Go to 409423 at 1830 and 18-21-14 8-15-13-5
The instruction is written as a puzzle to be solved by the participant, much like the puzzles my friends and I used to create for each other when we were children.
Most of my childhood memories are deeply linked to the neighbourhood of Eunos. The postal code brings you to the Eunos MRT station. This place was a transitory ground that was particular to my growth; it was a kind of liminal space for me, the bridge between a reality and a dream. At 6.30pm, Eunos feels timeless. The action is written as a cipher in which each number corresponds to a letter of the alphabet. “Run home” when the day ends; it may take forever.
Across the Grass Patch
Go to Japanese Cemetery Park at any time between 0700 – 1900 hrs and visit the grave of Yoshio Nishimura.
I have been researching the dynamics of power, labour, and industry in Malaya before and during World War II. Yoshio Nishimura was the managing director of the Japanese mining company Ishihara Sangyo Koshi. The company’s exploitation of Malaya’s iron ore resources was key to Japan’s rapid modernisation and military expansion in the years preceding the war.
Yoshio Nishimura, who was based in Singapore, died in December 1934 of an apparent suicide. He was under investigation by the British Special Branch, who suspected his company of being a cover for espionage. The president of the Japanese Association at the time, his funeral was attended by five hundred mourners, the largest ever held at the cemetery. Before and after Nishimura’s death, Ishihara Sangyo Koshi extensively mined iron ore in Sri Medan, Batu Pahat in Johor; this was processed into steel and supplied to the Japanese Imperial Steel Works. Those defunct mines are now filled with rainwater, resembling wounds that have never healed.
Light enters the wound
Go to the nearest MRT station at a time when you are not in a rush to get anywhere and count the number of times you see the word ‘please’ appear.
One thread that runs through my practice is the exploration of alternative ways of reading. In looking for the word ‘please’ in an MRT station—a place in which we are surrounded by instructions and directions—we come to notice the tone and syntax of otherwise mundane texts; whether they politely request or outrightly command. This gesture thus functions as a simple literary analysis enacted upon our everyday environment.
MRT stations are utilitarian, transitory spaces—somewhere that most of us must pass through in order to get somewhere else—and they are also communal ones, that have to be used and regulated as such. Therefore, they are filled with texts that guide our responsible interactions with our physical surroundings and with our fellow commuters. These texts appear on signs, posters, stickers, banners, screens; they could be permanent or temporary, illustrated or plain, proactively designed or reactively inserted. My instruction imagines each MRT station as a ‘book’ to be ‘read’ by the participant, who, in searching for one word, must stop to read them all.
Go to a back alley, not at night and search for the strange yet familiar.
The instruction encourages one to investigate our seemingly mundane surroundings, and in doing so, observe the scenes that reflect the traces of modern life and the human role that lies therein.
Lo(ro)ng Sighted is an amalgamation of two terms: Lorong (Malay for “alley”; in line with the location of the instruction) & long-sighted (the inability to see nearby objects).
It draws inspiration from the artists’ chance encounters of peculiar sights found in back alleys – an often overlooked place that appears ordinary. The instruction encourages one to investigate our seemingly mundane surroundings, and in doing so, observe the scenes that reflect the traces of modern life and the human role that lies therein.
Go to the clearing of paths near the battery at Labrador Park at dusk and ascend the root of a tree departed; stay still breathing.
How does it feel when muons pass through you? Muons originate from cosmic rays, travelling at relativistic speed across galaxies and from aeons past to arrive on Earth. Their material presence carries stories of beginnings. Muons’ subatomic structure slips through physicality. Every second, a muon passes through your palm. Every night, a million pass through your body.
I learnt about muons at the cusp of the pandemic outbreak. In the midst of experiencing an abrupt change of time-space, an acute sense of uncrossable distance and invisible presence, at a planetary scale, muons felt like science fiction. These impulses of cosmic longing, and the folding of distance and time, were explored in my work Path. 12, River Origin 浪淘沙* in 2021. Widjaja performed for the camera along Labrador Park at the southern coast of Singapore facing his hometown Java, and sensed, through his body, the arrival of muons with a custom muon tracker in my hands.
*Commissioned by BIO:ART Southeast Asia Taiwan, curated by Tang Fu Kuen, and supported by the National Arts Council Creation Grant and Exactly Foundation.
stay still breathing
Go to a corridor of an HDB flat at around 7am/6pm and catch the lights being switched off/on.
A friend once told me about her fascination with the punctuality of the rising and setting of the sun in Singapore throughout the year. Though the lights in the HDB corridors are artificial, the time at which they are switched on and off is also dependent on the sun. I realised that this is a feature only lights near the earth’s equator can have.
It could be the outside of your office or the streets in front of your house – a familiar place that holds a space in your memory; a place that is public in context but private in character. Many HDB corridors are uniform in design, with slight differences created as they age. They may be decorated with plants or ornaments, but their walls may never be recoloured. It is a place that is not yours, but only you know its cracks, its spots, its history, and the exact time the lights turn on or off.
Go to what the British blew up and we rebuilt at any time of the day and find a geocache.
Geocaching — an activity that involves using GPS to hide and search for stashes of objects — is about discovering new places and re-discovering known places. Upon discovering this cache, I thought about how small pieces of fun and adventure (or resistance, as some academics might define it) could be removed or adapted to serve state narratives. I tried to find a spot where an obvious fake-ness serves a memorial purpose; where the participant can ponder the constructs of history and landmarks. In a sense, one could think of the state as building a geocache of its own.
About the Location:
Our South always changes. It continuously extends towards the horizon, endlessly filled by sand dunes; the memories of individuals are consequently displaced and removed. What is left are ghostly apparitions within our minds, and a much newer visual physicality. At the chosen site, the state has constructed a replica of a natural structure historically used for wayfinding; an attempt to immortalise a bit of our national history, set against an ever-expanding shoreline.
The Ever-Changing South
Go to the “Opp Veerasamy Road” bus stop in Jalan Besar at any time on a sunny morning or late at night and take bus 857 which loops from Little India to City and back.
The experience takes you on a “scenic” public bus ride frequently taken by the artist for leisure, passing various cultural landmarks as well as different types – and ambiences – of urban landscapes.
Pay attention to changes in the climate as you enter the bus. Look out of the window to see a play of shapes and light. Imagine the bus window’s frame as the frames of a movie, maybe an abstract movie with hand-painted frames of light and colour juxtaposed against the urban transitional, from the soft tumbling lines of shophouses to the hard urban lines of Suntec City, Marina Bay, the floating platform, and Capitol. Create that movie for yourself starting from when you first look out of the window. Alight from the bus when you arrive back at Serangoon Road.
The first minute of the film is 2040 seconds long
Go to the exit stairs between the public toilets on the second floor of Woodlands Civic Centre at any time and look for something that does not belong there.
There is always a little undiscovered pocket of space hidden in public, away from the eye of the surveillance camera, where individuals might take personal risks. Bodies inhabit these spaces for brief moments, wrapped up with the thrill and danger of being ‘caught’. Release, excitement, fear, and ecstasy linger in the dense hollow air; one can only imagine what happened here.
Built in 2000, Woodlands Civic Centre is home to many public agencies, providing residents in the area and other members of the public with a convenient way of accessing and using various government services. This building is also a ‘transitional’ space for people on the go, who are running their everyday errands. It could also be an unexpected place where two eyes might meet for the first time, in agreement and with consent.
Go to your nearest supermarket at the next time you need some groceries and stack 3 pieces of your favourite fruit.
In my practice, I enjoy mixing my living and working spaces. In doing so, objects from my everyday life often come into play in the assemblages that I create. For me, inspiration is often born out of necessity. By activating what is convenient and pairing that with a simple gesture, the work proposes that we are able to transform something ordinary into something whimsical.
The supermarket is a natural public gathering place. While the work focuses on an action that can be executed alongside a task-oriented grocery run, this action also transforms the mundane everyday site of the supermarket into the site of a happening. By disrupting the banal scenes to which we are accustomed at the supermarket, visitors on site inadvertently participate as viewers of this ‘public sculpture’. The sculpture becomes a durational artwork that lasts long as the three pieces of fruit remain stacked.
How to create a public sculpture
Go to the upper concourse area between the doors of Esplanade Concert Hall at 3.10 pm on the first Sunday of the month and observe the movement of people in the space after a beautiful performance.
I spent a huge part of my youth performing, especially at Esplanade. We loved being backstage, going to the different dressing rooms and running around. We had our meals at the Green Room (the backstage lounge) alongside the crew and ushers. Back then, I noticed that if we looked up from there, we could see members of the public at the upper concourse.
“Beautiful Sunday” is a long-running public concert series at Esplanade since 2003, showcasing homegrown amateur and professional musical groups in the Concert Hall. Esplanade is “an arts centre for everyone”, and you can see this in the crowds after these concerts. At the upper concourse are friends, families, and even people who just watched their first concert, alongside fans of the music who return monthly for the performances. Streaming down the backstage stairs are the performers, who might be professional musicians, students, or even someone with a day job who just loves playing music.
Go to the overhead bridge that is nearest to 124 Pasir Ris Street 11 at 5.30pm – 7.30pm and listen to the sounds of the vehicles below you as you experience the change from day to night.
Imagine yourself standing on an elevated point overlooking a never-ending highway, witnessing simultaneously the setting of the sun, and the increasing noise from the vehicles zooming through the golden hour. Just as how films depict highways, realistically, it could work and feel the same way; sometimes sobering, sometimes sentimental, and perhaps even therapeutic.
This is the only bridge I know of that is tucked away from the main road and caught in between 2 clusters of HDB blocks. Seemingly private, the bridge tends to only be accessed by the people who move around the blocks between Pasir Ris and Tampines. The bridge itself does not have a shelter (yet) and overlooks the Tampines Expressway. It is a common route used by delivery riders, as well as avid cyclists travelling along the Tampines Park Connector.
Go to a florist at any time it’s open and squint your eyes while looking at the flowers in the cooler.
Drawing reference to my series Still Life (2015 – present, ongoing), which has been referencing floral arrangements of late, I selected an action which could possibly recreate the experience of how I would perceive an image. Squinting your eyes blurs your vision. Instead of immediately connecting meaning to what is seen, you have to take the time to locate elements within your visual field.
I intended to choose a site that is specific to the activity yet generic enough to be easily accessible. Rather than growing wildly and freely outdoors, the flowers in the confined space of a florist’s cooler would have been arranged by someone, whether haphazardly or in an orderly manner. This interference by a human being points toward a kind of logic or reasoning that is not naturally occurring. I find that this creates a much more interesting set up due to its unpredictability and subjectivity, and in turn opens up much more avenues of interpretation.
Still Life Instruction
Go to East Coast Park at 11.30pm and listen to the sound of the waves crashing against the breakwaters for an hour.
When I was younger, I spent as many as three nights a week sitting quietly on an unlit breakwater, for stretches of eight hours or more, quietly watching for the quivering of a glow stick on a rod tip to indicate a bite. I had nearly forgotten the loudness of the waves until a return ten years later.
By the transformation of original coastlines into steep inclined boundaries formed by rocky granite breakwaters, the perfect habitat was formed for a new and invasive species of fish: the Sabah giant grouper. Hybridised specifically for consumption, it is one of the predominantly farmed species in Southeast Asian aquaculture. Escaped and released fish find dwelling within the crevasses of the breakwaters; their voracious appetites unbalance coastal food chains by decimating native fish populations. They can no longer be re-captured by nets, only by the strategic angler with rod and line.
The Thunderous Tumult
Go to Boon Lay Place Market and Food Village at non-peak hours, better still, during spring cleaning days and keep a lookout for the pigeons; if you are (un)lucky, you might witness them being culled in broad daylight.
I see uncanny parallels between the perceptions of pigeons—often vilified as contagious disease carriers, resulting in the constant monitoring of its copulation—and mainstream representations of marginalised identities. Our bodies are constantly navigating and code-switching between guilt, shame, and desire while under surveillance in a hostile environment.
This instruction considers the intertwining relationships between bodies, object, community, and the quotidian. It examines the veiled lived conditions of the communities in Boon Lay, Singapore, where I live. A considerably large segment of the residents in the neighbourhood are working class. Here, surveillance is glaringly heightened, and the balance between safety, privacy, and autonomy is often precarious. While many associate light (visibility) closely with notions of safety and security, there are also lights which are cast upon some more intensely than others.
Go to your neighbourhood for a walk at 10pm and stay for at least 15 minutes each at the darkest spot and the brightest spot.
The HDB block across from where my mother lives has an interesting night scene. On one side, the 24-hour coffee shop—which was recently renovated and now has very bright lighting—bustles with activity well past midnight. On the other side, the passageway resembles a dim alley after the restaurant there closes at 10pm. What does your neighbourhood look/feel like at night?
The Urban Redevelopment Authority’s Night Lighting Master Plan for the Civic District and Bras Basah.Bugis aims to achieve a nightscape that is “unique and three-dimensional”. It posits that “[g]ood night lighting can help to transform the image of the city by improving the appearance of the city at night and extend the life of the city after dark”. Broadly classified into classic and contemporary buildings, it recommends that “nightly lighting shall be elegant, tasteful and sensitive to the architecture of the building and well-coordinated with the overall night time streetscape”.
Go to Bishan Park at sunset and scream at the birds.
I go to Bishan Park a lot since I moved nearby three years ago. At sunset, there’s a lot of movement and noise from the birds at the park. At the same time, the big road that run alongside the park is also busy with the rush hour traffic. Nature can be rather manic, just like humans.
Bishan Park is a park that runs along the border of two neighbouring heartlands in Singapore, Bishan and Ang Mo Kio. The entire park stretches six kilometres long, with the Kallang River flowing through it.
Go to Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho Temple at 6.15pm and observe the people at the spot in between the HDB and the temple till 7pm.
I grew up praying at this temple. Before I enrolled in art school, I sought a divination lot here which advised that “constant grinding turns an iron rod into a needle”. It was also my place of refuge during my school suspension. I made frequent visits and met people here who gave me great perspective and enlightenment during a difficult time.
This is one of the oldest Buddhist temples in Singapore, having existed at its present location since 1884. The current building was opened in 1982 following an extensive expansion. It is a popular place of worship for devotees of Guan Yin, the Chinese goddess of mercy. For the Singapore Biennale 2006, artistic director Fumio Nanjo selected the temple as a site to display artworks by Xu Bing, Tsai Charwei, Hiroshi Sugimoto, and Santiago Cucullu. It was meant to showcase Singapore as a multireligious, multicultural society and to reflect the role of architecture in the construction of beliefs.
Go to the 100PLUS Promenade at night-time and outrun your own shadow.
We all have shadows. They follow us wherever we go, whether we want it or not. But my question is: what if I go really fast? With that, I began a journey which has taken me on frequent midnight runs at the 100PLUS Promenade track at Singapore Sports Hub since 2016. Clocking over 700km to date, I still haven’t found much success. Perhaps you might.
Fully sheltered, open 24 hours a day, and conveniently accessible via the Kallang and Stadium MRT stations, the 888-metre three-lane sports track at 100PLUS Promenade has been my place of choice for night exercises. It surrounds the National Stadium and has evenly spaced-out spotlights that continuously cast oncoming shadows as one runs down the circular path. It’s almost impossible to outrun the shadows in front, beside, or behind you, and to attempt to do so would likely result in an endless race against yourself, both physically and metaphorically. Ready, set, go!
Go to the housing construction project nearest to your home at any time and take a photo of the greenery depicted in the artist’s impression of the planned building(s); share it on Instagram with the hashtag #printgreensg.
The instruction attempts to draw our awareness towards the need to participate in a ‘green narrative’, while navigating the demand for new housing projects to support the growing population. It invites the public to participate in data collection through social media, generating conversations about our relationships with our built environment.
In 2022, it was announced that Singapore is moving towards becoming a ‘City in Nature’ as a key pillar of Singapore’s Green Plan 2030. Simultaneously, a number of construction projects in Singapore drew attention due to concerns regarding environmental conservation. Everywhere, we see construction sites surrounded with metal panels that illustrate pixelated trees, while stretches of hoarding are camouflaged with vinyl stickers depicting photographs of greenery. The intersection of urbanisation and green capital results in an ambiguity in Singapore’s ‘natural’ environment. This instruction looks at how this ambiguity manifests in public housing projects, which must integrate pockets of nature into their spatial design.
Go to the toilet at a gathering and check your cash balance.
How is your finhealth today?
Proposing financial self-awareness as key to personal development, this work invites all to occasionally check in with their own cash balance. Essentially, one becomes a financial self-inspector, evaluating the level of match between goals and resources, and then adjusting them accordingly.
The work also nudges the more privileged to empathise with the less well off.
The toilet is proposed as a mediating site between the social and the private realms.
Not just a place to pee or poop, the restroom has been a conducive site of idea generation for artists and writers alike.
Traditional German toilets had a ‘poop shelf’ where stools lingered briefly in a shallow pool of water before disappearing into the hole; this allowed users to inspect their own faeces to ascertain their state of biological health.
The present work proposes the toilet as a safe space to check in with one’s money situation, to judge if one is overextending financially.
The Fin Health Inspector
Go to the road in front of Hawaii Landscape at any time of the day and locate the small concrete island enclosed by green railings; inhabit the space or imagine it as an animal enclosure.
This strange island is demarcated by green railing, simultaneously beg the questions of private / public, official / unofficial. A simple action by the participant can temporary define the functions of the said space. Either as private refuge (by reading a book inside of it) or fencing to keep a spectacle in place (by pretending to photograph a zoo animal).
I chanced upon this location and thought it looked particular right away: what is the purpose of putting railing around this patch of concrete structure? The answer is probably pretty pedestrian and predictable (safety concerns). The city state has always been very clear about putting signages to demarcate and name type of spaces, so this strikes me as a rare incidences when it is left ambiguous for us to interpret.
Go to the corner of Greenridge Crescent and Eng Kong Place at 1000 hrs and look for a red remnant of the past; admire its setting and take a photo.
I discovered this when I was younger while exploring my estate. I remember thinking of this space when I wanted to escape various things I was dealing with in my life. A chance encounter within a tranquil environment allowed me a strange kind of respite.
This traditional British red telephone box is a familiar sight on the streets of the United Kingdom, but it is an unusual sight here in Singapore, especially hidden amidst a generally quiet, peaceful estate in Upper Bukit Timah. Though the kiosk was apparently present in former British colonies, whether or not this particular one dates back to Singapore’s colonial period is unclear. Here at the junction of two roads—one with a distinctly English name, and the other a romanised Chinese dialect—it can also be a way to consider our history. The participant is encouraged to take some time to explore the surrounding neighbourhood.
of many names, of many spaces
Go to South Buona Vista Road at 8.30am and experience the sights and sounds of the ‘99 bends’ and its surroundings.
I chose this place because of its outstanding winding road around Pasir Panjang Hill, leading down towards the residential estate at Jalan Mat Jambol. This unique downslope, which is also my route home, is known colloquially as gao zhup gao wan (‘99 bends’ in Hokkien). The area is one of nature’s stepping stones for migratory birds, and is a place where one can be intimate with nature.
Winding through the slopes of Kent Ridge Park, South Buona Vista Road is flanked by secondary forest as well as planted roadside trees. The notorious hairpin curves link Dover to Pasir Panjang Road. As the name suggests in Italian, the descending slopes of South Buona Vista Road used to offer drivers stunning elevated sea views. Constructed before World War II, the ridges were the site of the famous battle of Pasir Panjang, which took place in February 1942 between the invading Japanese forces and the Malay Regiment, led by Lt. Adnan. (Adapted from here)
Go to Ngee Ann City along Orchard Road, at the point opposite the main entrance of Paragon Shopping Centre at 6.45pm and take in the soundscape till 7.30pm.
At 7pm every day, thousands of Javan mynas descend onto trees along the Orchard Road shopping district, emitting a ferocious collective squawking and dirtying pavements with their droppings. First introduced to Singapore as a pet in the 1920s, this colonising species has out-competed its larger relative, the Common myna, to become the most common bird in the country.
The gregarious Javan myna forms large communal roosts in urban areas, where they are often considered a nuisance. Reportedly, up to 3,000 litres of water is used every night for pressure washing the Orchard Road pavements to rid them of the birds’ droppings. Efforts to scare them away—including high-pitched sonars and a hawk brought in from Jurong Bird Park—have failed.
Globally, the bird is listed as vulnerable to extinction, with only 2,500 to 9,000 left in its native range. Even in Singapore, the population has declined from 220,000 in the 1980s to 139,000 in the early 2000s.
Magic at Orchard Road
Go to the 34th floor of 455A Teck Ghee Park View at night and look at the view.
I live in Ang Mo Kio. At night, I often look out of my window and I see the neighbouring HDB blocks, often hearing people talk, laugh, fight, shout and the cars and motorcycles roaring past these blocks. I’ve been trying to find the tallest and furthest accessible point from the ground to look at some form of scenery that is lacking from where I live.
455A Teck Ghee Park View is one of the tallest HDB blocks in Ang Mo Kio. It was built in 2017 and it has 34 floors. It is also one of the tallest accessible places to go to in Ang Mo Kio. Of all the blocks in Teck Ghee Park View, I believe that 455A has the best unblocked views. However, it might seem a bit bizarre standing in the corridors of the units where people live but at night, it can be quite comforting because it is fairly quiet and the weather isn’t too hot.
The view from the tallest point in Ang Mo Kio
Go to Lower Peirce Reservoir at 8.30am on the weekends and switch off your phone.
Being one of the oldest reservoirs in Singapore, this is a site where my memory of Singapore’s natural environment was formed. I was born in the 1970s, when shopping malls and indoor playgrounds were still not common; Lower Peirce Reservoir offered me a piece of happiness in my childhood that I still treasure very much.
Lower Peirce Reservoir was built in 1912 by artificially creating a standing body of water. This was for a practical reason: to meet the increasing demand for the supply of water in Singapore. More than a century old now, it has nurtured a mature secondary rainforest around the reservoir. There are an estimated 900 types of flowering plants, 100 types of ferns, and 250 animal species found in the area.
The Lower Peirce Reservoir
Go to Yishun Dam at daybreak and along the causeway, track your runaway grief then cry a little or not at all.
Yishun Dam is part of the private itinerary of places that I associate with both parts of the bisected landscape of my life: before and after grief. Goodbyes are cumulative. I have known and visited Yishun Dam for over a decade; the barbecues then and now are conducted by different people. These versions of who I was before and who I will become are threaded together when I reencounter this place.
The Yishun Dam is a causeway over a man-made reservoir that is flanked by twin roads. Its consistency in my life has been like a refrain of sorts, loosely connecting the different chapters of my existence. I also envision it as a kind of junction where a time before grief and a time marked by grief are threaded together like the bi-directional traffic.
There's a wildness of feeling you're learning to conduct
Go to any urban space at your favourite time of the day and draw a mountain, physically on paper or digitally on screen, against the backdrop of what you are seeing.
Our world today is defined by experiences between the empirical and the digital. Technology is no longer a tool; it is now a dimension that parallels the empirical world. Just as technological space references physical spaces, the latter now draw from the former. This project is grounded upon a triangular feedback system between the physical, the digital, and the psychological.
This instructional-based participatory project begins with a participant-decided urban site at their preferred time of day and advocates an imposition of a mountain symbol, drawn either on paper or digitally composed, set against the chosen urban backdrop. The project completes with a pictorial record of the activity. The image of the mountain is a symbolic expression of one’s consciousness, which serves as an essential bridge between the physical and the digital. The result is consequently an allegorical articulation of the triangular feedback system between the physical, the digital, and the psychological.
Raise a Mountain Here, There, Everywhere
Go to any open clearing at night and look up, find an object, and observe how it moves across the sky for 10 minutes; if you cannot find anything, watch the empty sky for 20 minutes.
Inspired by a story (or dream?) that I might have misremembered but has captivated my imagination since. A reference to our universal and deeply human connection to the night sky, and a reminder to spend more time looking up. And lastly, a little personal homage to an alternative career path that was not pursued in this life.
The instruction is to look for any open field or clearing, where one can turn their gaze upwards without being obstructed by high-rise buildings or structures. This alone is perhaps a challenge in itself, within Singapore’s highly dense urban infrastructure. But once one can find a rooftop, a square in between HDBs, a quiet field, a construction site, a local park; there are many opportunities to search for objects in the sky. And in the case of severe light pollution, one can only continue to study the empty sky in this collective act of viewing.
Field of View
Go to the National Archives at any time and explore the history of our country.
In my practice, I have looked at the National Archives to understand our country through how we document our past. My presentation for the Singapore Pavilion at the 58th Venice Biennale was inspired by a set of concert posters under the Ministry of Culture’s ‘Music for Everyone’ campaign. In the information printed on those posters, it was possible to glean the agendas set by the state.
The National Archives of Singapore is responsible for the collection and management of records relating to the nation’s political, social and economic history. I would particularly recommend its Audiovisual Archives, which includes educational television programmes, public service broadcast programmes, and daily news bulletins.
Scratching the Surface
Go to the 5th floor of Parkway Parade Office Tower via the lift at any time and speak or sing a poem/song that invokes memories of a place that is no more, a place and time that you miss.
Remembering 5th Passage: where artists gathered informally, and in earnest, decades ago; where artist-initiated events took place and made history. A visionary, non-profit independent arts space, it occupied a walkway access to the carpark in the Office Tower block of Parkway Parade. This instruction serves as an invocation of meaningful conversations, creative friendships, and collaborative work.
From 1991 to 1993, 5th Passage transformed an incidental passageway into a thriving interdisciplinary arts space. Far ahead of its time, it organised projects dealing with environmental issues and animal ethics, and upheld artists as a cooperative for mutual support. Its myriad events involved collaborations with The Substation, Lasalle, various schools, and the public. However, its work was short-circuited: unjustly, it was evicted in early 1994, taken to court, and then purposefully occluded from Singapore’s arts historical context. The site still remains, with not a trace of what, for a time, it once was.
(Remembering also The Substation’s walled garden, that once was.)
Once was t/here
Go to the fallen tree towards the beachhead along Sentosa’s Coastal Trail at low tide and feel the different rocks — clay-coloured rocks are mudstones, and black-coloured rocks are granite.
As humans, we have an instinctive sense of time and history—as if time itself was a living thing. We are constantly exposed to the passage of time through our daily activities and interactions. But Earth is dynamic in timescales that are much longer than human lives. From mountains, to underwater trenches, to even the rock formations on Sentosa, these geophysical spaces record our planet’s surface history, even preserving events from millions of years ago through fossilisation.
The Tanjong Rimau Formation and the Fort Siloso Formation are two rock formations in Sentosa that comprise black, brown, and red/orange rusty sandstones. This constitutes the basement rock of Singapore, which was formed in the early Triassic period.
A Field Guide To the Geology of Singapore (Oliver & Gupta, 2017) documents an account of a possible dinosaur footprint found during a field expedition. The research paper created a point of departure for visualising Singapore during the prehistoric era.
Go to Junkie’s Corner at 10am – 5pm on weekends and spot one pre-loved item similar to one you might have owned before.
Junkie’s Corner is a place I happened to discover many years ago by chance. It is truly a material jungle, stacked with a large amount of secondhand, man-made objects—a physical manifestation of our consumer culture.
Junkie’s Corner is a massive second-hand store hidden in the jungle near Turf City. It was established in 2003 by collectors who have been gathering antique and vintage collectibles for decades. It is a place where you may not only find things you need, but also rummage through objects crossing the centuries, reminding you of the passage of time. According to the Urban Redevelopment Authority, Phase 2 of the Cross Island Line will be sited at Turf City. Since 2019, tenants have been reminded of the need to vacate the site due to future development plans. Soon we may not find Junkie’s Corner in such a setting anymore.
The Junkie's Corner
Go to your neighbourhood streets at any time in the day and observe the roadside trees; take a photo of a tree that is tied to supporting structures and submit it to this Google map.
For an earlier work called Ways To Tie Trees, I went on walks around neighbourhoods and identified trees that had been staked and bound in various ways. Using Google Maps as a tool to trace my sightings, I began to wonder what a crowdsourced map of tied trees might look like.
Similar to many cities around the world, trees in Singapore are uprooted and relocated to conform to a controlled cityscape determined by urban planning. A digital marker for a tree engages participants in the act of observing individual trees and their state of existence in the garden city of Singapore through photography. The gesture of photographing creates an interaction between the image-maker and the selected tree, setting up an intimate encounter for attention and care. In contributing the photograph on a collaborative Google Map, each exchange with a tree is recorded to create a collective mapping of trees, and the permutations in which they exist.
*How to mark a tree on Google Map via an Internet browser:
1. Open up the map by clicking on this link
2. In the search bar, type in the address where you found the tree. You can use the name of a street or address of a building to anchor the pin.
3. A pin with a pop-up bubble should appear. Click on ‘+ Add to map’ in the pop-up.
4. Click on the ‘Edit’ icon (pencil symbol).
5. Click on ‘Add image or video’ icon (camera symbol) on the bottom right corner of the pop-up. You can also edit the address to be more specific (e.g. ‘In front of XXX’ / ‘Along XXX’).
6. Save your edits. You have contributed a marker to a tree!
A marker for a tree
Go to a primary school near you at 1:30pm or the end of a school day and wait at the gate with the parents and helpers for the children to come out of school.
The sight and sounds of children leaving school are usually experienced from two perspectives—as the student, or as the guardian/parent waiting to pick them up. With hordes of children released at once, the school gate becomes a cathartic threshold; a literal gateway to innocent joys. The event is a climactic intersection between childhood and adult routines, where we, the spectators, reconfigure our bearings in life.
As adults, the end of a school day is experienced differently: those with children might already be part of the community of ‘waiters’, while those who are childless would have long moved on from the simplicity of after-school joy. With shifting familial dynamics, the demographics of the waiting crowd also present a snapshot of parental roles and values. The visible relief spilling out with the students further echoes the 1895 short film Workers Leaving the Lumière Factory, making space for connections to be drawn between modern systems of mass education and the industrialised workforce.
let's go after school