Domestic Dystopia, Translating Space

Domestic Dystopia

Every Chinese New Year, my family will make our annual pilgrimage to Shah Alam in Malaysia to pay my grandmother a visit. In recent years, she’s been of ill health which makes our visits increasingly important, because every meeting could be our last. For all my life, my grandmother has lived in the same house, a 3-storey bungalow built in the 70’s with interiors to match. I believe “groovy” would be the term used. From the purple velour sofa to the green mosaic tiles on the kitchen floor, much has faded, but little has changed. This year, I made it a point to take photographs of every corner of the house to remember it by. A little morbid perhaps, but it felt necessary. As I snapped away, I wondered what the house was like back in its day, when everything was shiny and new, the yard wasn’t so filled with weeds and when my grandparents first got their keys to it. Oh, how exciting it must have been.

It was because of these same sentiments that I found Ho Hui May’s upcoming exhibition, Domestic Dystopia, appealing. The first prize winner of the 26th UOB Painting of the Year award in the Photography category, Ho photographed the interiors of six dilapidated houses in Singapore located on East Coast Road, Evans Road, in Geylang, in Joo Chiat and in Kebangan. This is her first solo exhibition in Singapore.

Domestic Dystopia

When the photos appeared in my inbox, I found myself staring at them for a while. I love the muted colours and mottled tones of the decaying walls. Most of the houses have been left in disrepair, and each photograph reveals the traces of footsteps and impressions left behind by previous occupants, encapsulating these moments in their personal histories in a snapshot of time. Ho takes on the task of translating the deep sense of loss and nostalgia she feels when she is inside these houses onto a series of photographs.

In the wake of an en bloc fever, documenting our old living spaces seems timely and significant. Given the state of architectural icons such as Pearlbank, the Butterfly House and Seletar Airbase, capturing them, even for a second, is the very least we could do.

Domestic Dystopia:
A Photography Exhibition
By Ho Hui May

18 September – 20 October 2007
Kay Ngee Tan Architects Gallery
16-17 Duxton Hill
Gallery Hours: Tues – Fri 11am-7pm, Sat 11-6pm, and by appointment

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