TwentyFifteen 10/20: Senseless Spaces by Chow Chee Yong

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As Singapore has developed over the last few decades, it has experienced a tireless ‘renewal’ that never ceases. Indeed, whenever someone purchases a property here, especially a residence, it seems almost unthinkable that it will not go through a state of transformation. The question is not “Will it change? Will it be renovated?” but how much renewal the space will have to go through. At any given time today, in any residential area, there is bound to be at least one house, flat or shop space being skilfully demolished, built or rebuilt by construction workers. It has become a very normal scene – nothing surprising.

Amid the haste of going through this change, there are many occasions when portions of the old buildings are left behind. Some may have been intentionally left to be integrated with the new structure, but in most cases, the remnant appears to just have been forgotten. It is like an old scar that is trying to blend with the new skin, hoping to be healed yet remaining precariously obvious. Many of these remnants look awkward and stick out and dominate where they remain, although some have been hidden after many years of being left alone, either overgrown by plants or shrouded by other impermanent structures.

These are what I call senseless spaces – spaces that are utterly meaningless in terms of their utilitarian purpose or design. Most of these have been left behind or forgotten, perhaps some with the hope that no one would notice that they actually belong to an old part of the building. Most of these ‘senseless spaces’ can be traced to previous structures or dated to a certain moment in the history of that space. Many of these spaces are quite idiosyncratic and leave one wondering whether the original intention was for it to be left behind.

Whatever the reasons may be, the fact is that the ‘senseless space’ has been left in an unsettled manner. Perhaps it is this uncertainty that has drawn me to capture its surreal environment. I think I call these places ‘senseless’ as they probably leave one feeling bewildered and perplexed, trying to figure out “Why was this left here?” Even if one explores the space for an answer, as I have, in most cases there are no answers to be found.

Most of the areas shown here are places that are currently inhabited or operational. Since these venues are in use, the non-functionality or absurdity of the space provokes a feeling of puzzlement. Very dreamlike in nature, they appeared withdrawn and incoherent from the rest of the setting.

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