Home - T Singapore

T Suggests: Singaporean Cuisine as Art, DIY Portable Bikes and an Exhibition of Couture-Inspired Cartoons

By T: The New York Times Style Magazine Singapore

Experimenting with signature Singaporean flavours — including Maggi mee, rojak, otah — “Advanced Dining” is a collaborative food-meets-art project between Telok Ayer Arts Club and local art collective The Picnic.
 
Telok Ayer Arts Club
Experimenting with signature Singaporean flavours — including Maggi mee, rojak, otah — “Advanced Dining” is a collaborative food-meets-art project between Telok Ayer Arts Club and local art collective The Picnic.

Singapore’s Local Cuisine Made into an Art Performance

When we eat, our initial thoughts usually revolve around how appetising the food is. What we don’t necessarily give second thoughts about is how our behaviour and environment affects our typical experience with food. 

Among the many facets of design, food service design — the design of the overall eating situation, where the designer considers the setting, aesthetic cues, and structure of events during a dining experience — is an experiential art form that hasn’t been as widely discussed as its various counterparts. Often, it’s meant to bring new perspectives to what we already have, altering our eating behaviour into a more conscious one. 

Scheduled in tandem with Singapore Food Festival 2019 this July, Telok Ayer Arts Club and art collective The Picnic, made up of Aiwei Foo and Wangxian Tan, have collaborated to hold food-meets-art sessions, titled “Advanced Dining”. Blurring the lines between art and life, “Advanced Dining” is both a culinary experience and an art performance that seeks to subvert food norms as well as dining standards through a reimagining of Singapore’s local cuisine. 

“Advanced Dining” is to be a simultaneous experience of communal and solitary dining, where white curtains with cutouts are draped over a U-shaped dining table limited to just 15 diners to enshroud themselves in. Effectively detached from any external distractions, the patrons are confined in a “sensorial dining chamber”, where they’ll be served a seven-course menu of local flavour combinations — of which will include the likes of Maggi mee, rojak, otah and satay — presented in unrecognisable forms.

This collaborative project probes the contrast between familiar Singaporean flavours and the unconventionality of crafting the courses, compelling diners to question the certain styles, mannerisms, and environments we’ve taken to eating our food. An art form in its own right, “Advanced Dining” reexamines how we experience local cuisine, and possibly in the process, break some old habits. — Chen Yi An

Telok Ayer Arts Club’s Advanced Dining sessions will be held on 13, 20 and 27 July, at 1pm and 5pm.

Fold-Up Bicycles as a Proposal for the Betterment of Urban Life

Tung PhamAt the newly opened Bromptons Junction flagship at Funan mall, William Butler-Adams, CEO of Bromptons Bicycle, and its folding bike.
At the newly opened Bromptons Junction flagship at Funan mall, William Butler-Adams, CEO of Bromptons Bicycle, and its folding bike.

When William Butler-Adams arrived at Changi Airport after his flight from London last week, the first thing the 45-year-old CEO did was the same routine he would do in any city he travelled to. He whipped out his folded Brompton bike off his trolley, unfolded it, clipped his luggage on and pushed the bike out the exit door into the humid equatorial Singapore air. And off he went, nonchalantly pedalling down Airport Boulevard in his long-sleeved shirt and trousers.

Halfway through the highway, a car sidled up to him. Its driver rolled down the window, yelling, “What the hell are you doing? You can’t cycle here. They’ll put you in jail!” 

Butler-Adams, recalling the incident, chuckles, “I didn’t know this, so I came out of the highway and found a little road to the beach and continued all the way to the hotel. It was lovely.” He quickly adds, “You don’t get that in a taxi.”

The engineer-turned-CEO spearheads Brompton Bicycle, the British folding bicycle manufacturer which had its peculiar-looking design pioneered in 1975. Today, its portable bike is omnipresent in urban cities the likes of Barcelona and Brussels — “You can’t go into those cities without seeing our bike,” Butler-Adams notes — and in its native city, the Brompton bike has often been dubbed synonymous to London as much as the talismanic double-decker bus.

“The problem with the virtual world is that it’s not real. We’ve forgotten the need for simple real-life engagement,” he says. “And the bike is simple.”

The Brompton factory has hand-brazed about 600,000 bikes to date. A recent spike in demand has increased production to some 50,000 bikes in a year, of which 2,500 was bought in Singapore. A bike boom, according to Butler-Adams, is underway. The current time’s rapid rise in virtuality and environmental damage only means that a countering antithesis is on the move, if not already. In Singapore, an infrastructure plan for more segregated cycle lanes and shower-equipped office buildings have been placed. As cities become increasingly congested with pollution and population, citizens’ choice of transport, naturally, plays a vital role.

“People should be the number one priority of cities, but right now, we’re making more space for cars,” Butler-Adams posits. “And folding bikes can help make space.”

Weighing at around 9 to 12 kilos, a sweet spot between strength and portability, the fold-up Brompton bike is designed to last long. A customisable one, built with parts selected for certain needs, is an option. “I think the bicycle represents freedom and simplicity,” says Butler-Adams. “It’s so small you can chuck it in a Grab or bring it in the MRT. And that’s what we’re interested in doing: make something useful and bring a bit of fun and happiness along with it.” — Bianca Husodo

The first Brompton Junction flagship store is now open at the newly renovated Funan Mall, 107 North Bridge Road.

In Paris, an Exhibition of an Unlikely Pairing: Comics and Couture

Musée Yves Saint Laurent ParisOriginal comic sketches by Yves Saint Laurent,introducing Lulu, the star villain of his comic book.
Original comic sketches by Yves Saint Laurent,introducing Lulu, the star villain of his comic book.

The relationship between two contrasting art forms, cartoon and couture, laid its foundation in 1956, when Yves Saint Laurent created “La Vilaine Lulu” — a comic strip depicting a malicious little girl who flouts convention. It was a humorous yet scathing deed by the couturier in that era. But when his pencil sketches did take the stage in print and were republished three times, Saint Laurent became the precursor of art in fashion while his character “devil Lulu” is now a cornerstone for the first major exhibition, exploring the relationship between comic and clothing.

The exhibition, called “Mode et Bande Dessinée”, which translates to “Fashion and Comic Books”, opens from now until 5 January 2020 at the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image in Angoulême, France. Just as the Fall/Winter ’19 couture season begins this week in Paris, this exhibition acts as a timely reminder that despite being viewed as elitist, luxury fashion has a way of connecting commercially in unexpected artistic ways — and vice versa. 

Like the fashion exhibits at Comic-Con International or the annual Met Gala, where fashion showcases pop culture references and are still spoken in the same breath as “real” fashion, Thierry Groensteen, the exhibition’s curator sets out to make a statement through the original imagination of Yves Saint Laurent. From the study of pen strokes by fashion designers to BD (“bay-day”, a French nickname for comic books) homage on the catwalk, the six-part exhibition is aptly situated in Angouleme — France's capital of comic books. 

“In a world saturated with images and graphics, comic books open the human imagination and an interpretation of society that allows for satire, humour and poetry,” said Pierre Lungheretti, director of The Cite, “also some great clothes”. — Lynette Kee

The “Mode et Bande Dessinée” exhibition runs until 5 January 2020 at the Cité Internationale de la Bande Dessinée et de l'Image, Angoulême, France.