Ideas Journal

Perforated Islands: A Proposition in Co-Sensing with the More-Than-Human

Joella Q. Kiu writes about artistic collaborations, spirit histories, and urban redevelopment.

 

Between June to September this year, those who visited Tanjong Pagar Distripark on a breezy day may have heard the melodious chiming of a wind instrument from afar, installed along a long corridor facing the port. The frequency and speed at which the instrument sounded was left entirely to the whims of the winds that passed through the site. Those who followed their ears would be led towards a steep climb up five stories. To feel the breeze against one’s skin at the top of the building would also be to see the wind caress the instrument’s propeller-vane, producing a joyful sequence of trills.

Interestingly, the wind instrument is also affectionately referred to as a spirit house, which are informal structures that function as shrines. They are dedicated to and maintained carefully to appease the resident spirits or deities, or to accumulate good fortune, and are embedded into the vernacular landscape in many parts of Southeast Asia, varying in form, size, or design. By evoking this colloquial typology, the spirit house in this context may be read as a vessel for the more-than-human, as its presence and music serve to amuse, delight, and indulge the wind and the site’s other unseen spirit residents.

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

Whilst it seemed lonely in its placement, this spirit house is a cornerstone within a larger work by Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, titled Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau—commissioned for and presented as part of the recently concluded exhibition at the Singapore Art Museum, Lonely Vectors. It is a work interested in spirit histories, the disturbance that urban redevelopment brings, and how we might extend a gesture of healing towards our more-than-human counterparts. As one of the curators for the show, this essay draws upon my proximity to the work’s ideation, conception, and actualisation, and will focus on how the three artists collaborated to facilitate multi-scalar entanglements with the more-than-human, as well as the work’s emphasis on nurturing a somatic experience.

As a visual artist and educator, amongst many other things, Zarina’s practice has been described as “magico-[ecofeminist].”1 By fusing myth-making, spirituality, and assemblage, Zarina interrogates how the history of Southeast Asia has been written. Drawing upon alternative or lesser-known epistemologies from and of the region, Zarina asks audiences to consider whose voices have been left off the page. This approach is on full display with Moving Earth, Crossing Water, Eating Soil (2022), as part of the ongoing Singapore Biennale. An accomplished playwright, Joel’s works have been praised for their stylistic range and formal innovation. Their plays, such as Tango (2017) and Café (2016), provide searing yet poignant insight into the idiosyncrasies and contradictions of life in contemporary Singapore. Zachary is a prolific musician, graphic designer, and artist whose own practice looks at cartography and ways of mapping, primarily by way of the spiritual. As a current artist-in-residence at the NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, he has been working towards strategies and tools that might visualise these spiritual terrains.2

Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau is not the artists’ first foray into working as a collective. Zarina and Zachary previously made a moving image work titled earth, land, sky and sea as palimpsest (2021). I first encountered the film not in a physical gallery or a screening room, but as part of an online exhibition titled If Forests Talk. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and influx of online exhibitions, earth, land, sky and sea as palimpsest was an apt and powerful call to experience multi-species entanglements. The artists hoped the work would prompt viewers to “see with skin, hear with our feet.”3 Not only did this reflect the strange, confusing new reality at the time, this re-imagination of the senses was also a breath of fresh air. It reminded viewers like me of the body’s capacity for connection, and that there was so much more of that to be had, both with one another and our environments.

The trio later embarked on a two-month residency with the Goethe-Institut Singapore, which culminated in an intimate presentation titled Restless Topographies (2022). The presentation was primarily an exploration of the Goethe-Institut’s immediate vicinity of Chinatown, and featured initial sketches and experiments that formed the basis for Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau. During the colonial period, many new migrants to the city would make Chinatown one of their first stops upon arrival. With these ideas of labour and capital in mind, the artists also noticed how intertwined the development story of colonial Singapore was with that of the land in the area. A hill nearby at Battery Road was levelled, with the resulting sand from the project used in the city’s first reclamation project in 1822, creating Boat Quay.4 Tapping into these historical layers, Restless Topographies was a spirited space that presented works-in-progress, hosted sharing sessions and public programmes, and housed a variety of pickles and wines for various fermentation projects, the significance of which will be discussed later in the essay.

Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau builds upon this framework, and further extends the artists’ map of inquiry towards the relationship between mainland Singapore and its surrounding islands by way of the Southern Waterfront. It fleshes out all the artists’ inquiries into poly-sensorial experiences and ways of perception by bringing together each person’s interests and backgrounds in a cohesive manner—sonic instrumentalisation, text and narrative, and visual assemblage.

Much has been written recently about the state of working collectively within the context of Southeast Asia, coinciding particularly with the large-scale, multidimensional happening of documenta fifteen. Historically, collectivisation emerged as a strategy of survival, growth, and dissent for artists in Southeast Asia, particularly amidst tumultuous political landscapes within the post-independent years.5 It also presented itself as a practical way of sharing resources or opportunities in a competitive artistic landscape.

Though the way Zarina, Joel, and Zachary work lean on these established precedents, to describe the way the three artists work as simply “collective” might not fully grasp the intricacies of how they operate. Whilst they are joined together by common interests or motivations, when I asked why working together made sense for them, their responses reflected the professional and emotional nourishment that being in good company often proffers. They acknowledged how accustomed they were to individual work—it was a rhythm they each fell into and were well acquainted with. Yet, working with one another provided “new ways of seeing,” nudging them to let go of these routines and move more intuitively.6 They also spoke of queer kinships, sharing safe spaces with one another, and the affirmation of being held by trust. As we continued discussing how they worked and related to one another, it was clear that the term “collective” fell short, really, because they had found, as they described, their “chosen family.”7

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

We’re drawing a lot from our own lived experiences and belief systems—knowledge that is rooted in this region and to this land. We were also thinking about how these infrastructures have been overlaid over what we think of as spirit paths. It’s not just about the land; the waterways and water bodies that extend outwards across the different islands are implicated as well. At that point, you begin to think about questions of territoriality, questions of custodianship—who owns these spaces—and the migratory flows of bodies that move through and into the city.8

—Zarina Muhammad

 

Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau began with a walk along the Southern coastline of Singapore, along which Tanjong Pagar Distripark is sited. The artists recounted the smell of oil hanging low in the air throughout their walk, and a feeling of constriction and compression from being surrounded by constant construction and urban noise. When they finally saw the sea again, that feeling of tightness dislodged itself. The capacity to feel expansiveness within the body became something they pursued in making Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau.

Given its strategic location by the sea, large parcels of land along the Southern coastline have been slated for extensive redevelopment. The government’s vision for the Greater Southern Waterfront project was first announced in 2013 by the Urban Redevelopment Authority. With new housing, commercial, and cultural complexes, journalists have noted that “this move will mark a significant change in Singapore’s cityscape in a decade or so.”9

This appetite was on the artists’ minds as they interacted with the Southern coastline, along with the islands that surround mainland Singapore as well. They found the mainland’s hunger for growth demonstrated in its relationship to one particular island: Sentosa. Known today as an urban tourist destination, Sentosa was renamed after a public competition in 1969.10 Its previous name, Pulau Blakang Mati (which translates to “the island behind which lies death”), did not align with the government’s ambitions for the up-and-coming holiday resort. Prior to its current permutation as a large-scale amusement park, Pulau Blakang Mati was a military base and fort for the British during the colonial era. Yet, the British were not the first to see the island’s potential as a strategic military outpost. The island had been singled out for this purpose as early as the seventeenth century, though at the time it was a suggestion made with the Portuguese in mind. In fact, the island was most intimately known by the Orang Laut,11 its earliest recorded inhabitants. As colonial European accounts have recorded, Orang Laut such as the Orang Selat12 were skilled mariners who knew the Straits of Malacca like the back of their hands.

Whilst much of Sentosa has been redeveloped to cater to its new function as a holiday resort, pockets of the island remain relatively untouched. One such example is Tanjong Rimau, a protected beach headland and coastal landscape located on the northwestern tip of Sentosa. The site is home to a large variety of corals, seagrass, and unique intertidal creatures. Apart from being the namesake of the work, Tanjong Rimau became a unique vantage point from which the artists could examine the land and its layered histories. Seemingly forgotten in the feverish rehabilitation of Sentosa, Tanjong Rimau was a microcosm that contained the island’s current and past lives simultaneously, facets which often hide in plain sight as these places are redeveloped beyond recognition.

In speaking about the layers of history that are knotted into infrastructures, the anthropologist Catherine Allerton’s research provides helpful coordinates here. In an introduction to landscapes of spiritual significance in Southeast Asia, Allerton notes that “despite the varied histories and religions of Southeast Asian societies, a reading of many historical and ethnographic accounts reveals a common understanding that the world inhabited by humans was intersected by a spiritual or invisible realm.”13 This worldview meant that the spiritual did not exist on an external, extraordinary plane, but was instead tightly woven into the domain of the everyday. In the case of the Orang Laut, the maritime territories they traverse are “ancestral gifts [that] provide the physical and spiritual point of origin for both present and future generations.”14 These sites, and by extension their spectral residents, are not inert entities, but dynamic agents with their own memories, personalities, desires, and motivations. Such relationships are often shared by one generation with the next, but these otherworldly liaisons are not immediately literal or visible to the untrained eye. Yet, the land has its own way of remembering. In mapping spiritual landscapes, “potent places, pathways, rivers, trees and mountains” are significant markers.15 Whilst endangered trees such as the Nyireh Laut and Delek Air can only be found in protected nature reserves on mainland Singapore, they can still be found at Tanjong Rimau and some of the other Southern islands.

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

I approach this the same way I think about gamelan. The spirit cannot be contained by the instrument, instead it channels the spirit. That's how I think about our role as well. In the objects or installations that we make, though material is important, it does not define the spirit. When you catalogue the work, I don't feel like it dies. You're placing a system of knowledge on it, whilst knowing that it cannot be contained by that system.16

—Zachary Chan

 

Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau is a large-scale installation with multiple components. As you enter the installation’s space, you will first encounter a series of objects that have been placed on shelves along a wall that the artists call the Makara17 wall. From hard and rough objects common in urban landscapes, such as barbed wire and contorted steel bars, the wall slowly transitions towards objects that are made of organic, or more evocative materials, such as seed pods from a kapok tree, camphor tablets, or the skeleton of a fish. The placement of the objects gives the impression of an undulating wave and a creature’s body snaking around the space in an embrace all at once. The Makara wall is also punctuated by four wine vanes, and surrounded by a somewhat arbitrary arrangement of photographs that feature marine creatures that can be found in the intertidal zone of the Southern Islands.

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

From the Makara wall, you could then weave through the rest of the space by crossing a threshold marked symbolically by three sculptures that stand sentinel. Made of rattan cane and string, each individual sculpture is topped with a baby rocker and weighed down by rock. The sculptures are skeletal, multi-limbed entities. Suspended from the ceiling, the baby rocker compels the sculpture’s stringed tentacles to softly pound sambrani, which has been placed into a mortar and pestle sitting on the ground beneath it. This repetitive but meditative action counters the harshness of other objects populating the Makara wall. As large sambrani cups are slowly broken into smaller pieces, the kinetic sculptures actualise the process of transformation first demonstrated with the Makara wall through animated action. These gestures smooth the brow and calm the spirit, recalling the metronomic movements of a baby rocker.

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

At the heart of Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau sits a fermentation jar. The jar contains rice wine that bubbles throughout the duration of the exhibition, steadily breaking down solid rice kernels into delectable rice wine. This was a marked development from the fermentation projects that were a part of Restless Topographies. The rice wine here was left to brew in a fully opaque jar, with its lid kept on throughout the exhibition duration. As its inner workings were never on full display, the process of fermentation was something to be recognised but not seen. This paid homage to the important yet largely indiscernible work that the microbes were doing in the jar. Where other elements of the work might have explored our attachments with the more-than-human at the meso or macro scales, the microbial subject here focuses on the micro by way of the microscopic.

With this elastic yet connective tissue in mind, the work moves deftly between registers, with four more spirit houses radiating outwards from this central point. When struck, the spirit houses emit a spritely trickle, evoking sounds similar to those heard outside the museum; yet in the gallery, the wind vanes for each spirit house stand tall and unmoving on the Makara wall. Here, they are activated instead by visitors who may turn a hand crank attached to the right side of each spirit house, and so contributing an offering, while also enmeshing themselves within a web of relations with spirits, microbes, the bestiary, and more.

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

The artists’ research into urban landscapes in Singapore are aggregated within an essay film that features several sites of construction and urban development, including Tanjong Pagar (where the Central Business District and the country’s port operations are located), Tuas (an area at the Western edge of Singapore that has undergone significant land reclamation for the consolidation of port operations), and the Southern shoreline. By bringing these sites together, a sense of upheavals, excavations, and flattenings is impressed upon the viewer—both of physical soil and the spiritual histories ingrained into the land itself.

Scenes move between sleek, modern buildings in the Central Business District and luxury condominiums, to lesser-known sites such as the now-defunct Keppel Hill Reservoir and a World War II–era Japanese tomb in its vicinity. There is a sense of disorientation as you see these various sites flicker by on screen—without textual or indicative markers, they are not always familiar or easily distinguished from one another. In fact, a shot that might have been filmed at Tuas might be mistaken for the Keppel Hill Reservoir area or vice versa. However, there are subtle clues left in frame—an excavator in the background or smoke rising from the corner.

As you see the artists cradle the spirit houses in their arms or activate them at these sites, what becomes clear is that the spirit house and their melodies function as a sonic offering amidst these disruptions. Overlaid over this is a narrative that is part-poem, part-prayer. The film draws together much of what you would have encountered in the installation, and creates an informal map of various sites around Singapore that have been the subject of extensive infrastructural developments, have been forgotten and left behind, or occupy a space somewhere in between.

 

A lot of our work is interested in addressing this sense of disorientation with questions like: How do we make space for something that feels real in the body? How do we trace things that are buried? How do we see the spectral within the walls of glittering concrete and glass?18

—Joel Tan

 

As we began installing Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau for Lonely Vectors, Zarina and Zachary spent a few days tinkering with rattan cane together. These would later form the kinetic sculptures within the installation. What I found striking was how quiet those moments were. The artists, along with two artist assistants and two interns from the museum, slowly iterated various configurations with little to no instructions as to how the final products should look. As they continued to build them out, the sculptures also grew into personalities and styles of their own. When one of the interns finished making some small teardrop-shaped globules, Zarina quipped that they would make great earrings for her—referring to one of the three sculptures. Eventually, four such “earrings” were attached to one sculpture, itself a layered tree of branches tied together, bobbing ever so slightly to a beat determined by the baby rocker above.

The artists describe the sculptures coming together in an open, collaborative manner, and without much of a plan.19 The material qualities of rattan informed much of the experimentation instead, with some testing its tensile strength and others trying various knotting techniques. This conversational and materially informed approach towards making these sculptures can also be seen in how the rest of the installation was put together, as pieces were stacked onto one another, formed alongside, and stirred into each other intuitively.

The various elements of Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau are tied together by conjurations of the bodily function of digestion. Here, digestion is thought of as the non-violent breaking down of hard materials, including the concrete and glass mentioned above—emblematic of Singapore’s government-sanctioned frenetic urban development. Whilst we’ve already discussed the city-state’s hunger for urban expansion by way of Sentosa earlier in this essay, it is also imperative to note that the pragmatism-first approach demonstrated there is indicative of urban planning policy in Singapore at large.

Whilst change might be described as the only constant in urbanised cities, there is a distinct quality about how it transpires in Singapore, especially the speed at which it occurs. A recent example of this is the 2020 announcement that a second-growth forest and haven for biodiversity, Dover Forest, would be partially cleared for public housing.20 After a series of public consultations, the government moved ahead with releasing the flats that would be built there for public balloting just over two years later in November 2022.21 The clearing of the first municipal burial site for the Chinese community established in Singapore, Bukit Brown Cemetery, to build a highway, is also another fine example. The decision was announced in 2011, and whilst local nature and heritage groups put up a strong resistance, the highway opened to the public in 2018.22 Decisions around land development, recycling, and reclamation are spurred by the logic that Singapore is land-scarce, and therefore needs to constantly balance various complex needs.23 Whilst some have poked holes in this logic of scarcity,24 this neoliberal mode of governance remains the operant one.

Reflecting upon the systemic inadequacies and failures of this dominant world order, Hi‘ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart and Tamara Kneese write, “[I]t is precisely from this audacity to produce, apply, and effect care despite dark histories and futures that its radical nature emerges.”25 The artists draw upon this proposition for care by acknowledging the terraforming of the land with an emphasis on slowing down. Here, unhurriedness ameliorates the harm that has been inflicted by breaking the vicious cycle of acceleration. Instead of countering the prevailing narrative around land use with a quick, sharp retort, the artists see slowness or intermittence as a salve.

Returning to the work’s central metaphor and how it is expressed, the artists bring fermentation into the fold by approaching digestion as the backbone of its alchemical processes. In making rice wine, the rice starch chains are broken down into sugars, and the yeast balls feast on and digest them to produce sweetened alcohol. Fermentation, much like the sounding of the spirit house outdoors, happens at its own pace and time. Though its outcomes are not immediate, they are well worth the wait. Just as solid rice is broken down into luscious and sweet rice wine, perhaps we might arrive at new ways to transform landscapes with time, even those made with materials as unyielding as concrete.

 

Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, <i>Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau</i>, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.
Image: Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau, 2022, multi-channel video installation, fermentation jar, wind instruments, spirit houses, salvaged oar, sand, and rock; dimensions variable. Collection of Singapore Art Museum. Courtesy of Singapore Art Museum.

 

Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau eludes easy translation or documentation, and only reveals more of itself the longer one steeps in its physicality. Within a group show that presented a variety of works, I found myself constantly gravitating towards it whenever I found myself in the gallery. The work created a space that was inviting and calm, and its warm green walls were a much-needed respite from the cooler, harsher tones in other parts of the warehouse complex. It was also one of the few works in Lonely Vectors that made a point to incorporate seats, which supported lingering amongst both casual visitors and habitual regulars. It is this experience of a slow burn that perhaps best encapsulates the artists’ use of digestion as a metaphor. Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau reveals how the prioritisation of a pragmatic approach to urban planning undermines or severs us from spiritual landscapes. Yet any anger or resignation from this searing brutality slowly gives way to regeneration.

My last memory of the work is hearing the tremulous tones from the spirit house outdoors in the rush of an evening breeze the night before we de-installed it. In many ways, the final spirit house was not made with human visitors in mind, and I don’t think many of the ones who saw the work within the gallery space made their way up five stories to see the final spirit house in action. Though often used in reference to flora, fauna, or fungi, Dioramas for Tanjong Rimau thinks of the more-than-human across varying scales, from the microbial to the cosmic, and is interested in how we might relate to them by feeling, emoting, and sensing together. As Audre Lorde writes about the necessity of poetry, or more widely speaking, art: “There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.”26

Whilst the site is filled round the clock with the monotonous drone of trucks whizzing past or the sterile warning tones of the container cranes from the port next door, the spirit house’s songs are reminders of a different conception of time—one that expunges the accelerated present for a circuitous, compounded experience. Somewhere close amidst an industrial complex and well-oiled machinery, something primordial and profound beckoned.

 

 

Joella Q. Kiu is a curator, editor, and art historian whose research extends into the transmission, reception, and localisation of ecological frameworks within Southeast Asian contemporary art practices. Joella is currently Assistant Curator at the Singapore Art Museum, and recent curatorial projects include Lonely Vectors (2022, Singapore Art Museum), REFUSE (2022, Singapore Art Museum), and to gather: The Architecture of Relationships (2021, Singapore Pavilion at the 17th International Architecture Exhibition of La Biennale di Venezia). Joella holds an MA in History of Art from the Courtauld Institute of Art (2017), and a BA in History of Art from the University of York (2015).

 

 

Notes

1. For more insight into Zarina Muhammad’s practice, see Adeline Chia, “Zarina Muhammad’s Ecofeminist Sorcery,” ArtReview, November 3, 2022, https://artreview.com/zarina-muhammad-eco-feminism-magic-sorcery/.

2. For more insight into Zachary Chan’s ongoing artist residency at NTU CCA Singapore, see NTU Centre for Contemporary Art Singapore, “On AiR with Zachary Chan,” Facebook, November 11, 2022, https://www.facebook.com/289209494541774/videos/1169457860324193.

3. “,” Zarina Muhammad, accessed on December 8, 2022, https://girlsandghostsintrees.com/earth-land-sky-and-sea-as-palimpsest-1.

4. Lim Tin Seng, “Land From Sand: Singapore’s Reclamation Story,” Biblioasia, April 4, 2017, https://biblioasia.nlb.gov.sg/vol-13/issue-1/apr-jun-2017/land-from-sand.

5. For the broad strokes of history behind artist collectives in Indonesia, for example, see Elly Kent, "The History of Conscious Collectivity Behind Ruangrupa," ArtReview, July 6, 2022, https://artreview.com/the-history-of-conscious-collectivity-behind-ruangrupa/. The 2020 panel, Collectivism in Practice, organised by the National Gallery Singapore brought together the artist collectives Gudskul, Pangrok Sulap, and Brack, and is also a good reference as to the motivations behind gathering and working together within the region. For a re-examination as to why artist collectives such as The Artists Village in Singapore were formed, see Seng Yu Jin, “Re-visiting the Emergence of The Artists Village,” in The Artists Village: 20 Years On, ed., Kwok Kian Chow (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum and The Artists Village, 2009), 11–15. Finally, for an overview of collectivisation in Thailand, see Max Crosbie-Jones, "Why Collective Practice in Thailand is Under Threat," ArtReview, October 11, 2022, https://artreview.com/why-collective-practice-in-thailand-is-under-threat/.

6. Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Interview with the author, November 21, 2022.

7. Ibid.

8. Mi You, et. al., “All The Way Down: A Conversation between Mi You and Ho Tzu Nyen, Royce Ng, Zarina Muhammad, Zachary Chan and Joel Tan,” in Lonely Vectors, ed., Joella Kiu, Kenneth Tay, and Mi You (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2022), 133.

9. Karkal Karthik, “Is this how S’pore's Greater Southern Waterfront will look like?,” Today, 14 December, 2018, https://www.todayonline.com/commentary/how-should-spore-design-greater-southern-waterfront.

10. “A contest to re-name Pulau Blakang Mati,” The Straits Times, 25 November, 1969, https://eresources.nlb.gov.sg/newspapers/Digitised/Article/straitstimes19691125.2.97.

11. Orang Laut translates directly to “people of the sea.” There are many suku (divisions) of Orang Laut, but they are the indigenous people of the Straits of Malacca.

12. Orang Selat translates directly to “people of the Straits.”

13. Catherine Allerton, "Introduction: Spiritual Landscapes of Southeast Asia," Anthropological Forum, 19:3 (2009), 235–51, DOI: 10.1080/00664670903278387.

14. Fu Xiyao, “Dumpster Diving in Semakau" Retrieving Indigenous Histories from Singapore's Waste Island,” in Eating Chilli Crab in the Anthropocene: Environmental Perspectives on Life in Singapore, ed., Matthew Schneider-Mayerson (Singapore: Ethos Books, 2020), 112.

15. Catherine Allerton, "Introduction: Spiritual Landscapes of Southeast Asia", Anthropological Forum, 19:3 (2009), 235–51, DOI: 10.1080/00664670903278387.

16. Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan and Zachary Chan, Interview with the author, November 21, 2022.

17. A makara is a legendary creature in Hindu cosmology that is a composite beast. The word "Makara" is derived from Sanskrit, and the creature can be found in the mythologies of India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Cambodia, Nepal, and Tibet. Depending on the story or tradition, the makara is part elephant, boar, or peacock; and part crocodile, dolphin, or fish.

18. Mi You, et. al., “All The Way Down: A Conversation between Mi You and Ho Tzu Nyen, Royce Ng, Zarina Muhammad, Zachary Chan and Joel Tan,” in Lonely Vectors, ed., Joella Kiu, Kenneth Tay and Mi You (Singapore: Singapore Art Museum, 2022, 136–37.

19. Zarina Muhammad, Joel Tan, and Zachary Chan, Interview with the author and Melanie Barrett, September 7, 2022.

20. Michelle Ng, “HDB to launch 17,000 BTO flats in 2021, including in Bidadari, Queenstown and Geylang,” The Straits Times, December 21, 2020, https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/hdb-to-launch-17000-bto-flats-in-2021-including-in-bidadari-queenstown-and-geylang.

21. Michelle Ng, “First BTO project in Dover Forest to be launched in November; 1,330 flats up for sale,” The Straits Times, September 1, 2022, https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/housing/first-bto-project-in-dover-forest-to-be-launched-in-november-1330-flats-up-for-sale.

22. Janice Tai, “First section of Lornie Highway, formerly Bukit Brown Road, opens to traffic,” The Straits Times, October 28, 2018, https://www.straitstimes.com/singapore/transport/first-section-of-lornie-highway-formerly-bukit-brown-road-opens-to-traffic.

23. Valerie Chew, “Urban planning framework in Singapore,” Infopedia - National Library Board, accessed December 9, 2022, eresources.nlb.gov.sg/infopedia/articles/SIP_1565_2009-09-09.html.

24. For an alternative perspective, including statistics and figures, see Lien Centre for Social Innovation, Of Spatial and Mindset Change: An Interview with Tay Kheng Soon, Social Space (2011), 10–17.

25. Hi‘ilei Julia Kawehipuaakahaopulani Hobart, Tamara Kneese, “Radical Care: Survival Strategies for Uncertain Times,” Social Text 1 March 2020; 38 (1 (142)): 3, https://doi.org/10.1215/01642472-7971067.

26. Audre Lorde, “Poetry Is Not A Luxury,” in Your Silence Will Not Protect You, ed. Audre Lorde (London: Silver Press, 2017), 11.

Imprint

Author

Joella Q. KIU

Topic
Essays
Date
Mon, 9 Jan 2023

Relevant content

acceleration home
You Are Here
Ideas Journal | Essays

You Are Here

Jennifer Deger on the limits of modernist cartographies, and how art and anthropology might speak to the environmental crises of our time

FIELDNOTES03_cover
Mapping Asia
Ideas Journal | Essays

Mapping Asia

Note from the Editors

mappingAsia_list
Mapping Asia: Notes and Clippings
Ideas Journal | Notes

Mapping Asia: Notes and Clippings

Images and notes from the editors of Field Notes

List_soloman_benji
Framing Spatial Stories: Life Beyond the Plan, Survey, and Grid
Ideas Journal | Notes

Framing Spatial Stories: Life Beyond the Plan, Survey, and Grid

Solomon Benjamin and Wing Shing Tang's artistic explorations of Hong Kong for 15 Invitations

philippine-contemporary_list
Spatializing the Contemporary, Philippine-Style
Ideas Journal | Essays

Spatializing the Contemporary, Philippine-Style

Oscar Campomanes provides a conceptual and cultural critique of The Philippine Contemporary exhibition