Design of the Year 2013
Being Together: Family & Portrait - Photographing With John Clang
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DESIGNER
Kingsmen Exhibits Pte Ltd
Brett Cameron
Thomas Morris
In collaboration with
Clang Photography
John Clang
CURATOR
National Museum of Singapore
Szan Tan
This is photographer John Clang’s solo exhibition at the National Museum of Singapore, from 22 January to 26 May, 2013. The installation in Exhibition Gallery 2 comprises over 90 pieces of work by Clang. At the same time, about 40 historical portraits from the museum’s permanent collection were also exhibited alongside. This exhibition explores the theme of the family – the central building block of Singapore society – by looking at Singaporeans’ sense of identity, rootedness and connection with their families both in Singapore and abroad.
 
The exhibition design team wanted to create a setting that strived to present the photographer’s intention in the most intimate form. The aim of the design is to create the space as a contemplative backdrop for the works, without using overwhelming design cues. In order to achieve this, the team favoured a minimalist approach to the construction design and materials.
 
Being Together is a series of family portraits. The works were originally photographed using projection in a darkened room. The design team decided to present the images as back-lit transparencies to mimic the
atmosphere when the work was created. Slanted walls were used to reinforce the underlying dynamic time and space distortion of the works.
 
At the core, a white cube room is constructed to contrast with the gallery space. In it, The Moment series was presented in which the context was entirely different from the diaspora condition seen in the Being Together series outside the room.
 
There are two video installations projected onto the opposite outside walls of the white cube room. To enhance the immersive viewing experience, the sound and voices from each video spills softly throughout the space, and accompany the visitors as they view the work in the gallery space.

ABOUT THE DESIGNER

Brett Cameron is creative director of Kingsmen Exhibits Pte Ltd. He has more than two decades of experience as a qualified interior, exhibition and museum designer. he has spent 14 years working in the Asian region. Brett graduated with a Masters in Design from Raffles University. He has designed and executed projects spanning the globe and in doing so has learnt to appreciate the nuances of global demands versus local expectations. Brett has led his team of designers in winning numerous awards, including the Singapore Design Awards (Sda) and the President’s design award for Design of the Year.
 
Kingsmen Exhibits is a strong multi-disciplinary Singaporean brand. The design firm handles everything from design concept through to in-house manufacturing. Brett’s team focuses  on the field of experiential design. They create environments that engage the audience through experience and emotion. The team designs the environmental experience tailored to the specific needs of an audience. There are multiple clients to consider in experiential design. Apart from the audience, there is a venue client, such as the museums; the curators; as well as the subject, such as the artist or brand. the team helps the clients to pull together an integrated approach to the communication intentions of the space, to complement the content and artefacts.
 
Being Together is one such project. It features photography works depicting the fragmentation of the modern family. The fragmentation theme is carried through to the design of the displays. It also offers the opportunity to create a sense of disorientation. The idea was to disorientate visitors with physical fragmentation of the displays, as well as the strategic use of lighting. Dark spaces with brightly lit panels capture the fragmentation in the family photographs. The photographs themselves tell a story. The display enhanced the story, while embracing the collection’s diversity.
 
According to Brett, the local market for environmental design is a small but stable. There is a need for the local business community to show greater appreciation for design and to embrace it. The business community needs to understand the benefits of engaging a designer. Fees for design services should be regarded a worthy investment that can eventually reap rewards. It takes time to train a fresh graduate before a quality designer is “profitable”. Yet across the region, poor job prospects have discouraged many design- trained students from staying in the field.
 
Brett sails and teaches rugby at The Tanglin Club. Rugby has made him understand and appreciate teamwork.   he recognises the importance of a strong team in a design firm, where designers are able to work collaboratively. He also encourages brainstorming so that fresh ideas and experience can come together. In fact, the designers in his team get in trouble if they do not challenge him. Despite the aversion for challenging authority, Brett is confident that Asian designers are gifted.
 
Brett Cameron’s advice for emerging designers:
“Designing is a lifelong journey and unlike other vocations, it often takes longer to become an established designer and to reap the financial rewards. The variables that define the qualities of a designer are diverse and often difficult to identify. However, once a designer achieves a good reputation and can confidently present his or her own personal brand to the marketplace, and that brand has an identifiable commercial significance, then there is greater success and opportunities to be enjoyed.”

JURY CITATION

This collaborative project between the artist, designers and curator, is noteworthy for the dimensional expression of the narrative through photography and space. The exhibition explores the theme of the family, the central building block of Singaporean society, by looking at Singaporeans’ sense of identity, sense of rootedness and connection to their families, despite being separated from one another in an increasingly globalized world.
 
Fragmented, slanted walls in a dark environment were used to reinforce the underlying dynamic time and space distortion demonstrated in the works. It’s about familial bonding and yearning, people and their stories. The simple, minimalist approach to design heightens and enhances the emotional and intimate part of the story, allowing the audience to contemplate their own personal history and experience.
 
In the centre core, a white cube room is constructed to contrast the diaspora conditions seen in theBeing Together series outside the room. In it, The Moment series is presented focusing on families situated in a country.

NOMINATOR CITATION

TEW SIEW HOON
PRODUCER, CLANG PHOTOGRAPHY

BEING TOGETHER: Family & Portraits – Photographing with John Clang is a solo exhibition by John Clang at the National Museum of Singapore. It examines Singaporeans’ sense of identity, rootedness and connection with their families, despite being separated from one another in an increasingly globalized world. It showcases more than 90 works by the artist, examining the new wave of diaspora which many families have to grapple with as they live and work all over the world. Clang’s inspiration was drawn from his own experience of being separated from his family while based in New York City.
 
In conceptualising the exhibition design, the photographer stayed away from the usual contemporary white cube presentation, but still keeping to a structural aesthetic. The free flowing route in a darken environment is illuminated with light transparencies on slanted walls, creating a sense of underlying dynamic of emotional tension revealed by the body of work. It allows the audience to dig deep into their own personal history and experience, and have a contemplative viewing experience. The darkened environment surrounds a centre core which present another body of work: The Moment.
 
While the majority of the work deals with the diaspora, The Moment focuses on families situated in a country, creating a balanced perspective on various family conditions. This room is startling white, as opposed to the outside space. The revealing construction of the space works well with the typological installation of the art, allowing the audience  to examine and analyse the different families, in term of their housing, social hierarchy and family structure.
 
I have been an executive producer working in the fine art and design for the last 15 years. The installation design for this exhibition is refreshing without calling unnecessary attention to itself.