A Public Square is a year-long programme held at the Substation,Singapore that looks at how our physical spaces reflect or extend our ideas and attitudes about the public sphere. Public space is always contested. In Singapore, public space and infrastructure is dominated, on one hand, by the logic of capitalism and real estate; on the other, nation-building and the new-fangled language of placemaking.
Through a year-long journey with artists, designers, and writers, The Substation explore claims, tensions and contradictions through its interaction and challenges to the public space . A Public Square opened with Space Oddities this July and featured two artists: Zhiyi Caoand and Divaagar.
Many Singaporeans view e-scooters as being problematic. Artist Zhiyi Cao, however, is intrigued by how this disruptive new form of transport has helped create a whole new culture. And she has turned her interest into a new installation, titled 2272 Open Report. Her installation comprises wooden planks, marked with e-scooter skid marks that form infinity signs, set in front of a screen playing an e-scooter advertisement and scored with electronic dance music.
The music references the way e-scooter riders blast their music. Cao, 24, a graduate of the Ruskin School of Fine Art, University of Oxford, says: "The idea of a public space can be defined by sound. You don't own that space, but you occupy it. It's like a private party for the e-scooter rider, they own that space for those few seconds."
While Cao's work investigates the invasion of the e-scooter invasion of public spaces, artist Divaagar's Singapore Is For Lovers seeks to mediate the comfort of public spaces. He turns a cubicle in the male toilet into a pink, shag carpeted mini-haven, adds burgundy upholstery and a pink curtain to a nook and creates a conversational secluded space in another room with plant dividers, pink flamingos and curiously positioned garden gnomes who peer quizzically at visitors.
The 27-year-old says his work engages with the history of the Substation space. The toilet installation references the place's history as a cruising spot for gay men. His installations explore the intersections of public spaces with private behaviours: "These spaces also act as public closets to mask these behaviours."The luxe touch of carpeting and pink light seeks to give the utilitarian space "some comfort", he says.
There will be other events, including a mischievous contest, Parky McParkface Naming Competition, to rename the garden, as well as a mentorship programme, Concerned Citizens Programme, led by visual artist Cheong Kah Kit.