Category Archives: Singapore

Uber Return Trip

The squawking stopped when the door opened. The biggest crow stared with its mouth open, then hopped in. It saw a grain of rice on the floor; it ate it. Two males walked closer, then flapped their wings to get inside.

Seven loud crows are now in the car. There are no more grains of rice. The door closes. The car’s voice sounds like a smiling British actress, "Good morning! Where shall we go today?” Beaks become fast yellow scissors, cutting the air into shrill shreds of anger, hunger and fear. The car drives off.

At the border, the scanners, scales and sensors work perfectly: the car is determined to be empty. The car heads towards Kallang.

Fortississimo: Caw! Caw! Caw!

The crows' fury, the driver's perfection: Singapore.

The word “Singapore” in three poems

The Pompeii of Allegan County

Five black and white aerial photographs.

The first from before the dune buggy business;

a landscape of sand and tires being the fifth.

Your trees were eaten by a big shouldered city

and you choked on sand.

Now there's a panel discussion about your warm shoulders

and a frozen steamer shipwreck buys you meals.

“Show me the lions!“ you spill,

leaning on a dark afternoon of

Pistons and Cubs in a Main Street bar.

“TripAdvisor is poetry, but soullessly so.”

I disagree.

“Like this: killer crazybumpy dune buggy rides!”

We honk at cows, castles of Amway, and baby food mansions.

A cedar waxwing, whistling and sighing. Black River Street.

Cakes Alive.

Truck stop: Amish beards and dresses, Saugatuck couples and “visiting whatevers”.

At the Singapore Yacht Club: oranges and a selfie with clouds.

A bell made from a circular saw; buried in sand.

Loud and clear.

That kiss, in a ghost town of boats.

Loud and clear.

....................................

Dreaming Around

The pink room dream

The dream of a canoe

The family after-dinner badminton by the lake dream

Dreaming on Greyhound

Super 8 dream

Those save the robots dreams

Sakura dreams

My dream love

A dream of giving birth

The Singaporean dream

Goodbye dream, goodbye

I have a dream of reunions and forgiveness

The pink room dream

.......................................

Doug

Julie says 35 people are there,

there because they love you.

I would hide too.

You’ve got a divine chariot to catch

and those 35 whispering sleepwalkers

just want to touch you

one last time.

Doug: breathe...

That's a heavy thought,

easy to say as I watch the sky in Singapore.

But breathe again, Doug... please.

Now I remember: the King Cole Pizza place.

You're sitting there;

Lewis and Alexis.

Summer, Friday night.

They're boxing it up;

We’re smelling that pizza.

We’re 18 and we like it. Love it.18,18...

Hair’s lookin’ good.

Blue denim jacket,

the rock and roll Falcon’s outside.

You’re cool as Van Halen

Man, that pizza smells good...

red dot SAD (Stories, Art, Digitalia 2002-2017)

red dot SAD is a collection of stories, essays and images created during Stephen Black's fifteen years in Southeast Asia, mainly in Singapore. An American who has also lived in Tokyo, Manhattan, Hong Kong and Paris, the book documents a creative life that knows no boundaries.

Topics include virtual reality, performance art, network television, food, music, photography, and art projects of all kinds. Physical locations range from an abandoned "haunted" hotel to facilities stacked with IT machinery, from wet markets and beaches to construction sites, the Singapore Biennale, and government built housing complexes. For those interested in Singapore and anyone who enjoys visual arts and well-researched, dynamic writing.

red dot SAD is also an experiment. Presently the book is about 150 pages. Eventually the book will be printed on paper. Those who buy the earlier editions of the ebook receive the updated versions free of charge. For more information on how red dot SAD is re-inventing Amazon and crowdfunding, click here.

To see the current list of topics, click here.

red dot SAD on Amazon

Reviews of i ate tiong bahru, Black's bestselling book are here.

Interviews with Stephen Black and descriptions of his other books are here.

minimal book covers

red dot SAD (Stories Art, Digitalia 2002-2017) book by Stephen Black

Hummingbird vs. Helicopter

The following is inspired by a piece by Gerald Leow on display as part of his solo exhibition at Chan+Hampe Contemporary until June 25.

On a material level, Manifold is simple: a dynamic, radiating metal sculpture made of copies of the same jagged line. These lines are like flattened appendages of a predatory insect, or sentences written in a spiky font. The pieces are colored asymmetrically; seven tones shifting between purple and orange. Manifold is bold, yet delicate-- an opening and a threat. Leow has been quoted as saying that he wanted to create works which are poetically violent. He has succeeded. Manifold is a beautiful but deadly tropical flower, 76 x 76 x 17cm.

The “edginess” of the sculpture is literal; the aggressive shapes on the edges of the lines form negative spaces which complete the piece. These edges are appropriated from the font and logo used by Judas Priest, a heavy metal band. Leow, who studied sociology, has a body of work based on the logo and the conceptual possibilities of heavy metal subculture. With Manifold, however, the link to heavy metal is not obvious, thankfully. Appropriation can be a one-trick pony; what is insightful and magical initially can later become an unrewarding burden for both artist and audience.

The exhibition’s title adds another dimension. I am Time Grown Old to Destroy the World refers to a comment Robert Oppenheimer made in 1945, when he witnessed the detonation of his brainchild, the first atomic bomb. The phrase is from the Mahabharata, specifically the Bhagavad Gita. A passage of 700 verses, the Gita documents the exchange between Prince Arujuna and Lord Krishna as they discuss war, duty and moral confusion.

contemporary sculpture in Singapore

Manifold from Leow's exhibition at Chan+Hori Contemporary Gallery in Singapore

Southeast Asian artwork made of mild steel, automotive paint and western pop culture. It is real.  It has universal significance. Manifold is an artwork worthy of its most serious sources of inspiration: the Mahabharata and the atomic bomb.

…………………………………………30……………………………………

I am elaborating upon this essay, including other projects of Gerald's as well as some of our collaborations and personal experiences. The result will be included in red dot SAD which is updated periodically.

Self-portrait as a Game

Hong Kong 1995: to pay the bills you work as a promo producer for Cartoon Network/Turner Classic Movies. At a wild party in a hair salon on a Sunday morning,  a beautiful Japanese woman says you should meet Seki, because, “he’s a genius.” You:
  1. Get Seki's contact info
  2. Thank her and misbehave
You show up at Seki’s. Your eyes immediately become glued to:
  1. Seki, a short, charming man with a moustache; part Mr. Magoo, part card shark
  2. The wireframe mode of a lens displayed on his laptop
  3. The postcards of rabbits on Seki's wall
The Handover of Hong Kong from Great Britain to China is over and you have become a freelancer. You get a job as a producer for CNN, a music program called Worldbeat. You  go to Singapore to cover the WOMAD Festival, with the help of a fantastic assistant and a great cameraman. As you get back onto the plane to return to Hong Kong, you think:
  1. I ‘m never coming back here again.
  2. What a fascinating multicultural, cosmopolitan first world country.  A truly desirable and charming place in which to reside!
You are now in Tokyo, to  set up and manage the six television channels operated by Fox, who have just set up operations in Japan.That contract ends and you write a movie script and search out ways to produce the film. Eventually you have to leave and re-enter the country for visa reasons. You go to:
  1. Shanghai
  2. Singapore
Singapore is where has Seki set up his $3.2  million  startup. The company has two divisions: one is doing something like Youtube; a platform for user-generated video content. (This is three years before Youtube.) The other division is creating a 3D/VR software for game development. The software is educational and entertaining and you have never seen anything like it. Seki asks you to join him, for a reasonable salary and a stake in the company. You:
  1. Join Seki
  2. Return to Tokyo to make a film
October 24, Singapore Science Center. Two years after joining Seki, the gamemaking software will premiere as part of the  three-month long Planet Games exhibition at the Singapore Science Center. You set up a small table with a large monitor and big CPU. Next to you is a large maze made out of plastic sheets;  something called AR Pacman. You and the AR Pacman team are the ony exhibitors in the Future section. Finally after more than ten years of hard work, Seki’s dream is a reality. The morning of the premiere, Seki:
  1. Dies from a heart attack
  2. Announces plans for the IPO
...to be continued....

Tiong Bahru Mouth: A Couple Descending

Tiong Bahru Mouth

This post documents progress on Tiong Bahru Mouth, which is a collection of short stories and a visual art project, both by Stephen Black. Visual art, in this case, means photographs, videos and 360 videos. There is also a haiku component which is hidden on the internet. PHOTOGRAPHS http://www.blacksteps.tv/tiong-bahru-mouth-images/ VIDEOS Coffee and Light Tiong Bahru Mouth Wakes Up Jian Boh Shui Kueh at Sunrise Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh Tiong Bahru Teochew Kueh glutinous rice packing Galicier Counter at CNY Two Friends in a Hardware Shop A Couple Descending  

Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts 2016) part 3

the previous post:
Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts, 2016)part 2
Five things I Learned on my first 360 VR shoot: Pioneer/avante-garde/visionary… flop!?
Five things I Learned on my first 360 VR shoot: just because you can…
Five things I learned on my first 360 VR shoot: The Director is Blind
 
Beach Road short film (360 video)
Five things I learned on my first 360 VR shoot: Bobsledding vs. Skateboarding
360 Videography: What would Matisse do?
the first name for Beach Road was Wall Clouding...
Wall Clouding
Wall Clouding preproduction notes
Angelic Visions Notes
cinematography_cover_221116_576_1024_v3
Immersive Environments/VR: Notes on Art and Cinematography
SPOKEN Machinima Notes
SB & 3D (Why I’m excited to be in Eugene Soh’s virtual gallery project)
SPOKEN (virtual art gallery and writing project)
               

Cinematography 8.0: VR (best of blog posts, 2016)part 1

Cinematography 8.0: light and motion in the age of VR, AR, AI, 4K, 8K, AI and drones... the working of the book I am working on. The experiences and information in these posts will shape the book. Comments and questions are always welcome.

http://www.blacksteps.tv/stephen-black-vr-art-books-and-singapore/ (Hey, who's driving this thing?)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/riffs-on-vives-vr-development-bootcamp-at-digipen-part-1/ (If you know nothing about VR content, take a few weeks and really go over this. If you have been making VR content, especially CG-generated, this is a great review of state of the art in 2016.)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/riffs-on-viveasiavrs-vr-development-bootcamp-at-digipen-part-2/ (see above)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/cinematography-8-0-light-and-motion-in-the-age-of-vr-360-4k-8kar-ai-cg-and-drones/ ( A bit about the book)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/he-once-hitchhiked-morning-chat-with-reed-hastings-ceo-netflix-disruption-culture-people-and-leadership/ (Netflix, obviously, are but one of the millions of companies that benefit from the art of cinematography.)

http://www.blacksteps.tv/facebook-livewhat-would-andy-warhol-do/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/notes-on-my-first-two-facebook-live-shoots/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/vr-what-would-picasso-do-notes-and-links/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/what-should-the-new-york-times-sound-like/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/aspects-of-vr-in-bali-wave-ghost-the-novel-by-stephen-black/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/mee-young-photography-project-internal-logic/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-cinematography-booknotes-and-eugene-soh/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-cinematography-booknotes-and-a-reviewer/

http://www.blacksteps.tv/kind-of-the-vr-state-of-the-union-as-of-march-30-2016-part-1-of-2/ (Things change so much and I became so busy that writing the second part didn't happen)

END OF PART 1

PART 2 IS HERE

Stephen Black: VR, Art, Books and Singapore

This blog post chronicles some of the activities I have been involved with since 2002, when I began being based in Singapore. Previous to 2002, I lived in Manhattan,Tokyo, Paris and Hong Kong.I have a BFA degree in Photographic Illustration from the Rochester Institute of Technology, with a minor in Film and Video and have been employed by companies such as Fuji TV, Cartoon Network, Fox, MTV, France 2 and Turner Classic Movies. I have directed, created promos and written scripts in addition to my activities as a photographer, artist and writer.

2002-2007

Creative Director, Producer, Cameraman, Instructor and Writer for WalkerAsia/Compudia/Blacksteps

This story is quite cinematic but to simplify, the CEO who was the guiding force of WalkerAsia and  Compudia passed away unexpectedly, without a succession plan in place. The business plan of WalkerAsia was to be something like Youtube--but at the time we were unaware of Youtube, as it began 3 years later, in 2005.The business plan of Compudia was to create a platform that included email, chat, character licensing and a very very powerful educational/gaming SDK that was both simple enough for inexperienced children and advanced enough for professional game designers. CDK Landing pageI formed Blacksteps to to carry the project forward. However, despite the fact that Compudia had been set up with over $3 million dollars worth of funding and had positive, working relationships with the Singapore Ministry of Education, the Singapore Science Center  and other Singapore agencies, as well as the beginning of public acceptance, issues surrounding the IP made further successes impossible.

I then decided to spend more time with art and began writing books-- a lifelong dream of mine. (My father was a book salesman.) I was certain I would return to VR once mobile technology stabilized and VR headsets were finally accessible to the public.

Details about the books I wrote can be found elsewhere on this blog. The titles include: The Agaricus blazeii Murrill Notebook, Obama Search Words, Furikake, Contact With Shadow, Bali Wave Ghost and i ate tiong bahru which is a national bestseller in Singapore.

The following projects are VR-related

Secret Donut World is a collaboration with David Severn a British artist/resident of Japan. The Secret Donut World characters and the world they live in are designed specifically for VR. We are now reviewing SDW in light of recent stabilized technologies, such as those which made Pokemon Go and Job Simulator possible. We are preparing materials for partnerships, licensing and investors.

lance from Secret Donut World

Flame Magnet is go! Art by David Severn

SPOKEN www.gallery.sg Inside of a virtual gallery(Unity) built by Eugene Soh are a number of works which I curated. There was also a writing component. Participants were from all over the world, some very famous, some not. More details can be found on this blog.

Cinematography 8.0 light and motion in the age of VR, AR, AI, 360, 8K and drones is the title of a book work in progress. Information is available elsewhere on this blog.cinematography_cover_221116_576_1024_v3

3how: the Riverwalk Session As co-founder of 3how, I am fortunate to work with exceptionally talented people of all kinds. The musicianship on this album is outstanding and the recording technique provided valuable experience for future audio projects, VR included.

a circle with veins

3how: a table in front of a wall

Lee Wen: Ping Pong Go Round and Seasons Without Seasons Although SWS is not 360, the idea of 360 space was one of the concerns while shooting and editing

Beach Road Produced with Hiverlab, this short film was featured at the 2015 Brisbane Film Festival and nominated for Best Experimental Film at the 2016 Las Vegas VR Fest.

360 video still

Stephen Black sits in a parking lot. Image is in 360. Beach Road is a coproduction between Stephen Black and hiverlab

Norm Black was the name of a photo exhibition and the public debut of Beach Road. 3how performed. 2015

ay4ya-woman-with-vr-goggles

The Sudden VR Fest at Ay4ya art space at Isetan, Wisma Atria, Singapore.2016

Informal and full of surprises, the Sudden VR Fest was organized by Stephen Black and included the participation of Hiverlab, Lionel Chok/ImmersivelyPicture Perfect Productions,  Jo Joshua/Viziofly and Aram Pan. Related post:  http://www.blacksteps.tv/the-2016-sudden-vr-festival-360-videos-on-youtube/

jo-joshua-at-the-sudden-vr-festival

w-lionel-chok-at-isetan

jo-joshua-pointing-at-jane-the-sudden-vr-festival