First Storeys (2017-2019)
1 - 10 March 2019, 3pm and 7.30pm
300 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee
Commissioned by The Future of Our Pasts Festival
First Storeys interrogates the “kampung to metropolis” narrative, focusing on the period of large scale resettlement in Singapore from the 1950s to the 1990s. Through a speculative theatrical installation, the piece surfaces lesser known stories surrounding the process of resettlement. The installation is housed in 300 Jalan Bukit Ho Swee, the former Bukit Ho Swee Community Center. This was also the site of the Bukit Ho Swee fire in 1961, a turning point in the housing narrative of Singapore, which left more than 16,000 people homeless.
The disused site is transformed into a fictional space that resembles a housing development office. Audience members take on the role of residents participating in the resettlement exercise, they are met with Resettlement Officers who show them around the space, and help residents process their individual case. This participatory experience is largely inspired by true events and stories, which were gathered from the oral history interviews conducted. The exhibits in the space include acrylic models of vernacular housing, 3D-printed fruits, as well as repurposed found objects. These found objects were discarded during residents’ relocation - the modern day resettlement - where residents are made to move out from their old flats to make way for future developments.
Due to the sensitivity surrounding resettlement, there was a lack of information and data collected. First Storeys take on a speculative approach to plug in the gaps in the research. In weaving stories, artefacts, and performance, the work strives to question and uncover a more nuanced understanding of Singapore’s housing history and narrative.
Keywords: development, eviction, history, in situ, memory, narrative, places.
“First Storeys is an interactive installation and performance premised upon the relocation of citizens from kampungs and squatter settlements into new housing estates. This forced relocation displaced scores of people, often leaving them bereft of community, identity and a sense of home.” - Marc Nair, Mackerel
“First Storeys is a worthy artistic attempt at interpreting the resettlement schemes of early Singapore, a work that is rife with potential on a subject few people have discussed at length” - Bakchormeeboy
“First Storeys gives me a peek into the resignation that comes with relocating, rehoming. The performance ends with a letter delivered to you and Hidayah: you are told to move, again. You both sigh, and sit to watch the television. Yet another advertisement of how wonderful the new housing estates will be. Our cue to leave arrives, and I return to the registration counter to collect my phone, which was confiscated at the beginning. The exercise of rehoming, relocating continues.” - Teo Xiao Ting, Centre 42