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The Substation is Singapore’s first independent contemporary arts centre, known for its pioneering and experimental arts programming. Practice Theory was invited to work with The Substation’s curatorial team to create a campaign and identity for Discipline the City—the theme for the art centre’s series of programmes in 2017. Throughout the calendar year, seams of the city’s architecture, the advent of soft control and the margins of urban life are examined via a succession of salons, workshops and film readings conducted by artists, architects, designers, historians and urban planners.
The catalyst for the entire campaign was a question posed by The Substation’s artistic director, Alan Oei: 'How can we imagine a future world where the citizens themselves buy into control? In this speculative future where they are happy to be disciplined and controlled, how do cracks and resistance emerge?' While it is tempting to imagine an oppressive dystopian world, the disarming realisation points to an imagined future that is not too different from the realism of our present day. The campaign is inclined towards the idea that any resistance that emerges in this speculative world has to be equally covert and peaceful—a Trojan horse of sorts.
The entire campaign is communicated through the imagined persona of The Discerning Citizen, a subversive resistance group working in the city to awaken its citizens. Elaborately planned programmes disguised as state-issued propaganda are broadcasted to the public. This narrative is weaved through the campaign and all of its communication channels.
DTC Sans, a parametric typeface of 4 weights, was specifically for the visual identity of the campaign. Campaign images are visually treated and overlaid with 3D weights, which conjure up mental images of the imposing monolithic structures that typify the city skyline. This visual form ties the publicity materials back to the central theme of the campaign by playing on references—in particular, Foucault’s proposal of the Panopticon as a metaphor for invisible normalised forms of control and discipline in the city.