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Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter: Art in a darkish, dusty, damp place, Arts News & Top Stories

Artist Tay Ining, 29, has found the proper place for a four-part artwork set up exploring the idea of decay: a moist pre-war air raid shelter in Tiong Bahru.

Her set up consists of things similar to oxygen canisters, a fluorescent lamp, polyester fibres, outdated garments and solid aluminium “puddles”.

The historic house comes with its personal quirks – a rusty mild dangling from the ceiling and swimming pools of water gathering in a far nook.

Tay, talking above the sound of water from the pipes overhead, says: “I’m still getting a lot of surprises. I didn’t know it would flood so much here… it’s the groundwater seeping into the room.”

She is certainly one of eight younger artists whose works are being displayed at Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter as a part of Raid, a Singapore Art Week exhibition that can run till Feb three.

Most of the 17 works within the 1,500 sq m house on the basement of Block 78 in Guan Chuan Street have been conceived with the air raid shelter in thoughts.

Co-curator Zulkhairi Zulkiflee, 27, says he’s “very much into the idea of the alternative site”. Such site-specific exhibitions supply a “challenge factor”, encouraging artists to answer the precise constraints in ingenious methods, he provides.

Artist Tay Ining, 29, establishing her work, contained in the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter. ST PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI


  • WHERE: Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter, Block 78 Guan Chuan Street 

    WHEN: Till Feb three, midday to 6pm every day; closed on Mondays 

    ADMISSION: Free 


He isn’t any stranger to the idea, having not too long ago organised Ruang (2017) in a vacant shophouse off Joo Chiat Road and Dancing On The Spot (2016) in a metalworking constructing.

His personal set up in Raid was impressed by a 1920s postcard of a Malay boy posing with a crocodile. “Iterations” of this picture, within the type of charcoal on paper, print on calico and different media, are scattered throughout two chambers.

Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter, Singapore’s final remaining pre-World War II civilian air raid shelter, dates way back to 1939. Usually closed to the general public, it may accommodate 1,600 folks and its block is considered the one public housing constructing by the Singapore Improvement Trust that was constructed with an air raid shelter.

With its dim lighting and dusty brick partitions – which make it arduous for the artists to connect issues to them – it poses sure constraints. But it is usually wealthy with prospects, which the artists have exploited – a stray nail on the wall right here, a heavy concrete tile there.

Mr Zulkhairi Zulkiflee, 27, establishing his work with assist from Ms Pooja Kanade, 24, contained in the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter. ST PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI

One set up by Jacqueline Sim, 30, for example, consists of a moving mild connected to a rotating mechanism, that shines from a “window” and illuminates the wall reverse. It is about “constructing hope” in a time of darkness similar to World War II, she says.

Zulkhairi and co-curator Daniel Chong, 23, acknowledge that the house might be “very overwhelming”, with its pitch-black corridors, trapdoors and joss sticks, and wall scribblings of former occupants.

Ms Pooja Kanade, 24, establishing her work titled A Place Of Worship Is Not A Lonely Place with the assistance of her father, Mr Pramod Kanade, 55. ST PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI

“How do you insert yourself into a space that is so full of history and heritage?” asks Chong, whose installations right here vary from sculpture normal from melted trash baggage to funeral flowers and items of concrete that seem like cemetery slabs.

Visitors can see for themselves how Raid – which additionally options works by Ivan David Ng, Pooja Kanade, Vanessa Lim and Nhawfal Juma’at – solutions that query.

Ms Jacqueline Sim, 30, establishing her work titled, There Is A Time For Everything, And A Season For Every Activity Under The Heavens – A Time To Plant And A Time To Uproot, contained in the Tiong Bahru Air Raid Shelter. ST PHOTO: LIM YAO HUI

Down there, Zulkhairi guarantees, it’s nothing in need of “visceral”.

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