Good OH' Holland Village

Holland Village [Singapore]
Curated for OH! Open House

In March 2017, OH! Open House held the 7th edition of its popular ticketed annual art walk in Holland Village. For the first time, we revamped our 2-hour-long linear tour into a series of three shorter tours, each focusing on a different urban space (and thus a different history) of the neighbourhood. Over three weekends, we brought more than 1,800 guests into a diverse set of environments:

BORDERS (The Chip Bee Gardens Tour)

Chip Bee Gardens has one road leading in, and the same road leading out. A former British military housing estate, both buildings and people were meant to be insulated. Today, with one white house after another retaining the architecture of years long past, it still feels like another world. Shops and restaurants cater not to a colonial army, but to an affluent mix of locals and expatriates.

For the first decade or so of its existence, Chip Bee was home exclusively to the British. Its presence shaped the trajectory of Holland Village. Here we examine enclaves and their afterlives – the lines drawn, the territories claimed, the layered histories, the architectural leftovers.

Artists: Anthony Chin, Green Zeng, Melinda Lauw, Yen Phang, Zen Teh

GOODS (The Holland Drive HDB Flats Tour)

“Please stay where you are, I think you fit best there,” said Samantha, who called into national radio to complain about “uncultured” heartlanders coming to cosmopolitan Holland Village. Conversely, the Channel 8 drama Holland V, purportedly set in the surrounding HDB estate, makes no mention of exclusivity, expats and enclaves. In reality, the residents’ lives are shaped by that proximity – whether they ignore, avoid, or take advantage of it.

Meandering through the commercial into the residential, the artworks appropriate the everyday objects and scenes that define our individual identities. From the recollection of a lost swimming complex, to a surreal reimagining of the worlds beyond our HDB windows, these are the domestic dramas playing out on the fringes of Holland Village.

Artists: Dorcas Ng, Kevin Fee, Khairullah Rahim, Koh Hong Teng, Kray Chen, Liana Yang

RITUALS (The Hakka Cemetery Tour)

At the Shuang Long Shan Cemetery, there is a regularity in death. Each headstone is the same size, shape and pattern as the next, rectangular like the flats that surround them. Each unlike their original form, those traditional Hakka graves that sprawled across the Holland area up till exhumation in the 1960s. Hakka translates as "guest people" – and they remain guests of the land even in death. In Singapore, you never really own the plot of land you live or die on.

In the face of such uncertain futures, we adapt the rituals passed down to us to new lives and environments. Sometimes, we adopt new ones altogether. The repetition of an act of worship, the reproduction of a traditional recipe, the revisiting of memory and history… It is these patterns that ground us, even in the wake of loss.

Artists: Ezzam Rahman, Grace Tan, Ivan David Ng, Joel Chin, Lynn Lu, Toh Hun Ping

Photos by Mike Lim