SingaPlural 2015 (99 Beach Road) and Existential Authenticity

Primary by Brandon Tan? SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporePrimary by Brandon Tan?

Pleased to be in town this time for SingaPlural 2015 (99 Beach Road, facebook), part of the Singapore Design Week 2015.

Salad Dressing's "Royal Stinker". SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeSalad Dressing‘s Royal Stinker

Incandescence by Desinere x Tinge. lamps, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeIncandescence by Desinere x Tinge

In the courtyard, a playground of Heveatech wooden furniture by the Little Thoughts Group product design collective (facebook), constructed in collaboration with Samko Timber, and inspired by local places and heritage structures and a good dose of nostalgia. Ponggo by Alvin Sitoh, The Last Tiger by Andrew Loh, Icons of Sembawang by Chan Wai Lim, PlayStool by Jane Tang, Tempinis Forest by Lee Chang Tat, Open Play by Leonard Bahroocha Tan:

My Hood, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore The Last Tiger by Andrew Loh, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Chan Wai Lim's rocking animals (Icons of Sembawang). SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore You could take a lovely bike from Coast Cycles (facebook) for a spin as well… Coast Cycles, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

…while watching out for an army of giant ants! Big Feast by Joyce Loo. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Big Feast by Joyce Loo. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeBig Feast by Joyce Loo

We were slightly antsy about being ushered into the Airbnb hut by chirpy girls, thinking of the hard-sell of time-share resorts and the like. But what fun! 3D image projection of, we were assured, real Airbnb rental sites around the world!

Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Airbnb Hut, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore

A lot of the other installations were pure interactive enjoyment as well, even if many of us didn’t bother with the intended message of the exhibit (sorry!):

Dream A Little by RSP Architects, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Dream A Little by RSP Architects, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeDream A Little by RSP Architects

Heads in Cages by Josephy Louis Tan. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeHeads in Cages by Joseph Louis Tan

Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeFor someone who with mild prosopagnosia and who therefore tells people apart by their smell (not something to admit to anyone!), the potential of Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense (facebook) was beyond exciting. However, by the time we got there, most of the scents didn’t quite do their descriptors (eg. Balestier Bak Kut Teh, East Coast Chilli Crab, Paranakan [sic] Pulut Hitam, Dempsey Durian Stall, Satay By The Bay, Kampong Glam Pandan Cake, Boat Quay Tiger Beer, Vanda Miss Joaquim Orchid) justice. If only they did! I’d love to have a whole scent library!

Scent Mapping Singapore by Allsense. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeOn the other table, the commercial blends were doing very well indeed! Ion Orchard White Tea, Tangs Gingerlily, Mount Elizabeth Clover & Aloe, Capitol “X”. More stable perhaps?

Let The Papers Sing To You by Roots. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore Let The Papers Sing To You by Roots (Jonathan Yuen) and Victor Low. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeLet The Papers Sing To You by Roots (Jonathan Yuen) and Victor Low featured infrared sensors hidden within the frame of the table and recordings of fingers being pulled across papers of different textures.

You Have to Know Me to Love Me by Ezzam Rahman. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeYou Have to Know Me to Love Me by Ezzam Rahman

The Marriage by Miun x Lamitak. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore The Marriage by Miun x Lamitak. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, Singapore The Marriage by Miun x Lamitak. SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Road, SingaporeThe Marriage by Miun (facebook) x Lamitak. Amazingly imagined plants and flowers made from laminates.

Many of the white-box explanations next to each exhibit contained phrases like “offers an open conversation”, “this is an exploration”,  “…is a subjective affair” or asked whimsical questions of inanimate objects.

Was this the result of innate emptiness? Was this avoidance of any moral or philosophical stance a symptom of the hegemonic tyranny of existentialist thinking? asked someone.

(Then there was pointing out that this was a “design” event, and then there was pointing out by way of response that the line between “design” and “art” had been crossed when those exhibition blurbs were written, and then there were further attempts to define differences between “design” and “art”.)

But even existentialists are quite adamant about what constitutes their angsty equivalent of The Good Life. On the way home today, N and I discussed existential authenticity. Not persuaded by any of these – they seem a desperate struggle for meaning and a reason why they shouldn’t just kill themselves. But for what it’s worth, briefly:

Søren Kierkegaard problem: the media and the church, mass culture, creates the loss of significance of the individual. Society no longer forms its own opinions but relies on opinions constructed by the media. Religion too has become a tradition that passively accepted by individuals, without authentic thought.

solution: face reality, form one’s own opinions about existence, make an active choice to surrender to something that goes beyond comprehension, a leap of faith into the religious.

Friedrich Nietzsche problem: lack of questioning by the individual, herding animal morality, Christian morality = slave morality

solution: transcend limits of conventional morality to overcome oneself, revaluation of all values, decide for oneself what is good and evil, stand alone and avoid religiously constructed principles

Martin Heidegger problem: daesin has fallen away from its authentic potentiality and fallen into the world, “they” (das man) have relieved us of the “burden” of making our own choices, we live in a critically unexamined way, levelling, averageness

solution: authenticity is not about being isolated from others, but finding a different way of relating to others such that one is not lost to the “they”

Jean-Paul Sartre problem: bad faith (self-deception) is when an individual defines himself through social categorization of his formal identity, morality is a tool of the bourgeoise to control the masses, bad faith is when being-for-itself is replaced with others’ freedom

solution: authenticity is realising that the role we are playing is a lie, good faith is living within the portrait one paints of oneself and overturning set roles

Albert Camus problem: its philosophical suicide when we accept religion to relieve us of the anxiety of not having any guarantee of justice etc, life is repetitive and we live in futility and will soon be forgotten

solution: honestly confront the Absurd, live without appeal, keep life’s questions open, gain enchantment with life

not installation art, SingaPlural 2015, 99 Beach Roadfake blurb: This work draws the viewer to consider the utter futility of existential thinkers in identifying the anxiety caused by the absence of what is essential for authentic life, yet refusing to acknowledge the only One who can provide what is necessary for this life and the life to come.

Killiney Kopitiam and Existential Pedagogy

When we lived on Grange Road, Killiney Kopitiam (67 Killiney Road, Singapore) was my breakfast haunt on Saturday mornings. It was best to go alone, or with someone who didn’t want much chat, score a seat outside, next to the road, and read the Saturday Business Times between mouthfuls of lemak curry chicken and roti prata, finished off with slices of kaya toast. A good time too for thinking.
Killiney Kopitiam, Killiney Road

Am still brooding over pedagogical methods for teaching people to read their Bibles.

Was looking today specifically at the sort of instructional design that emerges from idealism, phenomenology, and existentialism. Might have misunderstood stuff, but here goes anyway:

Idealism is an ontological concept that says that reality consists only of minds. The physical world is only an illusion, a product of minds.

Phenomenology (closely linked with Edmund Husserl) is the epistemological concept that says therefore that all we know is our subjective reality. It is meaningless to seek out an objective reality. Our perceptions and internal experience are all that matter. As Albert Camus put it:

This heart within me I can feel, and I judge that it exists. This world around me I can feel, and I likewise judge that it exists. There ends all my knowledge, and the rest is construction.

Existentialism (Martin Heidegger, Jean-Paul Sartre et al) then says, in light of the above, that since there are no truths about human nature, the individual is free to make his/her life in whatever way he/she wants.

In this worldview, inauthenticity is the biggest crime one can commit. Inauthenticity is when the individual allows him/herself to be defined by social categorisation, by conforming to the pressure to be a certain sort of person, or to adopt a particular manner of living, or to ignore their own moral or aesthetic judgements. Inauthenticity is being a “moral person” because by doing so, one subjects oneself to traditional external ethics.

Authenticity then is to be true to one’s own personality, spirit, character, despite external pressures.

Killiney Kopitiam, Killiney RoadThe aim of education within an existential worldview would be to allow students to learn that the world is absurd and without intrinsic meaning, and their lives are limited and temporal. They must then learn to be authentic by unilaterally creating and re-creating their lives through their own free will.

Of the educational curriculum, James Magrini in Existentialism, Phenomenology, and Education calls us to recognise and seek:

to overcome the injustice of a curriculum that embraces and privileges certain modes of knowing about others, such as an epistemological model favouring analytic-logical-empirical clusters of knowledge over more intangible forms of knowledge, those associated with the arts, which include the intuitive-perceptual model of knowledge…
Curriculum making conceived existentially, as opposed to following a product-process model (Tyler, 1949), which in great part determines the trajectory of the education in advance of actual student learning, would attempt to adopt a process-product line of curriculum development (“curriculum-envisioning”). This would allow for the curriculum to develop and evolve autonomously as the learning unfolds. In this “existentially” conceived curriculum, benchmarks are merely temporary, transitory, and malleable, they develop along with the learning process.

Instructional design then, is along the lines of the constructivist model I looked at previously. Magrini again:

The method of pedagogy must allow for the student’s development of her own unique possibilities, which is why the existentialists would reject a standardized curriculum and an authoritarian model for teaching. An “existential” curriculum would include a diverse content as well as an array of varied pedagogical methods, which would, importantly, include ample opportunities for peer-initiated and peer-directed learning.

Educators should plan lessons that embrace and incorporate aspects of the student’s emotional and intellectual autobiography (Grumet, 1992). However, it is not only the aspects of one’s unique life-story that matter, it is also important that students understand the major role that “history” and “heritage”play in shaping who we become-history’s authentic role not only forges our past but as well contributes to the future enactment of our possibilities that we gather from our“heritage”

The instructional methods employed should not be resemble the out-dated authoritarian model,where the teacher is the “superior” possessor of knowledge and the student the “inferior,” empty vessel waiting to be filled (Freire, 1970). This is model for pedagogy views knowledge at an objective remove from the student, and demonstrates no concern for the place of the existential “lived world” in the curriculum as shared by both teacher and student. Knowledge, according to the existentialists does not reside at a remove from our “lived world”  and in addition is constructive. Thus pedagogical techniques should stress the co-creative, co-responsive, and co-participatory aspects of education. This is not to indicate that the teacher allows the student to dictate each and every aspect of her education, for teachers need to be in command of the subject matter in order to first tailor it to fit the students needs. In relation to this issue, Heidegger (1952) famously stated that the most difficult task for educators was to learn how to let students learn

kaya toast, Killiney Kopitiam, Killiney Road
One’s first instinctive criticism of this worldview would be that there is no evidence or basis for these theories. But of course, that would be refuted by the presuppositions of this worldview – that there is nothing objective that can be quantified or measured.

And the Christian would object that it is God who defines right and wrong and morality, and reality, and the meaning of life, and the certainty of the future. At which, the existentialist would blow a giant raspberry and point to the self-referential pre-suppositions of existentialism.

But hardly any existentialist is a true solipsist of the Eastern mysticism persuasion, I’d think, so while I’m not too bothered with the validity of the worldview itself, its practical application suiting the convenience and what seems to be the natural self-centredness and selfishness is saddening.

However, might some of the pedagogical designs that emerged from this worldview be useful for a worldview that sees ample evidence for divine revelation?