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Compositing Negatives

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the course of human history and life as we know it, and young people in Singapore are no exception to this phenomenon. In the past year and a half, countless lives have been disrupted - important milestones such as graduation ceremonies have been cancelled, and young people (us included) have found themselves isolated from one another. We have had to adapt to online learning, with limited in-person learning resources and close to no interaction in large group settings. These limitations, while put in place to protect our physical health, have also had an undeniable impact on our mental health.

 

Although the pandemic has had devastating effects on our mental wellbeing, we also believe that as artists, we have a social responsibility to make do and do good with the circumstances we have been presented with. Our medium of choice is using alternative forms of ‘printing’ and presenting photos; such as cyanotype and analogue photography. We believe that this is an opportunity to start a conversation about what it is like to mirror the slow, intentional, patient process of shooting on analogue film and creating cyanotype prints as compared to digital images.

 

We aim to conduct workshops and start conversations about alternative forms of creating prints with a group of youth participants. We hope to be able to document this process and allow the youth participants to also process their thoughts and feelings through these participatory, unfamiliar art practices. We hope to shed light upon the emotion that comes with shooting on film - the waiting, the excitement of the unknown, everything from the disappointment of not getting the right shot to the ecstatic buzz when the final image is completed well.

 

This is also integrated with cyanotype, a different type of alternative printing, as it is a highly flexible medium with a large range of results and possibilities for manipulation. There are various factors that go into this - the weather, the opacity of objects used, and the versatility of the medium. Allowing these factors to become a partner in the process of creating these ‘blueprints’ is a metaphor for letting go. Given the historical relationship between architecture and technicality with nature and the wilderness through the medium of cyanotype, we aim to highlight the importance of working around circumstances and using unexpected occurrences/factors as a part of creating art.

 

At the end of the residency, we hope to be able to present an exhibition/ installation alongside the participants to highlight the importance of slowing down and performing introspection with new lenses during these troubling times.


 

Title

‘Compositing Negatives’

This name is derived from the photography terms - composition and negatives.

‘Composition’ refers to the purposeful arrangement and layout of a photo.

‘Negatives’ has a dual meaning - the word is used to refer to the ‘negative’ connotations that life might offer, but also refers to film negatives - a reversal of tones in an image. This duality is special because a film negative is then processed so that the darker tones are made lighter, and lighter tones made darker. We believe this art practice acts as part of a larger metaphor as a response to current events - thus the name Compositing Negatives.


 

Our intention is to use analogue photography as a platform for young people to process the events of this pandemic (both metaphorically and literally), and provide new opportunities for participants to document their experiences in the hopes of shared solidarity. Although the smartphone has largely replaced the need for a dedicated camera, analogue photography is still a unique medium that an increasing amount of youths are picking up as a hobby -  and we intend to leverage upon this enthusiasm to delve deeper into this art practice.

 

This also presents an interesting metaphor - with the pandemic, there has been an unending sense of uncertainty and lack of control with ever-changing restrictions, social-distancing guidelines and a ban on leisure travel. This is similar to the development of analogue film and cyanotype; the final shot is often a mystery throughout the whole development process until the final shot is obtained. Developing one’s own image through alternative forms of printing is a poignant way of taking ownership over one’s craft, as this allows the photographer to become more involved and aware of how their creative choices translate into photographs.

 

We hope that this personal approach to this practice acts as a grounding exercise for participants to lean into the good and regain some form of control.


 

Asking people to be involved and express themselves through this new form of art would act as a form of catharsis, to hold onto the good within troubling times. We also hope through the conversations and symbolic metaphors laced throughout the workshops and collaborative efforts of the residency, this will add symbolic value to the lives of the participants, as well as the visitors to the final residency.

 

The practice of analogue photography and cyanotype is an exercise in painting with light. It is our hope that the youth participants would develop a sense of cathartic release through these interactions, leading to an increase in emotional resilience. Thus, we intend to use this open call and residency programme as a way to encourage young people to slow down and reexamine the process of creating art - using mediums they might not necessarily be familiar with.