A passport summarises you in an instant. It opens up the world or damns you to bureaucratic hell. It affirms your identity or is just a booklet with benefits. A way out or a guarantee of a home to come back to. What do passports mean to you?
Departing from OH! Open House’s typical style, Singapore’s favourite neighbourhood art walk takes on not one but SIX neighbourhoods across the island this year over the last three weekends of March 2019. In PASSPORT, six artists worked with their hosts to create new art experiences and artworks about issues of identity, belonging, home, privilege and love.
No longer will there be a tour in this edition in one overarching narrative; instead, artists and hosts become active collaborators who are empowered to tell their own stories, going above and beyond simply offering their homes as a site, but to work closely with artists by sharing their personal narratives and co-creating the art experiences with them. Says Alan Oei, co-founder and executive director of OH!:“The programme is about building stories together by putting host and artist in the same space. So, it’s a way of engaging with art that is very different from going to a museum or art fair. I hope more hosts can be encouraged to open up their houses for artists in a collaborative manner. That would mean art really touches our lives.”
With hosts taking on a collaborative role, this has pushed both artists and hosts to build stories together. Says Singapore artist Ezzam Rahman: “[Host] Hernie [Mamat] goes beyond providing her space but is a contributor of narratives. Our art experience celebrates the idea of love, allowing me to unlock new depths of a theme that I was previously unable to excavate in my art. Similarly, Hernie is pushed to confront aspects of her private life. Uncovering this narrative together was only made possible with the collaboration that developed over time.”
Ezzam, and hosts Hernie and André’s work discusses how belonging can be tied to a person, even if that individual is located across borders, inspired by Hernie and André’s long-distance love story. Taking the form of a performative installation, audiences will receives love letters written by Hernie & André to each other, in the form of video and light installations scattered around Hernie’s home. The experience will be accompanied by a Q&A session with the artist and hosts. Adds Rahman: “These stories need to be told and recorded somehow. If you don’t share them, they will be buried.”
Even some, who do not have their own homes, have been innovative and utilised public spaces effectively instead, as in the case of host Khaw Han Chung in collaboration with artist Jimmy Ong. Says Khaw: “I feel that we are making meaningful work together as the art experience showcases both of our personal stories. It is interesting to work with Jimmy as he gave me another perspective of looking at my own identity.”
In their work, Ong and Khaw present a two-part experience that examines placelessness and citizenship, where audiences engage in a participatory performance and installation, and are brought through a simulated immigration process that determines one’s Singaporean-ness.
Other artists involved are Anthony Chin, exploring the boundaries of nationhood; ila, who attempts to uncover and claim quietude in spaces within the CBD; Mike HJ Chang, with a performative experience inspired by his and hosts Liming & Chloe’s time spent living in different cities; and Nature Shankar’s exploration of the value of objects and how they tie us to people and places.
With PASSPORT, OH! hopes to provide a new means for audiences to go beyond consuming and viewing art, but actively support art, artists and the industry. Audiences can contribute their stories, spaces and time, and not be limited to transactional means. Says Kirti Bhaskar Upadhyaya, assistant curator of OH!: “To fuel the growth of Singapore’s arts scene, support from the industry needs to be mobilised on all levels. OH! aims to kickstart a revolution where audiences are empowered to get involved in art-making as long as they willing and available. Artists should not be burdened with the sole responsibility of fuelling the local arts scene.”
OH! Open House 2019 takes place on 16, 17, 23, 24, 30, and 31 March 2019 at a secret venue. Venue will be revealed upon purchase of a ticket, available here