SINGAPORE: Of late, Yishun’s unfortunate reputation has been that of a “jinxed” town, with a reputation for cat killers, aggressive loan sharks, intolerant neighbours, and more.
But what about Yishun as a place to discover new trends in fashion, music and literature?
As part of the ongoing Singapore Design Week, an unusual pop-up exhibition space will be up at the void deck of Block 844 at Yishun Street 81 – near Khatib MRT Station – for the entire month of March.
Each week, People’s Studio will feature a rotating showcase of works by creative types, including artist collective Atypical, writers Jollin Tan and Wahid Al Mamun, collective and fashion label Youths In Balaclava (its T-shirt line is currently stocked at Dover Street Market Singapore), hip-hop musician Subhas, and students from Ngee Ann Polytechnic, LASALLE College of the Arts and National University of Singapore.
The event is the brainchild of Aravin Sandran and Kesavan Kunasegaran, founders of a new art and design firm called Neighborhood, which received funding and support from the National Youth Council and the Nee Soon Town Council.
“It’s Yishun fights back,” quipped Kesavan, 28, who is also a chef.
Added Aravin, 29, a curator: “We wanted to react to all the news headlines we’ve compiled (about Yishun) and the different ways people have viewed it. So we wanted something positive to come into this space. Maybe not addressing it directly but just revitalising the perceptions of what could be (possible) in a place like Yishun. That it could be just as important as Bugis or City Hall for something as esoteric as art and design.”
And they’re not just outsiders simply capitalising on the town’s unfortunate reputation. Some of the participants are from Yishun, and Neighborhood’s Kesavan is himself a longtime resident. In fact, he lives just a few blocks from the exhibit area.
“I know this route quite well. I cycle around and run in this area,” he said. “In the mornings, you’d see people go to work or pass through for breakfast at the market. In the evenings … you’d have a lot of children playing at the playground.”
Aravin also pointed out the exhibition is smack in the middle of a lively part of the housing estate – nearby are a basketball court, the community centre, a skate park and a street soccer court.
“We wanted it to be in a space where there is that energy. We wanted it to be part of the flow of people,” he said.
While not all the works have direct links to Yishun itself, there are some that do.
Next week, LASALLE students will be holding an interactive art therapy workshop where they’re inviting Yishun residents to create plaster cast replicas of their own hand, which will be assembled into an installation.
One of the exhibitions will also be a nod to last year’s incident involving a moneylender who harassed an entire block by sending letters signed Voldemort – short “youth manifesto” pieces by emerging Singapore writers will be distributed in letterboxes.
“We thought it was really peculiar but we wanted to put a positive spin on it,” said Aravin.
While the pop-up People’s Studio is only in its first week, curious residents have already been stopping by to check out works as diverse as an LED hydroponic garden by Ngee Ann Poly students and magazine covers by the indie publication Mynah.
“We’ve had an animation designer dropping by in his bicycle and singlet, another who was having an evening run, and Chinese aunties coming to look at the Chinese cabbages,” said Aravin.
“There was a Malay uncle in a wheelchair who actually wanted to be part of the whole thing because he was so interested in the space,” added Kesavan.
Hanging out at Yishun while working on the pop-up space has also left an impression on the organisers.
“I feel people are a bit warmer than I thought they would be. I come from the Geylang and MacPherson area, where there’s a bit more blase attitude to the surroundings,” said Aravin.
“Here, there seems to be a little more interaction with one another – aunties come and tell me we should do this or that and it’s quite refreshing. You don’t have that in a lot of neighbourhoods.”