OH! Tiong Bahru!

It has always been just a stone throw away, most of the time, the mental struggle for me to leave the comfort of my bed and head down across. I saw it as a place of convenience, a place which needed cleaning up, and most recently, a so called ‘hipster hang-out’ since the new kids (40Hands, Open Door Policy, Books Actually) came in. And so after a night’s worth of running around, peering into houses, and being thrown into 6 different worlds, I left with a half a heavy heart, and half of a mindful of excitement, thoughts, inspirations and questions.

Who knew the neighborhood that I’ve been living in for the past 5 years was once a hideout for the rich merchants and their mistresses? Who knew that before he HDB, there was the STI (Singapore Improvement Trust)? Who it was the STI who were the ones elevating SIngapore’s artistic status, by constructing Art Deco inspired affordable living back in the 1930s? The curved balconies and clean lines of these rare walk-ups have been masked by the numerous minimalistic “match-box” apartments that have risen in the neighbourhood. The stories, secrets, and the hidden gems within this rustic and quaint estate was unravelled, together with one-of-a-kind, thought-provoking art pieces displayed in 6 characteristic homes. Organised and put together by OH! Open House, the tour melded the intricate secrets behind the history of Tiong Bahru, together with new and inspiring perspectives of artistic interpretations.

In it’s 3rd year running, founders of OH! Open House, Alan Oei and Oliver Bettin, together with the support of 6 welcoming home owners, have come together yet again to showcase a series of talented interpretations through photography, installations, sculptures and more. This year, 15 artists will transform 6 real life homes as they re-imagine the domestic space with site-specific artworks that include:

  • A reconstruction of an artist’s bedroom and life in its entirety using only plastic tape
  • An interactive light installation that will track and amalgamate every single OH! visitor
  • A site-specific project with Singapore’s first Monkey God temple
  • A scientific lab located in a bathroom dealing with what else – waste management
  • A social sculpture to create a new Tiong Bahru food

I was fortune to have met Khee Shi Hui, and have her take us around on the tour. An art lover herself, Shi Hui definitely made a difference with her deep insights on the not only the history of Tiong Bahru, but also of each artist, home owner, and art piece. Her contagious passion for the arts gave us a fulfilling and  memorable experience.

V.A.U.L.T brings you a sneak peek of a few of our favourites: Marc Gabriel Loh’s Den of Beauties, Jying Tan’s Shifting Reiteration, Isabelle Desjeux’s The Laboratory of Waste Management, Race Krehel’s Time Echo Amplifier, to Mark Wong’s Belly of the Beast.

With a unique flair of their own, each of the homes evoked a distinctive style and persona that without the art pieces, tell a story of their own. I was particularly intrigued by Kevin’s home. As a collecter himself, and some would call a horder, a step into his home is an immersion into a whimsical of art, culture and his world of stories. Collecting only pieces that “speak to him”, the man bears resemblance to the renowned Herb & Dorothy. We were given the opportunity to have a chat with Kevin to find out his story behind the pieces he collects. Watch this space as V.A.U.L.T brings you an exclusive interview with Kevin, and share some of his unique pieces that speaks to him.

OH! is open 4pm – 9pm, 18, 19, 25 & 26 Feb 2012. Starts at Tiong Bahru Community Ctr, 67A EU CHIN ST, $15 tickets sold at door, last tours leave 8pm.

For more details, please visit

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