Friday, October 5, 2012

Finding a home, building one and tearing one

A mock up of the installation@activated C Studoi
A mock up of the installation (details)@activated C Studio

A collage of newspapers advertisements selling properties

A view of the installation at Vargas Museum


An overview of the installation at the basement level of Vargas Museum (during setting up)

Title: Finding a home, building one and tearing one
Dimensions: Variable
Medium: Mixed media
Year: 2012
This work was exhibited at Vargas Museum, University of the Philippines, Manila, Philippines, for Project Glocal: Cityzening curated by Dayang Yraola from 11 October till 10 November 2012.

A Synopsis of the Work
Housing a nation (even as small as a city-state like Singapore) has always been an issue in most cities. Physical space constraint and rising costs of housing make finding a home a challenge to most city-dwellers. In Singapore, where I live and work (I am a true-blue Singapore citizen), prices of properties have escalated in such alarming state that even public housing (which is supposed to be affordable to all) has climbed to exorbitant values in popular estates such as Ang Mo Kio, Bishan and Tiong Bahru. Singaporeans are finding it difficult to own their houses now.
Every day, especially over the weekend, the newspapers run pages of advertisements selling and buying properties―houses, flats and condominiums. These advertisements are also found on virtual space, brochures and roadside advertisement panels. Places where we stay, where we call homes have now turned into commodities and subject of investment and monetary transactions. Buying a property now becomes an indication of wealth, a status symbol of city-dwellers.  A house is no longer just a roof to protect us from the exterior environment.
My artwork is a critique of this situation.  Will we reach a state where we cannot find a place to stay in the city? Will we be ousted out of our homes by property agents, rich buyers and investors? In order to confront the viewers with the prevalence of such ‘housing transactions’, I use newspapers that show the properties section to construct a physical space. They become the carpet on the floor for people to walk on. They also become the wall paper. I will also draw on the paper using charcoal to further demarcate the space. This fragility of the paper and the impermanence of charcoal symbolise the ephemeral state of our homes and buildings in the city (an inevitable situation of urbanity). Today it is here, but it may be gone the next day!
As the human body is an essential entity living in houses, it is an important element in this piece of work. Hence, human presence and movement in the physical space of the installation is crucial. On the opening night, there will be a performance in which the human becomes the animal mole. The mole is also a mammal like us, but it is quite blind and burrows underground to find a place to live. Some farmers dislike it because its burrowing disturbs the ecosystem and their crops. The mole becomes a metaphor of the human city-dweller who is lost without a home, and now finding places to stay. Instead of living higher (more expensive), they burrow underground. Will things change the way one live then? Due to the lack of land, will even going underground create clashes?

There was a performance on the opening night 11 October 2012. See video-documentation:

Performance stills of Finding a home, building one and tearing one

Movement by Jm Cabling
Sound by Roan Opiso
Art installation & movement concept by Tang Ling-Nah

The following video is an exploration I tried out at Goodman Arts Centre in July 2012. It gives me this idea of the mole burrowing into underground space: 

The exploration was also done with Faye Lim of Strangeweather Movement:

Documentation images of Cityzening in Manila (including setting up and installation views of the work).

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