Head over to The Supper House rooftop between now and 30 September and you’ll find yourself immersed in a thoughtful work that considers, probes and interrogates the Singapore – Malaysia geo-political and social dynamic. As part of the Substation’s SeptFest 2022, the mini- exhibition features the work of artists Anthony Chin and Andrea Rachael Danker in a presentation entitled Across Narrow Waters. Curated by John Tung, the show offers three works which present different aspects of the relationship between Singapore and Malaysia.
Danker’s works are a deep dive into how ordinary citizens can be affected by government policies, and share her experience of what it was like being separated from her mother during Malaysia’s MCO period.
We loved how the placement of the paintings resulted in the sky above the rooftop being reflected in the window covering the works. The result was an inability to fully discern the paintings in the hot sunshine, with reflections of clouds, surrounding buildings and even our own physical images obscuring the works. It was a brilliant reminder about the complex and layered relationship that Singapore has with Malaysia.
You’ ll also find scattered around the rooftop, vinyl stickers made of paintings produced by Danker depicting travel essentials that are typically brought along for the Singapore – Malaysia border crossing. You can step on them and touch them as you think about all the personal stories of loss and longing that emerged from pandemic travel restrictions. (For an added bonus, you might realise that it’s actually possible to view the Straits of Johor in the far distance, from the rooftop location of the exhibition.)
Anthony Chin’s sinister-looking installation perhaps, probably, possibly, 2026, 2022 frames Danker’s work and is a special commission for SeptFest 2022.
It’s made up of two pairs of binoculars which are pointed at each other:
When looking through the binoculars pointing towards Malaysia one sees a view of Singapore, and vice-versa when one peers into the binoculars directed further inland towards Singapore. Each landscape could just as equally belong in either or both countries, challenging viewers to question their own assumptions about what makes Malaysia and Malaysians so different from Singapore and her people. As Chin muses, “Culturally we are very close; and the separation [in 1965] was a political and philosophical issue.”
The presentation of the landscape images is also intriguing.
Each pair of binoculars shows livestreams of the image placed behind the one directly in front of the lens. In other words, the images themselves change depending on the time of day, cast of shadow and the weather. And, the image that you think you’re looking at (due to the deliberate placement of the landscape images), is never the one that you’re actually seeing. It’s all a bit mad and confusing, but deeply poetic, underscoring further the complicated relationship between the two countries and the respective perceptions of their citizens.
The installation is deliberately angled in the directional path that the KL -Singapore High Speed Rail project would have taken, had it been built. And it’s mounted on grass to signify a literal battle for “turf.”
One more interesting thing to note about this exhibition is the fact that it’s part of the first SeptFest since the closure of The Substation at Armenian Street. As curator John Tung mused, “You can’t really benchmark this against previous [Substation] shows.. the Substation is not an island in itself, and it can survive because of all its tendrils that have manifested in existing galleries and spaces. [New] spaces like Figment and The Supper House have also joined this network.”
Across Narrow Waters runs till 30 September. The rooftop space can be accessed either through The Supper House, or from the ground level of 222 Tagore Lane (by taking a lift directly up to the roof, signs are posted along the path to help you find your way)