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T Suggests: A Singaporean Art Duo’s Virtual Exhibition, Noise-Blocking Headphones and an Extra Large Watch

By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

Showcased through a virtual exhibition, “Paint me like one of your cam girls” (2020) is a collaboration between photographer Reuben Foong and actress Victoria Loke.
 
Reuben Foong
Showcased through a virtual exhibition, “Paint me like one of your cam girls” (2020) is a collaboration between photographer Reuben Foong and actress Victoria Loke.

A Singaporean Art Duo’s Inquisitive Virtual Shoot That Wants to Give Voice to the Muse

Scrolling vertically through Studio 666’s newly launched microsite is to enter the amorphous digital diary of 18 quarantined artists from around the globe. Studio 666, a creative collective based in Spain’s Palma de Mallorca, created the virtual space as a new kind of gallery. The curators write that while the “irredeemably digital” artworks — the mediums mentioned in the blurbs vary from “.mov” to “.mp3” — gathered for the exhibition weren’t necessarily about the current circumstances, they are, however, “derived from the artists’ feelings and ideas about space and the boundaries that global isolation has set up.”

Somewhere after pixels of ants begin to crawl on your screen and between the gush of photographs and collages that come accompanied with tunes and poems is Singaporean photographer Reuben Foong and actress Victoria Loke’s “Paint me like one of your cam girls”.

At first glance, the visuals might seem all too familiar. The nine images, arranged into a symmetrical assemblage, are not unlike what you would probably have seen on your Instagram feed if you follow certain photographers: portraits of conventionally attractive inamoratas, shot through platforms like Zoom and FaceTime. In the face of social distancing measures, photographers have mass-resorted to videotelephony applications for virtual shoots. i-D magazine had Willy Vanderperre shoot models like Gigi Hadid and Adut Akech over FaceTime. At home, Bella Hadid modelled for Vogue Italia and Jacquemus, posing according to the directions of the respective photographers through the video calls. Screenshots are taken and slapped onto the glossy pages and Instagram grids.

Similarly, Foong’s photographs are of Loke, posing against a white wall, wrapped in a silky slip dress. The unfocused blur that masks each photo tells you that the camera wasn’t directly pointed at Loke. Foong’s lens was instead documenting his own computer screen at home, where a Skype video tab with an ongoing call with Loke replaced the need for a physical studio.

In the hierarchy of a typical on-set shoot, Foong says, a director or a producer almost always head the entire project and are the sole creative soul of the production. But the new wave of photographers embracing the extra dimension of laptop and phone screens have given their subjects more creative control; it’s an unwitting shift of power dynamics.

“As the person being photographed, I don’t normally get to see what’s in the lens,” says Loke, who stars in 2018’s Crazy Rich Asians blockbuster as the wife of a derisive billionaire. “But this time I could, because I could see myself on the screen. This project is about the power and artistic agency of the muse and how, essentially, when an artist and a muse work together, it’s two artists coming together.”

To Foong and Loke, their project is a liberation of the so-called muse. They want her voice to be heard. And quite literally, in their dedicated domain on the online exhibition, you do get to hear Loke. “To be called a muse can be quite a fickle thing,” a girlish voice echoes as soon as the images appear, “its glassy libidinous glow flickers with a faint hatred.” She later asks, “For isn’t the work of the muse essentially the work of an artist?”

The obvious difference between this virtual shoot, Foong notes, and those you’d see on recent magazine spreads and brand campaigns is the latter’s commercial-driven goals and entrenchment to the existing traditional structures. “Say, with Bella Hadid’s shoot with Jacquemus, it’s still the male gaze on the female muse. You send an X amount of product to Bella to model the product, but because there’s branding involved, certain amount of directions would have been given and Bella wouldn’t really have that much creative say. With Victoria, she had almost full control, from planning the shoot to post-production,” says Foong. “It was very much a collaborative effort than anything else.” — Bianca Husodo

“Paint me like one of your cam girls” by is part of Studio 666’s online exhibition. Visit the exhibition here.

Noise-Blocking Headphones to Boost Productivity at Home

Tung Pham. Styled by Michelle KokThe new Montblanc MB 01 headphones.
The new Montblanc MB 01 headphones.

Building on the idea of luxury business lifestyle, the German house of Montblanc is expanding its tech arm with a pair of smart headphones. Designed with comfort and functionality in mind, the wireless MB 01 headphones are foldable and compact, while being uncompromising in design. It’s available in three colours — black, brown and light grey — and finished with metal joints and the iconic rounded star logo for a signature Montblanc flair. Techies will be pleased to know that the ergonomic design comes enhanced with specs that are more than appropriate for present-day standards. From active noise cancellation to Google Assistant-enabled functions and USB-C charging, the headphones are optimised for productivity, so the saved time can be used to focus on balancing work with leisure, all while enjoying the finer things in life. — Terence Poh

Montblanc’s MB 01 smart travel over-ear headphones, S$925.

An Extra-Large Square Timepiece

Courtesy of CartierThe Cartier Santos-Dumont Extra Large model offers three colours (steel, pink gold, pink gold and steel) with complementing alligator leather straps.
The Cartier Santos-Dumont Extra Large model offers three colours (steel, pink gold, pink gold and steel) with complementing alligator leather straps.

Easily one of the most iconic watches at Cartier is the Cartier Santos-Dumont, a timepiece that was named after Brazilian aviator Alberto Santos-Dumont. Commissioned by Louis Cartier after an innocent exchange with Santos- Dumont, the watch was created to be the first-ever pilot wristwatch in an era when pocket watches reigned, so that Santos-Dumont could tell time with ease while flying. Throughout the century after its creation, Cartier continued to release a full range of Santos-Dumont watches, through which you can witness its signatures like its contoured square silhouette, satin-finished dial and the beaded winding crown migrating between sizes. The brand’s latest Santos-Dumont XL watch has enlarged proportions to house its signature 430 MC calibre for those who appreciate the nobility behind a manual winding watch. On the wrist, the watch sits taut and generous for better readability — a nod to its preliminary objective, while the caseback is engraved with initials “S” and “D”, as a reference to the man who inspired it all. — Lynette Kee

Cartier’s Santos-Dumont XL Model watch, price starts from S$8,100.