Since the beginning of his Artist-in-Residence (AIR) programme in April, Zihan has been calling the third level of The Substation his personal work space and home.
As our first Resident here at the sub, we managed to have him shed some insight on his experience here thus far.
What prior expectations about living in The Sub did you have and how have they changed as you've settled in?
The team prepared me well beforehand that renovations will happen over time, and I would be the first resident - which means that I would be the laboratory rat of sorts. The space is surprisingly comfortable and the team has been very helpful in easing me into the space. In the couple of weeks living here, I was able to learn more about various spaces in the building and its surrounding neighbourhood.
How has this residency programme differed from previous research spaces and has it opened up new possibilities for your artistic practice?
There is a vested and palpable interest in the space among all in the team. Personally, I have engaged with the space in various capacities in the past, so I would not call residing in The Substation as being in a ‘new’ space, but it has definitely reconfigured my relationship with the building and institution - experiencing it from a different perspective.
The palimpsest of various times and spaces - which leads to the triggering of memories is particularly interesting. I am living in the third floor office space, and I can still recall the configuration of the layout, and traces of imprints in the space that reminds me of its recent past. Since my practice is about archive, memory and time, it has been a reflexive experience.
What is the best part about living here?
The extremely central location is the best part of living at The Substation. Being within the civic and arts district means cutting down on travel time and cost. The ability to head to a late evening rehearsal at the Esplanade and walk home after, or being able to go for a morning jog at Fort Canning Park and run back to The Substation is a definite perk of being a resident at The Substation. Another privilege of living at The Substation is observing all the various communities that come through the space on a weekly basis. I have tried to use the residency space in particular as a shared space, a ‘living’ room of sorts where conversations and meetings can be held on various topics relevant to artistic practice.
Any pet peeves?
The music at Timbre - but somehow, especially on nights when I am here alone, the music keeps me company late into the night. I can probably regurgitate a rough set list for each evening. They often start with Bruno Mars’ Uptown Funk and conclude with a sing-a-long of Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody.
You've said (here) that ‘Harrison’ is a metaphor to never let the past weigh us down but to always reach for new heights, how would you define your relationship as an AIR with the Substation as it undergoes these new explorations and changes?
I agreed to be the AIR for Substation very early on before the heated discussion surrounding Alan’s proposed changes to the Substation programming was triggered. I personally thought what Alan’s vision for the Substation required was time - only time can really tell if the new programming direction is going to be effective.
Now that the inaugural exhibition under the new leadership has concluded, even though it is too early for the verdict to be out, I have observed how the team is attempting to break new ground in terms of marrying social causes, academics and artists. This model is not perfect, but it will take time for this untested model of presenting aesthetic knowledge to mature. I hope the public will be able to give The Substation team not only time, but also their support in this transition, because progress is inevitable for this institution to remain relevant, and change is the only constant.