Making Faces

By Lili Li
16 Nov 2017

Design maven Mr. Yang Derong and his all-star collaborators are putting a face – quite literally – on social commentary

If those Chinese bian lian face-changing acts had a weighty social message, and played to higher aspirations rather than a roomful of tourists, they would be closer to what Mr. Yang Derong and his collaborators are doing these days.

The idea is to inspire the viewer to dream, smile, think and question through a brief digital visual dialogue.

In August, one of Singapore’s most original creative minds, together with his creative peers, began posting a daily visual commentary on, using Mr. Yang’s face (and upper body) made up and styled in crisp, often provocative images. It is clear from what they have posted so far that no subject is beyond reach. To date, they have covered ‘choping’ hawker center seats with packets of tissue paper, the blockbuster Yayoi Kusama exhibition at the National Gallery, National Day Parade, Freedom to Love. Mr. Yang has morphed into a puff daddy, a leopard-wearing swathed Auntie, everyman, and no man.   

Some people are understandably thrilled and intrigued by the project, but Mr. Yang is quick to downplay the hoopla. “As mentioned on our website, the idea is a gentle, daily wake up call through a brief digital visual dialogue, which we hope will inspire the viewer to dream, smile, think, question, laugh, care or, in times of adversities, persevere. Nothing painfully conceptual or very atas lah.”

The idea came to Derong as he was going about his daily chores. “Suddenly, I had this crazy thought of collaborating with a group of friends and professionals that I have worked with in Singapore, thinking why don’t we get together and do something that’s non-commercial? Especially with the recent manic and rapid advances in new art, new technology platforms, and social media. One can do almost anything with a smartphone!”

The group started a digital visual dialogue that’s meant to go on for 369 days. “We believe arts and culture permeate every aspect of our lives today. Art is not only for museums, galleries, or collectors’ homes. It has to be relevant in the digital world today, so why not bring it and share it on our digital devices? It’s convenient, accessible, engaging, and disruptive because, like Netflix or Amazon, you don't have to rely on the traditional platforms to enjoy or do what you want.”

Hence, we use ‘a picture paints a thousand words’ as the starting point to yap, yap, yap our digital visual dialogue. It’s a daily conversation with our readers and viewers – nothing naggy. (But one should still go out to the museums and galleries if there's a great show like the recent Kusama show.)


A Stellar Cast

This feat has been attempted before: Face of the Day, like Outfit of the Day or OOTD, has been around for a long time now. But no one seems to have the fortitude and perseverance to brave the rigors of a daily post unless one is commercially driven, has the steady hankering for ‘likes’, or both. Face of the Day has no commercial plug. It’s not about Mr. Yang and his peers. It’s about the audience to make something out of what they see before them.

Of course the team behind the effort is formidable. Anyone who is familiar with the Singapore creative community can identify each of Mr. Yang’s collaborators. “Basically, we have set up an ‘open art collaborative community’ that anyone can join and jam with us when they are available.

“So far we have Geoff Ang, Jet Ho, Micky Wong, Olivier Henry, and David Chan doing the photography and videos. Elaine Tay does our web design, while Will Low provides the digital concept, and Michael Chiang writes the text.”

Rick Yang, Grego, Ashley Lim, Bobbie Ng, Zennie Casann, Carol Yoong, and Nicole Moreira do hair and make up; David Tee does digital imaging; Moe, Eddy, Mahmoud scour wardrobes and shops for costumes.

Collaborators in the project include Issy Lim, Jacqueline Lim, and Yati, but Mr. Yang emphasizes that “the list does not stop here as we hope to have more collaborators on board this crazy journey”.


A Flaneur + A Plan

Basically, we have set up an ‘open art collaborative community’ that anyone can join and jam with us when they are available.

Mr. Yang may sound self-indulgent calling himself a flaneur, but given his habit of voracious grazing off various cultural expressions, one can imagine his flanerie to be a constant source of smart ideas.

“Apart from being an official flaneur, I have been quite busy zipping between a new start-up in HK, a crazy project call, and music, yoga, and Photoshop classes. He started painting again, but has elected to work with different mediums like wood, metal, glass and resin. Taking time to smell the roses is also there somewhere.   

“The truth is I think I am trying to catch up with myself, my family, my friends and all the things I have always wanted to do but didn't get time to do over the past 30 years while I have been away. Admittedly, too ambitious but I am enjoying all of it tremendously.”

The project will not end soon, even after the planned yearlong run, assures Mr. Yang. “Actually, this whole collaborative, digital, visual dialogue is a cross platform project that’s across the website, Facebook, and Instagram. We intend to do an exhibition and installation, a tour, a book, and to test and translate the visual dialogue across different mediums later.”