“You walk for days among trees and among stones. Rarely does the eye light on a thing, and then only when it has recognised that thing as the sign of another thing: a print in the sand indicates the tiger’s passage; a marsh announces a vein of water; the hibiscus flower, the end of winter. All the rest is silent and interchangeable; trees and stones are only what they are.”
The artist makes an attempt to visit Potong Pasir’s recently-departed spaces. She encounters one on her very first trip to the estate: a huge pile of colourful debris. She has no knowledge of what they used to be.
A place, once walked on and played upon is now broken into fragments — into chunks of rock, to be taken into the hand. She harvests these pieces and carries them home.
These fragments no longer resemble the former sum of themselves. She reshuffles and reassembles them, in the hopes of giving them a new meaning and a new beginning. But it is a futile attempt for her to be reading into these collected scraps. She is, after all, merely an outsider. Her knowledge with them is limited. You can only tell so much from the rocks.
She returns to the estate. The piles of debris are gone. Everything is different. Everything is new. New changes have been set in place. Traces of the past will be lost, and in its place new things are being fabricated. There is new paint over an old brick wall. The new things wear upon themselves a certain vigour, but they have not the power to keep the old memories alive.
She is back at her studio. She begins her work. It takes time. It takes plenty of detours and re-directions, uncertainties and re-examinations. Which is expected. And normal. And now her work is ready.
It is not complete, but it is ready
“The eye does not see things but images of things that mean other things: …”
Her eyes trace the steel beams of the new sheltered walkway opposite where the rocks used to be. In the hollow section of these metal supports, she plants several rocks within, all beyond the reach of eye-level. Old fragments are housed in that new shelter.
Lying beneath, a set of deliberately arranged ruined-bricks are exposed, an unfamiliar landmark overwatching the new painted brick wall, to hint at the presence of something more, or just as they are, still bricks.
“Your gaze scans the streets as if they were written pages: the city says everything you must think, makes you repeat her discourse, and while you believe you are visiting Tamara you are only recording the names with which she defines herself and all her parts.”
The mass of scrawling passers-by on their usual daily commute, with minds fixed on their usual destinations, are likely to miss the hidden rocks. Unless they notice something different. Unless something out of the ordinary captures their attention. Something subtle, not invasive. A sound, perhaps.
And that is it. A solenoid that strikes the metal structure every eight seconds. This duration is crucial: it is the average time taken to walk across this row of hidden rocks. Anyone who passes will get to hear it.
Some will stop. Some will not.
An old man does. He loiters for several seconds, before he realises the source of the sound rests above him. He raises his head. The ground leaves his line of sight as his eyes reach beyond for what is upwards. He feels ungrounded, as if he were falling. He holds himself against the brick wall with his right hand. In that moment he experiences what the artist had created — he has anchored himself to the piece. He is now semantically bound to the work through his curiosity, intrigue, action and gesture. He is more than an observer.
Not many are that privileged.
Of the few others that are, is a particular lady. She is there each night by the drain which hides her rumaging-collection of used drink cans. She is the only constant, recurring member. She is there as witness to the artist’s labour. There is an unspoken understanding. Her actions are similar to that of the artist. She leaves her rocks as they are. And she leaves her cans as they are. No words are exchanged, no questions are asked.
“However the city may really be, beneath this thick coating of signs, whatever it may contain or conceal, you leave Tamara without having discovered it. Outside, the land stretches, empty, to the horizon; the sky opens, with speeding clouds. In the shape that chance and wind give the clouds, you are already intent on recognising figures: a sailing ship, a hand, an elephant. …”
Resolution of the artwork:
Pock Pock Rock intends to leverage on the quaintness of the Potong Pasir estate, while offering a playful twist to something otherwise easily overlooked. It means to ‘pock’ at passers-by: the sounds it creates should break the ambient quietness and draw attention to itself. It is simple, quick to realise and does not need too great a deal of exposure to artistic verbiage to be mused upon.
The debris collected belonged to an old futsal court, near Block 139. It was demolished to make way for a new carpark.
The writing for this work compares itself with Tamara, Cities and Sign 1, mentioned in Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities.
OH! Potong Pasir, OH!pen Call
12th to 27th Mar 2016 at Potong Pasir, Singapore