人山人海 People Mountain People Sea, 2013
Montage, archival pigment print
33 x 50 cm
I have always been an avid fan of cartoon. I remember growing up reading the serialized Hong Kong cartoon featuring the Old Master Q 老夫子, created by Alfonso Wong in the 1960s – 1980s. In his cartoon strips, 老夫子 and his friends are portrayed in various situations but more often than not, end up in less than desirable outcomes.
One scenario in particular has inspired me to create this series of work. 老夫子 fails to board a public bus due to the over whelming and rushing crowd. He turns up the next day in armor but fails again, falling flat on his bottom. While laughing at his misfortunes, it struck me of my personal struggle with similar issues and others that have generated unprecedented attention in Singapore today. Disturbingly, societal problems and the everyday depicted in 老夫子’s strips are still relevant, which explains its prominence and popularity across the region.
Titled 人山人海 People Mountain People Sea, this series of work pays tribute to the cartoon and draws direct references from local issues and everyday scenarios. It aims to make a witty commentary through the experimental use of photography and cartoon. Directly translated from the Chinese idiom, 人山人海, People Mountain People Sea, literally means a “huge crowd of people”.
In the context of Singapore, this translation not only points to the influx of foreigners that make up the ‘crowd’, but also the man made environment that make up the ‘mountain’ and ‘sea’. All which results in Singapore’s success in marketing itself to the wider global audience and becoming an international theme park at the same time.
While the rough super imposition of 老夫子’s tear-out on my photographs draws a disparate timeline, the awkward harmony exposes many of the situations’ contradictions. By injecting humor, the resulting images not only aim to draw viewers’ laughter but also present subjects of satire that are highly thought provoking.