Three Walks for Singapore

I believe anyone who stumbled upon this post will not have their initial expectations met, but rather something more to that.  

The title suggested that it may be a practical guide with clear directive signs as to the type of 'walk' one can refer to to explore Singapore, i.e. the coastal walk, or cultural trails from Little India to Chinatown, and etc. 

Well, maybe this would spark more than just having to advise you on how to travel from one place to another in Singapore within the shortest period of time/distance by foot. 

Let me lead you into the explorative walks through a workshop brief and the guides we have laid out.

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In his essay on Geographies of poetry/poetries of geography, Tim Creswell reflects on how geography and poetry writing could traverse in-between each other to generate forms of creative writing which is what he engaged as being a “cultural geographer…to write about place, landscape, betweenness, belonging and not belonging, travel.”1 

The Indonesian-Australian-based artist Tintin Wulia introduced an initial framework for a collaborative project with the title, Three Walks for Singapore, closely following her previous project called the Three Etudes for Mexico City. Nine students, including myself, from BA Fine Art level two and three joined in the collaborative process in a three-day workshop at LASALLE in January 2015; we were tasked to be active actors in putting together our individual images of Singapore, and deliberately creating a group representation for each walk and experience.

Latour's Actor-Network Theory as ice-breaking

Tintin conducted three games for each day of the workshop that was held at the Winstedt campus: Boal’s Columbian Hypnosis for the first day, Boal’s Bombs and Shields for the second day, and Boal’s Tangles and Knots in the concluding day. The games were based on Bruno Latour’s Actor-Network-Theory (ANT). Boal’s Columbian Hypnosis required us to move while focused on another individual’s selected body part of our choice; if the hand is your choice, you move accordingly to where the hand goes. The individual’s actions thus form a pattern of gestures which influences how the group in formation, gathers and moves around. It was a constant performative group effort, and I begun to understand how this collaborative work fell into place when the group explored the different routes together, sometimes forming into sub-groups, and leading or being led. While Boal’s Bombs and Shields informs us of the uncertainty of who are acting as bombs or shields, for or against you. Tangles and Knots, too, shows that “action is not done under the full control of consciousness; action should rather be felt as a node, a knot, and a conglomerate of many surprising sets of agencies that have to be slowly disentangled.”  2

The concept behind this collaborative work stems from Tintin’s interest in treating the city as her studio. Her proposal for the workshop is to generate practices that “function as an unconventional tour guide to the city – a stimulus for an act of experiencing and wandering through the city”. Throughout the discussion, we were provoked to share what is iconic to us in Singapore and what are the places that could summarise a general idea of this city. Our suggestions varied from signboards to ‘tissue lady’, routes from the cultural sites to the central business district at the different times of the day. All of this made us ponder on how a city works and how a city could prompt us to think of a particular shape, a monument, or probably just a map of its own.

Three routes for three walks in three days

By taking into consideration how the character of a walk could bring out the essence of a place, how actions take over or manipulate a space, we selected three routes. 

The first route focused on the central business district (CBD) from Raffles Place towards Marina Bay Sands; the second walk started from Little India towards Chinatown; and the third walk took place at the far outskirts of the city-state from Changi Village towards Pulau Ubin.

All of us agreed that how and where people walk reflects the city’s structure and urban spaces, which at a subconsciously level show the unseen degrees of either freedom or restraint that impact the living bodies in the city.

We identified a different objective from that when providing a historical/touristic walk for diverse groups of people. Rather than setting out fixed instructions or routes, we randomly applied two methods: experience and decision-making. We had a long list of different ideas derived from a pre-walk session, such as walking horizontally or vertically in the city, inaccessible dead ends, asking for directions, playing with accidental encounters or chance, and we concluded by categorising them under the two methods. We consciously incorporated all of these performative acts into all three walks, not without its conflicts, and we regularly brainstormed on what other ways we could walk in relation to the site and places we were in.

The text from the first walk to the third walk altered in different ways. We had divided ourselves into three groups to draft the outline on our project’s Facebook page named Three Walks for Singapore. Due to the differing tones and rhythms of the writing, all of us amended the text repeatedly to ensure the three walks resonate with each other. 

The textual representation of the walk was intended to not limit the experience for the viewers, but to allow them to explore not just the place as a physical site, but also to pay attention to the form of writing about geography, following Tim Creswell’s insights. By reading the text, one is not informed formally on how or where to go, but it influences the character of the walk, which may generate a more unusual experience than a conventional sight-seeing tour.

We all concur that this workshop benefited us not just physically, as many of us had to walk such long distances in the execution of the project, but also learnt insights on the concept of walking, the language of the walk, the naming of places and mapping places in the form of words. It is indeed language that creates the topography of a place. The place was characterised and portrayed, by signs of our encounters and our actions, not yet a song or a poem, but in our case, a text guideline for three walks for Singapore.



Bibliography
Cresswell, Tim. “Geographies of poetry/poetries of geography.” Cultural Geographies. Oct 18, 2013. http://cgj.sagepub.com/content/21/1/141 (accessed February 18, 2014). Latour, Bruno. “Reassembling the Social.” An Introduction to Actor-Network-Theory, New York: Oxford University Press, 2005: 1-311.
1 (Cresswell 2013, 142)
2 (Latour 2005, 44)

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The Facebook link to the project page: 


In case you didn't get there, here's the text for our three walks. 






Raffles Place MRT,
along Fullerton Rd
towards One Fullerton,
look left: the 100th Starbucks. 
Look right: the Merlion,
spitting out water
as though it was real. 

Now, Esplanade Drive.
Small staircase, right
down to the riverside:
two giant durians,
thus the Esplanade.
(Save Makansutra for supper)

A few hundred steps on, look right: 
The Float
commemorate the National Day,
count down
for new year.

Walk along this path
reach a curve
go up
to Helix Bridge
cross the river
towards ArtScience. Along the coast:

sculptures of naked boys
diving
into the water.
Were they real?

Enter Marina Bay Sands,
look: bridge
towards Gardens By the Bay,
green, 
clean:
the future of Singapore.
- meanwhile,

Marina Barrage keeps
sea water 
out


(and kites above)
of Singapore

End of the park
across Marina Boulevard, turn right. 
Straight, look left:
Telok Ayer Market on your left side. 
Reenter the CBD

Straight on 
hit South Bridge Road,
turn right.
On
along South Bridge Road,
look left: Hong Lim Park. 

"Hong Lim Park is a symbol of free speech
in Singapore. This park is the only venue
in Singapore where public protests are
allowed."

Hit North Canal Road, turn right,
all the way to the end of this street,
find the way to Boat Quay.

Hit the waterside, turn left
along the river: 
old shophouses,
restaurants, and a 
cat cafe. 

Under the Elgin Bridge
along the river,
find another bridge. 
Through Eu Tong Sen Bridge,
get to the other side:
colourful window frames. 

In the end, Clarke Quay:
G-Max Reverse Bungy.


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Start at the NE8 gate
Find Mustafa Centre,
walk along Serangoon Road
against the flow of traffic.
Sample
the ebb and tide of

music from the little shops

Find the fake cow

Moo.
Buy a bag of fresh cut roses from the stall opposite.
- New rule unlock: each time you ask a favour from a stranger
   give them a rose as a token of appreciation

Ask how to go to Tekka Market.

Find the capsule lift near Tekka Market, go up.

View the city skyline. Leave roses.
Find another capsule lift
and go down.

Walk a silly walk
for surveillance camera.


Buy tissue from an old lady,
ask how to go to Bras Basah complex.

Find and access the lift to the highest floor
View another city skyline. Leave roses.

Go back down to level one.
Ask how to go to City Hall MRT.

Walk around, locate a few old chapels.
Randomly pick one, go in.
Find Funan Digitalife Mall
Go up the escalator, say hi to a stranger, 
go down the escalator.

Find a bridge, take a picture before crossing
Walk down North Bridge Road towards 'Hongkong'.

Get to New Bridge Road, head down to Speaker's Corner


and make a speech about roses.

Find an entrance down to Chinatown MRT.
throw an e-dice to decide on the exit.

Exit. Walk and find an outdoor food space
near South Bridge Road.

Leave tissue with a note.

__________________________________________________


Walk Three

Set off in the morning:
Pasir Ris to Pasir Ris.

Begin at the end.


89 bus to ‘bef Cranwell Road’ (99021).
Walk past Cranwell Road,
left up Halton Road.

Orange Valley Nursing Home: wave at a resident 


and take a right up Upavon Road.
Walk up the flight of black painted steps:
a row of black and white houses. 

Beware of the barking dog.
Spot little Lina, walking with her maid.
In the second house before the end 

lived a couple
who planted the trees wildly
(when wild was still allowed)
more than ten years back.


Look for a fruit tree. If the fruits are ripe, pick one to eat later.

Turn around, walk past the black steps.
Singapore Art Traffic.

No. Singapore Air Traffic Control Tower.


Do not trespass.



Walk down hill.
Turn left at crossroad
when you reach Halton Road, turn right.
See the locked gate,


an abandoned hospital.


Do not trespass.


Find the steps between the bushes.
Tough detour. Persist. Keep going up.

Ants.
Crushed can.
Pokka bottle at the wire fence.

Return back down the steps.


Walk away from abandoned hospital, 

walk across the grass to your left. 
Follow path between the houses to Sealand Road.
Turn left.
Walk to the bottom of the hill.



Left: there is a small detour. 

A view of the abandoned hospital. 
Not sure? Flip a coin.
Yes:
- Turn left. 
- Look out for the community cat 
   and top up its water container;
   it’s a hot day to be covered in fur. 
- Steps to your left: go up 
   again,
   to abandoned hospital.
   An opening at the wire fence. 
   
   Welcome.

- Go back down, walk back the way you came;
   passing Sealand Road on your right.
No:

- Turn right, walk up Netheravon Road.

Aloha Changi!

Turn left; Changi Point Ferry Terminal  
Take a boat to Pulau Ubin.
No passport required.
Take a selfie with the boat’s uncle.


Arriving at Pulau Ubin,
walk up the jetty onto the island.
Look: large fish trying to escape a small tank;

Look: a bicycle that can steam rice.


Head to Chek Jawa Wetlands.
Bicycle or taxi? 

Consult the coin,
listen to your heart,
trust your judgment,
and ask for Ah Huat.

At Chek Jawa Wetlands, 
see what comes out to greet you.
Abandoned well, locked,
across tombstones, two large
and the others small.


Climb a watchtower to the top,

walk a funny walk
run a funny run
around the round platform.


Return, somehow, to the ferry port.
Pocket a memento from the beach.

Negotiate a price
with the boat's uncle, fail.

Watch loads and loads of sand
transported by boats
the future of Singapore.

Mainland:
Go pass security check.
(Keep mementos in your pocket)
Turn left out of the Ferry Terminal.
Take 109 bus back to Pasir Ris Station.



End at the beginning.




Credits to the artist Tintin Wulia, without her this project will not have been conceived. And to the creative minds and writing from the rest of the team members.

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