If Home was a word for Illusion


/ Exhibition Opening
20 April 2016, 7 – 9pm

/ Exhibition
20 April to 1 May 2016,
12 – 8pm (daily),
The Substation Gallery, 45 Armenian Street, Singapore 179936

/ Artist Talk: Conversations with the Self
1 May 2016, Sunday, 3 – 4.30pm, The Substation Gallery

/ If Home was a word for Illusion is a group exhibition comprising new works by Charmaine Poh, Lim Jia Ning Michelle, Moses Tan and Willis Turner Henry. Through human-centred narratives, the artists examine everyday anxieties that follow life in contemporary society. Addressing both the mental and physical responses that accompany these tensions, the works, while deeply personal, gather a constellation of voices beyond the artists’ own. 

The title, If Home was a word for Illusion, questions comfort and familiarity – could what we hold closest to us be but a mirage?

/ The artists presented in this exhibition are recipients of the Noise Singapore Prize 2014, under The Apprenticeship Programme (TAP), organised by the National Arts Council. In addition, this project would not have been realised without the generous support of Grenadier Press, RJ Paper and Asahi.

Curated by Syaheedah Iskandar


Room is a series of photographs exploring the transition from girlhood to womanhood in Singapore. Using the tradition of documentary storytelling, the portraits were created to gather a collection of voices of various women, each with their own narrative to share.

Through the photographic process, these women re-encountered their years of adolescence, a time that is unapologetically raw and volatile. The accompanying self-portraits offer a glimpse into the different permutations that attach themselves to one’s gender. The work confronts personal history and its bearing on individuals in society. It is about a place of questioning and dissonance, and the tensions that arise from navigating a nebulous and amorphous identity. It is as much a story to others as it is to the self.

Blue: A Story in Three Acts


IKB 79 1959 Yves Klein 1928-1962 Purchased 1972 http://www.tate.org.uk/art/work/T01513

Act I: The Edge of the Bend

Go slow; it was never my intention
to rush.
Round the race tracks our lives
have curved, and now,
with dust beneath our feet,
you’ll get the very best
of me.

In careless circles
far too large to grasp,
we spin
closer and closer, until
on arrival,
we touch.

I place my finger on
the world, breathe deep.
When the time comes,
meet me halfway:
these are the days I have
and I
will give them
to you.

Act II: The Sea

On the rocky edges
I stand. Soles on stone,
salt crystals lining
my hair, itself tangled
by the wind’s might.

Swayed by the call
of the tide:
can you hear the waves
crash into land, as if
it was both a lover
whose arms it cannot help
but rush into
and an obstacle
to overcome?

I wonder how
the sand feels
as it lays flat bare,
eroded time
and time again
by water.

The moon’s pull is such:
the cycle of crash
and recede. Crash, recede.
Crash, again.

The depth swallows, takes whole,
but it has enough
to give away.

Kiss the shore, I say.
Unmoor your chest
and don’t look back.
In reply,
only still water.

Let me know
if you are coming too;
I am stung by the sea.

Act III: The Order of Things

In 1990, the year I was born, the Hubble Space Telescope was sent into space. About the size of a large school bus, it makes one orbit around Earth every 95 minutes. Its purpose, 24/7, is to take photographs of the universe. Jostein Gaarder, in The Orange Girl, called it the eye of the universe, yet “it has taken the universe almost fifteen billion years to graft on something as fundamental as an eye to see itself by.”

Cosmos, an ancient Greek term, refers to the order of the universe. The word indicates a natural form, an interconnectedness, and progression, although it does not state for whom or what towards. The opposite of Cosmos is Chaos, which means a vast chasm of emptiness, or an infinite void.

Within the Cosmos are designated paths – orbits – that each object in space traverses. On the rare occasion that two objects find that their orbits spin closely to each other (although closely is relative; the closest orbits in our System come from Neptune and Pluto, whose closest distance at any point is ten billion kilometres), there will be a mutual gravitational pull. However, for the sake of their own existence(s), both objects need to continue on their own orbits, or risk being ejected from the System altogether, which could send them into a collision course in space, or into a black hole, which would mean Chaos.

Also in the Cosmos is the two-body problem, in which two objects, such as a planet and a star, interact only with each other, as always, due to gravity. But they are like two runners running at the same eternal speed around a race track, with one ahead and one behind. One will never slow down, and the other will never catch up. They will never intersect.

In order to stay within the Cosmos, thus maintaining the Stability of the Solar System, objects need to follow their orbits at their own pace. Yet the System is Stable only in human terms; beyond the next few billion years, even orbits become ultimately impossible to predict with any certainty. Because of this, scientists state that our System is inherently Chaotic.

And how small-minded of me: there are also the galaxies, each one constantly growing and dying, making up a universe constantly in flux. If our sun is a mere star, and galaxies are made up of billions of stars, then truly, as Carl Sagan writes, “each star may be a sun to someone.” There are billions of suns to spin around.

Our sun itself is in free fall about the Milky Way. Earth is in free fall about the sun. And the moon is in free fall about Earth. Because of the gravitational pulls of both the moon and the sun, Earth’s oceans, instead of remaining at a levelled calm, have tides, hence the cycle of crash and recede. The sea, all the more then, is under a System that is seemingly Cosmos, but in actual fact, Chaos.

“The lifetime of a human being is measured by decades, the lifetime of the Sun is a hundred million times longer. Compared to a star, we are like mayflies, fleeting ephemeral creatures who live out their lives in the course of a single day.” – Carl Sagan, Cosmos

Mornings in Other Places, ii

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Two years ago, two college friends and I documented our mornings for a week, posting snippets on Instagram, marked with the tag, #morningsinotherplaces. We were in a state of transition, having just graduated and moved cities, and the disjointment was raw. I saw social media as a way to connect us, through a virtual holding of hands, across the fault lines that post-grad life threw our way.

Curious about the intersections and disparities of our chosen paths, I managed to cajole them into embarking on round two. This time, the posts are thankfully less morose. Whether in the routines we establish or in the self-assurance that we build, perhaps the remedy is simply some semblance of firm ground.

At this particular point, I find myself rooted in Singapore to a surprising degree. I haven’t left the country in close to six months, a record by far. Ruth is still in D.C., this time working as a radio producer, and writing kick-ass WaPo articles on the side. Elaine is back in our college city of Boston for graduate school, this time to learn about the social equity that astute urban planning can bring. I masquerade as a writer and photographer, and sometimes people believe me. We’ve all fallen on our faces, and gotten back up again. I would like to think the callouses and sutures over the last couple of years have seen us go only from strength to strength.

“I’d woken up early, and I took a long time getting ready to exist,” writes Fernando Pessoa, in The Book of Disquiet, a book I started reading and haven’t finished. The start of the day has always been an intimate time for me. With the residue of our dreams still trailing us, and our eyes crusty with sleep, mornings buy us time to put on the armour we need to face this wonderful and overwhelming world.

Like trailers to films, or summaries to novels, these Insta-dispatches are split-second anecdotes of our lives. Some of the moments we hold closest to us remain preciously uncaptured. Yet for all that social media is worth, I’ll take what I can get. In celebration of the past few years, here’s a toast:


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To morning routines in abodes of our own making,

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To the countries and their climates that will always dictate our lives,

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To direction and taking our work seriously,

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To knowing who we are and where we come from,

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To family,

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To love and its rhythms,

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To more adventures in unexpected places,

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To acting like we never left college,

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And to laughing at ourselves more, and learning to chill the fuck out.

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In the words of James Blake, you’re on your own, in a world you’ve grown, few more years to go, don’t let the hurdle fall, so be the girl you loved, be the girl you loved – for anything else would be retrograde (sorry, I couldn’t resist).

To Ruth and Elaine, with all my love, until we next see each other in person, marvelling at how the bearing of time sees us once again collide.



The Room Within – This is Home

bedroom low res

The Room Within

“I should say: the house shelters day-dreaming, the house protects the dreamer, the house allows one to dream in peace.” – Gaston Bachelard, The Poetics of Space

With The Poetics of Space as a point of departure, the installation looks at the significance of objects in people’s homes, and by extension, explores the occurrences within the walls of the physical home. The work is about our human response to our immediate environment: about what gets seamlessly absorbed into our everyday routines, and what we subconsciously neglect. The objects we possess have a variety of qualities: they are functional, sentimental, or both. What can we not bear to part with? What has come to represent us as people? What, at the end of a long day, do we come home to?

Our homes, in turn, conjure up different images in our minds. They are a place of refuge, of solace, and of joy. They are also, at times, places of fear, and of entrapment, and of heaviness. They have undoubtedly played a part in shaping who we are.

Through objects and their stories, the installation maps the various narratives that exist in Queenstown, from elderly Tanglin Halt residents to young people reaching the brink of adulthood.

Exhibition Poster

The second part of the This is Home initiative is a series of multimedia mapping experiments presented by seven artists working in collaboration with Queenstown residents. The works explore the meaning of home through maps and mapping processes.

The exhibition will move to Queenstown proper in March, which will provide more opportunities for interaction with the neighbourhood’s residents.

A big thank you to Genine and Jan of MATT3R, My Queenstown, and friends who helped me with set-up and/or took precious time off their schedules to attend the exhibition. I am so grateful for you.


Objects, Mapping, Home

Life has been extraordinarily busy, and it will only get busier over the next few months. But I am thankful.

This Saturday, as part of a Brack x Matt3r x My Queenstown initiative, I’ll be sharing a bit about my project on documenting the objects in the homes of various Queenstown residents.


Saturday, 5 Dec, 2pm, The Recess.