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This new seasonal art programme opens the door to the Hungry Ghost Festival

This new seasonal art programme opens the door to the Hungry Ghost Festival

Paranormal activity

Text: Aravin Sandran


Image: OH! Open House

OH! Open House’s new seasonal programme allows audiences to follow artists over four months as they develop works inspired by key dates in our local calendar

 OH! Open House might be best known for taking audiences on immersive tours through different neighbourhoods in Singapore, most recently a theatrical meander around Emerald Hill's heritage shophouses in March. This time around, there is no art jaunt to go on, and no historic community to explore. Singapore Calendar, their new seasonal four-month-long programme, follows artists as they develop a work inspired by a significant date or time period.

For the first iteration, artist Eugene Tan responds to the ongoing ode to the afterworld, the Hungry Ghost Festival. "Now we live in the internet age, how do we die online? How do we remember others in virtual spaces? Eugene's practice deals with mortality, memory and image-making through digital mediums. By allowing audiences access to Eugene's creation process through a period of time, they are privy to how an artist's mind works, how he thinks about ghost fest through the lens of the internet," said Yen Phang, co-curator of Singapore Calendar.

For the first three months, Tan will be sending subscribers three 'offerings' that offer an insight into his art-making process. These 'offerings' can take any form he imagines. His first offering was launched on 25th August, and is accessible for a limited period for free. It takes the form of a website, an extended development of his 2018 piece 29th August. He injects heart-felt sentiment into one of the most popularly hated web experiences: the infamously aggravating pop-up. Yes, it's the Hungry Ghost Festival and the pop-up has come back from the late nineties to haunt us once again.

Eugene Tan's first offering is a bombardment of pop-ups that explore the process of death in today's society

Without giving too much away - the website is a rumination of thoughts and memories after a gravesite visitation to Choa Chu Kang Chinese Cemetry on the second death anniversary of his beloved grandfather. In mid-2017, the NEA began a staggered process of exhuming a total of 80,500 graves to make way for the expansion of Tengah Air Base. It is unclear if his grandfather's grave was one of them. "So much for a final resting place", he writes with plenty of sarcasm and resignation. The relentless bombardment of pop-ups showcases delicate linework illustrations, video footage of the exhumation process as well as his hand-written text that guide audiences on this digital journey. He addresses the importance of a grave burial in land-scarce Singapore as well as the displacement of graves as a result of urban development and consequently, its troubling effect on memory. "Even in death we can't get a break from life", he laments.

While his first offering is free, the next two offerings in September and October, as well as an exclusive final encounter at a secret location in November, require a ticket. We have a funny feeling we'll be standing in the middle of a cemetery when November comes around.

Singapore Calendar: Hungry Ghost Festival runs from 25 August 2018 - November 2018. Tickets are $30 (excluding ticketing fee) and available on peatix. Check out artist Euegene Tan's first offering for free to get a taste of what's to come.

Curious to find out more about Hungry Ghost Festival? Chat with Mr WoOoO, a Facebook chatbot created by the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY) to foster greater understanding of Singapore's intangible cultural heritageYou can find his profile on Facebook. Don't be shy, we heard he has a sense of humour.

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