Horror stories come alive through virtual reality

The artwork (left) by Jolene Tan (above) is part of an installation at Textures and based on The Minorities novel.
The artwork (above) by Jolene Tan is part of an installation at Textures and based on The Minorities novel.PHOTO: JOLENE TAN
The artwork (left) by Jolene Tan (above) is part of an installation at Textures and based on The Minorities novel.
The artwork by Jolene Tan (above) is part of an installation at Textures and based on The Minorities novel.PHOTO: JOLENE TAN

Step into the Old Changi Hospital, see ghosts and spirits, and listen to a chilling horror story.

Visitors to the Textures literary festival, which starts this Friday, will be able to experience frightening tales at Sorta Scary Singapore Stories, an installation that uses virtual reality, 360-degree illustrations, snippets of audiobook narration and other sound effects to depict local horror stories.

The four stories featured in the installation are Daryl Qilin Yam's novel Kappa Quartet, Catherine Lim's short story The Exhumation, Clara Chow's short story The Wheel and Suffian Hakim's novel The Minorities, upon which the Old Changi Hospital scene was based, as created by artist Jolene Tan.

Sorta Scary Singapore Stories was Tan's first time working with 360-degree illustrations.

The 25-year-old artist says: "There were a lot of technical aspects which I had to pick up. The process felt like having an extremely large canvas that I had to fill up in a 3D space."

She describes The Minorities as a darkly funny novel and says she took a leaf out of the book for the style of the illustration.

"The comedic tone allowed me to work with a style that was more cartoonish to keep a sense of that light-heartedness, while I used darker colours and grittier textures to convey a sense of horror."

Tan and the project's other illustrators - Debbie Ding, 36, and Ng Xiao Yan and Justin Tiang, both 30 - were commissioned by digital publishing agency Tusitala to bring the stories to life.

Tusitala publisher Christine Chong says that horror, one of the more popular genres in Singapore literature, lends itself well to immersive experiences.

"The 360-degree installations put you in the world of the story, while audio can create both intimacy through narration and a sense of space through ambient sound and sound effects."

  • BOOK IT/ TEXTURES 2020

  • WHERE: The Arts House, 1 Old Parliament Lane

    WHEN: Friday to March 22, 10am to 10pm

    ADMISSION: Free and ticketed programmes

    INFO: theartshouse.sg

Ms Lisa Lip, senior manager of programmes at The Arts House and producer of Textures, says this year's festival features more visual and audio programmes compared with previous editions.

"The reason for this was to make the festival more accessible to audiences by having something they can spend more time with and keep coming back to, as opposed to the one-time encounter of a performance," she says, adding that there are also live performances that are ticketed.

Commissioned by The Arts House and local literature movement #BuySingLit, and supported by the National Arts Council, the festival's third edition will feature more than 30 programmes focusing on Singapore's literary scene.

With the theme "These Storied Walls", it is inspired by The Arts House's history and many stories.

Says Ms Lip: "I wanted to go beyond the stories of the house and into the stories made by each person who comes through our doors."

Other festival highlights include O/Aural Waves - Spirited Words, an exhibition and performance piece by storyteller Kamini Ramachandran and interdisciplinary artist Ferry, whose real name is Jean Low.

Festivalgoers can also catch poet Marc Nair's Handbook Of Daily Movement Performance, a music, spoken-word and movement performance with other artists that interprets Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

Meanwhile, the House Of Cheah is an installation resembling comic artist Cheah Sinann's studio.

Ms Lip says: "We want visitors to be surprised by the unexpected ways through which Singapore literature can be encountered."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 10, 2020, with the headline 'Horror stories come alive through virtual reality'. Print Edition | Subscribe