If unwrapping the various bits of ephemera that come with the latest issue of Singapore’s limited-edition Rubbish FAMzine makes you feel like a kid again, that’s probably because half the design team is well underage. When the Lim’s (a.k.a Singapore’s most creative family) first started Holycrap art collective in 2011, son Renn and daughter Aira were just seven and five years old, respectively. Now, with half a decade of magazine-making experience under their belts, the 12- and 10-year-olds are still key members of the group their parents, Pann and Claire, started in order to bring their love of art and design into their family dynamic. As Claire told us when we first interviewed her about how she and her husband actually go about producing projects with their children, “No words can describe how much closer we’ve become as a family after Holycrap was formed.”
Issue #5 might just be the most perfect example of how the Lims have turned their annual magazine into a family bonding experience. The theme, “In the name of the father,” is dedicated to the memory of Pann’s father, Lim Tiap Guan, who died from liver cancer before Claire and Lim were married, and before Renn and Aira were born. It’s as much a celebration and exploration of his life as it is an introduction to the grandchildren and daughter-in-law he never met. As Claire, the magazine’s lead writer and editor, puts it:
“This will be a eulogy that was never spoken till now.”
The front cover appears to have been ripped, revealing a photo of Lim Tiap, and the sewn binding is exposed to reveal a mix of papers, mostly neon, and some marbled pages. But look more closely and you’ll see that’s not fancy hand-marbling at all; rather the dizzying pink pattern is a close up of cancer cells that’s used to great effect across entire spreads, or to blot out the figure of Lim Tiap in a series of photos depicting him with his family, playing his beloved violin, posed beside his car, or petting his dog. While these may strike you as sweet, albeit mundane, as you turn the pages you come to understand that this isn’t just about Pann sharing memories of his father with his wife and kids; rather it’s his own attempt to piece together the half-remembered, half-complete bits of information of his father he’s been holding onto all these years, and better understand a man who kept his own disease a secret from his family up until his death. Like Pann, you can’t help but wonder what else he might be hiding.
Through colorful tip-ins, collaged photographs, photo reproductions (complete with a vintage Kodak film folder replica), paper-clipped pages, and even a mini TV Weekly marked with a Post-it note, all bound together by a neon green copy of Lim Tiap’s death certificate, the Lim family makes a loving effort to decode their mysterious patriarch in a way that makes the reader to ask themselves how they would fill the pages of a book dedicated to their own beloved relative, or (more morbidly) perhaps, how they’d want their own such book to be filled by their family.