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.
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 (http://salvationmadesimple.com/) and on Instagram (@goddess.wav).