Built on a backbone of collaboration and open dialogue, Wendy Teo used her passion for cultural exploration to embark on a journey that laid the foundations of the creative agency, Borneo Laboratory. Described as a multidisciplinary platform for the experimentation of Borneo Aesthetics, the brand is said to be powered by the deep-rooted Bornean cultural facet of ‘Berjalai’ — conversing with the world.
Four years on since its inception, the brand has blossomed in its scope, involving collaborators from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Italy, Taiwan, Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, with four key figures at the centre of this hemisphere with many revolving doors. The projects cover every form of expression and consideration, ranging from publications, documentation, crafts, curation and architectural design.
“We have been consciously engaging people of diverse disciplines. Regardless of whether it is a publication or building , it is crucial for us to see our projects end up delivering empathetic experience with universal value,” Teo states, adding that Borneo Laboratory’s success has thrived on the collective efforts of its many other like-minded individuals and collaborators.
A glance at their portfolio leaves me with more questions than answers. Borneo Lab managed to walk that fine line between cerebral contemplation and ostentatious theatrics so very well. Their publications speak volumes of the careful consideration and explorations of Borneo’s rich cultural and natural assets. Their first books, titled Borneo Art Collective and The Borneo Laboratory, respectively emphasised on developing Borneo’s existing cultural narrative. Case in point, their ‘Narratives of Soil’ tome has managed to make a most humble and underappreciated material, interesting and exciting. There are essences of monozukuri, a Japanese term that describes sincere attitude towards production with pride, skill and dedication, in these and subsequent publications.
It is this sincerity that has enabled them to work with major companies and countries on collaborative exercises — Ogilvy, Coca Cola, The British Council and Taiwan Cultural Ministry, to name a few. “The 2019 publication’s curation was a project driven by the desire to foster collaborations and innovations among cultural practitioners. Through a year-long process, from project conceptualisation to crowdfunding, the team experimented with enabling meaningful conversations among various groups. These exploration naturally evolved and became more focused over time, ultimately leading to (this),” explained Teo of their series of special projects.
One of their latest, “Tides That Bind: On Senses”, is a wave of synchronised sentiments through workshops, film screenings, exhibitions, and sharing sessions, happening at the Think & Tink building in Kuching, Sarawak. One can only hope that they continue to make wakes on the cultural landscape of this magical little island called Borneo.