Sunday, June 02, 2013

Displacements. At 13 Wilkie Terrace. The launch party.

Displacements. 13 Wilkie Terrace.

1 Jun 2013 (Sat):

I came to say 'hello' to a 77-year-old house that I do not have direct memories of.
My visit to the house reminded me of memories from my past.
As this house would be demolished soon,
While I say 'hello' to it, 
I knew in my heart that I would soon say 'goodbye' too.

It was a pleasant evening. The weather was about to drizzle. I strolled along Wilkie Road with one of my friends, JL, to head towards a 77-year-old house at 13 Wilkie Terrace. We hastened our pace as it would drizzle any time.

My imaginations ran a bit wild. I started to imagine what a simple yet lovely walk it would have been if I were living in 13 Wilkie Terrace and every day, on my way "home", I was treated to a leisure stroll along Wilkie Road. The low-rise buildings allowed me to gain a clear view of the skies. At night, I could count the stars if I wish to. The other houses along my way "home" would greet me each day until one day, a major change happened. 

Back to reality. I read that the house at 13 Wilkie Terrace was sold in 2013 to Roxy-Pacific Holding and it will make way for urban renewal in the Mount Emily/ Selegie area. Before the demolition of this house, 16 artists will interpret the theme of displacement in this soon-to-be demolished 77-year-old family home of the Chia family. Their works and interpretation will be presented in Displacements, a community arts exhibition and event program held at 13 Wilkie Terrace from 2 - 23 Jun 2013.

The house at 13 Wilke Terrace
As I walked up the stairways that would led me to the house, I was welcomed by stone table and stools. The bench reminded me of stone benches that I would find in the school-building which I had studied in as a Secondary School student. Conversations tend to take place when people sit next to one another. I hope the residents of and visitors to this house would have memorable and interesting conversations around the stone table.

There is an open-space area just outside the house. Maybe this space would have previously been the playground for the children? Last evening, the open-space became one of the favourite gathering places for the guests who attended Displacements' launch party.

The launch party.

As I entered the family home of Chia family, there is a distinctive plaque inscribed with Chinese words. It is placed in a conspicuous place that no-one could miss. From the words on the plaque, this plaque was presented to Mr Chia Pak Shoon when he moved to 13 Wilkie Terrace. The four Chinese characters in large fonts read 傑構崇高. These were written in the traditional Chinese script. As best as I could deduce, if rewritten in simplified Chinese script, the words on the plaque would be 杰构崇高 which would essentially mean 'an outstanding and noble structure'. I was fascinated with how the plaque could trace the history of the house.

My friend and I ventured about the house. I was more intrigued with the design of the house than the artworks that were on display. The high ceilings and the fans in the house reminded me of Jiang Xia Tang along Lor 35 Geylang which I have visited a few years ago. My friend noticed that the wooden doors in this house opened like a pair of couplets, one to the left and one to the right. She also noticed that every room that we visited had a wash basin.

13 Wilke Terrace.

The design of the glass windows somehow reminded me of the now demolished Nanyang Girls High School building which was located along Kings Road. That school building was where I had spent four memorable years of secondary level education in. The Russian Doll that I saw in the house reminded me of the Russian Doll that I have seen in my maternal grandparents' home. It was interesting to realize that my very first visit to this 77-year-old house could trigger me to recall memories that is not directly related to the house. Is this what collective memory is about?

In the background is a pigment ink print on fine art paper, Fragment, by Marcel Heijnen.
The furniture we see is from Carpenter and Cook.

Looking down, from one of the windows.

I took a special notice of the stairways. I imagined stairways as important spaces that people would have to pass through in order to get from one level of the house to the other. Maybe the stairways were one of the favourite exercising corners for the people who used to live in this house?

Displacements. The Community Arts Exhibition and Event Program.
While I was more captivated by the house itself, I reminded myself that Displacements is a community arts exhibition and took a good look at the works of art that were presented.

I found myself intrigued by Michelle Lim's Memories in Motion. Take some meditative moments to observe how the light shines through each of the porcelain pieces and you may, like myself, find awe and beauty in our everyday objects.

A part of Michelle Lim's Memory in Motion.

Also noteworthy is Yen Phang's Ecdysis #2. Thanks to the title of this work, I went to look up the dictionary and learnt the meaning of a new word! Ecdysis is the moulting of the protective outer covering in many invertebrates. The artist questions how we define ourselves through this artwork. In the exhibition catalogue, Yen Phang stated "We continually shed our old selves to reveal new, self-sought meanings for our future...". I felt grateful for the opportunity to speak with Yen Phang during the launch party. He shared with me a little more about the plaque that was displayed in the house and how Displacements was conceived.

Yen Phang's Ecdysis #2.

In this space, two works interact with one another as if they were engaging in some kind of dance.
Yen Phang's Ecdysis #2.
Karen and Alex Mitchell's "No Due Date".

Karen and Alex Mitchell's No Due Date has left an impression in my accompanying friend. She felt that the concepts of borrowing and displacement which are explored in this artwork was in some ways very relevant to the house. This is one work to contemplate the notions of borrowing and displacement. I particularly like how this work interact with Yen Phang's Ecdysis #2 like two artwork dancing with one another.

Nicola Anthony's Pass It On.

Nicola Anthony's Pass It On is one of the artworks that caught my eyes. It was simply not possible to ignore the brilliant red colours shouting from the thousands of saga seeds that were gathered from all over Singapore. As the lights throw themselves onto the artwork, it was interesting to see how the reflections from the artwork threw themselves onto the walls. I like the organic feel that seemed to radiate from this work. It reminded me of the occasional times when my friends and I would pick and gather a few saga seeds to keep as memento. Did you have a memory of yourself picking and keeping saga seeds? 

Interestingly, each saga seed has a story behind its seed collecting process. the stories are available at My saga seed number is 4791. What is yours?

There are many other noteworthy works that are being presented at Displacements. I shall not write about all the works. If you are curious about Displacements, please visit the house at 13 Wilkie Terrace to experience the house and the works personally. I wish that the next time when I visit Displacements sometime this month, I could catch the performance by Sören and Jessica.

As I left the house last night, I also felt a sense of sadness and nostalgia to bid farewell to 13 Wilkie Terrace. Good-bye. Thank you for the memories.


2 - 23 Jun 2013
13 Wilke Terrace, Singapore.
Exhibition hours:
Tue - Fri, 3 p.m. -8 p.m.
Sat and Sun, 2 - 8 p.m.
Admission is free

Directions to get there:
13 Wilkie Terrace is within walking distance from Selegie Road. The nearest MRT stations are Little India Station (8 minutes away on foot) and Dhoby Ghaut (15 minutes on foot). To walk there, walk to Wilkie Edge, then up Wilkie Road until you see Wilkie Terrace. Turn into Wilkie Terrace and walk up to house number 13.

Parking is available along Wilkie Road, Niven Road, Peace Centre and Wilkie Edge.

Please also read
Displacements - Goodbye Forever by Karen Mitchell.
A celebratory show before demolition begins by Bruce Quek.

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