Five Highlights Of OH! Emerald Hill

Five Highlights Of OH! Emerald Hill

By Carolyn Oei and Marc Nair, 4 March 2018

(Cover image: “Small Landscape”, Zen Teh)

For many Singaporeans, Emerald Hill stops at Ice-Cold, the last bar in a row of shophouses on this famous lane off Orchard Road. And for most Singaporeans, they don’t belong anywhere beyond Ice-Cold anyway. So, God bless OH! Open House for literally opening doors for people. And God bless Chatsworth International School (really, how many people knew they were there?) for agreeing to be the HQ for OH! Emerald Hill, the eighth edition of unconventional art appreciation experiences that have previously meandered through Tiong Bahru, Joo Chiat and the Marina Bay financial district.

Part of Zarina Muhammad's installation/performance on the grounds of Chatsworth International School. 

Part of Zarina Muhammad's installation/performance on the grounds of Chatsworth International School. 

It’s hard to imagine which other schools would have been receptive to having ancestral prayer offerings and mini-altars – installation art notwithstanding – set up on their grounds.



We went on a walk yesterday and these, for us, were the five highlights of OH! Emerald Hill:

1.     Seamstress’ Raffleses

Jimmy Ong’s installation is the first thing featured in the “All The King’s Painters” tour. Stuffed torsos, meant to represent Raffles’ headless and legless body, hang from ropes, some with what look like lines of Jawi embroidered in red on them. The artwork embodies Indonesian seamstresses eking out their revenge on a colonialist who treated them with disdain at best and stole from them at worst.  When asked if the seamstresses actually understood the significance of what they were doing, our guide said, “I don’t know. I hope they did.”


2.     Sculpture of Prince Albert’s shod foot

A four-metre tall shoe designed and built by Anthony Chin takes up most of the front foyer of one of the Emerald Hill residences. The work is interactive and visitors are invited to warm their hands before placing them anywhere on the shoe. The heat-sensitive paintwork reveals gold handprints when you take your hands away. This is part of “The Moral Hazards Of Growing Nutmeg In A Faraway Land” tour and one comes away from this tour feeling a little hard done by; not least of all because the greedy colonialists literally grew nutmeg to death. When was the last time you had a swig of sweet nutmeg juice?


3.     Leaf Insects For Real?

Robert Zhao Ren Hui’s thing is to create narratives that leave people thinking hard about their authenticity. His work appears in two tours, "The Moral Hazards Of Growing Nutmeg In A Faraway Land” and “Fantastic Beasts And Man-Eating Flowers”. His leaf insects feature in the latter and he even sets up a series of 1980s-esque photographs as part of a “phillidae study”. There are plenty of parodic elements in his work, such as his series of photographs of entomologists looking for leaf insects. Ultimately, while it pokes cleverly at our ways of seeing,  the unspoken question of what lies beyond all of this commentary isn't really answered. 


4.     Salvation Made Simple™


Salvation Made Simple. The School. #blessed.

Save yourselves before it is too late!

Lenne Chai entertains and titillates with her study of human naiveté, opportunistic evangelism and crippling consumerism. Worship The Goddess and you will be saved. Purchase some merchandise from the two vending machines and you will be even more saved.

The Goddess currently sits at Orchard Plaza as part of the “Buy Empire Everyday Everywhere” exhibition. You can also follow her on her website ( and on Instagram (@goddess.wav).


5.     Zen Teh

Zen draws inspiration from her name. Her works, found in the “Fantastic Beasts and Man-Eating Flowers” tour and in Orchard Plaza, are studies in stillness. They make use of the intersecting point between idea and medium, ranging from meditations on disappearing kampungs in which formations of tiny stones become representations of loss and silence.

“Small Landscape”, a reimagined topography of Emerald Hill on display at Orchard Plaza, conjures up the landscape of Japanese gardens fused with Chinese landscape paintings. It is a meditative moment amidst the flurry of colourful images and colonial slap arounds that populate the exhibition.

Quick peeks from other exhibits: 
Left: "The Nutmeg Dream" by Nabilah Nordin & Nick Modrzewski
Centre: "Tea Revives The World" by Evil Empire
Right: "Gold Gold Real Estate Agency" by Kayleigh Goh

And here’s a bonus highlight.


Seeing the need to be as welcoming as their humans, the pets of the residents who have lent their abodes to OH! Emerald Hill have made it a point to greet visitors as they troop in and out. A needy ginger kitty, a Labradoodle named Biscuit and its one-eyed friend will most definitely say hello if they aren’t taking a nap. There are no photos of these lovely animals to show here because one of the tour rules is no photographs of the residents’ private property; a rule that some people clearly disregarded as they took 360 videos of the interiors. People ought to know better, but you really can’t help rude or stupid.

Get your tickets now because they are selling out fast.

OH! Emerald Hill
Dates: 3, 4, 10, 11, 17, 18, 24, 25 March 2018

Time: 11am - 5pm

Duration: 2.5hrs

Admission: $30 (excluding ticketing fee) for three 30-minute tours and an exhibition.