Sungei Road Site from 2006 – 2016
Sungei Road Site from 2006 – 2016
Singapore has many interesting spaces where the exhibition’s ideas of land contestation and physical change could potentially play out. What attracted you to the Jalan Besar enclave and the Sungei Road Flea Market in particular?
Definitely the colourful nature of the space and confluence of communities in the Jalan Besar and Little India area. I have been observing the place for quite a few years and had many conversations with artists and architects, even being brought on a tour by someone who lived there all his life.
The Jalan Besar enclave is a city-fringe zone, and almost feels like it is been left unobserved and intentionally untouched by authorities. I was drawn to this ‘No Man’s Land’ of perpetual road-works, regular construction and the under-construction train station that brought up this issue of ‘sungei road flea market will be no more.’ To me, the Little India, Jalan Besar and Sungei Road area has an aura of authenticity, a BUZZ unlike our shopping or financial district. That drew me to the space.
Why have you decided to use an artistic approach to interrogate such ideas, as opposed to say, education or social activism? Would you consider the exhibition a form of social activism?
There are plans for the exhibition to be made into a publication or to lead on to a symposium to dialogue about the space. All these outcomes are tangible results of this artistic approach and they do have educational or social-value.
How have you chosen your collaborators? Was there a certain thought process or collective vision behind this?
There was no open call but through conversations, collaborators came on board. The thought process was for sharing and exchange of ideas between artists who knew more about the place and artists who knew nothing of the space.
Has the exhibition changed the way you perceive the Jalan Besar enclave and the Sungei Road Flea Market? What new insights have you gained?
“I will miss them after this exhibition” was something mentioned by Jennifer (one of the artists) and that resonated with all the artists involved. The process of visiting the Sungei Road Flea Market regularly has changed how we perceive the area for sure. Over time, addressing them as this auntie and that uncle has evolved to a first name basis like ‘Today Linda…’ and the artists all start to share similar stories of their personal encounters.
The human interaction has humbled us as we start to realise that what we do with a small art exhibition may not be useful to help them continue plying their trade in Sungei Road.
Tell us more about sungei.net projects and ONE BY ONE METRE SPACE.
sungei.net projects focuses on exploring notions of urban memory and the meaning of ‘Tabula Rasa’ and loss of ‘intangible heritage’ through collaborative art-making. Just as how ‘Tabula Rasa’ means clean slate, some of the selected artists know little of the space and it is through exchanges with artists or community goers who know significantly more about the location that a connection is forged or discovered and art-making takes place.
‘One By One Metre Space’ is the first of such a durational project and Sungei Road Flea Market was naturally the first location that I was keen to explore. As unique as the place is, the physical space and its community is also an easily forgotten and unnoticed part of our heritage. ‘1 x 1 m space’ no doubt refers to the space allocated to each vendor but it also raises questions of who makes this distribution? Who owns the land? What happens to the community when the flea market is told to disband? The sungei.net project ‘One By One Metre Space’ is thus an interrogative project that explores this tension between new changes and the old lifestyle, where the artists come together, responding to a place and make art.