Young artists breathe new life into Waterloo Centre’s “dead spaces”

Young artists breathe new life into Waterloo Centre’s “dead spaces”

A Noise Singapore arts showcase sees 12 artists creating site-specific works at Waterloo Centre’s overlooked spaces such as the fifth floor void deck and stairwell.

Waterloo Centre art

SINGAPORE: At Waterloo Centre, visitors and residents who step out of the lifts at the fifth floor void deck of Block 262 are greeted by the sight of a shimmering, silver curtain fluttering in the breeze.

The art installation, which comprises more than 2,000 strands of metallic foil, is called Transit. And its creator, 22-year-old artist Rifqi Amirul, hopes the work will make people pause and take note of a space that’s often overlooked.

“I like how void decks have a multipurpose function, for weddings or funerals, but most of the time we just walk through,” he said, adding that people are invited to walk not just around but into his artwork.

Rifqi’s curtain-raiser of a piece is one of a dozen site-specific artworks that can be found all over Waterloo Centre. Elsewhere, you’ll find a trellis that has been turned into a tunnel, and other installations at stairwell landings.

Waterloo Centre art (Rifqi Amirul's Transit)

Rifqi Amirul's shimmering foil curtain Transit is the first thing people see at Waterloo Centre's fifth floor void deck. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

The exhibition, titled Proposals For Waterloo, is part of the National Arts Council’s Noise Singapore mentorship programmes, where young artists work with mentors. Visitors can just drop by to check out the show until Jan 31, or they can join special tours with the artists that will take place this weekend, Jan 21 and 22, from 3pm.

Proposals For Waterloo was programmed by OH! Open House, a group that is known for holding exhibitions at unconventional spaces.

“Most Noise mentorship exhibitions have been held in white cube spaces, but we wanted to do something a bit different and challenge the young artists in a different context,” said curator Berny Tan.

She added that Waterloo Centre was chosen as the site not only because it was within the arts and heritage district but also because of its architectural history.

Completed in 1978, it was among a handful of mixed-use structures combining residential and commercial spaces in the city area, which came up around the same time. These included the Golden Mile Complex, People’s Park Complex, Bras Basah Complex, and the recently-closed Rochor Centre, which were also initially considered.

Waterloo Centre art (Nhawfal Juma'at)

Nhawfal Juma'at's To Morrow's Night transforms a trellis into a tunnel. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

One of the unique characteristics of Waterloo Centre is its open public space on the fifth floor, where the residential areas begin. Aside from Rifqi’s void deck installation, other works include Nhawfal Juma’at’s To Morrow’s Night, where he turned a portion of the open air trellis into a tunnel with black plastic shrink film.

Another architectural quirk were the “dead spaces” found at Block 262’s stairwell, are where many of the works are found. Some artists made use of discarded materials, such as Lee Wan Xiang, who created a kind of temporary artist studio on the 10th floor.

Kayleigh Goh, meanwhile, was inspired by cracks and peeling paint of the building for her installation on the 15th floor titled Lost In The Midst Of Time. The 24-year-old artist, who uses cement to paint, incorporated used floor tiles, found rocks and cement rubble, as well as bricks and wooden partitions found at Waterloo Centre and elsewhere to create an abstract installation that plays with lines and angles.

Waterloo Centre (Kayleigh Goh)

Kayleigh Goh's Lost In The Midst Of Time is on the fifth floor stairwell. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

Like many of the participating artists, Goh was struck by the idea of this old residential area amidst the busy commercial district. “When I came here, I was attracted to these old architectural spaces, and the very quiet, soft atmosphere,” she said.

Meanwhile, other artists connected not with the building but with the people there. Cynthia Delaney Suwito, for instance, went about compiling a record of the number of people who walk through the space, take the lifts and eat at the coffeeshop.

Cally Tan, meanwhile, took a very direct approach - she collaborated with four families living at Waterloo Centre to create colourful carpet doormats for each of them. For the exhibition, she had documented the entire process for the video installation Carpets: Study Of The Staircase Landing.

Approaching the residents had been a nerve-wracking experience, said the 19-year-old. “At first, I didn’t know how they would react, but in the end, they were very receptive.”

Waterloo Centre art (Cally Tan's Carpet)

Cally Tan shows off one of the carpet doormats she did in collaboration with Waterloo Centre residents. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

In fact, throughout the course of making the carpets, she formed bonds with her resident-collaborators - one family had even invited her for Deepavali and Pongal Harvest Festival.

The Waterloo exhibition is the first of three Noise Singapore showcases being rolled out. Next month, a music showcase will be held on Feb 18 at Keong Saik Street, while a film and photography showcase will be up at Objectifs, Centre 42 and The Theatre Practice venues beginning Feb 16.

Waterloo Centre art (Tan Luo Yi)

Tan Luo Yi's My Account Of Being Nowhere (Try Again, Again) is made of fishing nets, white glue and found materials. (Photo: Mayo Martin)

Source: CNA/mm