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District 14: Associates' Rehearsal 5

| Documentation by Syarifuddin Sahari |

10am - 1pm, Geylang Serai

The associates were invited to carry out the same task they did during a previous rehearsal; to go around and capture imageries this time within Tanjong Katong Complex.

Capturing memories through photos. A different meaning to photographic memory?

They were then to choose a location and respond to the space through movement.

Ismail and Valerie sharing their pieces.

The exchanging of thoughts and debrief was held over lunch:

I: Ismail S: Sonia SS: Syimah Sabtu Sy: Syarifuddin V: Valerie

I: The nostalgia is interesting to me hence why certain pictures I…you know the cracked walls yada yada because you have two differing thoughts from one person, meaning someone who has very nostalgic memories from the place so likes the things last times because now don’t have already, but at the same time hates certain things, like bad things from the past and likes the cleanliness whatever of it now. So it’s a “I have a love-hate of the past, I also have a love-hate of the present as well”.

S: Why you do the slide-slide down the stairs?

I: The few things popping in my head was…practice, practice as in habits, familiarity…

S: Play?

I: Not so much play but…that dual thing that I was sharing, like you have that love-hate, so you love this thing but at the same time you hate it also. So to me, like, I have…let’s say, I’d imagine the idea of me coming to pray, but at the same time me doing shit at the place I pray, something like that. Like, they go corner to pray, but then the other image that comes to my head of corners and staircases is people go ­­­_____ and people go, you know, make out, pak thor when they’re at a staircase. And it’s the same stair-…not same staircase but you go to the same kind of spaces for two very opposite things.

S: I love that, that’s so cool. Did you know you were being watched?

I: By?

SS: Makciks.

S: Did you know?

I: Mmm, I assumed? Because public space mah. So in my head whenever I look to my right and left it’s the, “Op, excuse me. Op.” They will know got no one there in like you know the Muslim 5 times a day prayers, before you start there’s always this “align your saf, align your prayer line” because we are praying together, you know, cannot be too far, cannot have a gap, supposed to be close, but then..

SS: Show show show show.

I: But then if you facing, you’re supposed to face the same direction mah…

S: So you faced wrong one just now ah?

I: Ah. Then if somebody wants to join you in your prayer, you have a solo and a groupie, so when somebody is already praying, and somebody wants to join you in your prayer, then you would tap the shoulder. So the person knows, “Okay now I’m leading the prayer.”

Sy: Your intention will shift.

I: Yeah. So that was another thing that was in my head ah. So, the people around may be people coming to join your prayer, people maybe coming to pray together but still in their own individual…okay not prayer, prayer was the trigger, but the idea of a practice or a habit. So to me also, barefoot was this idea of, “You gotta clean yourself up, your foot must be yada yada.” But technically you can pray with your shoes on, there is certain practices as to why or how. Then I found it interesting just now when I took out my shoes, I was wearing my Mickey Mouse socks…

S: Yeah! I noticed, so cute..

I: So there’s also this idea where the faith of the religion there shouldn’t be any like skeleton images, pictures of people on your body when you’re performing your prayers. So then when I opened then, “Eh?” I thought I wanted to do my prayers in my socks, like do my habits in my socks then, “Eh, tak boleh, haram,” so okay take out my socks. Any more questions from the floor?

Sy: I got one. Why did you wear one sock go up, then come back down wear the other sock?

I: Because…

Sy: Was it organic or was it…

I: It was an organic thing but at the same time in my head it’s also this feeling of like…this Geylang thing, I have this love-hate thing at the same time. So I hate something about…um the people who have been giving their responses they have their vices that they have about this, “This place dirty yada yada yada,” but at the same time they say, “Oh last time people were more communal, people were happy, people were friendlier.” Then now you have this, “Oh it’s cleaner now, places nicely done up,” but at the same time you have people who say that, “People are no longer friendly, people don’t talk to each other, people don’t help each other out.” However there was one pakcik who was commenting on the Wisma Geylang Serai which used to be this Malay Village thing, he say last time also, the building was there, but things never flourished there, and then now also it still doesn’t flourish. So his concept was maybe there’s some spiritual thing going on. But then the pakcik also talks about, “You know, these vices not good,” but then he talk about spiritual entities, but then again, the belief of the religion is you can believe in these spiritual existences, but you should not be so into it to a point where it affects your approach or how you practice your life. I should not like totally believe until I forget that, I’m supposed to believe in God. So having that one foot in one foot out is that half of me is having the vices, the other half of me is having the positive place. Even though the vice [is] cute Mickey Mouse.

Sy: Covered and uncovered also.

I: In a way.

S: Which is a big thing in…

SS: I thought you were taking ablution.

I: Ambush?

S: You were right? At the start.

I: At the very start.

SS: Like that was the reason why you took out your socks?

I: I mean to perform the rites? Initially in my head is the…you can take ablution even with your socks on, there is a…that is because you don’t have…let’s say you’re at the desert, you no water, you can just do without taking your shoes off, there’s a way to do it. When I took them off, eh?, I should cleanse myself more so I should remove this animalistic images off my body. And another image that struck my head was, at the curve, in the mosque there’s this thing called the ‘mimbar’ where the religious leader will stand to give his sermon…

S: That’s why you chose that spot…

I: So that spot to me the..

S: That image came to my mind too.

I: Like the Pope, the Pope standing at his balcony.

S: Yeah because it really struck me. This image really struck for me because when I noticed the makcik looking at you and then…she looked up at you for a while and then she tried to look away when she noticed us looking at her looking, but she looked again so I think she was really very curious. There was another makcik who was also interested ah. I think that made me think where you were looking towards somebody then that spot was so conveniently…like addressing like, “My fellow men.”

I: Yeah literally like, “All hail the new Pope.” Then it’s another interesting image to me at the end is I have my umbrella, so…when the people do the sermons, right, he will have this long staff, to be honest I don’t know what it’s for..

Sy: Sunnah.

I: Nabi’s Sunnah? Is a practice, positive practice by the Prophet. But why exactly the function of it there, that one I, I don’t have the answer for that.

S: To make sure that you shall not..

Sy: Sunnah Nabi dulu ada tongkat, he used to have a walking stick, because he’s

I: But then the why is..

Sy: But then people just want to re-emulate that practice lah.

I: I’m pretty sure there’s a reason ah.

Sy: There has to be.

I: It’s just that we don’t know

S: To fend off the haters.

I: So when I hold the tongkat, it was a nice, it is still a nice comparison to me, because when I start I don’t have it, when I start I put all my things nicely in the corner because I do not want to dirty the space. But the second part is all my shit is with me.

SS: Should have played the song ah, “Ting, ting tang ting tang ting ting tang ting…”

S: That song is the soundtrack for today guys.

I: So, yeah.

S: Valerie? I have to go soon so..

V: I also have to go soon.

S: Then you want to share about yours? I think Mail finished. It’s just don’t want to share? Okay okay.

I: Last one. As much as people say Geylang is a very Malay place, it’s also a very Chinese place.

SS: Because of the idols…

S: One of the ciks kept talking about the Chinese temple in the past.

I: You look…okay there’s one to three mosques, correct? But you look all over Geylang Serai Market, or over Geylang Serai the area, there’s so many small altars.

S: Yes, even outside the pasar there was.

I: Exactly, and then you look at the shops, it’s a 50-50 thing, you have Chinese stalls, IDs and yada yada. We even have a fengshui shop.

S: Geylang for Chinese people is where all the good food is, like for porridge, that’s definitely not a Malay food.

I: Then there was the uncle saying last time this side got the wet market selling…got pork and monkey brain yada yada and he said they wanted to have a halal pasar so they just created a halal pasar right opposite. Like where Joo Chiat was there was another pasar. So the Geylang pasar the wet market, not the new one, the previous one that people always associate, that was called Pasar Baru, New Market. So technically our recent is not the most…our new is not new, there was another new before this new, and it was labelled as new market. So to me this place has a lot of extremes, opposites.

S: But I never felt like they were opposites leh. I feel like it’s more of how it’s planted in our heads, because last time when they did it it was very out of necessity, I didn’t think they…. maybe some people had that polarising idea but I think most people is just out of practicality, that they just, “Do this one lor,” but I don’t think there was so much emphasis on trying to differentiate us or the difference. I think people actually are very adaptable, and people are all complex multiplicities. So I think people are very okay to have both Malay and Chinese in the same place, it’s just the government’s narrative want to makes this up, but that one is linked to the history like they want to resettle the Orang Laut here so yeah…

I: The opposites here to me is interesting because it’s not like that, it’s not a one end and another end and then there’s a gap. To me the opposites is interesting because it’s like that, so there’s the very big grey area here where everything is there as well. Okay done, ting.

S: Valerie don’t wanna say?

V: No…

S: You stay but you never eat?

SS: She’s meeting her friend.

S: Oh okay.

(Valerie leaves)

S: I say mine quick quick then I also need to go. I think mine was just like the idea of the flower girls, and like what Syimah said…the idea obviously very striking to me because it is beautiful, but it is a very beautiful…I know it is behind a glass case and the shop was closed lah but it’s the very beautiful fake flower look which is the flower bouquet obviously is not real, and the...what’s the thing they always have at the Malay wedding the one they take photo…

I: The dias?

S: The dias yeah, I don’t know then there was the leaf beside the tree I think that one was to symbolise that kind of…

SS: The fake leaf.

S: Yeah so it was very like plastic and fantastic so it was very…and to me this place is always a place that people come to get all these things ready like celebrations which includes wedding but also includes like Hari Raya and whatever festive occasion so to me I don’t know why there was something about the image that was a bit like under my skin. Maybe the shop was on normal light, so the artificiality but also that, then you want to strive towards this thing of looking like that, I don’t know. And then the three of them just…even t the mannequin also had the hand a bit like that, not very obvious but it also felt like they were waiting. Like to get married or something I don’t know but it had that feeling of…and I’m like, tired of that narrative. So yeah, it just look very striking to me, for many reasons I still not sure how to articulate. Then the other image also there’s this idea of…because. we’ve been talking a lot about old-new, past-present and dirty-clean, but in that image what’s interesting is that the golden thing, was still old, and the underneath thing that is the construction is actually the new but then the old is the one, the glittering and then the new things are the one that look uglier, or dirty. So I think it’s like if you want new things you also gotta go through a lot of shit and dirt and to have all that construction happen, and that happens underneath, you don’t see it. You want to see just the shine, you want to see the construction, that labour that happens.

I: Why did you choose to start at that door?

S: Oh that space? I didn’t really think of a location because I thought we were going to perform together at first so I thought we choose together. Then when y’all were performing then I was looking just based on where we were at then that space struck me because there was the infinity sign, and then there was, the shop also…that side there was another yellow door which was where I started. And somehow it made me think about very like, “The door where was the door going to, the door to where,” but then I kind of like that it was looking up from below to up, because there’s this idea of very aspirational which made me thinka lot about…to link to the two pictures as always aspiring towards something, so the vantage point of, although being like, it’s so far away it’s there, yeah, so that kind of view I felt it was very interesting, and it being very high. The ledge thing was just a matter of architecture actually, but yeah then moving along I was just thinking about the idea of shifting, when I started it was me waiting at the door. I did knock as well I don’t know if you can see it, and then I mostly was looking at the door, and to me the door became like, “I want to escape, I want to get out, I want to go to the next thing, I want somebody to answer, I want to open it and get a new adventure.” The door I’m not sure if it was locked to be honest. Then the infinity sign to me was the idea of marriage maybe…? Then I just felt like something was pulling me towards there so I kept playing with this idea of feeling like two things pushing and pulling in me, like I want to go there but like the infiinity thing to me the idea of marriage and new, good stuff versus, behind the door is like, you don’t know but you want it and you want to find a way out. So I was trying to play with that tugging push-pull, like the going there but it’s pulling me back, so I was playing with that. And then the ledge just happen to be nice to move along so I just moved along.

I: Your aspiring thing reminds me of this, there’s always this phrase, like the makcik wrote, “Melayu tolong Melayu,” Malay help Malay, but there’s also this phrase of, “Melayu makan Melayu,” Malay eat Malay.

S: Mmm. Yeah so that was the essence behind what I was doing.

I: Because there’s always this idea oh Malays should try to help each other up, try to improve the community, but there’s also the, oh once they attain a certain form of success, they no longer look at the community, they see themselves as a different…detached from the community, something like that.

S: I think during the recent elections, somebody was pointing it out. Like how all the PAP MPs had that narrative, they all had this, I think someone edited, all of them had this script talking about overcoming fear, coming from a poor family and the whoever dad…

I: All these rags to riches kind of story…

S: Beating the odds blah blah blah, so they trying to use that story to make it look like, “I’m one of you, vote for me,” but please lah, you are already up there you don’t understand, and now you think you are exceptional, yeah. But it’s a PAP script, and it’s really funny because now with the internet, everyone meme-ify things, so it’s like, you can’t pull this shit anymore.

I: It’s more permanent and it’s more visible.

(End of transcript)

Lunch conversation.


As much as we will attempt to record the process, this journal does not necessarily reflect the artistic direction or intention of the work. This is our interpretation as we experience it with the artists and collaborators.

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