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Objects for Thriving

Ian Mun and Lilian Chee, Objects for Thriving, Singapore: NUS, 2022. The film is part of the Whampoa Heritage project led by Thomas Kong, a design educator at the National University of Singapore.           







1: to grow vigorously : flourish. 2: to gain in wealth or possessions : prosper. 3: to progress toward or realize a goal despite or because of circumstances.


Objects for Thriving (2022) fleshes out the complexity of lived worlds in ordinary domestic objects. It focuses on the capacity of such objects to behave as affective mediators and repositories of experiences and events. A Butterfly sewing machine, a granite pestle and mortar set, and household talismans and altars, are equally ordinary and extraordinary. The setting for each object—within a domestic space–changes the nature of how these are perceived. They are involved in identity formations, ritual continuity, meaning making. As instruments embodying histories (personal, social, cultural), they are ordinary forms of heritage which continue to evolve and to matter in the everyday. They are instruments for living, or what we term ‘objects for thriving.’


The short documentary is an observational and essayistic document where research findings take on an unusual and organic form of discovery and semi-enactment, made in tandem with the participants who revisit the objects which they deem important. The meaning(s) in video-documentation are ‘emic’; they are not predetermined but emanate from the encounters between filmed subjects and the filmmaker. These ideas of memory and heritage are thus co-created by the relationships between the filmed subject, the filmmakers and the difference audiences. It empowers participant identification and builds audience empathy. The objects enmesh protocols, systems and technologies of survival, belief and ideologies. The title—Objects for Thriving—alludes to the roles these objects play in giving independence, identity and expression to the elders who are their custodians.


Objects for Thriving is a collaboration between Associate Professor Dr Lilian Chee and architecturally-trained filmmaker Ian Mun.

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