In which we buy a cat-patterned tent and put it in a parking lot to sell zines.
Our core values here at empori are curiosity, awe and wonder. So we're constantly asking: what elicits a sense of curiosity (and by extension, awe and wonder)?
And a big finding this year on our quest to find what sparks curiosity is wholesome inappropriateness, aka, mischief.
mischief: Putting inappropriate things in unexpected places and watch curiosity unfold
We got to experience this first-hand while running Nya's Zine shop.
Some time in September, our dear friend, Ānya from Paw Cat Guide, approached us to ask if we'd like to collaborate on PARK(ing) Day again.
What is PARK(ing) Day?
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where community members transform parking spots into vibrant public spaces for one day.
And cause last year was so much fun, (we rolled up to parking day in a van, turned into a neighbourhood art gallery), we said yes.
How do we outdo bringing a van to parking day though?
A cat, a tent, and zines
What tickled us to no end last year was the fact that we ultimately brought a vehicle to parking day, when the entire movement was about reclaiming parking lots from the tyranny of cars. It felt like there was no way we could be naughtier than than. Then to make the brief more challenging, this year's theme was ambition.
So not only did we have to outdo ourselves, we had to do so ambitiously.
Fun fact is that neither Anyā nor myself are "ambitious" people. At least not ambitious in the way our government sanctioned brief would approve of.
Thus we turned to the only ambitious being we know: Her Royal Felineness, Nya.
Right, backing it up and giving you guys a context load.
Welcome to Nya's World
We're going to peeling back the layers of imagination and magic here (Anyā please don't kill us), you've been warned.
Nya is the brainchild (and we'd like to think, the spirit animal) of Anyā Likhitha, play facilitator, artist, design consultant, and you've guessed it, cat lover/owner.
At her core, Nya is an imaginary cat. And the premise of Nya is that she is a cat with a hooman she has to look after and thus has taken it upon herself to embark on an entrepreneurial journey so that she can make money and buy herself Chimken Food (and build an empire + rule the world along the way).
And how does Nya do that?
By becoming a Pawfessional Cat and making Paw Cat Guides...
(you can read Nya's full story here)
Long story short, the world of Nya is one big, elaborate insider's joke.
But it is one that we, in this cat-obsessed society can't help but want to be part of.
How can you not want to be one of of Nya's hoomans, when being part of Nya's empire means being given permission to play irresponsibly and indulge in mischief and mayhem.
Realizing Nya's Ambitions
Going back to PARK(ing) Day 2021.
Since neither Anyā nor myself have any real ambitions, it only makes sense that we, as loyal hooman subjects of Nya, make use of PARK(ing) Day to realize her ambition:
To make monies so she can buy all the chimken food and rule over the world.
Well in order to make monies and rule over an empire, Nya needs 2 things:
- a way to make money
Working with that, and building on the fact that Nya makes and sells Paw Cat Guides (awesome paw-sized zines), we decided to come up with a parklet that sells said zines (and not just Nya's zines, but also the zines of other creatives like ourselves and our long-time illustrator partner, Bhav).
But wait, how does selling zines help Nya recruit hoomans for her take-over-the-world agenda?
Right. So, we also had another challenge. PARK(ing) Day in Singapore is kinda a non-profit placemaking project. Therefore, we can't actually sell zines at this event, at least not literally.
This means, we needed a clever, alternative way for people to "buy" (earn) earn their zines.
Guided by the spirit of mischief, the end result was this:
Nya's Zine Shop
Welcome to Nya's Zine Shop, a zine shop by a Nya, a Pawfessional Cat, that is run by her Hooman employees.
This PARK(ing) Day, Nya's Zine Shop is setting up a pop-up store to recruit new Hooman Employees! And you, potential participant and future employee, will get free zines as part of your onboarding process!
There's something curiously mischievous about getting hired by a cat that may or may not have something to do with the ridiculous job application form:
Which not only invites you to create any role under the sun for yourself, but also flat out asks you what you can be bribed with.
(Is this CV card a social commentary on job hunting is 2021? Probably? You'd have to ask Anyā to find out though...)
To make things just that much more mischievous (and possibly ridiculous) we added a few more things like:
- getting a cat-designed tent
- having a panda AND a dinosaur employee
- the ability to bribe employees for more zines.
Coming from an events background, we're very familiar with the "bigger and better" treadmill. There's this assumption that in order to awe and delight an audience, event organizers must constantly make everything bigger, louder, brighter, and thus more expensive.
Sometimes this creates the illusion that we can't have any delight in our life without spending large quantities of money.
But one of the most memorable moment from PARK(ing) Day for us, the moment that sparked the most joy, was thanks to a $2 Daiso light a glob of blutak.
Similarly, the tent cost us $93 (which is a lot relative to the Daiso lamps, but did you know that fancy Geodesic Dome Tents for events come in at $5k a pop?).
Our zines and CV cards that was a source of so much delight? You can make them as long as you have a pen and paper. (yes we printed ours, but you get the point.)
It wasn't these objects that brought delight, but the context.
The story of Nya, a mis-purposed parking lot, becoming a hooman employee, bribing dinosaurs...
It's all these little bibs of mismatch and tiny bobs of inappropriateness.
It was all these small elements of mischief that sparked such curiosity and delight, not fancy bells and whistles.
tldr; little bit of mischief, can go a long way.
With that, in the words of the marauders and Fred & George Weasley, we declare PARK(ing) Day 2021: Mischief Managed!