Earlier this year, Kieran and I began a series of conversations about the City. With my work already ruminating the Self against the City – our identity in our remembering and forgetting of the city in which we traverse through daily – I said yes to Kieran’s invitation to a city date.
We walked. We spent an afternoon walking. We knew the (eventual) out come would be a series of public art. We knew it was in the Central Business District that this seemed most relevant for us. So we started there.
Through the main streets and laneways, we looked. We looked at cracks on walls, gaps between buildings, passageways and frames, reflections, through glass windows, concrete, moss, drains and sealed up windows of basements we would never know of. We climbed up stairwells to have a better look at the opposite building. We entered buildings we shouldn’t really be in. We picked up things on the floor, odd things fallen from bags or pockets; things left behind.
What struck me most was the dirt. In the laneways, in the gaps between buildings and the cracks in the walls, the moss on concrete, the mould behind pipes… It wasn’t very long before this city date that the then boyfriend (now husband) decided that we weren’t going to wear our shoes in the house. I had shared that practice, and his visit to Singapore affirmed the decision. He said something to the likes of our home being our sanctuary and yet we walk the dirt from the city home when we wear our shoes in the house. I saw the dirt, and his words repeated in my head.
Exactly, I thought. On our feet, or rather the soles of our shoes, we collect and accumulate days’ worth of the city behind us. And whether we walk them into our houses or not, we forget just how much time we actually spend outside, in our cities!
Kieran and I have had some starting ideas and have kept our conversations going while I am back here in Singapore, but when an opportunity to present a work came up, I just kept coming back to my reflections of City Shrines.
After all, my first response on that city date was images that was from home. The shrines that line our pavements over the hungry ghost festival always left residue in the form of soot stains and candle wax. While these were for the spirits, there is something about shrines that stakes claim to a space in a transient non-space such as a pavement.
I thought about that claim.