The performance aims to explore the lost narratives about early Indians who migrated to Singapore from South India in early 1800s, and how their identities were mapped in the relation to socio-political economic conditions.
Between 1815 and 1837, the East Indian Company shipped Indian convicts to Singapore. Most of these convicts were put to labour on building public projects such as building roads and bridges, and some worked in agriculture.
Apart from brief mentions in archival and encyclopedic material, these narratives of early Indians have seemingly been ‘drowned’ in our Singapore history and leaving a question of “What are our life histories of Indians?”.
The overall concept of the performance is translated from the methodology of auto-ethnography studies in addressing issues from perspective as an insider (I define history, history defines me, ). Within this context, the artist adopts a role of both storyteller and native who is able to provide multi-interpretations of reality and alternative interpretations of veracity through the artworks.
In this walk performance, the boundaries which are invisible becomes visible through revisiting historical meaning of the past, in which are narrated through the symbolic interpretation between the artist’s body and various architectural landmarks passed by during the walk.
The performance will be in the format of a walk by the artist in the cultural and heritage district of Singapore. Shaven bald and wearing a head gear bearing the artist’s NRIC, the artist will invite selected individuals to hook one or six pieces of ice shrines onto his back. The water used to create the ice shrines will be taken from the Singapore River.
The artist will be wearing a white dhoti throughout the preparation and the walk. The preparation will be at 4-6pm, the performance will be 6-8pm. It will start at sam @ 8Q, the contemporary wing of the Singapore Art Museum, and end at the statue of Sir Stamford Raffles at the Raffles Landing Site next to the Singapore River.
The route including passing by key architectural landmarks where the colonial history of Singapore and little known narratives of Indian convicts coincide: Bras Basah Road; North Bridge Road; Raffles Hotel; Raffles Institution; Coleman Street; Old Supreme Court (now National Gallery Singapore); Maxwell Court House (now Asian Civilisations Museum); and Old Parliament House (now
6 small pieces each measuring 18 x 8 x 8 cm (estimated) Water for ice shrine/s will be taken from Singapore River
Head Gear will be used as part of the performance, and the face will be painted with ash.
I will be walking from Q8 to landing site of Raffles (mouth of the Singapore). During the walk, I will be carrying the ice-shrine on my back, which are pierced through metal hooks.
Walk is designed to relate to the narrative of the site as follows:-
Q8- Victoria Street (Victoria Street were named after Queen Victoria (1819-1901).
Bras Basah Road – The convict jail at Bras Basah was established in response to the increasing number of convicts who were transported to Singapore from other places such as India and Hong Kong when Singapore was a penal colony in the early 19th century. Dhobies or “Indian laundrymen”, loosely referred to as Bengalis or Madrasis, pointing to their origins, once washed the clothes of nearby residents on the banks of the fresh water stream of the Sungei Brass Bassa (now Stamford Canal) that ran by Orchard and Stamford Roads.
North Bridge Road– Mr George Coleman, Superintendent of Public Works headed the construction of North Bridge and South Bridge Roads, with the help of convict labourers Raffles Hotel – Raffles Hotel began as Beach House, a private home built in the 1830s by Robert Scott. In 1878, Charles Emmerson leased the building and opened Emmerson’s Hotel H.S Raffles Insitution – Shortly after the establishment of a British settlement in Singapore in 1819, Raffles wanted to establish an institution that would educate the sons of the local chiefs; teach local languages to officers of the East India Company; and facilitate research in the history, culture and resources of Asian countries
Coleman Street – It was named after G. D. Coleman, the first architect in Singapore and Overseer of Convicts. Supreme Court( National Gallery Singapore) – The building sits on the site of the former house of James Clarke of Guthrie and Company Ltd and later that of Edward Boustead, founder of Boustead and Company. Boustead’s house, built in 1823, was then remodelled to serve as the London Hotel. Subsequently, it was renamed the Hotel de l’Esperance and thereafter the Hotel de l’Europe. The hotel was demolished in 1900 and rebuilt as the Grand Hotel de l’Europe (completed in 1905), otherwise known as the Adis Building after its owner.
Maxwell Court House (Asian Civilisation Muesum) – Constructed between 1826 and 1827, the Parliament House was originally designed by G. D. Coleman as the home of Scottish merchant John Argyle Maxwell. Due to an administrative oversight, Maxwell’s House became possibly the only home in an area designated for government buildings based on the 1822 Raffles Town Plan but it was never used as a residential building.
Old Parliament House (The Arts House) – Constructed between 1826 and 1827, the Parliament House was originally designed by G. D. Coleman as the home of Scottish merchant John Argyle Maxwell
The performance titled “Unwalked Boundaries ” did not materialize as due to several concerns raising from social riot to distorted religious aesthetics. In responding to the withdrawal of my performance, I enacted another narrative during the opening of the show (refer to the above clip). As part of the process, I drew a line on the terracotta artwork with my blood, and completing it by asking a question “when'” can I performance.
As part of blood oath, I will continue marking the body till “Unwalked Boundaries Performance” gets enacted as proposed for the Singapore Biennale 2016.
The marking process started from 29 October 2016.
As today, I have been making the body for
1211 days 15 hours 22 minutes 45 seconds.