Arts Preview Singapore

Preview: Singapore Girl, or Heritage Deployed by The Substation


The Substation is about to show visitors a great way to fly with a brand new programme. Running from 6th October to 4th November, Singapore Girl, or Heritage Deployed will feature an eclectic range of events all revolving around our favourite local icon: the Singapore Girl. 

Marking the second chapter of The Substation’s current programme season on heritage (Cities change. People die. Everything you know goes away), Singapore Girl, or Heritage Deployed brings together artists, academics, and field specialists to open up conversations around Singapore’s postcolonial, nation-building narrative. Marketed internationally as the quintessential symbol of Asian hospitality, the Singapore Girl epitomises the fantasies of the Oriental Other neatly packaged as a mass market, consumable product. 

Says The Substation Artistic Director Alan Oei: “Our last programmed looked at the issue of conservation, and the iconic modernist architecture that is under threat with En Bloc fever looming over all of us. The thrust of heritage conservation in the past has mostly focused on buildings and monuments. UNESCO World Heritage sites have demonstrably shown many countries how heritage can also be commodified and transformed into tourist attractions that have sometimes proven highly disruptive to the local economy. In other words, it’s double-edged. The same kind of complexity and ambiguity exists in the Singapore Girl who is much beloved, but also a flashpoint for feminism, objectification, and colonial hangovers.”

In the programme lineup, expect to see The Substation feature art exhibitions such as Singapore Girl & the Chamber of Trials and Tribulations at the Gallery, and The Land of My Heart by John Clang, an outdoor exhibition displayed on The Substation facade. Both these exhibitions will explore the mythology surrounding the Singapore Girl, attempting to re-appropriate and understand the phenomena, with the former even allowing visitors to go through the strict rigours demanded of a flight stewardess, including the strenuous test and interview process each icon goes through. 


Meanwhile, watch as the Singapore Girl comes under question in Tan Kheng Hua’s theatre variety show She’s A Great Way To Fly, asking serious questions from how “Singapore” is the “Singapore Girl”, to off kilter ones such as if the kebaya hold up in the face of an inflight emergency. The lineup of performances includes Sarah, a film by André Chong and Lim Zeharn, (Singapore) Girls, a play by Audrey Teong, Shirin Keshvani & Alysha Chandra and more. 

Says Kheng: “Unpacking the Singapore Girl is in line with us exploring the commodification of nostalgia in Singapore. And I’ve invited a medley of young and talented artists to come together for this rather offbeat and experimental variety show—conceptualised completely around the Singapore Girl. It sounded like great fun and indeed, it has been!”

Meanwhile, the Substation has deemed it fit to throw a party in honour of the Singapore Girl with This Girl’s In Love With You. Local drag superstar Becca d’Bus leads an alternative Balmain army runway show while attendees will even get a chance to meet ex-crew members and hear a series of late-night confession-sessions from them. Guests are encouraged to come dressed in batik for this SAD party hosted by local social media darling Preetipls, and who will even be debuting her first single.

Says Becca d’Bus: “You know when The Substation asks a very fat drag queen to think about the Singapore Girl, they’ve really taken to heart Kuo Pao Kun’s now over-quoted adage about failure. Who am I to refuse? Move over Kardashians, the Singapore Girl is the original #BalmainArmy, Olivier Rousteing eat your heart out.”

Other activities in the programme include a panel discussion interrogating the identity of the Singapore Girl, and a film screening of tragicomic modern African film I Am Not A Witch. 

This October, strap on that sarong kebaya and buckle up those seatbelts for a wild ride into the stratosphere as The Substation brings everyone’s favourite problematic Singapore icon to life through panels, performances and parties with Singapore Girl, or Heritage Deployed. 

Singapore Girl, or Heritage Deployed runs from 6th October to 4th November 2018 at the Substation. For a full list of programmes, visit The Substation website here

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