Ang Song Nian
Towards a New Interior
We own the things in our homes, but they own us as well. Objects carry the burden or responsibilities that include acquisition, use, care, storage, and disposal. The magnitude of these responsibilities for each of us has exploded with the expanding number of items in our homes over the past few decades. We are nothing without these things. Having these possessions has caused a shift in our behaviour away from human interaction to interaction with inanimate objects. Yet, if we throw too much away, there’ll be nothing left of us.
– Abraham Cammers, 2012
Towards a New Interior (2017) is an ongoing study of space and situation in which Ang Song Nian explores and exploits the conceptual space between presence and absence. In this site-specific installation, the artist seeks to draw out relations between humans and the things around them; in other words, to invoke human presence by highlighting absence.
Over the past year, Ang has been collecting junk objects, personal memorabilia and other things left behind by the former residents of the Dakota Crescent public housing estate who have had to move out of their homes to make way for urban redevelopment. The found objects were then assembled to form a makeshift shelter at the back of the Substation gallery. The Dakota Crescent rental flats were built in the late 1950s and is one of the oldest housing estates in Singapore. Since the government’s announcement of the redevelopment plans in 2014, the future of the buildings has been the subject of intense interest from architectural and heritage sectors in Singapore. The future of its former residents has been equally uncertain; many are now elderly and have lived in Dakota Crescent since the flats were first built.
Towards a New Interior has evolved from Ang’s earlier investigation into urban spaces, ideas of home and human relationships. In 2012, Ang developed a narrative based on a character named Abraham ‘Wander’ Cammers whose mother was an extensive hoarder of objects. As Wander’s home became increasingly cluttered, he took a radical approach to the situation by moving out of the family home and living in makeshift shelters that he built out of discarded objects. Performing the life of Wander, Ang constructed similar structures in various locations in London and stayed in these junk-spaces in an effort to ‘replicate’ Wander’s own experience. These site-specific installations were documented by Ang in a series of photographic works.
In 2013, Ang built a similar shelter in Singapore for the NTU CCA’s Engaging Perspectives: New Art from Singapore (2013) exhibition. Titled Towards a New Interior (2013), the work can still be found where it was originally installed in Gillman Barracks– itself ‘abandoned’ by the artist after the show. Ang’s works highlight the subtle changing connections between these liminal spaces and their specific environmental contexts.
Toward a New Interior (2017) marks the first time that Ang is constructing such installations within a gallery space and indoors, creating a new interior space within an interior. The work will be dismantled and the objects thrown away after the exhibition. The artist’s reconstitution of these leftover items from Dakota Crescent poignantly alludes to the untold stories of the now dispersed community, even as the work’s own temporary existence becomes a metaphor for the transient, often fragile, human condition.
Image ©Ang Song Nian
Ang Song Nian (b. 1983) is an artist who questions the impact of human presence on their immediate environment. His installation works and photo-based projects cast a light on what we usually do not notice – the spaces and places that are half-remembered, half-forgotten, liminal spaces that are shaped by human presence.
Ang’s photographic works have been exhibited internationally at CREA 2010 Emergent Llieda Festival in Spain, the Association of Photographers in London, the SOTIRI International Prize for Young Photographers in Albania and the Singapore Art Museum, among others. Ang won the top photography award at Noise Singapore 2012 and the eCREA award (Spain, 2010). He was a finalist for the Sovereign Asian Art Prize in 2011 and 2014, and had honourable mentions in Magenta Foundation Flash Forward (UK, 2010) and Association of Photographers Awards (UK, 2010).
In the Shadow of Trees
C-print on metallic paper, diasec-mounted on Plexi panel
Diptych, 127 x 49cm (61 x 49cm each)