" and the "research" in this residency programme? His findings in both Manila and Singapore culminate in moving images that spotlight platform capitalism and digital futuristic life from his research in both Manila and Singapore. The aesthetic function of film for Römer takes on a political undertone, questioning issues of representation and performed negotiation.
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Tromarama (Indonesia)Observing that humans often attempt to bring simulations of nature into their urban environments, Tromoarama's research intersets stem from a fascination with similar efforts to use video technology in zoo enclosures to imitate the original habitats of animals in the wild. In order to find out if animals kept in enclosures are aware of, or even respond differently to, their faux-natural environments their research led them to conversations with a variety of practitioners - from a veterinarian in the Manila Zoo, to an academic specialist on animal behaviour from the University of the Philippines, and to the Singapore-based interspecies communicator Oribal Divine. Working from the perspective that technology serves as a translation of human desires and visions of nature, Tromarama's artistic output posits and imagines the relationship between animal and modern technology as a reflection of humankind's relationship with technology.
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